Refugee: When God Rewards a Mother’s Faith

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May 14, 2017
Pastor Jeff Struecker

Sermon Notes

Let’s talk about leadership for the next few minutes. Whether you know it or not, we all follow leaders. You follow a leader when you’re in the checkout line at a grocery store. Or, when you’re driving and there is a detour and you’re not really sure where the detour is taking you, you follow somebody in front of you. You may not even know that person and you start to follow a leader. This is never really more urgent then when you’re in trouble. I’ve seen this with my own eyes hundreds of times. When somebody’s lost in the woods and they’re not really sure where they’re at or where they’re going they’ll listen to anybody. If it looks like they know where you need to go, you’ll follow them to get yourself out of the woods. Maybe you’re driving through a state park and you don’t have any service on your cell phone, which means your map app is not working and you really have no idea where you’re at or where you’re going. You’ll stop and ask a complete stranger. This guy could be an ax murderer but, if he knows where he is and how to get you to where you want to go, you’ll follow his leadership. Every team who is behind on the scoreboard, when they are in the dugout or the huddle look to a leader to help get them out of trouble.

Today we’re going to talk about leadership a little bit. We will study leadership from Exodus chapter 2 and learn from perhaps the second greatest leader that history has ever known. Before we start studying this refugee by the name of Moses, I want to look at two women who were very unlikely leaders that show up for us in Exodus chapter two. These women become leaders who will set the stage for one of the greatest leaders in human history, Moses. Here’s what I want you to know before we’re done today. All of us can be leaders. If you follow Jesus Christ personally, all of us who know Christ as Savior are called to be leaders. There are two great examples of this found in the Bible Exodus chapter two. Today’s sermon will make an acrostic for us today.

I. Leave your problems in God’s control

It’s not easy to have a problem and to take it to the Lord. All of us have the desire to want to try to handle the problems our self. Where it gets really hard is when you trust God with your problems and he’s not responding as quickly as you want him to. Exodus chapter two tells us the birth of Moses, this special baby boy.

Exodus 2:1-4
1 About this time, a man and woman from the tribe of Levi got married. 2 The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She saw that he was a special baby and kept him hidden for three months. 3 But when she could no longer hide him, she got a basket made of papyrus reeds and waterproofed it with tar and pitch. She put the baby in the basket and laid it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile River. 4 The baby’s sister then stood at a distance, watching to see what would happen to him.

I don’t think there’s a lot significance about the fact that Moses comes from the tribe of Levi, certainly not at this point, except in the future that makes Moses from the tribe of priests. In fact, you could say Moses was the first priest. He was the priest before all other priests.

At this point in Israel’s history there is no worse possible time to have a baby then when this lady does. By the way, we’ll learn later that her name is Jochebed. At the end of the Exodus chapter 1 where we studied last week, you know the circumstances of when this baby was born. Pharaoh, the most powerful man on earth, was afraid of the Hebrews. He was afraid they will rise up, fight against him, and take over his country. He tried to kill the Hebrews through deception. He tried to use Hebrew midwives to murder the baby boys while as soon as they were born but that’s not working. So at the end of Exodus chapter 1, he issues an order throughout the land of Egypt to kill every Hebrew baby boy. It was not an option. If you couldn’t kill them with your bare hands, then you picked him up and you threw him into the Nile River to let the crocodiles kill the baby boys. That’s what’s going on when this woman gets pregnant.

Now apparently the fact that Moses was a special baby was a really big deal because it is mentioned twice in the New Testament. Acts chapter seven says that he was a beautiful baby. Hebrews chapter eleven said that he was an unusual baby. The words that the Bible uses for us today in the original language is that he was a perfectly suited baby. Ladies, this is the language that you would use to describe your wedding dress and how it was made perfectly for you. Or, guys how a tailored suit is perfectly suited for you. Meaning God brought this boy to Israel while they were in slavery in Egypt at the perfect time. God was working all of these circumstances out. When people saw Moses they recognized there’s something special, something unusual, something different about this baby. Every mom in this room knows you can keep up an infant child quiet for only so long. Eventually people are going to learn there’s a baby in the house. When everybody in town is looking for Hebrew baby boys, it’s going to become real clear that there’s a baby in Moses’s house. For three months, mama and daddy try to hide this baby but after three months they can’t hide him anymore. Finally, they have to put the baby in the Lord’s hands.

Can I ask you to just imagine that you’re Moses’ mother? Imagine the pain and the heartbreak that it would take to see this baby, fall in love with him, and do anything that you could possibly do to save this baby’s life but you know there’s nothing you can do to keep this baby alive. So, as a last-ditch effort you make a basket and you put this baby in God’s hands. You say, “I know he may not survive down the riverbank but, if he stays in my house, he’s definitely going to die.” Then you reach down, kiss this baby on the forehead, cover the basket, and send the basket down the river expecting to never ever see this child again. Chances are the child won’t live to see the end of day. If there’s any chance at survival, it’s going to be God who spares this baby’s life. Watch the rest of the scene from the movie The Prince of Egypt. God is able to show you that he cares when you take your problems, place them in his hands, and leave them there. Sometimes God uses people to show you that he cares.

