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Author:Rev. Joe Poppe
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Congregation:Redeemer Canadian Reformed Church
 Winnipeg, Manitoba
Title:God draws Moses out of the water to raise up a deliverer for His people
Text:Exodus 2:1-10 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Maintaining the Antithesis

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Confession of Dependence and Divine Greeting


Ten Words of the Covenant


Prayer for illumination and blessing


Ministry of the Word

Reading: Exo.1:22-2:25


Text: Exo.2:1-10

God draws Moses out of the water to raise up a deliverer for His people.  We’ll see how:

  1. Pharaoh’s devilish program is obstructed.
  2. God’s redemptive plan is activated.






Prayer of thanksgiving


Divine blessing

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Joe Poppe, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

            Last week we were introduced to the story of God’s redemption of His people Israel from slavery in Egypt.  We saw that despite Pharaoh’s cruel threats against God’s people, the LORD prospered them.  Pharaoh tried to limit Israel’s size and reduce her birth rate by using the Israelites ruthlessly as a slave labour force.  When that didn’t work, he commanded the midwives to murder all the baby boys that were born to the Israelite women.  Yet God was at work, quietly, behind the scenes.  He foiled Pharaoh’s plans, and caused His people to be fruitful and multiply, and to become exceedingly numerous so that the land was filled with them.

            Yet Pharaoh was not ready to give up his assault against the Hebrew slaves.  We know from later on in this book that Pharaoh could be exceedingly stubborn.  At the end of Exodus 1 Pharaoh gave this command to all his people, “Every boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.” (Exo.1:22).  Here there is a full scale assault on the covenant people of God.  Pharaoh has authorized his troops, the slave-masters, and even all his people to destroy all the male children they could find, by drowning them in the Nile.

            Reading our text we need to remember that what is going on is more than just a struggle between two ethnic groups.  The real battle here is not between the Egyptians and the Israelites.  It is between God and Satan.  The LORD was busy trying to establish His kingdom on earth.  His plan was to liberate His people from slavery and make them a kingdom of priests and a holy nation living in the land promised to their fore-fathers.  But Satan was opposing that plan.  Trying to wreak havoc among God’s people.  He was trying to destroy them, to wipe them out.  Or at least, to keep them in captivity.  By wiping out the baby boys he could perhaps assimilate the people of God into the Egyptians.  Or at the very least dramatically slow down their birth rate.

            How would God respond to this threat?  Remember that the Bible is God’s self revelation.  The purpose of recording the stories of Exodus is to teach us about who God is, so that we might praise Him for His mighty deeds.  Could God do anything against the might and power of Pharaoh?  How would the LORD respond to the cruel oppression of His people?  What can we as church today learn about God to give us comfort as we are engaged in spiritual warfare against the devil, the world and our sinful flesh?  I preach to you the word of God under the following theme:

God draws Moses out of the water to raise up a deliverer for His people.  We’ll see how:

  1. Pharaoh’s devilish program is obstructed.
  2. God’s redemptive plan is activated.

Beloved, it is hard for us to imagine the cruelty of Pharaoh and the Egyptians against the people of God.  The Israelites were a slave people.  Bitterly oppressed.  Made to work hard, whipped and beaten whenever their cruel slave masters considered they were not producing enough.  While Pharaoh’s command for the midwives to murder the boys born to the Hebrews had failed, his new edict that all the baby boys be thrown into the Nile had effect.  While it is highly unlikely that the Israelites would themselves drown their own children, the Egyptians had the right to do this.  The Nile became a watery grave.

All it took was for your baby to cry at the wrong time.  With troops patrolling the streets, and with the Egyptians people keeping their eyes and ears open, there would have been many babies ripped out of their mothers’ arms, and thrown into the waters of the Nile to die.  An attack against the weakest and most defenceless members of the Israelite nation!  An attack that threatened their very future.

