The last time we noted that the book of Exodus is really a continuation of the book of Genesis. In fact, if you recall, I said that the first word in the book of Exodus — although it’s not translated by most English translations — is the word ‘and’. It’s as if Moses got to the end of Genesis and just kept writing. And since Exodus is a continuation of the book of Genesis, then the same themes appear. So, just as Genesis was concerns with God’s promise of a people and God’s promise of a place, so Exodus is concerned with God’s promise of a people and God’s promise of a place. In the book of Genesis God promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that he would make them into a great people and that he would give them a place to live in. Well, Exodus opens with the news that the people had been fruitful and had multiplied greatly and had become exceedingly numerous so that the land was filled with them. In other words, God was keeping his promise of a people. The only problem was: they were in the wrong place. And so, in the book of Exodus we read how the Lord rescued them from their captivity in Egypt in order to lead them to the right place which was the Promised Land of Canaan.
Genesis and Exodus are about God’s promises of a people and a place. And, as you know, the promise of a people is fulfilled ultimately in the church of Jesus Christ and all those who share Abraham’s faith; and the promise of a place is fulfilled ultimately in the new heavens and the new earth where all of God’s believing people will live for ever. And so, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all of God’s believing people in those days were able to look beyond the land of Canaan to the ultimate fulfilment of God’s promises when all of God’s people, drawn from every nation, will surround God’s throne in the new heavens and the new earth, which is the place God has prepared for us.
So, Exodus is a continuation of the book of Genesis. And when we were studying chapter 1 the last time, we noted two main points. First of all, we thought about how in the history of Moses and the salvation of the Israelites God was revealing the history of Jesus Christ and our salvation We started to look at some of the parallels between the captivity of the Israelites to the Egyptians and our captivity to sin and Satan and death. And just as the Lord sent Moses to deliver his people from the Egyptians, so the Lord God sent Jesus Christ to deliver us from our sin and misery. In the history of Moses God was revealing what he would do for us in Christ Jesus. And we’ll continue to note those parallels as we go along.
But then the second main point last time was that Pharaoh’s hatred for the Israelites is another example of what the Lord was talking about in Genesis 3 where he said that he would put enmity between the serpent and his offspring on one hand; and Eve and her offspring on the other. And by those words, the Lord was foretelling how there would be this ongoing enmity, this ongoing hatred and struggle and warfare between these two lines of people. On the one hand, there are all those who are, in a sense, descended from the serpent, the Devil, who set himself up against God. This is the line of unbelievers, in rebellion against God. And on the other hand, there are all those who are, in a sense, descended from Eve. And this is the line of believers. The line of unbelievers belongs to the Devil and it belongs to the old creation of sin and shame. But the line of believers belongs to Jesus Christ and is part of his new creation. And we saw that enmity in Exodus 1 and in the Pharaoh’s hatred of the Israelites. And it’s a reminder to us today of how we have to be alert and to stand firm in the strength of the Lord against all the Devil’s wicked schemes, because still today he’s trying to destroy the church of Jesus Christ and still today he’s trying to lead God’s people astray. And we must therefore be alert and stand firm.
Those are some of the things we learned the last time. Today’s passage, chapter 2, can be divided into three parts. First of all, in verses 1 to 10, we have the account of the birth of Moses and how he ended up being adopted by the Pharoah’s daughter. Secondly, in verses 11 to 22, we read how Moses was rejected by the Israelites but welcomed by some foreigners. And then thirdly, in verses 23 to 25, we read how the Lord heard the cries of his people and remembered his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And we’ll look at those sections now.
Verses 1 to 10
And so we read in verse 1 that a man from the house of Levi married a Levite woman. These, of course, are Moses’s parents. They’re not named here, but in Exodus 6 we learn that his father was called Amram and his mother was called Jochebed. And we learn here that both parents are from the tribe of Levi. Eventually all the priests of Israel will be drawn from the tribe of Levi; and the Levites would also become responsible for serving in the temple. In other words, Moses was from the tribe who would become the religious and spiritual leaders of the Israelites. And that, of course, is fitting, because he will, in due course, become the leader of God’s people.
