June 24, 2007

"Jochebed: Save The Baby, Save The World"

(Exodus 2:1-10, Numbers 26:59)

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn


INTRODUCTION:

A very dirty little boy came in from playing in the yard and asked his mother, "Who am I?" Ready to play the game she said, "I don't know! Who are you?"

"WOW!" the boy cried. "Mrs. Johnson was right! She said I was so dirty, my own mother wouldn't recognize me!" (1)

Just like our physical parents, God doesn't forget God's children. Sometimes, most of the time, God makes God's presence known through our physical parents. At least that's what happens in the passage for today. Today we look at one of the little known heroes of the Bible. Actually heroine would be the proper term. The TV series Heroes had a catch phrase throughout most of its first season, "Save the cheerleader, save the world." The catch phrase for the heroine in the Scripture today could have been, "Save the baby, save the world."

I'm talking about Jochebed, the mother of Moses. Do any of you ever remember hearing anything about her other than this tale of Moses being rescued? Well, listen to the story from Exodus 2:1-10

[1] Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman.

[2] The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months.

[3] When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river.

[4] His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

[5] The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it.

[6] When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. "This must be one of the Hebrews' children," she said.

[7] Then his sister said to Pharaoh's daughter, "Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?"

[8] Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Yes." So the girl went and called the child's mother.

[9] Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages." So the woman took the child and nursed it.

[10] When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, "because," she said, "I drew him out of the water."

It's odd isn't it, her name isn't even mentioned in this story. We have to study the genealogy of Moses in Numbers 26:59 to find out her name. "The name of Amram's wife was Jochebed daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt; and she bore to Amram: Aaron, Moses, and their sister Miriam."

And yet she's an incredibly important hero of the Bible.


I. WHAT SHE DID:

A. Jochebed was an important hero or heroine, if you prefer, of the Bible because of what she did in these 10 verses. Let me give you a little background. Remember Joseph was a part of the royal family. He and his family settled in Egypt. But a generation went by, both Joseph and that Pharaoh died.

The new Pharaoh noticed one day that the Hebrew people, were as thick as fleas on a pup's back, so thick that they really outnumbered the Egyptians. So, Pharaoh devised a cunning plan. Slowly but surely Pharaoh began to subjugate the Hebrew people by assigning them more and more strenuous and arduous tasks and putting taskmasters over them, until finally they were reduced to nothing more than slaves.

Pharaoh thought that would cause them to quit reproducing. But as it turned out the more they were oppressed, the more they reproduced. Pharaoh was starting to get worried. So he solicited the help of the midwives and told them to terminate every male child when it was born. But the midwives feared God and wouldn't do it. When confronted they blamed the Hebrew women and said they had the babies before they could even get there to perform their duties.

Pharaoh was both mad and afraid and ordered that all Hebrew boys should be thrown in the Nile the minute it was born. But save all the girls.

So, what Jochebed did was rescue her son. She built a little ark of papyrus reeds and covered it with tar so it wouldn't sink and then she and her sister-in-law waited for the perfect opportunity. This baby's aunt apparently knew how lonely Pharaoh's daughter must be. Maybe the aunt worked in the palace. Whatever the case, she knew Pharaoh's daughter's schedule. Just before the daughter came to the Nile, the baby was pushed safely into some reeds where he could be found.

Pharaoh's daughter found the baby, recognized it as a Hebrew child but decided to raise him herself. It just so happened that the Aunt was close by and witnessed what had happened. And of course, she spoke up. You're going to need a wet nurse for that baby. I know just the right one.

And before you know it, Moses own mother is nursing him for Pharaoh's daughter. And do you think that's ALL Mom did? Absolutely not. You knew better. You know that every opportunity she got, Moses' mother would whisper quietly the stories of the Hebrew people. Day in and day out as long as Moses was nursing, Jochebed whispered the stories of faith to him. And they stuck.

B. Why did she do that? She did it because parents will do almost anything to make sure their children are safe.

A boy and girl were fishing with their mother in the Alaskan wilderness when a baby moose approached them. The children met the baby moose in a small meadow. Moments later the mother moose charged onto the scene, nostrils flaring and head lowered. The children were now in danger.

The mother of the children noticed what was happening and came to the rescue. She ran between her children and the mother moose, screaming and waving her arms. As she charged right up to the mother moose, the mother moose decided it was best to make a hasty retreat and get away from this crazy woman.

Later, when they were with the rest of their family, they excitedly told their father all about their encounter: "You should have seen it Dad, Mom scared off that moose with nothing but her face!" (2)

Jochebed saved her baby and saved the world. You see, by saving her baby, Jochebed set in motion the means by which God would save the world.


II. WHAT THEY DID:

One small act of courage and faith. That's all it took. From Moses and through Moses the Hebrew Children were set free from slavery in Egypt, lead to their own land and formed into their own nation, Israel. Descendant upon descendant would grow up and be lead by God. The traditions whispered in Moses' ear would be passed on from generation to generation.

From Moses' work and through the same lineage as Moses came the descendants who would face a very similar decision. A young woman would have to choose ridicule because God called her to become a mother before she was a wife. And a young couple would have to decide whether or not to flee back to Egypt to save the life of their newborn son.

Mary and Joseph would choose save the baby and save the world. For by fleeing to Egypt, they saved Jesus from dying in the brutal death of all the children under the age of two in the city of Bethlehem.

