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Drawn Out of the Water

Date: Jun. 13, 2021

Author: Michael Mark

Exodus 2:1-25

Key Verse: Exodus 2:10

When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son.  She named him Moses, saying, "I drew him out of the water."

Many of you may already know that I’m terrified of deep, waving water.  I have since overcome my fears, but it began when I was at a water park in my college days.  I was hanging out in a wave pool, around the 6 foot mark, thinking I could at least hold on to the side if the waves came.  Well, the waves came and I drifted away from the edge – water kept covering over my face, although shallow, it came so fast that every time my breaths were smaller and smaller.  I literally thought I was going to drown, and I kept trying the call the lifeguard, but he didn’t seem to notice.  Just when I thought I was going to pass out and die, the waves stopped, and I was able to get back to the edge and breathe.  I immediately got out of the pool and swore never to get back in again.  Now I can’t even imagine how terrifying it would be, to be lost at sea, or way out in middle of the ocean, tossed to and fro by the violent waves.  In those circumstances, without a deliverer, without someone to come and draw you out of the water, you might be as good as dead.

In today’s passage we meet Moses, a man who doesn’t need much introduction.  Every year millions of people watch the movie “The Ten Commandments,” and witness Moses leading the Israelites escape from the Egyptians through the Red Sea.  He himself was drawn out of the water before he led others into and out of dangerous waters.  But Moses is also much more than a movie character.  Moses was the leader who led them to Promised Land, he was the prophet who gave them the Law and performed miracles, he was the judge who settled their disputes, he was the deliverer who brought the nation out of Egypt, and he was the mediator between the Israelites and God.  He is the author of the first 5 books of the Bible, including this one, and by his relationship with God, we will really get to know who God is.  So it is worthwhile for us to learn the history of the man of that God has raised up to be the rescuer of Israel, and what that means for us.

Look at v.1-2, “Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son.  When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months.”  Now focus in on the word “fine.”  It can also be translated as fair, or beautiful.  To me, all babies are beautiful, but here, baby Moses is called out as particularly beautiful maybe because he was a little more beautiful than usual.  I can’t say in what way, but Heb 11:23 says, “By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.”  Somehow, they saw he was no ordinary child.  If he was so beautiful, why would they hide him?  Joking aside, as we learned last week, Pharaoh issued an order that all Hebrew boys should be thrown into the Nile.  Moses was born at a time when this order was in effect, so he had to be hidden.

But they could only hide him for three months.  There is no specific reason why – perhaps it would be obvious he was the only little boy left in the neighborhood, or officials were coming around doing inspections.  As we just read in Hebrews, Moses’ parents hid him by faith, so we read v.3 in light of that: “But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch.  Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile.”  It was almost as if she was pretending to drop the baby off in the Nile, but prepared everything so that the baby could survive there as long as possible.  Technically, she followed the edict and put the baby in the Nile.  But still there was a risk – what if the Nile flowed faster, or there was a storm, or someone or something took the baby away. According to v.4, Moses’ sister stood at a distance, seeing what would happen to him.  It doesn’t say if the mother asked her to do so, or if she did this on her own, but it seems to me the family could not know for sure what would happen.  They did their best to prolong the survival of the baby as much as possible, and kept watch on it.  It is possible that they knew this might be a regular bathing spot for someone, and strategically placed the baby to be picked up.

It just so happened that Pharaoh’s daughter, the Pharaoh’s daughter, went to the Nile and bathed around that spot.  She saw the basket, and sent her female slave to get it.  V.6 says, “She opened it and saw the baby.  He was crying, and she felt sorry for him.  ‘This is one of the Hebrew babies,’ she said.”  Here’s the remarkable thing – she was moved with compassion for the baby, and wanted to adopt him, against her father’s orders.  Perhaps she saw how beautiful the baby was, and maybe even the crying was so beautiful, that she pitied the poor baby.  In her high position, it is a wonder that she cared for a Hebrew baby, whom the Egyptians detested, but her heart was moved, and we can most likely conclude that it was the influence of God on her heart, to carry out his plans.

At just the right time, Moses’ sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”  V.8 says , “ ‘Yes, go,’ she answered.  So the girl went and got the baby’s mother.”  It seemed like this was all planned, but we should remember that Pharaoh’s daughter was in a position to do whatever she wanted, but again, by the invisible hand of God, Pharaoh’s daughter had no suspicions, nothing seemed strange to her, but all seemed good that a Hebrew woman should nurse this supposedly abandoned Hebrew baby.  She even offered to pay, in v.9, “Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.’  So the woman took the baby and nursed him.”  What a fortunate turn of events!  The mother, facing the very real possibility of losing her baby, found royal protection for the baby, and even got to nurse him, and get paid for it.

