Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series on faith. Previous Post. Next Post.
“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful.” (Heb. 11:23)
How far would you go to protect the life of one of your children? Few things, if any, in this world are more precious and worth preserving than the life of a child. Life is beautiful, and in Hebrews 11:23 we see a remarkable display not only of the protective instinct of new parents but even more importantly, the strong and protective care of God our Father.
The backdrop of our text is Exodus 1–2. The opening of the book of Exodus sets the stage for a mighty display of God’s power to deliver His people from bondage and death. The book of Genesis ends with the patriarchal family living out their days in Egypt under the favorable protection of Pharaoh. In His providence, God had given Joseph and the Israelites favor in the sight of Pharaoh. They were enjoying the best of the land and a pleasant family reunion. The book of Exodus turns a very dark and different page in Israel’s history. Four hundred years had passed. Israel was now as innumerable as the sand on the seashore, just as God had promised, but a new pharaoh had risen to power. This pharaoh “did not know Joseph” (Ex. 1:8), and thus had no inclination to perpetuate the favors once accorded to Israel by the pharaoh of Joseph’s day. Israel had become a blight upon the Egyptians—a perceived threat to the Egyptians’ way of life. This new pharaoh enslaved and embittered the people of Israel, making their lives wearisome. But the more the people of God were oppressed, the more they increased.
This led to Pharaoh’s infamous death decree. In an effort to thwart the ever-increasing number of Israelites, Pharaoh commanded the leaders of the Hebrew midwives that whenever they saw a pregnant, Israelite woman about to give birth, they were to kill every newborn male child (1:16) and throw him into the crocodile-infested Nile River (1:22). Few commands in the history of Scripture—in the history of the world—compare with the malicious intent embedded in this death decree by Pharaoh. Only the most darkened heart could countenance, let alone command, such a decree. But Pharaoh’s heart was as dark as his soul, so he commanded the unthinkable: kill every baby boy.
It is into this sin-stained world that Moses was born. Under the dark star of Pharaoh’s death decree, Moses entered the scene like a ray of hope. Yet no celebration attended his birth. No laughter or rejoicing, but rather the bittersweet prospect of infanticide. When Moses was born, his parents did that which was entirely contrary to Pharaoh’s death decree: they hid their child and sought to preserve his life. It’s hard to imagine a parent doing otherwise. I write this as a parent of four children, the youngest of whom is just one month old. Every parent knows the protective instinct that would drive them to walk through fire for their child. Having given them life, we can imagine nothing other than protecting them. What Pharaoh commanded, Moses’ parents flatly refused to do. Instead, they hid Moses for as long as they could. One can only imagine the great lengths to which they must have gone to keep Moses as quiet and invisible as possible. But they sensed eventually that the gig was up and they could do this no longer. They came up with what appears to be an impossible rescue plan.