Moses and Me
Part 1: I Want to be a Difference Maker
Exodus 1-2 (selected verses)
June 3, 2018
Pastor Morris Brown
This morning we’re beginning a new worship series at Christ Church entitled, Moses and Me: Lessons for Life. I’m sharing this series for several reasons. First, I’m sharing it because at the end of the month our boys and girls will be studying Moses in VBS. And, I thought this would be a good way to help our kids and their leaders prepare.
Second, I’m sharing this series because Moses is not only one of the most important people in the Old Testament, he was perhaps the most important person in the Jewish faith of Jesus. Finally, I’m sharing it because I believe that Moses’ life connects with our lives. And by learning about his life, we gain lessons for our own journey!
Today we begin our series focusing on a story from Moses’ infancy - a story that features five women God used to make an incredible difference in Moses’ life. Five women God used to save Moses’ life. Who are these women? Well, the first two are Shiphrah and Puah, the midwives who were in charge of delivering Hebrew babies. Then there is Jochebed, the biological mother of Moses, and Miriam his older sister. And finally, there is a woman traditionally known as Bithia. She is the daughter of the Pharaoh, who’d become Moses’ surrogate mother. Through their attitudes and actions in our story they teach us how we can become positive difference makers in the world.
Their story goes like this. 400 years before the birth of Moses, the Hebrew people migrated from Israel to Egypt because there was a famine in their land. At first things went well because Joseph, one of their own, was Pharaoh’s righthand man. But eventually Joseph died. And eventually a Pharaoh came to the throne who did not remember Joseph. This Pharaoh felt threatened by the Hebrew people who were growing in numbers. And so, he not only enslaved them, but came up with a plan to stop their rapid growth. He called in two midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, and told them to kill all male babies born to Hebrew mothers as they were delivered. But, Shiphrah and Puah, feared God and wouldn’t do it.
So, they came up with their own plan. Instead of killing the baby boys, they told Pharaoh that the Hebrew women delivered their babies so quickly they were born before the midwives had a chance to kill them. Well, this infuriated Pharaoh. So, he made a new decree. He decreed that every boy born to a Hebrew mother must be thrown into the Nile River! About this time, a woman by the name of Jochebed had a baby boy. She hid her baby in secret for three months. But, when he became too old to hide, she made a waterproof basket. She put her baby in it, then placed it in the water along the banks of the Nile. And when she did something amazing happened.
Pharaoh’s daughter came to the river to bathe. Seeing the basket, she asked her slave to take it out of the water. And when she did, the princess discovered that a Hebrew baby boy was inside. Instead of killing the baby however, she felt sorry for him. At which point, Miriam, the baby’s older sister who’d been hiding nearby, approached and asked if she needed someone to care for the child.
“Yes!” she said. So, Miriam went and got Jochebed. And not knowing she was the baby’s mother, the princess said, “I will pay you to care for him until he is older.” And she did! Then, when the baby was older Jochebed brought him back to the princess, who named him Moses, which means, “drawn from the water.” And she raised him as her own son!
It’s a wonderful story, isn’t it? Pharaoh sought to kill the male Hebrew babies. And yet, because of these five women, Moses was saved. And one day he would not only grow up to lead his people out of slavery, but lead them to the Promised Land. So, what do these five women have to teach us about being a difference maker in the world?
First, to be a difference maker these five women teach us we must have COMPASSION.
The word “compassion” means “to suffer with.” It means to feel the pain, be touched by the vulnerability of another to the point that we are moved to do something to help! Well, in one form or another all the women in our story were all moved with compassion.
Shiphrah and Puah, the Hebrew midwives, were moved with compassion for the male babies born to the Jewish mothers. Jochebed, Miriam and even the daughter of Pharaoh were moved with compassion for baby Moses. They were all so moved with compassion that they decided to get involved and do something to help one who was vulnerable.
I saw a beautiful example of this in the news last weekend. Mamoudou Gassama, a 22-year old Malian immigrant dubbed “Spider-Man” scaled four stories in a matter of seconds to rescue a child dangling from the balcony ledge of an apartment building near Paris. According to reports, Mr. Gassama was walking by the building on Saturday evening. He saw a crowd gathered in front of the building looking up at the child but doing nothing to help. So, he leapt into action. In just under 30 seconds, Mr. Gassama scaled five stories, grabbed the child and took him to safety! When he was asked why he did it he said, “I saw a child in trouble and it moved me to do something to help. So, I did.”
Compassion! It means to feel the pain, to be moved by the vulnerability of another to the point we’re willing to “get involved,” and do something to help. Maybe we don’t climb five stories like Mr. Gassama, but we look for a way to use our time, our talents, our positions of influence to do something to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable, hurting people!
I’ve seen a beautiful example of this the last few weeks in the aftermath of the tornado that hit East Greensboro. Our UMW, led by Carolyn McKinney, and the Next Step SS Class, led by Anna Waldrop, have been moved by the plight of the children, teachers and families of Hampton Elementary School who we’ve been working with the past 3 years. Their compassion has led them to head up efforts to not only provide food, water and school supplies to these folks. But to support teachers and students in their transition to a new school, to provide four families who lost everything with a place to live and new furnishings, and to address the school board in an effort to have Hampton Elementary rebuilt!
Here’s the point! Making a positive difference in the lives of vulnerable, hurting people in our world begins with compassion. It begins when we attune our hearts to the pain, the vulnerability of others
to the point that we are moved to do something to help! That’s the first thing the five women in our story teach us about being difference makers!
Second, to be a difference maker these five women teach us we must be CREATIVE.
