Greatness has never been a solo act. Greatness is so much more than a personal effort. Behind every great man, behind every great woman, is yet another great person. A person who cared. A person who sacrificed. A person who took risks. And more often than not, that other great person is a mother or father, a loving parent or grandparent, who deeply invested in that individual's life. There are understandably very few exceptions to this general rule.
Not long ago I was skimming through the Hebrews 11 hall of faith. In that long list of notable people before the writer of Hebrews mentions Moses, he pauses to reflect on the faith of Moses' parents. In Hebrews 11:23 (NIV) the writer says, "By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict."
When I read that I flipped back to the Old Testament and read through the book of Exodus where the story of Moses' life is told. Moses was by far one of the greatest men in history. He was God's instrument. He was God's mouthpiece to a sinful and God-hostile world. And sure enough, there it was right in the Bible. It was as clear as could be. Moses' father and mother played a critical role in Moses' development.
Moses' greatness was far from a solo act. He wasn't this rugged, independent overachiever who just happened to drop out of the sky one day from heaven. In fact quite the opposite was true. Moses was born under horrific conditions, and only after the God-blessed efforts of his parents did he become God's mighty instrument.
The story of Moses began in Egypt.
The story of Moses began in Egypt long after Joseph had died and been forgotten. You will remember that Joseph rose to power in Egypt and became second-in-command, saving the entire land from a severe famine and drought. Joseph, even though he was a Hebrew, was second only to Pharaoh. And he managed to help the fledgling nation of Israel establish itself in Egypt so that it could flourish and prosper according to God's promise to Abraham.
And so under Joseph's leadership the nation of Israel settled itself down in Egypt. Before Joseph died he gathered his brothers around him and said, " 'I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.' And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, 'God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.' " Genesis 50:24-25 (NIV)
Egypt was only to be a temporary refuge for the Israelites, not a permanent dwelling. But the Israelites overstayed their welcome, and in Exodus 1:8-10 (NIV) we read these words. "Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. 'Look,' he said to his people, 'the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country." The Israelites had become a perceived threat to Egypt's national security. These dirty, smelly, unkempt, sheep-loving Hebrews had swollen from a small minority to a vast majority, and the Egyptians didn't care too much for their kind!
So in his racism and prejudice Pharaoh decided to drive the Hebrews into submission. First, he issued a decree that every Hebrew would become a slave. He took away the favored status that they had enjoyed from the time of Joseph. Second, he instructed his slave masters to forcibly work the Hebrews. With whips and chains and much cruelty, they drove many of the Hebrews to their deaths. The Hebrews died from exhaustion and from lack of food and water.
When this didn't seem to work he forced the Hebrews into the worst kind of work. Exodus 1:12-14 (NIV) says, "But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them ruthlessly. They made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their hard labor the Egyptians used them ruthlessly."
Pharaoh took things a step further. He instructed the midwives, the women who were to aid the Hebrew women in giving birth, to murder every newborn baby boy as it was born. In Genesis 1:22 (NIV) Pharoah said, "Every boy that is born, you must throw into the Nile..." In other words, Pharaoh regressed deeper and deeper from hatred into intolerance, into rage, into forced labor, and ultimately into infanticide.
Now we personally have no hook in our minds unto which to hang this experience. In his book on Moses, Charles Swindoll talks about Nazi Germany under Hitler. First came the denunciations of Jews in the popular press. Second, the denial of privileges. Next, the wanton destruction of Jewish shops and property. Then the indignity and humiliation of making Jews wear special badges which marked them as enemies. And last, the crowded boxcars, the concentration camps, and the ovens.
It is against this horrendous backdrop of hatred and prejudice that Moses is born. So from the beginning Moses' parents had a formidable challenge before them. This morning I would suggest that the approach they used in cultivating Moses toward a life of greatness is something all of us can learn from.
They developed a gut-wrenching plan.
The edict from Pharaoh was that every baby boy be thrown into the Nile River. Earlier, Pharaoh had tried to get the Hebrew midwives to do his dirty work. He tried to coerce the midwives into suffocating the babies immediately upon birth or into taking some other measure to end their lives. The midwives refused to have any part in Pharaoh's plan and so after helping the Hebrew mothers give birth, they would lie to Pharaoh. Exodus 1:19-21 (NIV) tells us, "The midwives answered Pharaoh, 'Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.' So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own."