We find it hard to imagine the trauma inflicted upon the God’s people.  To be oppressed as slaves, to be worked ruthlessly was one thing.  But to see your baby boys wiped out, to see the future of each family line destroyed – that was heartbreaking.  How God’s people despaired at this brutal assault against them.  Exodus 2:23 says that “the Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out.”  How bitter their lives had become!

Our text raises a number of serious questions.  Where was God in all this?  How could God allow this to be happening against His covenant people?  Did He not care about their welfare?  Was He not moved with compassion because of the murder of these little baby boys?  God had responded to Pharaoh’s previous attacks by causing the Israelites to be fruitful and multiply.  Would He now also save His people in some way?

Our text makes clear that the LORD God is not a passive God.  He sees and understands everything that happens on this earth.  Even before God’s people cried out to Him for help, He was busy working towards their redemption.  God’s response to Pharaoh’s command to drown the baby boys is to raise up one of these boys to serve as a deliverer for his people.

Our text records the story about how a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, and that she became pregnant and gave birth to a son.  Despite the fact that we know the names of these parents from other parts of Scripture (Exo.6:20; Num.26:59), they are not mentioned here.  The focus of the passage is not on all kinds of extraneous details.  It is on the birth of this baby boy, and how he is drawn out of the Nile and saved from Pharaoh’s pitiless decree.

Our text notes that when the boy’s mother “saw he was a fine child, she hid him for three months.”  The word our text translates as “fine” could mean “good” or “beautiful.”  Clearly, the baby’s parents saw something special in their son.  That is re-enforced by what Stephen says about this child in Acts 7:20, when he notes that Moses was well pleasing to God.  The author of Hebrews says in chapter 11:23, “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 Moses was three months old, his parents felt that they could no longer hide him.  So his mom got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch.  In the Hebrew our text calls this basket an “ark,” using the same word to describe the ark Noah used to save him and his family from the flood.  Moses was put into this ark, and put among the reeds on the bank of the Nile.

Most often we see this as an act of desperation on the part of Moses’ parents.  They had hidden their son as long as they could.  But as his lungs developed, he got pretty good at crying.  His cries were loud enough to be heard in the streets, where the soldiers patrolled, listening for just such infant cries.  What could they do?  How could they prevent their fine young son from being discovered and murdered?  We tend to think that since the mother lacked any better idea, she just launched the baby into his amphibious basket, hoping for the best.

That, however, is a mostly unlikely scenario.  There were thousands of places to launch this basket that would have resulted in nothing other than the child floating away to die somewhere out of sight downstream.  Egypt is large and the Nile River is long.  If you wanted to keep your baby alive, that’s not the way to do it.  It is likely that this mom knew that the princess bathed along the river.  She knew the time and place.  She put her son in the bulrushes nearby, and set her daughter as a kind of sentry to watch and see what happened.

Our text tells us that “Pharaoh’s 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.” (Exo.2:5-6). 

But how did she know he was a Hebrew baby?  The answer is obvious: she knew of the edict her father had put in place.  She knew it was a Hebrew baby because in those days, the Nile River was precisely where you could find lots of Hebrew babies.  Mostly, though, those babies were dead.  The River Nile, a source of life to the Egyptians, had become an infant graveyard.  Many Hebrew babies were floating in the Nile at that time, most just didn't have the benefit of a basket to keep them alive.  Feeling sorry for this baby boy, she decided to keep him as her own son.

Now beloved, it is important that we see what is happening in our text.  Pharaoh had put in place a program to get rid of all the Hebrew baby boys.  But his is devilish program is being obstructed.  By his own daughter!  She is the one who saves this baby boy from death.  She rescues him from the watery grave.  Not a big deal, you might think.  One child saved, while thousands of others die.  But it is a big deal.  For this was the child that the LORD God had appointed to serve as the deliverer of His people.  This was the one through whom He would deliver His people from slavery!