Look now at v.10, “When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son.  She named him Moses, saying, ‘I drew him out of the water.’”  The mother did not run away with the baby, or try to hide him, but took him back to Pharaoh’s daughter when the time came.  This shows her integrity and faith.  Of course, it must not have been easy, to have to part with her son a second time.  She could only be comforted by faith, seeing that unusually, an Egyptian, even one of royal standing, accepted a Hebrew baby, so that this might be God at work.  For us, knowing who Moses is, and seeing what happened here, we can conclude that God was at work, and that God is in control of all situations.  Even in a dark time when the government has issued an order to murder, God is at work preparing to save his people.  As we see this world around us sink deeper into darkness, let us know that God is in control, even when it doesn’t look like it, he is working for our salvation, our deliverance, our rescue.  Look at the irony here: even though Pharaoh tried with all his might and power to kill all Hebrew baby boys to prevent them from leaving the country, God planted a Hebrew baby boy right into his family, a Hebrew baby boy that would one day rise up to be the one to lead Israel out of Egypt.

Pause here to take a note of who the heroes are in this story.  Notice they are all women.  From the midwives in the last chapter, to Moses’ mother, Moses’ sister, and even Pharaoh’s daughter, all thwart the king’s plan to oppress Israel.

Now look again at v.10b, “She named him Moses, saying, ‘I drew him out of the water.’”  By his very name, Moses would be reminded of his salvation.  He was drawn out of the water by Pharaoh’s daughter, out of the place of he was sentenced to die.  When we read about the papyrus basket in v.3, coated with tar and pitch – that was supposed to remind you of Noah’s Ark.  The same word there used for “basket” is used only in one other place – in Genesis to describe Noah’s Ark.  The reference was intentional.  The story of Noah’s Ark was one of salvation from the Flood.  Just as Noah and his family were saved from the waters in the Ark, so Moses was saved from the Nile by the basket.  To be “drawn out of the water,” is a reference to salvation, and that is the theme we see throughout this chapter.  We see the theme of salvation, and rescue, and we see this exemplified in the life of Moses.

Look at v.11, “One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor.  He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people.”  There is a period of about 40 years that passed between verse 10 and verse 11, Moses is now around 40 years old.  We see that he seems to have left the royal court to be among his people.  In fact, Heb 11:24-25, “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as Pharaoh’s daughter.  He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.”  I wondered, how could this be possible?  Wasn’t he raised from when he was a toddler in great privilege and learning, and at the center of Egyptian society and culture?  Acts 7:22 says, “Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.”  But God may have put a deep heart of compassion in him for his own people.  Without a doubt, even if he was raised in Egyptian lifestyle, he knew he was different, he knew he was a Hebrew.  I don’t think he would have been ungrateful to his adoptive mother, but even according to Heb 11, he saw the emptiness of the vanity on sin and the worthlessness of the treasures of Egypt, compared to the rewards given by the one true God.

He had a zeal for God, which fostered a zeal for God’s people, his own people, the Hebrews – but Moses was still young (40 years young), proud and impudent.  He was taught well in the school of the world, but he had much to learn in the school of humility and godliness.  Look at v.12, “Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.”  See how v.12 begins: “Looking this way and that,” already, it sounds like this is not going to be good.  I mean, who would want to be charged with murder?  But yet he went and did it.  We can actually see his motive, in Acts 7:23-25.  With regard to killing the Egyptian, Acts 7:25 says, “Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not”  It sounds … a little presumptuous, but that was his motive.  He thought that people would think God was using him, but in reality, they did not.

So look what happens next in v.13-14 – “The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting.  He asked the one in the wrong, ‘Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?’ The man said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?’ Then Moses was afraid and thought, ‘What I did must have become known.’”  This is quite the tongue lashing.  Moses meant no harm to the Hebrews, and gently reproved one of them, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”  It’s an honest question.  But look at the venom, look at the bitterness, and scorn that comes from the fellow Hebrew’s mouth.  Remember that this guy was in the wrong; but isn’t this how someone in the wrong might typically react, “Who made you ruler and judge over us?”  Ironically, this is what God would do, but not right now.  Then he says, “Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?”  Wow – Moses literally risked his life to show that he was loyal to the Hebrews, and that he was on their side, that he was fighting for them.  They must have also known his position and power, and where he came from, nothing seems to be hidden in Egypt.  But instead of being appreciative, or at least understanding of what Moses did for them – someone with power, someone with position, fighting for them.  But instead, Moses’ act of help (though misguided), gets turned around as a potential danger and threat.  This is a foreshadowing of the stubborn and ungrateful hearts of the Israelites that Moses would have to deal with later.  Moses in his heart wanted to save his people, but he still had much to learn.

Pharaoh eventually found out and put him on his Most Wanted List, Dead or Alive, but mainly Dead.  So Moses, fleeing for his life, ran all the way to Midian, a region about 360 miles away, probably an 18 day’s journey on foot from Egypt.  Moses may have been full of zeal, but he went outside of the will of God when he murdered the Egyptian.  He had not known God fully yet, and it would take much more time to truly know God.  But God used this event for Moses’ good. Although he would face the consequences of what he did by fleeing in self-exile, God turned the bad into good, using this as an opportunity to discipline and refine Moses’ faith.  Having faith doesn’t always mean doing bold and brash things for God, but also to accept and undergo his discipline and training.