II. Engage where you see a need

When you see a need perhaps the Lord is putting it on your heart to meet that need. Have you ever been driving down the road and notice something for the first time? It’s been there all along and you’ve driven the road dozens or hundreds of times but all of a sudden for the first time you see something that you’ve never really seen before. Maybe that’s the Lord starting to work in your heart so that you would start to respond and meet this need. Notice what happens next. You can’t miss the coincidence here. There’s no possible way that the timing of all of this is an accident. God is all up in these circumstances in Exodus chapter two.

Exodus 2:5-6
5 Soon Pharaoh’s daughter came down to bathe in the river, and her attendants walked along the riverbank. When the princess saw the basket among the reeds, she sent her maid to get it for her. 6 When the princess opened it, she saw the baby. The little boy was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This must be one of the Hebrew children,” she said.

Let’s talk about timing because you can’t make this up. As soon as Moses’s mother realized, “I can’t keep this baby alive anymore. There’s probably no chance I’ll ever see him again. If he stays in my house, this child is going to die.” So, she put the baby in a basket and sent the basket down the river. As all of that is going on, God is prompting this daughter of Pharaoh to go bathe. We don’t know much about her but history tells us that Ramses II had 70 daughters. Perhaps she is a young girl. Perhaps she’s married and can’t have children. She’s hot and sweaty. She’s walking along the Nile River getting ready to take a bath like she always did and she sees the basket at the same time that she’s getting ready to take a bath.

The first time that you hear of an Egyptian feeling sorry for a Hebrew in the book of Exodus is right here. God is already working inside this young woman’s heart. God is already preparing her heart for what she’s about to see. When she opened the lid of this basket she sees a baby boy and her heart melts inside her. Now before you think this is just a rebellious teenage daughter trying to get back at her dad. I want you to remember something. This girl has heard her father’s order. She knows that all Hebrew boy children are supposed to be drowned or murdered. When she sees this baby God is doing something inside her heart. Something to the point that she decides, “I am going to disobey my father and spare this baby’s life.” She decided to do something about this need, if nobody else would.

Can I remind you of something that I need to remember and I hope you do too? God doesn’t need great abilities. God doesn’t desire a lot of education. He doesn’t require awesome preparation before he uses you to lead others. Sometimes God doesn’t even want that stuff because maybe when great things start to happen people look at you and they start giving you the credit for it. Sometimes God uses people that there is no explanation for the accomplishment except people see God’s hand in it. This woman had nothing to offer. She walked down to the river bank, saw a Hebrew boy, opened the lid, and her heart melted inside of her. She decided to do something about this child. She decided to meet the need right then. She knew this could cost her her life by violating her father’s order. When God puts something on your heart maybe it’s him starting to put his heart into your heart so that you’ll do something about the needs that you see around you.

III. Allow God to surpass your greatest dreams

Look what happens next. It goes from good to great in this passage. In fact, I’m amazed at what God does next. He takes these simple circumstances and blows away any dream that Moses’s mom could’ve possibly had. Sometimes when you leave your problems in God’s hands, you allow him to surpass even your greatest dreams. You may be thinking, “I can dream pretty big.” If that’s what you’re thinking right now, you need to remember that God is infinitely greater than your ability to dream dreams about your problems or about your circumstances. I’ll prove it to you. Look at what Exodus chapter two says next.

Exodus 2:7-9
7 Then the baby’s sister approached the princess. “Should I go and find one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” she asked. 8 “Yes, do!” the princess replied. So the girl went and called the baby’s mother. 9 “Take this baby and nurse him for me,” the princess told the baby’s mother. “I will pay you for your help.” So the woman took her baby home and nursed him.

This is the whipped cream on top of the dessert right here. Picture this for just a second. As Miriam is walking along and watching the basket she is pretty sure that the baby is going to die. She is watching to find out what God is going to do with her baby brother. Will he even survive to the end of the day? I don’t think Moses’s mother had the heart to watch the basket. She’s probably convince the baby is going to die. So, you have to imagine how this scene plays out when Miriam runs back home and says, “Mama! Mama! I have to show you something!” Her mom is probably saying, “Miriam, I’m not in the mood for it right now.” Miriam was saying, “No! Come with me right now. I have to show you something.” Moses’s mother goes to the daughter of the Pharaoh. The daughter of Pharaoh says, “You know what my father declared to be illegal. I want you to go home to take care of this baby. You have the protection of my family to nurse this child and give him a chance at life.” Only God can do stuff like this! Only God can take the woman’s worst circumstances, turn it around, and turn it upside down on its head. Now she’s taking care of her own baby under the authority and the protection of Pharaoh.