By the time Moses was born, Pharaoh had kicked things up a notch by recruiting a band of Egyptians to carry out his dirty work. This complicated things for Moses' parents. They had to develop a plan to first conceal the pregnancy, to secondly conceal the birth and the ensuing commotion, and finally to conceal the baby child.
When the baby Moses was finally born they took one look at the child and resolved that they would do everything imaginable to raise that child. They understood from the beginning that their child was special and that God had a purpose specifically in mind for their child. They understood the prophet Jeremiah's words in Jeremiah 1:5 (NIV). "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."
Moses' parents chose life for their son.
Let me pause here and reinforce the point that Moses' parents chose life for their son. We live in a culture where we practically have to apologize for being pro-life. In our culture giving birth to a child is an option of convenience instead of an absolute moral imperative. In our culture there are no moral absolutes! In our culture babies are called fetuses and are discarded. Politicians and religious leaders and parents are pressured to forsake their pro-life heritage.
There is something to be said for parents and people who unapologetically take a stand and declare, "My child will be born, no matter what the cost. Death is not an option for my child. Aborting God's purpose and plan for my child is not an option. God has a specific plan for my child."
For Moses to be born his parents had to develop a plan, a plan that included life. Though they tried for three months to hide Moses, after a time it became practically impossible to continue doing so. The baby kept crying out in the night and their Egyptian slave masters no doubt were starting to catch on to their little secret. They had to act quickly!
So Moses' parents decide that they will set their child afloat on the Nile River in full view of Pharaoh's daughter in the hope that she might have compassion and save the child. They would station Moses' sister Miriam nearby to ask Pharaoh's daughter if she should run and get a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby. Moses' mother would be waiting at home in the hope that the plan would work and that Pharaoh's daughter might adopt the child. Only in her wildest imagination did she ever envision Pharaoh's daughter asking to raise the child in her very own household.
It was a shot in the dark, but Moses' parents knew that God was on their side. Again we find another important application for our consideration. Mothers and fathers, God wants you to raise your child. As the obnoxious Dr. Laura would say, "He wants you to be your kid's mom." God wants you to develop an intentional plan that enables you to raise your child. A plan that involves commitment, sacrifice, inconvenience, and compromise. And God is with you in this. He is standing beside you to give success to your plan. He wants you to courageously embrace the purpose he has for your child's life.
You will notice in Exodus 1 and Exodus 2 that developing a plan was only the first step.
They exercised a whole-hearted faith.
To many, their plan may have seemed like a foolish shot in the dark. But Moses' parents believed and trusted that God could make it become a reality. One morning they wake up and follow through with their plan. Moses' mother grabs a papyrus basket and carefully seals it with tar and pitch. You can imagine that she must have tested that basket in the water many times to make sure that it could hold enough weight without sinking! And then she grabs Moses and carefully places him in the basket, praying to God that this would not be the last time she would hold her infant son. And then she wades down into the river to the area where Pharaoh's daughter bathed and she places the basket near the shore in the midst of river reeds. Moses' mother then told Miriam to hide nearby to watch what would happen.
Many people wrongly believe that Moses' mother just cast him out in the current. The truth is that the river reeds were very strong and could easily keep the basket containing Moses from floating downstream.
What happened next was in no way a coincidence. Rather, it was God honoring the faith of Moses' parents. Exodus 2:5-6 (NIV) says, "Then Pharaohs daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. 'This is one of the Hebrew babies,' she said."
And then right on cue, Moses' older sister Miriam emerges from the brush and in Exodus 2:7-10 (NIV) the story continues. " 'Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse this baby for you?' 'Yes, go,' she (Pharaoh's daughter) answered. And the girl went and got the baby's mother. Pharaoh's daughter said to her, 'Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.' So the woman (Moses' real mother) took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, 'I drew him out of the water.' "
There is a passage in Ephesians 3:20 that says that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us. In the case of Moses, God had done immeasurably more. God honored his mother's faith. He protected her child. He returned the child to her care. In the end she even wound up getting paid to raise her own child! And none of that would have happened had she not trusted in God's purpose.