We read in verse 2 that this Levite woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. He was a fine child and you’ll see that she hid him for three months. Why did she hide him for three months? Well, remember the order of the Pharaoh at the end of chapter 1: he had ordered the Egyptians to throw every Israelite baby boy into the Nile. He wanted to stop the Israelites from multiplying in case they became a threat to Egypt’s security. And so, Moses’s mother had to hide him.
But the time came when she could hide him no longer. I suppose it’s relatively easy to hide a newly born child, because they sleep so much. But the older they get, the harder it is. And so, she had to think of something else. She got a basket made of papyrus and coated it with tar and pitch to make it waterproof. She placed her child in the basket and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. Presumably she didn’t just launch the basket and hope for the best. Rather, she placed in among the reeds so that it would stay there, and they could come down to the river from time to time and check on him. And presumably as well, the plan was to keep him there during the day; and at night, when it was safe to do so, to bring him back to their home. And you’ll see from verse 4, that Moses’s sister had the job of keeping an eye on her little brother. Moses’s sister, we learn later, was called Miriam.
It’s interesting to note that the word translated ‘basket’ can also be translated ‘ark’. In fact, the same word is used for Noah’s ark. And really it’s impossible to read the story of Moses in his basket without also thinking of Noah and his ark. Just as Noah and his family were kept from drowning because of the ark, so now Moses was kept from drowning in the Nile because of the ark his mother had prepared for him.
But something quite unexpected happened one day. We read in verse 5 that the Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe. The Egyptians treated the Nile as something sacred; and so, she perhaps chose to bathe in the Nile for religious reasons. Any way, while she was bathing in the water, she spotted the basket among the reeds at the side of the river. Since her servants were walking along the river bank, she called to one of them to fetch the basket. And when the Pharaoh’s daughter opened the basket and saw the baby, who was crying, she felt sorry for him. In other words, her heart went out to him, because she understood immediately what was going on and why this child had been hidden like this. She understood this child had been hidden because of what her father had ordered.
Perhaps she picked up the child and cuddled him. Perhaps she said something to soothe him. Perhaps she began to rock the child. She must have done something to encourage Miriam, because we read in verse 7 how Miriam offered to get her someone to nurse the baby for her. In other words, Miriam understood that the Pharaoh’s daughter was not a threat; and that she seemed to care about this child and would not hurt him.
The Pharaoh’s daughter agreed and, of course, Miriam went and got her mother. And so, from that time on until Moses was old enough to go and live in the palace, Jocebed was paid by the Pharaoh’s daughter to look after her own child.
We’ve seen from the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis how the Lord rules over all things. Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him into slavery. Then Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him and he ended up in prison. Then the Pharaoh had a dream and the cupbearer remembered that Joseph could interpret dreams. And so, in the end, Joseph ended up the Prime Minister of Egypt. And Joseph understood that in all that happened to him, the Lord was working away, in the background, to make sure that he — Joseph — was in the right place at the right time to save God’s people from the famine.
In the same way, God was working in the background to ensure that Moses’s life was preserved, because Moses was the one he had chosen to deliver his people from their captivity. And so, although the text does not tell us, we believe — don’t we? — that the Lord arranged it so that the Pharaoh’s daughter was in the right place at the right time in order to find Moses and to keep him alive. And we believe — don’t we? — that the Lord so worked in heart of the Pharaoh’s daughter that she was moved to pity and compassion whenever she saw the baby, so that instead of obeying her father’s decree to throw every baby boy into the Nile, she wanted to protect him and care for him.
Do you remember what our Shorter Catechism says about God’s providence?
Question: What are God’s works of providence?
Answer: God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise and powerful preservation and control of all his creatures, and all their actions.
And so, here we see the Lord, controlling Jocebed and all her actions, so that she thought of placing her child in the basket among the reeds. And here we see the Lord, controlling the Pharaoh’s daughter and all her actions, so that she thought of going to the Nile that day; and when she was there, she spotted the basket; and when she saw the child, she felt sorry for him; and when Miriam offered to help, she agreed. The Lord was controlling all of these things, because he wanted to preserve Moses’s life. And, of course, he wanted to preserve Moses’s life because Moses was the one who would deliver his people from their captivity.