We see here in Midian that Moses still had a heart of compassion, and a desire to save.  When he arrived in Midian, he sat down by a well.  Seven daughters of a priest came to draw water, but they were harassed by some shepherds.  Look at v.17 “Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock.”  Moses could have been tired from a long journey.  He could have been disheartened by his own people who rejected him.  He could have been discouraged and given up.  But here, when oppression shows it’s ugly face, Moses got up and came to the rescue.  Here again is that theme of rescue.  Moses had an inclination to save, and this is the type of person God was raising up as deliverer.

When their father heard of what he had done, he quickly sent his daughters back out to invite him over for something to eat.  He was so impressed that he offered Moses a place to live, and even gave him his daughter so that he would become his son-in-law.  Look at v.21-22, “Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage.  Zipporah gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, saying, ‘I have become a foreigner in a foreign land.’”  This was not out of despair though, but out of thankfulness, and a firm confidence in God; for he knew his heritage, he knew he was a Hebrew, and destined for the promised land in Canaan which he looked forward to.  So too should we say, when looking forward to the kingdom of God, say we are foreigners in a foreign land, but await the coming of the one who will take us home.

See now how God is raising up a rescuer and a deliverer for Israel.  In the first 40 years, Moses was trained in all the ways of a statesman: with all the wisdom of Egypt, one of the most powerful nations of the day, and powerful in speech and action.  Now, in these next 40 years, Moses would live under a priest, and do the work of a shepherd, and in humility, learn more about God, and about being a shepherd.  This is how God would prepare him to be the deliverer of a people he called his own.

In the time Moses was in Midian, the king who was looking to kill him died.  A new Pharaoh reigned, but instead of seeing any change for the better, the situation for the Israelites got worse.  So much so that they groaned under their oppression, and cried out to God.  Look at v.24-25, “God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.  So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.”  The focus of this chapter now shifts to God, and the time has come for him to enter the scene and fulfill his promise to Israel.  He made a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 that for around 400 years, his descendants would be enslaved, but after that time, he will bring them into the Promised Land.  God’s plan from the beginning was always about salvation, it was always about delivering his people, because he is concerned about them.

Though Moses was a great man, and the agent of God’s deliverance for Israel, he had his flaws and limitations, as we saw today, and as we will continue to see.  But even he knew himself, that he was not the ultimate Savior.   He was but a shadow, a very faint picture of the true Savior, the one who would not only deliver us from worldly oppression, but free us from sin and death itself.  He would not just lead us into a different location on earth, but lead us into heaven itself.  The true Savior, the true Deliverer of the world is Jesus Christ, and he draws us out of the waters of sin and death, and into the Promised Land of Heaven.  Even Moses wrote about Him.  We can come to know God through Moses, as we will continue to see in Exodus, but we can actually only really come to know God through Jesus, the Son of God.

Like Moses, Jesus escaped a government ordered death at his birth.  Like Moses, Jesus is a Mediator between us and God.  Like Moses, Jesus was rejected by his people as prince and judge.  Like Moses, Jesus was the agent of God’s deliverance.  But as the builder of the house is greater than the house itself, so Jesus, the builder of God’s house, is greater than Moses, a member of God’s house.  And Moses, as a servant in God’s house, bears witness to Jesus, who came to take away the sin of the world by his death on the cross.  He lifted us up, so that we can be built into the house of God.

Like the waters that come over my face in the wavepool, sometimes my sin, sometimes even just the burdens of this world overwhelm me, and it seems hard to breathe.  Sometimes I fear a little about the future, for myself, for my family – but God has never forgotten me, and when I pray I find the wisdom, strength, peace and calm to quietly do the things God would have me do.  And I am confident all things will work out for our salvation: the trials we face now serve to strengthen our faith and purify us in holiness and godliness, if we will accept God’s discipline.  May you also be encouraged, that God is concerned for you, and desires you pray. 

In the last chapter of the book, Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian had to cross the river of death to get to the gates of the city of God; it was a river that everyone needed to cross.  As Christian made his way, he found himself sinking in despair, until Hopeful, his friend called out to him, “Be of good cheer, Jesus makes you whole!” And quotes Isa 43:1-2, “But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.”  Christian then found shallow ground on the river, and walked through to the shores of the gates of the city of God.  Moses was named because he was saved by being drawn out of the water, but that is also the destiny of all who trust in Jesus; that even when walking through the river of death, he is there, and will draw us out of the water, and into the heavenly city.

So I will end with the first verse of the Hymn: Love Lifted Me: “I was sinking deep in sin, / Far from the peaceful shore, / Very deeply stained within, / Sinking to rise no more.  / But the Master of the sea / Heard my despairing cry - / From the waters lifted me; / Now safe am I / Love lifted me! / Love lifted me! / When nothing else could help, / Love lifted me! / Love lifted me! / Love lifted me! / When nothing else could help, / Love lifted me!”  May God’s concern about you lift you up!

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