Raising eagles

Good morning, Friends! Happy Mother’s Day!

On Mother’s Day, we feel very sentimental, and we always like to remember all the good things our mothers taught us. We owe so much to our mothers. So much love. So much wisdom. Many of us would say that our mothers taught us most of what we know.

For example, our mothers taught us logic. How many of you remember your mother telling you, “If you fall off that swing and break your neck, you can’t go to the store with me.”

Or, our mothers taught us all about nutrition: “Eat your carrots! Have you ever seen a bunny rabbit wearing eyeglasses?”

Our mothers taught us to think ahead: “If you don’t pass that spelling test, you’ll never get a good job!”

Many of remember our mothers teaching us all about early childhood development: “What’s the matter with you? Were you born in a barn?”

Most of our mothers taught us all about genetics: “You are just like your father!”

And our mothers taught us about anticipating rewards: “Just you wait until your father gets home!”

Our mothers taught us was about justice: “One day you’re going to have kids, and I hope they turn out just like YOU. . .then you’ll see what it’s like!”

And perhaps the most important thing our mothers taught us was the value of experience: “When you get to be my age, you will understand.”

On a more serious note. . .

The Bible is filled with stories of great mothers of faith. Mothers who believed in God’s promises. Mothers who prayed for God to help them. Mothers who listened to what angels said to them.

The Bible is very clear that behind every great leader, there was a mother of faith. Abraham had faith, but so did his wife Sarah, the mother of Isaac. They only had one son, but he grew up to be the father of a nation.

Mary was certainly a mother of faith. She knew that her son Jesus was going to be great one day. She probably couldn’t see all the steps ahead of her, but she believed in God’s promise that she would be “blessed among women”.

Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, was a great mother of faith, too. She believed in miracles. Most women wouldn’t know what to think, when their husband came home from church, and couldn’t speak, because he’d had a vision at church that day. And he couldn’t say a word, for the next nine months. That would have shaken most women. But Elizabeth believed, and rejoiced, that she was going to have a child.

The Bible is filled with these stories of mothers of faith. And there are countless other mothers, down through the years, who kept their faith and raised their children, without knowing how they would grow up. Today we’re going to read an unusual story for Mother’s Day. But I think you’ll see why it’s important.

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. 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. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. 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.

Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

“Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. 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. 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.”

Exodus 2:1-10

The story of Moses is so famous that we almost forget about the part that his mother played. Moses’ mother literally saved his life. If it wasn’t for her faith, and her love, and her willingness to risk everything, we would never have had the Ten Commandments. The people of Israel would never have returned to the God their ancestors knew.

If it wasn’t for Moses’ mom, there wouldn’t have been anyone to listen to the voice of God calling out of the burning bush. There wouldn’t have been anyone to stand up to Pharaoh, and force him to let the people go from slavery. Without Moses’ mother, they wouldn’t have made it past the border of Egypt. They wouldn’t have even gotten their feet wet, crossing the Red Sea.

All those things depended on a mother’s faith. And probably she never dreamed about what her child would grow up to do.

In the story I read to you this morning, did anyone notice Moses’ mother’s name? If you put up your hand, I was going to call you on it, because her name isn’t there. It isn’t given. It’s only much later, in one of those long lists of genealogies, that we learn Moses’ mother’s name. It was Jochabel.

How about you say that name with me? Jochabel. Jochabel, the mother of Moses. The wife of Amram, a descendant of Levi.

Jochabel was a slave. So was Moses’ father. Both of his parents were slaves. But somewhere, a long time before, their people used to be free. And even though they had forgotten a lot of their religion during the years of slavery, Moses’ mother Jochabel still knew enough to pray to God when she was in trouble.

If you remember your Sunday School lessons, at the time Moses was born, Pharaoh decided there were too many Hebrews. Pharaoh was afraid his people were going to get outnumbered.

So Pharaoh told the midwives, the women who delivered babies, to kill all the male children the very moment they were born.

It was an extreme form of population control. Moses and all of his generation were supposed to be killed. That was Pharaoh’s law. But it says that the midwives all believed in God. They wouldn’t do it.

Pharaoh said, “What are all these Hebrew babies doing around here?”

The midwives said, “Oh, sir! These Hebrew women, they’re so strong! These Hebrew women, they give birth before we can even get there!” So it says God was merciful to the midwives, and God gave the midwives families of their own.

Kind of a strange story. But it shows you how the minds of people like Pharaoh think.

So, Moses gets born safely. He was healthy. But he was still in danger. After three months, Moses’ mother Jochabel knew she couldn’t hide him any longer. So she wove a little basket out of reeds or bulrushes.

It’s interesting, because the Hebrew word for the basket that Moses’ mother Jochabel made, is the same Hebrew word used for the ark that Noah made. Moses’ little basket wasn’t as big as the ark, obviously, but it was the same idea. And she set the little ark on the flood waters of the Nile River, so in a way, Moses was almost like a second story of Noah, delivered from the flood.

And the pitch that she covered the outside of the basket with, was what the slaves used every day in place of mortar for all the building they were forced to do.

The very substance that was the stickiest, nastiest part of the everyday reality of their slavery, became what saved her baby’s life. That’s a God thing. God can take the worst part of our lives, and use it for redemption. God can take the tar of slaves, and use it for freedom.

Jochabel set Moses’ older sister, Miriam to watch her little baby brother in the ark basket. She hid the basket in the swamp, so that her baby would survive. It was truly a desperation thing to do. She was doing whatever she could to keep her baby alive.

So, Miriam was there, watching a little ways away. And completely unexpectedly, along comes Pharaoh’s own daughter, down to the river bank to take a bath and cool off. Her guards and servants stayed on the river bank. They were probably turning their backs, while Pharaoh’s daughter peeled down for a dip.