Note the divine humour present in our text.  Pharaoh, as a tool of Satan, is full of plots and plans against the LORD and His people.  But the LORD in heaven above laughs at the vain attempts of this puny man.  It is as the Psalmist says in Psalm 2, “The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against His Anointed One.” (Psa.2:2).  But “the One enthroned in heaven laughs; the LORD scoffs at them.” (Psa.2:4)  He will accomplish His purposes, and no one can oppose His will.

“Kill the sons,” Pharaoh had decreed, “but let the girls live.” (Exo.1:22).  Pharaoh did not feel threatened by the girls.  But it is precisely they who are his undoing.  The daughters who had been exempted from Pharaoh's holocaust were the very ones who brought Moses to life and then preserved his life.  It started already with the midwives, Shiphrah and Puah who refused to do the king’s bidding because they feared God.  It continued with the other women in our story.

Moses’ mom did not fear Pharaoh’s edict, and did what she could to ensure her son would live.  Moses’ sister watched out for him as he lay in the ark along the edge of the Nile.  And Pharaoh’s daughter drew him out of the water and spared his life.  She paid Moses’ mom to nurse him.  Through these women’s faithfulness, the seed of Pharaoh’s destruction gets planted into his own house.  The child rescued from the Nile, raised under Pharaoh’s roof, and provided with a royal education (Act.7:22) will prove to be the undoing of Pharaoh.

God laughs at the vain attempts of Pharaoh.  He scorns the work of Satan.  Consider the words of David in Psalm 37.  He says, “The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming.  The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright.  But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.” (Psa.37:12-15).

What a comfort this provides for us, beloved.  We live in a world where more and more those who confess their faith in Christ are oppressed.  Just think of the persecution faced by believers in China and throughout the Islamic world.  In the west we live in a post-modern world, where there no longer is such a thing as truth, where everything is made relative.  We are supposed to be tolerant of anything and everything, while no one is tolerant of the absolute claims made in the gospel.  To be a Christian in Canada certainly is not cool.

We are confronted with many temptations.  To think as the world thinks, and to live as the world lives.  To be conformed to society around us.  Satan steadily progresses with his agenda, seeking to lead astray and destroy the church of Jesus Christ.  Were it not for the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing – we would be in deep trouble.  Yet we have a Deliverer, seated on the throne at God’s right hand.  He is our victorious King, having won the victory over sin and Satan.  And he laughs at Satan’s attempts.  For the church is His bride, and Christ loves her deeply, and He will not allow the gates of hell to prevail against her.  That’s our comfort, beloved.

So far we’ve seen how God draws Moses out of the water to raise up a deliver for His people.  We’ve focused on how Pharaoh’s devilish program is obstructed.  In our second point we’ll see how God’s redemptive plan is activated.  Our text ends by telling us about how Pharaoh’s daughter adopted the boy she had saved from the Nile, and how she named him.  It says, “When the child grew older, she [the child’s mother] took him to Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, "I drew him out of the water."” (Exo.2:10).

The Hebrew meaning of Moses’ name is “to draw.”  The Egyptian equivalent is not absolutely clear, but may mean “son of the Nile.”  Moses, the author of Exodus makes it clear that He was called Moses because he was drawn out of the water.  We know that the naming of children in the Bible is almost always significant.  So we need to pause and consider Moses’ name.  What is so significant about the fact that he was drawn out of the water?

Exodus 2 is one of a number of different passages in Scripture that introduces the theme of being saved through water.  Normally, water is associated with life.  In a dry and dusty land, nothing much grows.  But when the rains fall, crops grow and food is produced.  For the Egyptians, the Nile was their source of life.  The Nile was fed by melting snow up in the mountains each spring.  It would overflow its banks, and crops planted in the rich soils deposited on the Nile delta produced much food.  The Nile delta was the breadbasket of Egypt.