I want to show you the cherry on top of the whipped cream. Sometimes when I read this passage I think, “Okay God your showing off now. Really only you could save this baby’s life in the first place. Then you’re going to take the baby and hand him right back to his birth mother and give the birth mother the protection of Pharaoh.” Keep this in mind. Pharaoh is really paying for and protecting the very child that will one day deliver all of Israel out of his land. God far surpasses even that. She gets paid to do what was illegal to do just a few hours ago. This is something that only God can do. Sometimes when you and I try to handle our problems we don’t give God the ability to act in ways that will blow away our wildest dreams.

I had the privilege a couple of months ago of traveling overseas with a great man of God who is a pastor from Mississippi. Pastor Luke Johnson told me a little bit about his story. He’s a young guy who played college ball. He probably should’ve played in the NFL but he was very strongly called to ministry. Luke decided to leave his fortune and fame in sports to follow Jesus. We were overseas together and it was the first time we’ve ever met each other. He told me a little bit about his story. Luke said, “Jeff, I was adopted. I don’t even know my birth mother. The night that the church ordained me into the Gospel ministry, my adopted parents gave me a Bible. Later on that night I went home to read the Bible. When I opened the Bible a letter fell out of the back.” Here’s the letter that Luke’s birth mother wrote to him when she gave him up for adoption five days after he was born. The letter says, “To my little darling, as I write this letter you’re only five days old. I hope one day you’ll be able to read this letter and understand a few things. I want to explain my feelings and the decision I made about adoption. It was not an easy one to make. My decision required a lot of serious thought and prayer. It was hard accepting that this decision is the right thing to do for you but I made it with a lot of soul-searching and long careful consideration.” Luke Johnson’s real birth mother said, “In the past few days I’ve spent with you, you have brought me so much happiness and joy. You’re such a beautiful baby. My greatest hope is that you’ll be able to understand what I did I did out of love for you, not myself. You’re so important to me I have to make sure that you have a chance at a wonderful life with two wonderful loving parents who can provide a wonderful home for you. I feel responsible to make sure that you get these things. You, my dear, will always be with me in my heart. Your life will be a happy one I’m sure. Please remember I will always love you. God bless you and keep you under his wing of love. Signed, your loving birth mother.”

If this woman knew Jesus and to the best of our knowledge she did, there is no way in her wildest dreams she could have believed that her son would grow up to be this great man of God who is not only influencing his country but going all over the world and having a profound impact for King Jesus. It’s because she, the birth mother, trusted this baby into God’s hands when he was five days old and gave this child up for adoption. It wasn’t until Luke was a grown man and ordained to the Gospel ministry that he read the note from his mother for the first time. God is able to blow away even your wildest dreams when you put it in his hands and trust your problems there. Then pretty soon what you’ll notice is that God starts to put into you his heart.

IV. Develop a heart for people

You start to develop a heart for people. Your heart starts the beat like his heart when God grabs you at the heart level and starts to make your heartbeat for the problems and the difficulties that you see around you.

Exodus 2:10
Later, when the boy was older, his mother brought him back to Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopted him as her own son. The princess named him Moses, for she explained, “I lifted him out of the water.”

We’re not really sure how much later this happen. It was typical in those days for a mother to nurse a child for about three years. So, let’s just say for three years Moses’s mother is singing songs to him in Hebrew and telling him stories in Hebrew. For three years Moses’s mother is putting her heart into this boy’s heart. Eventually she takes the boy and hands him back to Pharaoh’s daughter where Moses will get the greatest education possible, probably be trained as a warrior, and become one of the world’s elite because at this moment Egypt is at the height of power and the most powerful kingdom on earth. Moses will be raised in the Pharaoh’s court.

The Bible tells us that when Pharaoh’s daughter named Moses she gave him a pretty significant name. You’re going to think I’m a Bible nerd for doing this with you but let me tell you about the name Moses. It’s really an Egyptian name. The Egyptian name refers to the phrase ‘a god is born’. That’s what this lady said when she saw Moses. She said there’s something unusual, unique, or special about this child. What this Egyptian princess couldn’t know is that in Hebrew that name Moses means “drawn out of the water”. Every time that the Israelites uttered the name of Moses after this, they remembered that God reached down and supernaturally spared this baby’s life by taking him out of the water and raising him in Pharaoh’s court. It means that when God was leading his people out of slavery in Egypt, he was using a man who had been raised or lifted out of the death of the Nile River. God who did that for Moses can do that for you too.

