Soon the daughter of Pharaoh went down to bathe in the Nile, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. And when she saw the basket among the reeds, she sent her maidservant to retrieve it.
This section recounts the birth, deliverance, and upbringing at the court of Pharaoh, of the future Deliverer of Israel. In which we have to notice -
I. AN ACT OF FAITH ON THE PART OF MOSES' PARENTS. The faith of Moses' parents is signalised in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 11:23). Observe -
1. The occasion of its trial. The king's edict threatened the child's life. The ease of Moses was peculiar, yet not entirely so. No infancy or childhood but lays a certain strain upon the faith of parents. The bark of a child's existence is so frail, and it sets out amidst so many perils! And we are reminded that this strain is usually more felt by the mother than the father, her affection for her Offspring being in comparison deeper and more tender (cf. Isaiah 49:15). It is the mother of Moses who does all and dares all for the salvation of her babe.
2. Its nature. Both in Old and New Testaments it is connected with something remarkable in the babe's appearance (Acts 7:20; Hebrews 11:23). Essentially, however, it must have been the same faith as upholds believers in their trials still - simple, strong faith in God, that he would be their Help in trouble, and would protect and deliver the child whom with tears and prayers they cast upon his care. This was sufficient to nerve Jochebed for what she did.
3. Its working. Faith wrought with works, and by works was faith made Perfect (James 2:22).
(1) It nerved them to disobey the tyrant's edict, and hide the child for three months. Terrible as was this Period of suspense, they took their measures with prudence, calmness, and success. Religious faith is the secret of self-collectedness.
(2) It enabled them, when concealment was no longer practicable, to make the venture of the ark of bulrushes. The step was bold, and still bolder if, as seems probable, Jochebed put the ark where she did, knowing that the princess and her maidens used that spot as a bathing-place. Under God's secret guidance, she ventured all on the hope that the babe's beauty and helplessness would attract the lady's pity. She would put Pharaoh's daughter as a shield between her child and Pharaoh's mandate. Learn -
1. Faith is not inconsistent with the use of means.
2. Faith exhausts all means before abandoning effort.
3. Faith, when all means are exhausted, waits patiently on God.
4. Pious parents are warranted in faith to cast their children on God's care.
It was a sore trial to Jochebed to trust her child out of her own arms, especially with that terrible decree hanging over him. But faith enabled her to do it. She believed that God would keep him - would make him his charge - would provide for him, - and in that faith she put the ark among the rushes. Scarcely less faith are parents sometimes called upon to exercise in taking steps of importance for their children's future. Missionaries in India, e.g., parting with their children, sons leaving home, etc. Sorest trial of all, when parents on their deathbeds have to part with little ones, leaving them to care of strangers. Hard, very hard, to flesh and blood; but God lives, God cares, God will provide, - will watch the ark of the little one thus pushed out on the waters of the wide, wide world.
II. AN ACT OF PROVIDENCE ON THE PART OF MOSES' GOD. The faith of Moses' parents met with its reward. Almost "whiles" they were yet "praying" (Daniel 9:20), their prayers were answered, and deliverance was vouchsafed. In regard to which observe -
1. How various are the instrumentalities employed by Providence in working out its purposes. A king's edict, a mother's love, a babe's tears, a girl's shrewdness, the pity of a princess, Egyptian customs, etc.
2. How Providence co-operates with human freedom in bringing about desired results. The will of God was infallibly accomplished, yet no violence was done to the will of the agents. In the most natural way possible, Moses was rescued by Pharaoh's daughter, restored to his mother to nurse, adopted by the princess as her son, and afterwards educated by her in a way suitable to his position. Thus was secured for Moses -
(2) A liberal education.
(3) Experience of court-life in Egypt.
3. How easily the plans of the wicked can be turned against themselves. Pharaoh's plans were foiled by his own daughter. His edict was made the means of introducing to his own court the future deliverer of the race he meant to destroy. God takes the wicked in their own net (Psalm 9:15, 16).
4. How good, in God's providence, is frequently brought out of evil. The People might well count the issuing of this edict as the darkest hour of their night - the point of lowest ebb in their fortunes. Yet see what God brought out of it! The deliverance of a Moses - the first turning of the tide in the direction of help. What poor judges we are of what is really for or against us!
5. How greatly God often exceeds our expectations in the deliverances he sends. He does for us above what we ask or think. The utmost Moses' parents dared to pray for was doubtless that his life might be preserved. That he should be that very day restored to his mother, and nursed at her bosom; that he should become the son of Pharaoh's daughter; that he should grow to be great, wise, rich, and powerful - this was felicity they had not dared to dream of. But this is God's way. He exceeds our expectations. He gives to faith more than it looks for. So in Redemption, we are not only saved from perishing, but receive "everlasting life" (John 3:16) - honour, glory, reward. - J.O.
