The baby in the basket . . . he plays an important part in Exodus.
But before we watch the basket flow down the Nile River, we need to look at the preceding chapters of Genesis.
It’s so easy to seamlessly flow from the last page of Genesis to the first page of Exodus, but this transition was not so seamless in real life. Where we see one page, the Israelites saw 400 years.
At one end of these 400 years, in Egypt, Joseph experienced many ups and downs in the favor of society’s eyes until God placed him as second-in-command to Pharaoh. The nation of Israel, at this point a nation of only 70 people, settled into the best of the land given to them by Pharaoh, and God allowed them to find favor with the Egyptians.
At the other end of these 400 years, still in Egypt, Joseph and the rest of Jacob’s sons were long gone. The favor Israel had in Egypt crumbled into the wind-swept sands around them. A new Pharaoh feared their immensely growing numbers, and out of that fear, he enslaved them. Worked them to death. Beat their hope into the ground until what little hope they had left went up in doleful cries to God.
400 years doesn’t seem like a long time, though, when you view it from God’s timeless perspective. And He waited that whole time, holding His people in the palm of His hand. Remembering them. Hearing their cries. Waiting . . .
waiting until He led a sorrowful mother to place her baby and faith in a basket, pushing it into the hands of the Nile.
And this is where the transition into Exodus begins: with the story of Moses, an insecure foreigner.
Moses defied Pharaoh from the beginning. He defied him when he (unintentionally) broke Pharaoh’s order for every Hebrew son to be thrown into the river. The irony here lies in Moses not being thrown into the river by a Pharaoh’s intention of destruction, but rather gently placed by a mother’s intention of love and survival.
By pushing Moses into the hands of the Nile, this one Hebrew mother was pushing him into the hands of God. And God led that tiny baby in a basket into the hands of Pharaoh’s daughter.
Pharaoh’s daughter drew Moses out of the water.
She, in fact, gave Moses his name. It sounds like the Egyptian word for “born” and the Hebrew word for “drawing out.”
And just as Moses was drawn out of the water, so will he be drawn out of Midian to draw God’s people out of Egypt.
So, let’s flash forward a bit. Moses grows up in Pharaoh’s palace. And even though he dresses and acts like an Egyptian, he still is a Hebrew deep down in his core. But because he is a Hebrew living in the Pharaoh’s palace, he is both a foreigner among the Egyptians and a foreigner to the Hebrews.
And this truth sinks into Moses’s mind when he goes to defend one of his Hebrew brothers from an Egyptian overseer. He thinks he saves his Hebrew brother by killing the Egyptian, but the next day when Moses returns and finds two Hebrew men fighting, he asks the cause of their bickering, and one retorts:
And thus, the seed of Moses’s insecurity is planted. He probably was insecure before knowing he was a Hebrew in Pharaoh’s court . . . a Daniel in a lions’ den.
But this moment would plague Moses’s leadership later on. It would be the reason God would continually have to comfort and soothe Moses.
But for now, all Moses is worried about is fleeing from Egypt and the Pharaoh who now seeks to kill him, just as Moses did the Egyptian overseer.
He flees to Midian–and now he is a foreigner in Midian. He marries the daughter of a Midianite priest and has a son. And interestingly enough, this is the place where he learns how to shepherd.
And though this seems like such an insignificant fact, it is symbolic of the shepherding Moses will have to do later when he leads God’s people out of Egypt. So, though Moses was a foreigner in a foreign land, God was giving him the practice he would need later to lead God’s foreign people out of Egypt.
We cannot understate the importance of this fact: that the very thing God would call Moses to do is the thing he is doing now while he waits in the wilderness.
And it is in the middle of shepherding one day that God calls out to Moses. All this time Moses has been in Midian, Israel has continued to cry out to God and God has continued to remember them and hear their cries.
So, His presence descends on a bush, setting it on fire . . . but never consuming it. And I cannot help but wonder if this is symbolic of the Holy Spirit igniting a spiritual fire within us that burns brightly . . . but never consumes us.
And from this bush, He calls out to Moses.
And Moses says, “Here I am.” (Exodus 3:4)
But as God places His calling on Moses, Moses’s attention quickly crumbles to a fear and doubt festered by his earlier insecurity with the Egyptian overseer and the two Hebrew slaves.
“Who am I,” he says, “that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11).
“If I go to the Israelites and say to them: The God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what should I tell them?” (Exodus 3:13)
And each time Moses asks a question born out of his insecurity, God answers. He comforts Moses. He reassures him. He lays out His plan in detail so Moses knows what is going to happen and has no reason to fear, worry, or doubt. And at this moment, unbeknownst to Moses, God has sent Aaron–Moses’s brother–to meet him in the wilderness. Aaron will speak the words that Moses is too afraid to say to the Israelites and to Pharaoh.
And in all honesty, God didn’t have to answer Moses nor soothe his anxious insecurities. But God, in His faithful love and kindness and grace, told Moses that He would be with him when he goes to bring the Israelites out of Egypt.
And with the God of the universe, Moses will not be just some random nobody on a terrifying mission.
God told Moses His name–a name that not even Abraham, Isaac, nor Jacob knew–so Moses would know Who it was that sent him. So Moses would know Whose name to share with the very Israelites that were 400 years separated from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They needed to be reminded of Him . . . but they also needed to be introduced to the I AM WHO I AM, to Yahweh. Two new names for the same powerful God whose mighty and loving hand would deliver them from Egypt.
Two new names for the God who said: “I have paid close attention to you and to what has been done to you in Egypt. And I have promised you that I will bring you up from the misery of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites–a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 16b-17).
So, with God’s plan, reassurance, and staff capable of God’s miraculous signs tucked away in his mind, heart, and hand, Moses returns to Egypt.
And he carries out the first step of the plan: addressing the Israelites.
Having met Aaron in the wilderness on the way, Moses and Aaron address the Israelites. Moses tells Aaron everything God told him, and Aaron, in turn, tells this to the Israelites while performing the signs with the staff.
And after years and years and years of painful, terrible, back-breaking, and heart-crying slavery . . .
The foreigner in the Nile who grew up to be the insecure foreigner in Egypt and in Midian, called by God, now has spoken to the nation of foreigners in Egypt. And this nation, never having had a home to call their own, bow down and worship when they hear that the God of their fathers, that Yahweh has heard their cries and has promised to deliver them from their slavery in a foreign nation. He has promised to return them to the land their fathers resided in but never possessed as their own home.
And God takes it a step further when He promises Israel that this same land will be their home. They will no longer be foreigners in a foreign land.
So, with the foreigner Moses and the foreigner nation reunited, they now wait for God’s deliverance.
But they do not know that the greatest obstacles their Yahweh and I AM WHO I AM will have to overcome is Pharaoh’s stubborn heart . . . and their own doubting selves.
But God’s power is so great that a stubborn heart and a doubting nation are not impossible obstacles.
And in Exodus 5, God will start the process of delivering foreign Egypt . . . and it begins when foreign Moses approaches Pharaoh’s throne. And in the throne room, there is a booming echo:
“Let My people go.”
And next week, we will watch as the I AM WHO I AM overcomes the stubborn Pharaoh and the doubting Israel.
Trusting in Yahweh,