When Shiphrah and Puah find out that Pharaoh wants them to kill the male Hebrew babies as soon as they are born, they are not going to do that! But, they know they can’t march into Pharaoh’s throne room and tell him. So, they decide to get creative! They tell Pharaoh that the Hebrew woman deliver so quickly that their babies are born before they get there!
When Jochebed, hears that Pharaoh has decreed that all Hebrew baby boys must be cast into the river, she gets creative! She builds a floating basket to put baby Moses in! And, when Pharaoh’s daughter finds the child along the shore? Well, Miriam gets creative. She asks Pharaoh’s daughter if she needs someone to care for the child. And when she says she does, Miriam runs to get Moses’ mother!
Here’s the point. Sometimes, to be a difference maker, to be of help to hurting people in the world, we too must get creative. We must do things differently, think outside the box.
Let me give you an example. Many of you know I was the pastor of Grace Church in downtown Greensboro for 12 years. During my years there we were fortunate enough to experience tremendous growth and develop a number of ministries that were of help to many hurting people. In 2003, however, something happened that almost derailed that. We found out that the city had decided to build a new baseball stadium for the Greensboro Grasshoppers directly behind our church. When we heard this, some people in the church saw it as bad news.
Someone said, “When they have games they will disrupt the activities going on at church!” Someone else said. “People will park in our lot?”
And someone else said. “We’ve got to fight this!”
That’s when our mission’s team held a meeting. In the meeting someone said, “Hey, instead of seeing this new stadium as a barrier to ministry, what if we saw it as a way to help fund ministry in a whole new way? What if we charged people a nominal fee to park in our parking lot for games. But, told them that ALL the proceeds they paid would be given away to help others?” Well, the idea caught hold. People got excited. On April 3, 2005 “Parking with Purpose” was born! When people parked in the lot of Grace Church they were charged $5. But, they were also given a list of “local” ministries the $5 they paid would directly support.
Well, that was thirteen years ago. And guess what? To date, Parking with Purpose has raised and given away more than $150,000 to local ministries that help hurting people every day - all because a few folks got creative with one of life’s challenges.
Oxford psychologist Edward de Bono, a renowned thinker in the area of creative thinking, has said, “Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns. It involves looking at things a different way. When we do this the possibilities for making a positive difference in the world are endless.”
He’s right! So, if we’re going to be difference makers, if we are going to make a positive difference in the lives of hurting people, we must be creative!
Finally, if we want to be difference makers, the five women in our story teach us that we must have COURAGE.
When it comes down to the women in our story displayed an incredible amount of courage, didn’t they? Shiphrah and Puah could have been killed for lying to Pharaoh. Jochebed and Miriam could have been killed for hiding Moses. Pharaoh’s daughter could have been killed for taking in a Hebrew child. Yet, each of these women had the courage to take a risk, to stand up to Pharaoh in their own way. And God used their courage to make a positive difference in the lives of others. If we’re going to make a positive difference in the world we need to be courageous as well!
I am reminded of the story about an incident that happened at a prestigious hospital. It seems that a young nurse was assisting a world-famous surgeon during an intricate operation. When the operation was about to end, the surgeon instructed her to close the patient’s incision. As she was about to begin, however, the young nurse noticed something. Nervously, she said, “Excuse me doctor, but I only have 11 sponges from the patient in my tray, and we used 12 during the course of this operation.”
Scowling, the doctor said, “I beg your pardon young lady, but I removed them all. Close the incision.”
Shaking in her shoes, the nurse said, “I’m sorry doctor, but we used 12 sponges during the surgery. And I only have 11 sponges on my tray.”
Once more the doctor frowned and said, “Young lady, I told you we removed all the sponges. I’ll take full responsibility. Now suture!”
Mustering all the courage she had, however, the young nurse said a third time, “Forgive me, doctor, but you can’t do it. I know we used 12 sponges for this operation. I only have 11 on my tray. I will not close the incision!”
With that the surgeon smiled and lifted his foot to reveal the twelfth sponge which he’d been hiding. Then, turning to the young nurse, the surgeon said, “You’ll do!” And he employed her as his chief nurse for the next 20 years!
What does it take to make a positive difference in the world? It takes some courage. As Nelson Mandela, who stood up against Apartheid in South Africa and spent 30 years in prison for taking a stand to make a positive difference for his people, once said, “A courageous person is not a person who does not feel afraid. A courageous person is a person who chooses to do what is right in spite of the fear they have.”
Maya Angelo put it another way. She said, “Without courage you can’t be of much help to anyone!” To make a positive difference in the life of Moses – all five women in his life had to be courageous.
They had to take a risk, do what needed to be done – whatever the consequences! If we want to be difference makers, we must have courage as well!
So, the infant Moses would one day become a man who would lead God’s people out of Egypt to the Promised Land. But, he would not have been able to do that, if he had not been for Shiphrah, Puah, Jochebed, Miriam and Pharaoh’s daughter - five women whose compassion, creativity and courage made an incredible difference in his life.
Listen, today is graduation Sunday at Christ Church. And if there were 3 qualities I’d encourage our graduates to put into practice so they could make a difference in the world; if there were 3 qualities I would encourage all of us to put into practice to make a difference in the world– they’d be the qualities possessed by the five women in our story.
It would be to have COMPASSION – to be moved by the pain of people to the point we’re willing to do something to help. It would be to have CREATIVITY – to meet the challenges of helping others by thinking outside the box and doing things differently. It would be to have COURAGE – to stand up for what’s right, even if it might cost us!
But the truth is, we can’t develop these qualities on our own. We need the help of a higher power. We need the help of God. So, as we come to the Lord’s Table this morning, let’s invite God to fill us with the qualities of compassion, creativity and courage. And then let us go forth to use our lives to make a difference in the world for love!