The sweet picture of womanly compassion in Pharaoh's daughter is full of suggestions. Her name is handed down by one tradition as "Merris," and "Meri" has been found as the appellation of a princess of the period. A rabbinical authority calls her "Bithiah," that is, "Daughter of Jehovah"; by which was, no doubt, intended to imply that she became in some sense a proselyte. This may have been only an inference from her protection of Moses. There is a singular and very obscure passage in 1 Chronicles 4:17, 18, relating the genealogy of a certain Meted, who seems to have had two wives, one "the Jewess," the other "Bithiah, the daughter of Pharaoh." We know no more about him or her, but Keil thinks that Mered probably "lived before the Exodus"; but it can scarcely be that the "daughter of Pharaoh," his wife, is our princess, and that she actually became a "daughter of Jehovah," and, like her adopted child, refused royal dignity and preferred reproach. In any case, the legend of her name is a tender and beautiful way of putting the belief that in her "there was some good thing towards the God of Israel." But, passing from that, how the true woman's heart changes languid curiosity into tenderness, and how compassion conquers pride of race and station, as well as regard for her father's edict, as soon as the infant's cry, which touches every good woman's feelings, falls on her ear "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." All the centuries are as nothing; the strange garb, the stranger mental and spiritual dress, fade, and we have here a mere woman, affected as every true sister of hers to-day would be by the helpless wailing. God has put that instinct there. Alas that it ever should be choked by frivolity or pride, and frozen by indifference and self-indulgence! Gentle souls spring up in unfavourable soil. Rameses was a strange father for such a daughter. How came this dove in the vulture's cage? Her sweet pity beside his cold craft and cruelty is like the lamb couching by the lion. Note, too, that gentlest pity makes the gentlest brave. She sees the child is a Hebrew. Her quick wit understands why it has been exposed, and she takes its part, and the part of the poor weeping parents, whom she can fancy, against the savage law. No doubt, as the Egyptologists tell us, the princesses of the royal house had separate households and abundant liberty of action. Still, it was bold to override the strict commands of such a monarch. But it was not self-willed sense of power, but the beautiful daring of a compassionate woman to which God committed the execution of His purposes. And that is a force which has much like work trusted to it in modern society too. Our great cities swarm with children exposed to a worse fate than the baby among the flags. Legislation and official charity have far too rough hands and too clumsy ways to lift the little life out of the coffer, and to dry the tears. We must look to Christian women to take a leaf out of "Bithiah's" book. First, they should use their eyes to see the facts, and not be so busy about their own luxury and comfort that they pass the poor pitch-covered box unnoticed. Then they should let the pitiful call touch their heart, and not steel themselves in indifference or ease. Then they should conquer prejudices of race, pride of station, fear of lowering themselves, loathing, or contempt. And then they should yield to the impulses of their compassion, and never mind what difficulties or opponents may stand in the way of their saving the children. If Christian women knew their obligations and their power, and lived up to them as bravely as this Egyptian princess, there would be fewer little ones flung out to be eaten by crocodiles, and many a poor child, who is now abandoned from infancy to the devil, would be rescued to grow up a servant of God. She, there by the Nile waters, in her gracious pity and prompt wisdom is the type of what Christian womanhood, and, indeed, the whole Christian community, should be in relation to child life.
This is one of the Hebrews' children. I.
THE CLAIMS OF THE ORPHAN
1. The first claim on her compassion was the claim of infancy. "She saw the child." That sentence contains an argument. It was an appeal to the woman's heart. Rank, caste, nationality, all melted before the great fact of womanhood. This feeling was spontaneous. She did not feel compassion because it was her duty, but because it was her nature. God has provided for humanity by a plan more infallible than system, by implanting feeling in our nature.
2. Consider the degradation of the child's origin. "Hebrews' children." The exclusiveness of the Egyptian social system was as strong as that of the Hindoo — slave — enemy — to be slain. Princess brought up with these ideas. She was animated by His Spirit who came to raise the abject, to break the bond of the oppressor.
3. The last reason we find for this claim was its unprotected state. It wept; those tears told of a conscious want — the felt want of a mother's arms.
II. THE ORPHAN'S EDUCATION.
1. It was a suggestion from another. This woman brought up in luxury — had warm feelings — not knowing how to do good — was told by another. Results of this training:
1. Intellectually. He learned to ask "Why" "the bush is not consumed."
2. In the moral part of his character we notice his hatred of injustice.
The moment of its degradation.
2. The moment of its sadness.
3. The moment of its hope.
4. The moment of its unknown future.
5. The moment of a mother's recompense.
Providence sometimes raises the poor out of the dust to set them among princes (Psalm 113:7, 8
), to make men know that the heavens do rule.
2. Those whom God designs for great services He finds ways to qualify and prepare beforehand. The fact of the princess disobeying her father's command in adopting the child, so far from being a difficulty, as some have made it, is the very impress of truth itself. If there is a thing too strong for man's laws, it is a woman's heart. Witness Antigone burying her brother.
