She set the woven basket at the edge of the Nile river, knowing when she let go, she might never see her son again. Her preparations were meticulous: a tight weave of papyrus reeds with a thick layer of tar and pitch smeared along the bottom. She held this basket up to the sun to see if light flickered through any crevice and then floated it in the water to ensure it was waterproof. Maybe she placed some twenty-pound object inside to see if it would sink with the weight of her child.
Whatever she did, she had to do it quick, or her son would be killed. A war was underway against her race, a people already enslaved was now set to be exterminated – the males at least. Based on fears that the Israelites were too numerous and would soon overtake the land, the Egyptian king ordered midwives to kill boy children. These women resisted and came up with a clever response that gave Hebrew women time to hide their children.
One such woman hid her son for three months. Then, knowing she couldn’t protect him from the Egyptian army forever, she bundled him up and placed him in her DIY boat. The book of Exodus doesn’t mention this boy’s mother watched him cross that river and I don’t think she did. Her eyes were too filled with tears; her heart and mind too filled with prayers. She was either folded over her knees or lying prostrate on the ground, in some hidden place. Her name was lost in history, but Mama Moses remains one of the most notable women in scripture. By her faith in God, she changed the trajectory for an entire group of people.
Without her, her tribe, the Levites, who were set apart for the priesthood, wouldn’t have existed for long. Here’s what you need to know, the tribe of Levi was not allowed to own land and relied on others to tithe to them for their work in the temple, in order to make a living. So they weren’t rich and their influence was limited to the temple, although some became judges and had more political clout.
For Christians, the tribe of Levi gets us John the Baptist, the Hebrew man who ushered in the way for Jesus. So whether you’re Jewish or Christian, it’s a big deal that Mama Moses wasn’t about to let anyone mess with her boy.
Yet it’s easy to read the story of Moses and never catch the gravity of what his mother did for future generations. After all, Moses parted the Red Sea, led the Israelites out of slavery, knocked a rock with his walking stick and water came gushing out. He was self-deprecating, an underdog in the fight for a multitude of lives, and became the champion for his people. But none of this is possible without the tenacity and faith of his mother.
Mama Moses was a Badass
Mama wasn’t playing. She heard the edict and went into action mode, essentially becoming a spy. Together with her daughter, Miriam, they performed reconnaissance, discovering Egyptian royalty across the river. They scouted out the days and times when the princess would be bathing in the Nile, suspecting that a woman of childbearing years, without a child, would take it as a sign if an orphan baby arrived in her wake. She was a bad mama jama in the extraordinary internal sense.
Mama Moses put her hand in the water to test the current of the day and placed her baby in his makeshift watercraft. When it was time, she nudged the vessel into the stream.
Meanwhile, Miriam, good sister that she was, climbed a tree and acted as a watchtower until her brother made it across the river. She saw the princess lift her brother from his basket and hightailed it across the river. With nonchalance, Miriam introduced herself to the Egyptian princess, offering Mama Moses up as a nursemaid for this mysterious Hebrew baby. And get this, the princess not only says yes, she says she’ll pay Mama Moses money to care for the child.
This mother-daughter duo was intelligent, but intelligence alone was nothing without a motivation that was beyond them, a God-sized courage that enabled them to sense opportunities beyond their scope of reasoning and take risks. They launched their mission, knowing they might fail or get caught, but believing God had a plan to save their boy, and maybe save their people.
But even with great faith in her God, Mama Moses had to pry every finger from the edge of that basket. She had to let her son go, not knowing that one day her son would be used by God to tell the Egyptian Pharaoh “let my people go,” ultimately delivering the Israelites from slavery and into a land of freedom.
How different would our world be if those who expressed faith in God lived like Mama Moses, owning nothing, and giving everything? She broke before the pages of Exodus, laid it all down, extracting her grip, letting go of that basket, of her will, not knowing what would come, but trusting her God for the abundant plan that would prove to be inconceivable, unimaginable, even magical.
Maybe great acts of faith begin with courage and end with extraction, the removal of our fingerprints from the work of God? If so, the abundant life is truly counter intuitive; instead of our resources, the mark of “God being with us” is our ability to be broken before Him and poured out for others – to paraphrase author Ann Voskamp, in her latest book, The Broken Way.