When Moses started to lead, the world stood up and took notice. We will see soon that Moses, in my opinion, is second greatest leader the world has ever known. The only other leader that perhaps surpasses Moses is a guy just like him, Jesus. God took his Son and placed him in the lap of a young girl, Mary. God trusted his Son to this young girl until Jesus was old enough to deliver his people. The slavery that Jesus would deliver people from is the slavery inside us. It’s the slavery of a wicked heart, a heart that is bent toward sin. Jesus’s promise is that he will rescue us from death but ultimately he’ll rescue us from ourselves.

I’m going to try to summarize this entire passage of the Bible for you in one phrase. Write this at the bottom of your worship guide or put it in the margin of your Bible so you don’t forget it. This is how God starts to lead. Would you write this sentence down? When God builds a leader he always starts with the heart. God starts to put his heart inside the heart of a leader and then pretty soon the leader’s heart starts to be like God’s heart. It starts to beat for God’s heart and pretty soon the leader starts to lead like God wants him to lead. This means, if you were to measure a leader, the measurement that you would use is an EKG. The size of the heart determines the scope of the leadership. It is not abilities, talent, education, or experience. It’s the size of the heart that sets a man or woman apart for leadership. You find this all throughout the Bible. You find this in the great general Gideon who had a heart that beat like God’s heart. You find this in the great politician Daniel when his heart started to beat like God’s heart. You find this in the warrior David and the patriarch Abraham when their hearts started to beat like God’s heart. You find it in the Judge Deborah when her heart was beating like God’s heart. When God builds a leader he always starts with the heart.

When we talk about leadership in the Bible, God calls all of his people to lead. The word the Bible uses to describe this is discipleship. Discipleship just simply means teaching somebody or showing somebody else how to follow Jesus. It’s not rocket surgery. It’s not rocket science and it’s not brain surgery. Discipleship is you showing somebody else what God is already showing you. It’s you teaching somebody else what the Holy Spirit is teaching you. God wants all of his people who claim the name of Jesus to have somebody who is leading them right now, somebody who’s discipling you and showing you what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus. God also wants all of his people to be making disciples of somebody else and showing them what God is showing you. I would ask that all of you in this room start to pray for God to bring a leader into your life, somebody who will invest in you and help you become a better disciple. I’m also going to ask that, if you claim the name of Jesus, you’ll start looking for somebody that you can disciple. Someone that you can spend a little bit of time with and teach them what God is already teaching you. You don’t have to know all of the answers. In fact, you probably won’t know all of the answers but you can start right now leading somebody else.

We challenge you each week when you hear from the Bible would you do something about what you’ve heard. Here are three possible ways that you can respond to this today. Maybe today you realized you need a heart change and that your heart’s not beating like God’s heart because God has really never changed you at the heart level. You need to turn your heart over to God and have him to give you a new heart. You need to take a heart of stone and turn it into a heart of flesh. Only God can do that. I can’t do that for you. You can’t do that for yourself. Some of you in this room, if you were honest, would say, “Jeff, I’m so overwhelmed by what’s going on in my life that I can’t see anybody else’s problems.” Maybe what that is saying is that you’re trying to handle them all by yourself. You really haven’t been putting those problems in God’s hands and trusting him. I really want to challenge everybody in this room who claims the name of Jesus when you leave would you say, “This week I would ask God to give me one person that I can start to spend a little bit of time with and that I can start to lead them to become a better follower of Jesus.”

Next Steps

• I believe that God is big enough to forgive my sin. Today, I turn from my sin and surrender to Jesus for the first time.
– I’ve been so overwhelmed that I haven’t been able to see anyone else’s needs lately. Today, I’m putting my problems in God’s hands and leaving them with him.
+ I want to be a leader for Jesus. This week, I will look for one person that I can lead to be a disciple of Jesus.

Discussion Questions

  1. Who had the single greatest influence on how you practice your faith? How did they influence you?
  2. How is it possible that two people that can drive down the same road – one person sees a need and the other one doesn’t even know that the problem exists?
  3. What role does the Holy Spirit play in seeing problems for the first time?
  4. Have you ever disobeyed your parents or your boss because you knew they were wrong. Explain how the situation turned out.
  5. What skills and/or abilities does it require for someone to be a godly leader?
  6. Who are you influencing to be a better follower of Christ right now? Ask the group to pray for that person by name.
  7. Ask God to give you one person that you can lead to be a disciple of Jesus this week.

Further reading

Acts 8:1-4

May 5, 2019Pastor Jeff Struecker Sermon Notes I. The Gospel has always been under attack Acts 8:1Saul agreed with putting him to death. On that day a...

Acts 7

April 14, 2019Pastor Jeff Struecker Sermon Notes I. God calls a people Acts 7:1-8 “Are these things true?” the high priest asked. 2...