Pastor of Decatur United Methodist Church
When I was in college, I participated as a leader on a spiritual retreat for high school students. This was early in my college career, and I in a season of life where I was trying to figure things out. I went into college with the assumption that I wanted to work in ministry. And here I was helping lead a spiritual retreat for high school boys. I was excited about this retreat and excited to share in leadership. Getting ready for the weekend required weekly leadership team meetings. These meetings were times that the whole leadership team gathered for prayer and for planning of the upcoming retreat.
But when it came time for the retreat I was really questioning myself. Was I there for the right reasons? Was I there because I wanted something that sounded nice on resume? Was I there for some personal religious experience instead of helping students younger than me? During one evening we were in the chapel and it came time for private prayer. We had about 30 people in this space. Adults, teenagers, and college students were praying in this space. During my time of prayer I was struggling over these questions. At the time it was kind of a crisis of faith.
My questions may not be the same questions you have asked. These aren’t even the same questions I would probably worry about today. But does a crisis like this sound familiar? Uncertain about what is going on in your life. Unsure about what you should be doing. Questioning your direction in life.
Well… While I was praying one of the pastors in the room came up to me and told me that he felt God leading him to pray with me. The prayer that this pastor offered on my behalf directly touched on my fears and my insecurities. Even today, I look back on this time as a moment of grace where someone spoke life into my life. I hadn’t discussed these issues with anyone else at the time, but God used this person to speak to me words of hope and words of life.
What about those times in your life where you have had someone speak words of hope or life or help into your life? Maybe that friend who helped you during a time of need. Maybe a Sunday School teacher who helped learn about yourself, and God, and what it means to live a faithful life. Maybe a teacher who saw promise in you when no one else thought you would come of any good. Help… It means so much for someone to help.
When we think about help, help is something central to what we find in the Bible. We are currently looking at women of the Bible who have made a difference; bold women who lead us. In a time of need, there is no better leadership than someone who comes alongside you to help show you a better way. Today we are going to look at some women who did this very thing.
Our focus today will be in the book of Exodus, which is the second book of the Bible. This book tells the story of the Israelites. What has happened, is that the Israelites have been enslaved by the Egyptians. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, is frightened that these Israelites might rise up against the Egyptians. So the king oppresses them and places them in forced work gangs, but Israelites are having more babies than the Egyptians and they continue to grow and spread in number.
Out of this fear, the king decides to do something to control the Israelite population. He first tries to get the Hebrew midwives to kill the baby boys as they are being born. But, in boldness, these women lead a quite rebellion to keep the baby boys alive. So he thinks of a plan get around this. In Exodus 1:22 we read of how the “Pharaoh gave an order to all his people: “Throw every baby boy born to the Hebrews into the Nile River, but you can let all the girls live.”
The king doesn’t let the girls live because he is a feminist. The king lets the girls live because he thinks they subservient and harmless. Kill the boys because they might mount a rebellion. Allow the girls to live, because they can’t think for themselves. This is a fatal mistake. Remember the Hebrew midwives, they had just led a quite rebellion by keeping the boys alive, and here Pharaoh thinks the women are no threat. If you don’t know the story, you might be able to guess that this calculation by the king doesn’t turn out too well.
Then comes the story of an expecting mom. We find this story in Exodus 2:1
Now a man from Levi’s household married a Levite woman. 2 The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She saw that the baby was healthy and beautiful, so she hid him for three months.
I wonder how many moms hid their baby boys. I know a lot of moms, and a bet a lot of moms hid their baby boys. It just so happens that this particular family’s story makes it into the Bible.
You can only hid a baby boy for so long. So as her child continues to grow, this new mom has a situation. She now needs to figure out what to do with her son as he continues to grow. Is best for him to try to stay hidden all his life? Or what could she do to give him a better chance in life?
The story continues in Exodus 2:3
3 When she couldn’t hide him any longer, she took a reed basket and sealed it up with black tar. She put the child in the basket and set the basket among the reeds at the riverbank. 4 The baby’s older sister stood watch nearby to see what would happen to him.
Can you imagine having to send your three month old baby on a basket boat ride? I think there is more here than the mom just sending him down the river. You notice that she places him in basket in reeds on the riverbank and older sister stands watch. As we read on, we find that this is popular place in the river and women would come to this place to bathe. Perhaps the baby’s mom is taking a bold chance that another lady will see the child and help her child. On we read in Exodus 2:5
5 Pharaoh’s daughter came down to bathe in the river, while her women servants walked along beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds, and she sent one of her servants to bring it to her. 6 When she opened it, she saw the child. The boy was crying, and she felt sorry for him. She said, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children.”
This was a popular bathing site. The daughter of the king happens to here. The daughter of the man who ordered that the Hebrew boys be killed in the river, is bathing in the same place that the woman had placed her baby boy. We read that Pharaoh’s daughter felt the boy’s need and realized that he must have been the child of one of the Hebrew women.
Now remember, the older sister of this young boy is watching the riverbank. She comes now: 2:7
7 Then the baby’s sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Would you like me to go and find one of the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?”
The sister has a bold plan to help her baby brother. She sees that Pharaoh’s daughter is moved by this young boy and wants to help. So the sister basically forces the daughter of the king into offering help for this young Hebrew boy. Now Pharaoh’s daughter is becoming invested in helping this child. The story gets even better: 2:8
8 Pharaoh’s daughter agreed, “Yes, do that.” 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’ll pay you for your work.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. 10 After the child had grown up, she brought him back to Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopted him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I pulled him out[a] of the water.”
Pharaoh decided to put an end to the threat of the Hebrew slaves by killing all of the baby boys born to the Hebrew women. At every corner, though, there are women standing up to Pharaoh, taking charge, leading a rebellion; even Pharaoh’s own daughter is caught up in this. None of these women picked up swords or led riots, but they helped. They helped. They helped the cause of freedom. The consequences could have been severe, but out of boldness these women helped anyways.
Sometimes being bold for the sake of Jesus, just means helping others. Don’t underestimate the power of helping. God used these women leaders who provided help to eventually lead all of the Hebrew people out of slavery and into freedom. Helpers can make a world of difference.
Fred Rogers from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood famously talked about the power of helpers. He is quoted as saying, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.’ You will always find people who are helping.” He continued to say, “To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world” (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/17/mister-rogers-helpers-quote_n_2318793.html). Isn’t that true.
This baby boy that was saved in the reeds of the Nile River later was named Moses. And God used him to bring freedom to the Hebrew people. But I wonder, how times in his later life that he would stop and list the people who helped him. His birth mother who saved him, his sister who looked after him, his adopted mother who gave him a new life and a chance to change things.
How many people have helped you? Maybe part of learning from the bold women we find in the Bible is being thankful for how many people have helped us. Perhaps on a day like Mother’s Day, you can even thank those, especially those women, who have helped you. You didn’t get to this place in life alone, you were helped and guided by so many people. And I look around at you, and I know that to this day there are people on your list that are still brining you help as Pharaoh’s daughter lead with helping. Today, let us pause and count those who have helped us, and let us be thankful.
Also, let us follow in their example. Let us follow in their bold leadership and carry on their legacy by helping others.
Decatur United Methodist Church
Our hope is that these messages will be relevant in your life and encourage you in faith.