And because they listened to God, Jesus grew to be a man who would gather a following but ultimately give His very life on the cross so we could know the Salvation of God. He would give His life so we could have life. He would give His life so we could be forgiven. And he would give His life to defeat death itself.

So, you see, it truly was a case of "save the baby, save the world." For the Salvation of the World was bought by and through the love of Christ. Jesus did what He did because of what they did. And Mary and Joseph did what they did because of what Jochebed did.


III. WHAT WE CAN DO:

A. We know what they did but what can we do? This is that "so what?" part of the sermon. I mean really, so what if they all did all that. What difference does it make today. The issues are just too big for us to do anything about. What can one person do?

Well, let me tell you because it's still a "save the baby, save the world" kind of time. We have no idea what any one of the children of the world will grow up to be. They could be the one person who discovers the cure for AIDS or Cancer or any other of a hundred other diseases. We don't know. So it behooves us to attempt to save as many as possible.

And we can begin, literally begin and make a difference for $10. Do you know how? Have you heard of the movement Nothing But Nets.

Watch this short promo video and then I'll tell you more.

B. Watching the evening news, we hear of the tragic death of a child like the little boy who fell in the storm drain Thursday and was held down by the undercurrent. This week a little girl who was swept away in the floods in Haltom City was buried. Stories like that stay with us don't they. They haunt our thoughts. If the story involves two children who were lost in the same way, it would be all over the radio and papers the next day. If five children died, we become outraged.

More often than not, the evening news lately seems to have all kinds of stories about missing children who have been found dead. We were horrified when the 15 youth died in the Columbine High School shooting. I can't even begin imagine what it would do to us if we learned an entire elementary school, 600 students, died in the same day, due to some avoidable and preventable circumstances. We'd all be devastated.

And yet, yesterday, three thousand children in Africa died from malaria. Today another 3,000 will die, and again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. And for some strange reason, it doesn't seem to push those buttons of outrage.

But these are God's children, just as my children and your children are God's children. I know part of the reason for the lack of outrage, it's that sense of helplessness because those children are so far away and the number is so enormous. What can we do about it?

I'm glad you asked that question. And it all begins with $10 given to purchase a mosquito net to go over a bed for families in Africa. It's a simple method to reduce the spread of malaria and other diseases transmitted by mosquitoes.

The United Methodist Church has fought malaria for years. Through different initiatives, recently our denomination's work intersected with the efforts of the United Nations, which also has made the eradication of this disease a priority.

Then things took an interesting turn. A popular columnist from Sports Illustrated, Rick Reilly, learned of the UN Foundation's fundraising efforts to deliver mosquito nets to people in Africa. He was inspired to write a column that called all of those who play sports that involve nets, and those who enjoy those sports, to donate $10 each to purchase a different kind of net, one that would save a life.

The column was titled "Nothing But Nets," and his appeal raised $1.2 million! The effort quickly got the attention of the National Basketball Association (NBA), and we soon found the United Methodist cross and flame lined up beside the logos of the NBA, Sports Illustrated, the UN Foundation, then other partners began getting involved in the "Nothing But Nets" effort to provide bed nets.

The first night of Annual Conference this year, our offering raised over $45,000. The next day in the business session in matter of about 30 minutes we raised another $40,000 dollars and by the time Annual Conference was over we had raised over $100,000 dollars, enough to save 10,000 children from malaria.

And you know what's even better, Bill and Melinda Gates have challenged the United Methodist Church with a $3 million dollar matching grant. That means for every net we purchase, we get to send 2. And knowing us United Methodists, brother Gates better get his checkbook ready because when we set our mind to do something, it gets done.

C. We've set up a team through NothingButNets.com it's called Net Prophets, our goal is $10,000 and my personal goal is $1,000, that's how much I want to raise. I hope you'll join the team and help us raise this money. We're looking for sponsors and team members both to help buy nets but also to help recruit other team members to buy nets.

Chris Isaacs is going to be organizing some 3 on 3 tournaments in conjunction with what is being planned for the fall in our District and Annual Conference.


CONCLUSION:

In the Movie Evan Almighty, God and Evan are standing in front of Evan's house and God shows Evan what the world around them looked like before there were any cities or towns. Afterwards Evan says, "So, you're really Him aren't you?"

God asks, "You want more proof? I haven't done the pillar of salt thing in awhile."

Evan says, "That's all right, I believe you. I just don't understand why you chose me?"

God says, "You want to change the world, son. So do I."

The movie has it right. God does want to change the world. That's the whole reason Moses was saved from the Nile. That's the whole reason Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt. That's the whole reason Jesus came. We have no idea what any of these children that we can save will grow up to be.

But that's out of our hands. However, we can change the world. We can "save a baby and maybe save the world" with this simple Act of Random Kindness of purchasing a bed net.

Let's show God that we recognize God's children in Africa as our brothers and sisters. Let's show God that we want to be a part of changing the world. Even if it's only one child's world. Who knows what that will lead to. "Save the baby, save the world."

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.

______________________________

Bibliography

1. The Pastor's Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), July 2000

2. Joyce Howard in Readers Digest, October, 1984, pg. 198

3.

4.

Other References Consulted

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The Interpreter's Bible, (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1953)

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