Date: August 31, 2017
Bible Text: Exodus 1:8 Exodus 2:10 Romans 12:1-8 Matthew 16:13-20 | Steve Keeler
As the Bible shares a story about a three month old Hebrew boy drawn out of the water of the Nile, we continue to pray for our neighbors in the state of Texas who have been slammed by a rain soaking hurricane leaving citizens seeking shelter from continuous rain, blowing wind, flash floods and standing water. The hurricane that hit Texas on Friday night and Saturday morning was a Category 4 storm. The damage is extensive and painful to see as people wait to be drawn out of the water.
Watching the weather channel yesterday morning reminded me of the trip made twenty five years ago to deliver much-needed supplies to several churches in Homestead, FL in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 hurricane. Driving over the bridge into the community, we saw almost complete and total destruction. Buildings flattened. Roads washed away. Neighborhoods lay empty because there were only a few safe places to lay one’s head at night, few places to work, attend school or church, to buy food and drinkable water. Homestead was changed forever.
The people of south Florida following Andrew, the people of Louisiana and Mississippi following Katrina, and the people of south and central Texas when they get up this morning can relate to what it means to be “drawn out of the water.” In the days, weeks, and months to come, the work of recovery will be long and hard as people adjust to the harsh reality of being displaced from their homes and neighborhoods. Mother Nature is very strong, and so was the brutal evil of a pharaoh who was fearful of his Hebrew neighbors.
The Bible tells us that the pharaoh, out of fear that the Hebrew population was growing too quickly and would one day turn against his authority, issued an order that every boy born to the Hebrews be thrown into the Nile with the amendment that every girl live. When became impossible for a mother to hide her son, she placed him in a papyrus basket and floated her three month old child among the reeds on the bank of the river. Discovered by pharaoh’s daughter and later nursed by his mother, the child grew. In the years to come, Pharaoh’s daughter took the boy as her son and named him Moses because, she said, I drew him out of the water.
What a striking and dramatic story. What a Levite woman did for her son to have any chance to live was a measure of last recourse, which reminds us that life can provide some of the most extreme and unbelievable situations that call for gut-wrenching and life-changing decisions. When these times come, we can only pray that we do the right thing and abide in the faith that God will take care of the rest. A child by the name of Moses, drawn out of the water, defies the odds. He lives and thrives, and becomes an instrument of God to save and lead the Hebrew people in one of the most extraordinary journeys to freedom ever recorded in human history.
Last week, we heard the story about Joseph surviving the jealousy of his brothers and finding favor with another pharaoh, about Joseph showing mercy to his brothers and helping their families finding respite from famine and drought. All of this possible, because Joseph, on good days and evil days, had held in his heart, for a long, long time, the faith of his father Jacob.
And such was the case for Moses and this is how it started. The Bible tells us that Moses was born to a father and mother, both Levites. We are led to believe the parents were people of faith. The Bible is silent, however, on how long Moses was nursed and cared for by his mother, and also silent on any role his father might have played in his upbringing. Whatever Moses may have been exposed to and learned as a child by way of faith tradition, he held in his heart as an adult, which prepared him for the encounter with a burning bush and the voice of God.
As time goes by, and the treatment of the Hebrew people becomes more severe, God uses Moses to stand against the pharaoh and draw his people out of the water of captivity and servitude. In years past, a mother had cuddled, fed and nurtured a son singing songs and telling stories of faith, and offering words of prayer. It is important for a child to learn how to read and write, to accomplish the worlds of science and math, to dance and dribble a basketball, but also important to learn songs and stories of the faith and how to pray.
Before his death in November of 1963, C. S. Lewis shared the alarming perspective that intellectual honor had sunk low in his age. Nearly forty five years later, I believe Lewis’ perspective is still true. There are some who make the point that if one is a Christian, God will reward you with prosperity and good health, and a life full of blessings and happiness. In my mind, they preach a false gospel. There are too many stories recorded throughout the Bible that tell us otherwise and so we ask: What about all of the Hebrew children who were deliberately drowned, who were hid along with Moses in a basket but never found and rescued, who were never drawn out of the water? What about these children, along with their mothers and fathers?
Some time ago, I remember a friendship with a woman by the name of Elena. Born in Poland, she had survived the hatred of Hitler and the Nazis, the brutality of concentration camps, and her two year exodus in a refugee camp guarded and maintained by the Soviets. Her story fascinated me as she later immigrated to the United States via Ellis Island, graduated from college with an education degree, married, raised children and retired from teaching before moving to the low country with her husband. I met her one afternoon in one of our classrooms tutoring children in an after-school program. She was thankful that the day had come that she like Moses had been drawn out of the water.
In loving memory of the children who did not survive the punishment of the pharaoh and in response to the cruelties of life and raging waters that displace people today, the Bible teaches that the Lord is ever-present. Our response to the problem of evil and human suffering is Jesus Christ who knew and understood the agony of injustice and the pain of suffering. When the water rises around us, we seek our help, hope and comfort in Jesus Christ.
As we constantly adjust to the changing situations and circumstances of life, we can face the dangers of life knowing that we are known by the God who loves and forgives us, who provides freedom and hope in Jesus Christ. In the words of the Psalmist, “Blessed be the Lord, for we are like the bird who escapes from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken and we escape.” (Psalm 124) Like the child Moses and the Hebrew people long held captive, there are days we, too, wait to be drawn out of the water of some human struggle, but we wait in the faith that our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Amen.