It doesn’t say how old Pharaoh’s daughter was. It doesn’t say if she was married, or whether she had children of her own. At that time, many of the ruler’s daughters were married off for political alliances. Also, in the Egyptian system, the royal family was so high and holy, that often the Pharaohs had multiple wives, and married their own daughters, because nobody else was holy enough for them.

What we do know, is that Pharaoh’s daughter had curiosity. She heard a baby crying, and she sent one of her maids over to investigate. She immediately realized that this must be one of the Hebrew children. And she had pity and compassion for this little slave baby. She realized what her father was doing, and she had the courage to intervene. She was going to adopt this little baby as her own, no matter what the risk.

Meanwhile, Moses’ older sister Miriam, hiding in the bushes, saw what was going on. Instead of running away in terror, Miriam came nearer. She plucked up her courage, and she said, “Do you want me to get one of the Hebrew women to nurse him for you?”

I think everybody knew what was going on here. Pharaoh’s daughter knew that Miriam was going to bring the child’s own mother to nurse him. And Jochabel knew that this was the only way her baby was going to be saved. But because Miriam was in the middle of the deal, they could both pretend that neither one of them knew what was going on.

It’s a simple story. Happened a long time ago. But we are still living with the results of that story today. Each of those women, each in their own way, did what was necessary to save a life. Moses lived, because his birth mother, and his adoptive mother, had courage and compassion and love. And they took the sentence of death that Moses was born under, and turned it into a sentence of life and blessing instead.

Now, there’s a lot more to the story of Moses. He went on to do many great things. But today, I want to come back to the point I made at the beginning.

Mothers never know what the outcome of their love and care is going to be. Most of the time, we focus on the day-to-day things, like feeding and looking after our children. It takes a huge amount of energy, a huge amount of care and attention. No one can ever count the hours of worry, all the holding, the comforting, the cleaning up and discipline that goes into raising a child.

I remember, when our first child was born, at the hospital we had exactly one lesson in how to change a diaper. They gave a plastic shopping bag full of free samples of baby stuff, and they wheeled us out the door.

I remember thinking, “Oh, my gosh, I don’t even know how to hold this kid! Isn’t there a handle some place? Where’s the instruction manual?” We had no idea, either one of us.

We had no clue what do when our baby started crying. We didn’t know what to do, any time she ran a fever. I remember both of us calling up our parents, and asking for advice.

And we had no idea what either of our kids were going to do, when they grew up. Most parents hardly ever do.

I’m sure that Jochabel and Amram had no idea what Moses was going to do when he grew up. The best thing they had to hope for, was that their little boy would simply be alive. The second best thing they had to hope for, was that he was going to be like them, a slave. That’s what all the other Hebrew children grew up to be. They had no idea what their child was going to be. And most of the time, neither do we.

What today’s story teaches us, besides the importance of a mother’s faith and love and courage, is that when we have children, we are raising eagles. Our children can fly higher than we can even imagine. Like eagles, they will see farther, and be stronger, and ride the winds in ways that are literally beyond what we can think.

When we raise our children, we usually think that our job is to feed them and clothe them and put them to bed and get them up in the morning and send them off to school. We drive them to sports and try to be there for their games. We figure our job is done when they get married and head out into the world on their own.

But that’s only a part of parenting. There’s also an invisible part, which is to pray for them. Praying is one of the most important things we can do for our children.

Jochabel prayed for her child, even before he was born, and she prayed every day for him. She prayed for him to survive and thrive and be safe – that’s a prayer that all parents can understand.

She prayed for him to be free, which is a prayer many parents neglect. Jochabel prayed for her son to be free from slavery, and we don’t think that applies to us. But there are many kinds of slavery. Slavery to ignorance. Slavery to materialism. Slavery to addiction.

Slavery to low expectations. Slavery to not believing change can happen. Slavery to wrong ideas. There’s all kinds of slavery. Are we praying, every day, for our children to be free?

As people of faith ourselves, are we praying for our children to have faith? Faith is one of the greatest gifts we can ever pass on to our children. Maybe we can’t leave them that much money. Maybe we can’t leave them a business worth a couple of million dollars.

But will our children have our faith? Will they know the God who leads people, the God who blesses people, the God who lifts people up and shows them grace and mercy? Will our children know that God?

Will they trust God, and walk with God, every day? Will they have, not just the same faith that we have, but will they have even greater faith?

Remember, we’re not just having kids. We’re raising eagles. Are we praying for our children to rise even higher than we did?

Will our children have an even deeper understanding of God’s grace and mercy than we do? Will our children know more about Jesus’ life, more of Jesus’ teaching, more about why Jesus came, and why he died, and will they know in their hearts, completely, that Jesus is alive?

Jochabel’s child didn’t grow up to be a slave. Her child grew up to be a deliverer of his people. He grew up to be the instrument of miracles. He showed God’s power, in ways people had never seen before. He grew up to confront Pharaoh, his adoptive grandfather, who was the greatest ruler in the world at that time.

Jochabel wasn’t just a desperate mother. She gave birth to a leader. And Pharaoh’s daughter, who listened to her heart and was moved to act with compassion, she didn’t just raise a foster child. She was raising an eagle.

Parenting is truly one of the greatest of ministries. We don’t give it nearly enough honor and respect. We can never repay all that our parents have done for us.

But we need to remember that we’re not just having kids. We’re raising eagles. We’re raising our children to be free. We’re raising them to have even greater faith than we have. We’re only doing half our job if we raise them to be rich in things. We want our children to be rich in hope, rich in love, rich in the Holy Spirit.

Jochabel didn’t raise a slave. She raised an eagle. Be like Jochabel.

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