Yet in our text the Nile, normally a source of life, had become a watery grave for many Israelite baby boys.  If Pharaoh’s troops had found Moses, it would have become his grave too.  But Moses’ mom put him in an ark.  The author of Scripture uses the exact word used to describe the ark built by Noah, through which he and his family and the animals were saved from the Great Flood.  God uses Pharaoh’s daughter to rescue Moses, to spare his life from certain death.  He was kept safe through the waters, even as later in Exodus the man whose name means “drawn out” will draw the entire nation of Israel safely out of the waters of the Red Sea.

This is very significant for us, beloved.  For Exodus 2 is a story about baptism.  About being saved through water.  Just like Moses, we all need to be rescued, to be delivered.  Our soul needs to be washed, to be cleansed from sin.  We need to be regenerated from children of wrath into children of God.  The water of baptism is the sign and seal by which God signifies and assures us that He saves us.

Note what the Belgic Confession says about this in Article 34.  It says that this washing and cleansing symbolised by baptism “is not brought about by the water as such but by the sprinkling of the precious blood of the Son of God, which is our Red Sea, through which we must pass to escape the tyranny of Pharaoh, that is, the devil, and enter into the spiritual land of Canaan.”  Thus Moses passing from death to life through the water is a symbol of the journey we must all make, passing from death to life through the blood of our Saviour!

In our text we see that the God draws Moses out of the water to provide a deliverer for His people.  His function would be to serve as the redeemer of Israel.  Moses is portrayed in Scripture as a type of Christ.  What is noteworthy are the links Scripture makes to point us to the Christ who was to come, who would provide true deliverance from sin and Satan.

There are many parallels between Exodus 2, and Matthew 2 which records the threat to the newborn Saviour Jesus from the wicked ruler Herod.  While Pharaoh targeted the line leading to the Christ, Herod targets Christ the King Himself.  Just as Pharaoh slaughtered many of the Hebrew baby boys, so Herod killed all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and younger.  Revelation 12 speaks about war in heaven between Michael and the good angels and Satan and his wicked followers.  It describes Satan as a dragon, who stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment He was born.

In Exodus 2 we read about how the Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out.  There would have been great sorrow in the land at the death of many baby boys.  Matthew quotes from Jeremiah 31:15 to describe the suffering of the women in Bethlehem who lost their sons.  He says, “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

But that is not the end of the parallels.  Just as God called Moses from out of Pharaoh’s own house to serve as deliverer, so it was out of Egypt that God called His Son (Hos.11:1; Mat.2:15).  Revelation 12 speaks about how the woman gave birth to a male child, and how he was snatched up to God and His throne.  God rescues His appointed deliverer, to ensure the salvation of His people.  What He first did with Moses, He would later do with the Christ.  So that He could serve as our Redeemer, to rescue us from sin and slavery and death, and bring us into our Promised Land.

So what does all this mean for us, living thousands of years after the events of our text.  Is there any relevance for our lives today?  Yes there is.  The oppression and struggles faced by God’s people in Egypt are a symbol of the oppression and struggles we face today.  Spiritual oppression by Satan, tempting us, weighing us down with sins, making us doubt God’s promises.  There are times in our lives when we too get bogged down because of sin and all its consequences.  Times when inside we weep and mourn, just like God’s children did so long ago.

It is at those times that we need to remember our baptism, beloved.  Baptism signs and seals to us the great salvation work Christ has accomplished on our behalf.  When we were baptised God promised to wash us and cleanse us by Christ’s blood and Spirit.  In Romans 6 Paul uses baptism to picture our passing through the water from death unto life.  How we were buried with Christ by baptism into death in order that by His power we might be raised up to walk in newness of life.

We need to work with our baptism, beloved.  The words God spoke at our baptism are not meant to be filed away like a picture in a photo album.  We must believe the promise of salvation, signed and sealed at our baptism.  We need to repent from our sins and turn to God by living a new life.  Baptism is a sign of how we have passed through the waters, so that we might share in the riches of salvation worked by our Saviour.  It is by faith in this Saviour that we pass from death to life.  Christ came to grant us the abundant life; life with God both now and forevermore.  Amen.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Joe Poppe, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2008, Rev. Joe Poppe

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