The Lord God is the one who rules over all things. And he rules over all things in order to work out his plan for the salvation of his people. And so, just as he has planned to build his church on the earth so that the number of his people will be like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, too many to count, and just as he has planned to bring his people at last into the new heavens and the new earth where we shall live with him for ever, so we can trust in him to do all things necessary to fulfil his plan. And though the Devil will do everything he can to try to stop him, nothing, nothing can stop the Lord God from working out his plan to save us.
And so, we ought to remember that he rules over all. And we ought to give thanks to him for all the ways he helps us. And we ought to trust in him to keep his promises perfectly and to build his church on the earth and to bring us at last to our heavenly home.
Verses 11 to 22
Let’s move on now to verses 11 to 22 where we read how Moses was rejected by the Israelites but welcomed by some foreigners.
We read in verse 11 that after Moses had grown up — and Stephen in Acts 7 tells us that he was now 40 years old — after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were. In other words, although he grew up in the palace and was regarded as the son of the Pharaoh’s daughter, nevertheless he understood that he was really an Israelite. Though he had all the appearance of an Egyptian prince, in his heart he was a member of God’s people. And so, he went out to them and saw their hard labour. And he saw something else: he saw one of the Egyptians was beating one of the Hebrews, one of the Israelites. The word for ‘beating’ can also be translated as ‘killing’. So, this Egyptians was beating this man so badly, it seemed as if he was killing him. Well, we read that Moses looked around. Was he looking to see if anyone would see him? Was he looking to see if anyone else would help? We don’t know exactly what he was looking for, but we do know that he decided to act and he stopped the fight by killing the Egyptian. And he hid the body in the sand.
What was he thinking? Well, Stephen in Acts 6, tells us what Moses was thinking. Stephen said about Moses:
He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand….
In other words, somehow he understood that God has chosen him to save his people. He somehow believed that that he was the one chosen by God to deliver his people from their captivity. And so, in striking and killing the Egyptian, he was doing what he believed God had called him to do.
However, Stephen goes on to say:
He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand.
They did not understand. And so, the next day, he went out again. This time, he saw two of his own people fighting. And Moses tried to stop them. He asked:
Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew? He’s one of your own people. Why are you treating him like this?
And the man said:
Who made you ruler and judge over us?
In other words, he was asking:
Who do you think you are? Who made you the boss of me?
And it turns out that this man had seen what Moses had done the day before. And he wasn’t willing to listen to Moses or to have Moses rule over him.
We read in verse 14 that Moses was afraid. He was afraid because what he had done had become known. And in verse 15 we read that what he had done became known to the Pharaoh. And as a result, the Pharaoh wanted to kill Moses. And so, Moses fled from the Pharaoh and went to live in the land of Midian.
And while he was there, he had another chance to step in and to help some people who were being mistreated. Just as he stepped in to help the Israelite in the land of Egypt, so now he stepped in to help these women who had come to a well to draw water for their sheep. Some shepherds wanted to drive them away; but Moses came to their rescue and helped them to water their flock as well.
The women returned to their father, who was called Reuel. He’s also known as Jethro and Hobab. Their father wanted to know how come they’re home so early. They therefore explained that an Egyptian — and they’re talking about Moses; clearly he still looked like an Egyptian — rescued them from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock, they said. And so, Moses was invited to stay with them. And in due course, Moses married one of his daughters. And his wife, Zipporah, gave birth to a son.
Look at the name Moses gave to his son, because this tells us what he was thinking at that time. He named his son ‘Gershom’ which means ‘an alien there’. And he gave him that name because, he said:
I have become an alien in a foreign land.
The foreign land he’s thinking of is the land of Midian. He wasn’t not from Midian; and therefore, he felt like an alien, an outsider. But the thing is: his own people, back in the land of Egypt, did not want him. Even though he wanted to help them, even though he knew that God had chosen him to save his people from their captivity, his own people had rejected him. They said:
Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?
But they didn’t realise that God had sent him to be their ruler and their redeemer.