Parents, don't be afraid to follow through on the plans you have to raise your children. Your plan may involve quitting a job and losing some income. Your plan may involve downsizing your life, your activities, and your recreation. Your plan may involve not being popular in your kid's eyes. Other parents may also criticize you for acting according to your convictions. Men, your plan may involve you not working odd hours or working so much overtime so that you can be a real father and set an example for your kids.
In the end we have it much easier than Moses' parents for hundreds of reasons. Always know that as you step out in faith God will provide for your family. He will honor your commitment to your family. You are forever in his care.
There was still more for Moses' parents to do.
They committed to God-centered parenting.
Moses' parents understood that they would only have Moses for a short time. They knew that one day they would have to give their child to Pharaoh's daughter. It was no secret what would happen to Moses in Pharaoh's household. Pharaoh's daughter would sit him at the feet of the Egypt's finest instructors. Moses would be indoctrinated in all the Egyptian pagan beliefs. He would be pressured to adopt secular values and to participate in the pagan cults. Moses' parents only had a small window of opportunity to lay a moral and spiritual foundation for Moses that would enable him to stand up under the weight of the competing Egyptian beliefs.
You can imagine the intensity with which Moses' parents must have raised him. Every day they must have told him about the one true God of Israel. Every day they must have told him about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Every day they told and retold him the story of how God had honored Joseph's integrity and how God had miraculously intervened in Moses' birth. They must have told him about God's covenant of love and about how God had been faithful and had always followed through on his word. They surely told him about the promised land God had called them to and that Egypt was not their home. They surely told him that God would one day deliver them from slavery.
Today we need parents, mothers, and fathers who will do just the same thing. We need parents to accept responsibility for their child's spiritual development. We need fathers and mothers who will make spiritual mentoring a priority over all other things in their children's lives, over their secular education, over their sports, over their physical training, and over their working a part-time job.
For every parent today there is but a short window of opportunity to lay the proper foundations for your children. In our grade schools and high schools and colleges kids are taught about everything except God. They are taught about evolution. They are taught that all religions are the same. They are pressured to adopt ungodly behaviors, values, and attitudes. Every moment of every day the internet and television and radio and music they listen to teaches them to forsake the God of Israel, the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Mom and dad, you have to lay a foundation for your children. You have to lay it! Now the Church can help and we can provide classes and programs, but you have to be the primary conduit for your child's spiritual development. And if you don't take that responsibility seriously, your child will be at a devastating disadvantage for life.
Moses' parents laid a foundation that Moses could always return to throughout the rest of his life, forever and ever. Later when God would appear to Moses in the burning bush, Moses would immediately recognize the God who spoke to him. Later when God would command Moses to stand before Pharaoh and speak those famous words, "Let my people go," Moses knew that God could be trusted. Later when the Israelites protested against Moses' leadership, Moses could remind the people of the many times that God had kept his word.
Behind every great man and woman is a great person, a great parent. Moses' parents committed themselves to godly parenting and it made real difference. They poured the foundation for his life off which God built a great man.
They enjoyed the God-honoring outcome.
Parents, there is no greater honor and joy than children who honor God with their lives. In a very direct way Moses' parents profited greatly from the enormous investment they made in their son's life. Moses rose up among the people and through God's power he delivered the Israelites from Egyptian captivity and slavery.
The absolute best investment you can make in your children and in your future is to insure that your kids know and love Jesus Christ. Your child may become a rocket scientist. Your children may become a great athlete. Your child may amass untold millions. But in the end if your child doesn't know God, you lose and so do they and so do countless others who may have benefited from your child's love for God.
This morning like Moses' parents, you have to commit to God's purpose for your child. Malachi 2:15 (NIV) tells us God's explicit purpose for every marriage, for every family. "Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring."
This morning have you embraced that purpose? This morning have you developed a bold plan to accomplish God's purpose? This morning have you stepped out in faith and put your neck on the line so that purpose might be realized in your family? This morning have you prioritized the spiritual development of your children? Are you actively laying a spiritual foundation off which they will build their lives? This morning have you begun to reap the fruits of their godly development?
This morning will God's purpose become your purpose?