Jochebed, A Mother’s Day Sermon

May 8, 2016     |     text: Exodus 1:15 – 2:10

A lot of wild things happen in the Book of Exodus as God displays his power and makes his wrath known. The dramatic elements of the story have attracted filmmakers but led many to believe in a false god of the Old Testament. Many people, Christians among them, see a power-hungry god giving laws on stone tables and raining fire down from heaven amid thunder and earthquakes but fail to see the God of mercy and grace. As the Exodus story begins in chapters 1 and 2, we find a God at work in the lives of his people. He hears their cries, knows their needs and sends them a savior. Moses is in many ways an Old Testament type of Christ. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is one of the most well-known names in all of history. But what do you know of Jochebed?

Jochebed feared God. The Hebrew midwives feared God more than Pharaoh. Pharaoh commanded armies and led perhaps the earliest empire in history. But the Hebrews descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This was before the Law, before the Temple, before there ever was a nation of Israel. But the twelve tribes of Israel had a sense of national identity and a promise that they were called out by God.The Egyptians had become fearful of their Israelite slaves. Why? Because God had blessed them. Killing off the male children was Pharaoh’s plan for population control. It was nothing less than murder and genocide. The Hebrew midwives, Jochebed among them, feared and respected the true and the living God more than the Pharaoh (whom the Egyptians regarded as a god, one of many). They also had a love for their children, and the children of their people, and they respected the sanctity of human life.

Jochebed loved Moses. Amram and Jochebed (they are named in chp. 6) had a son of their own during this time. What mother doesn’t think her child is beautiful? Even though I’m fairly certain every baby looks just like every other baby, I have even tact not to say that to a new mother. Clarice Taylor played Dr. Huxtable’s mother on the Cosby Show. Her character once advised “Don’t ever call any baby ugly, or your baby will look just like that.” After three months Jochebed saw that she could no longer hide her baby boy and devised a plan. There’s no way of knowing exactly what she was thinking would happen. In a roundabout way she was following Pharaoh’s command that every male child should be cast into the Nile River. Some scholars believe she was fully relying on God and placing her child in his care.

Jochebed put her children ahead of herself. She violated Pharaoh’s command to save her son’s life. We don’t know what the penalty may have been for breaking the law but we know Pharaoh was a harsh ruler with no particular sympathy for the Hebrews. This is the guy that killed babies. Whatever her plans were regarding the basket she and Amram had hid the child for three months. Jochebed loved her children and would do anything to protect their safety and well-being, including putting herself in danger. God of course had a plan for Moses’ life. The Hebrews were dealt with cruelly in Egypt and many of the male children died. Read a few more chapters and you can see what happened to Egypt. God did not rush to quick judgement. Moses and Aaron pleaded with Pharaoh and he was given not only a second chance, or a third, but all the way up to ten. The Exodus story, like the flood story in Genesis, is about more than God’s judgment; it’s the story of salvation. Seek after God and his righteousness and you will be saved.

Throughout the narrative of scripture, God uses people to do his work and bring about his will. If you are looking for examples of the faithful, or putting together a list of godly women, don’t forget about Jochebed. She loved her family, loved and feared God, and may have been nothing short of genius.

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About Clark Bunch

Clark Bunch is the pastor of Unity Baptist Church and author of God is Near. He and his wife Teresa have one child. In his spare time he enjoys blogging, playing guitar and riding his motorcycle. And coffee, he'd be nowhere without coffee.
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