I said the last time that in the history of Moses and the salvation of the Israelites, God was revealing the history of Jesus Christ and our salvation. Moses was rejected by the people he came to save. And the Lord Jesus Christ was rejected by the people he came to save. We see that throughout the gospels and how so many people would not believe in him or accept him. He was the King who had come to redeem them, but they didn’t want him to rule over them; and they didn’t trust in him to redeem them. And Stephen, in the book of Acts, spoke of these things and how, throughout their history, the Jewish people rejected the ones God sent to save them; and last of all, they rejected the Lord Jesus Christ. And Paul the Apostle spoke of these things too in his letter to the Romans. Do you remember? There was all the elation of Romans 8: no condemnation for those who are in Christ; no separation from God’s love for those who are in Christ. But then there was the sorrow of Romans 9 where Paul wrote about the unbelief of the Jews and how they would not believe in the Lord Jesus.
And it’s the same today. Still so many Jews who have heard of Christ refuse to believe in him. And also, so many Gentiles who have heard of Christ have refused to believe in him. Still they refuse to bow before him as their ruler and to trust in him as their Redeemer. And so, we ought to pray and pray and pray again for the Lord to take away the veil that covers the hearts of so many, so that whenever they hear of Christ, they will not reject him, but will believe in him.
Do you remember how Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians? He said that the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. They cannot see! But God, says Paul, who in the beginning made the light shine out of the darkness, made his light shine in our dark hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. And if he made his light shine in our dark hearts, then we believe he can make his light shine in their dark hearts as well.
Moses was rejected by those he came to save; the Lord Jesus was rejected by those he came to save. But let’s pray and pray again that God will so work in the hearts of unbelievers today so that they will not reject him, but will trust in him. And let us give thanks to the Lord for his kindness to us, because he is the one who shined his light into our dark hearts and enabled us to see the glory of Christ and to bow before him as our Ruler and to trust in him as our Redeemer. If it were not for God’s kindness to us, we too would not believe. But he was kind to us, and gracious and merciful, and he enabled us to trust in the Lord. And so, we ought to give thanks to him and praise him for his kindness to us. And we ought to pray that he will shine his light into the hearts of sinners in North Belfast and throughout the world to enable them to see the glory of Christ and to believe in him.
Verses 23 to 25
Let’s turn briefly to verses 23 to 25. We read in verse 23 that the king of Egypt, the Pharaoh, died. But the Israelites were still slaves in Egypt. And we read hear how they groaned in their slavery and they cried out. Moses doesn’t say that they cried out to God, but nevertheless their cry for help went up to God. And God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham and with Isaac and with Jacob. That’s not to say that he had forgotten his covenant and his promises to them, but it’s a way of saying that God was now about to act because of his covenant with them. He had promised to be their God and therefore their Protector and Helper. He had promised to make them into a mighty nation. He had promised to bring them into the promised land. And so, because of the promises he had given them, he looked on the Israelites in their misery and he was concerned about them.
And, of course, the Lord God saw the sin and misery of his people in every age. He saw how we have become enslaved to sin and Satan and death. He saw too that we could not help ourselves, and were powerless to save ourselves. And so, when the time had reached its fulfilment, he sent his one and only Son into the world, just as he had promised he would do, to deliver us from our sin and misery and to rescue us from sin and Satan and death, and to give us an everlasting salvation.
When his people were slaves in Egypt, God sent them Moses to deliver them. And in the history of Moses and the Israelites, God was revealing what he was going to do for us and for all his people, because he was going to send his Son into the world to live for us and to die for us before being raised again. And all who are united with Christ through faith are delivered from the power and penalty of sin; and from the dominion of the Devil; and one day, one day, our bodies will be raised from their grave and we will be delivered in body and soul from death to live with God for ever and ever. And so, we all ought to trust in Jesus Christ, the only Saviour. And we ought to give thanks to God and praise him for sending his Son to redeem us. And while we wait for our Saviour to come again, we ought to live our lives on the earth for him and for his glory, so that by the way we live and by our obedience to his word we might demonstrate and make clear our gratitude to him for all he has done for us.