()I remember reading a story of a baby — a wee child — that travelled by railroad. Away whirled the coach very fast; but it soon knocked against something, and all were thrown out — men, women, mothers, and babes, some were pitched here, some there; heads were broken, hands cut off. In the midst of the confusion, a voice was heard crying — "Where is my baby? Oh I my dear baby! I cannot find him anywhere. Did nobody see my sweet baby? What shall I do?" One man lost his leg, another his hand, another his eye; but the mother did not mind them, but was going about, wringing her hands, and crying, "Where is my baby?" After much search for it, and for a great while in vain, at length a man went over to a place where there was a bandbox, he took up the bandbox, and what do you think he found under it? The baby, fast asleep! Now, if God takes care of babies, surely He would take care of all little children.Of what infinite value to society is that tenderness, compassion, and benevolence which the Almighty has mercifully impressed on the female heart. It is a woman's exclusive gift; it is the foundation of all her virtues; the mainspring of her usefulness. Let her then daily consider the awful responsibility of such a gift; let her consider it as amongst her most valuable possessions; and solely employ it for the benefit of her fellow-creatures; and more especially for the nursing, training, and educating the young of her own species: let her give her heart, her tenderness, her compassion, to the infant orphan and the deserted child; let her, in humble imitation of her great Master, become a teacher of the ignorant, and an instructor of babes; and let her, like Him, fold in her arms the lovely emblems of those beings that form the kingdom of heaven. Let her, with active zeal, bring little children to Christ, that He may bless them; and though, under her fostering care no great legislator, prince, or prophet may arise, a superior reward will await her labours: that which is promised to those who save a soul from death. It will be her peculiar and happy lot to rear good Christians and useful members of society; and above all, blessed spirits for eternal happiness in the communion of saints made perfect.
()Sir Thomas Gresham, who built the Royal Exchange in London, was the son of a poor woman, who, while he was an infant, abandoned him in a field. By the providence of God, however, the chirping of a grasshopper attracted a boy to the spot where the child lay; and his life was by this means preserved,
()Some years ago, her Majesty the Queen came to open a new wing of the London Hospital. For some days previously nothing else was talked about in the papers and on the streets but Her Majesty's intended visit. There was a little orphan child lying in one of the wards of the hospital, and she, too, had heard that the Queen was coming. She said to the nurse, "Do you think the Queen will come and see met... I am afraid not, darling," said her nurse, "she will have so many people to see and so much to do." "But, I should so much like to see her," pleaded the little patient, "I should be so much better if I saw her"; and day after day the poor child was expressing her anxiety to see her Majesty. When the Queen came, the governor told her Majesty, and the Queen, with her large kindly heart and motherly instincts, said, "I should like to see that dear child. Would you just take me to the ward?" and Queen Victoria was conducted to the bedside of the orphan girl. The little thing thought it was one of the women come in the crowd to see the opening of the hospital, and said, "Do you think the Queen will come and see me? I should like to see the Queen." "I am the Queen," said her visitor. "I heard you were anxious to see me. I hope you will be so much better now;" and she stroked down her fevered, wasted, pale brow, gave some money to the nurse to get some nice things for the child, and went her way. The child said, "I am ever so much better now that I have seen the Queen."The wheels in a clock or a watch move contrary one to another, some one way, some another, yet all serve the intent of the workman, to show the time, or to make the clock to strike. So in the world, the providence of God may seem to run cross to His promises. One man takes this way, another runs that way; good men go one way, wicked men another; yet all in conclusion accomplish the will and centre in the purpose of God, the great Creator of all things.In the fact that the deliverer of Israel from the power of Egypt was himself first delivered by the daughter of the king of Egypt, we find the same interweaving of the history of Israel with that of the Gentiles already observed in the history of Joseph; and we may now regard it as a law, that the preference shown to Israel when it was selected as the chosen seed on whom the blessings were first bestowed, was to be counterbalanced by the fact that the salvation of Israel could not be fully effected without the intervention of the Gentiles.
()All done in a moment, as it were! Such are the rapid changes in lives which are intended to express some great meaning and purpose of God. They are cast down, but not destroyed; persecuted, but not forsaken! From the action of Pharaoh's daughter we learn that first thoughts are, where generous impulses are concerned, the only thoughts worth trusting. Sometimes we reason that second thoughts are best; in a certain class of cases this reasoning may be substantially correct, but, where the heart is moved to do some noble and heroic thing, the first thought should be accepted as an inspiration from God, and carried out without self-consultation or social fear. Those who are accustomed to seek contribution or service for the cause of God, of course know well what it is to encounter the imprudent prudence which says, "I must think about it." Where the work is good, don't think about it; do it, and then think. When a person goes to a place of business, and turns an article over and over, and looks at it with hesitation, and finally says, "I will call again," the master of the establishment says in his heart, "Never!" If Pharaoh's daughter had considered the subject, the probability is that Moses would have been left on the Nile or under it; but she accepted her motherly love as a Divine guide, and saved the life of the child.
()Pharaoh's daughter little knew what she was doing. And do any of us know what we are doing? Is there not something behind the very plainest transaction which, after all, may be the shadow of the Divine hand? You throw a penny to a poor child in the street; that penny may buy an orange to moisten the lips of his poor mother, dying in an unknown garret.
()Israel's deliverer is brought up on Pharaoh's bread. This is God's method of executing His purposes. He restrains the wrath of man, and causes the remainder to praise Him. He sets a watch upon His enemies. He puts His hook in the jaws of leviathan. He suddenly violates the security of the wicked, and shows kings that they reckon badly who reckon without Him.
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