Exodus 2:1-10 (Jochebed)
Have you ever found yourself holding onto matters of the heart? Ever struggled to release the happenings of your life regardless of their classification as good or bad? Perhaps, you have even finagled the workings of situations so they manifest the desires and expectations you’ve sought with fervor? Or maybe, just maybe, you’ve become enslaved to the false sense of security that emerges when you over-plan, over-manage, or control life’s pieces?
On some level, I think we’ve all found ourselves in the driver’s seat trying to play God. Whether it be with our careers, families, children, friends, or money, the inherent and sinful nature of our humanity often compels us to hold onto the reigns of life, and to hold onto them rather tightly. Our minds and hearts bend to our fleshly desires daily… sometimes hourly… easily ensnaring us to the pattern of designing our world, desiring recognition, or determining our worth. Sometimes even when we’re faced with clearly marked closed doors, intuitions that raise red flags, and the reaping of consequences from past mistakes, we still want the reigns. Let’s face it – releasing is hard. SUPER HARD.
Now maybe it’s my tendency to read too much into things, but the word release seems to carry a weight of tremendous portions. Within its small, 7-letter construction, I find the inherent irony of a big God inviting us into a small process that can be far beyond our human comprehension. Webster’s dictionary defines release as the power of one to set something free by the use of their hands, to escape confinement or allow something to move, act, or flow freely. Seems simple and easy, right? Ummm… not really!
Thankfully, in ordinary and not-so ordinary ways, Scripture teaches us the power and process of release. In Exodus 2, we are introduced to Jochebed, the Levite mother of Moses. Rendered to a life of slavery under the power and authority of Egypt’s Pharaoh, Jochebed gave birth to her son at a time when all Hebrew newborn boys were to be drown in the Nile River. In short, she was ordered to release her baby boy to death by the commandment of the king.*
But Jochebed saw the potential of her son. She and her husband saw that their little one was unlike the others – he was beautiful. They saw his potential and hid him for 3 months. Upon realizing that she could no longer hide him, she constructed a basket, coated it with asphalt and pitch, and placed the child in it among the reeds of the Nile. It is here that Jochebed planned to release her son to his fate. And it is here, in the middle of Scripture, where we see a process of release that can mightily help our walk and trust in God.
The 7 Phases of Jochebed’s Releasing Process:
You may ask: What is this process of release, and what power – if any – do I have to experience it? You may ask, what is it that I can really do to “let go” of a circumstance, thought, or expectation I’ve held onto for far too long where its growth and negative impact can no longer be hidden?
Friend, I encourage you to do what Jochebed did by following this seven-phase process of release:
- [R]eady ourselves and hearts
- [E]xercise courage, boldness, and faith
- [L]inger in the unknown – don’t!
- [E]xpect God’s movement
- [A]void temptation to manipulate the situation
- [S]tand in hopee
- [E]xperience God’s peace
By reorienting our emotions and lives to allow something new, we are able to release our own expectations in anticipation of God’s active and living hope.
PHASE #1: READY OURSELVES AND HEARTS (v. 1-3a)
“Now a man from the family of Levi married a Levite woman. The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son; when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months. But when she could no longer hide him…” (v.1-3a)
Scripture tells us that Jochebed knew the potential fate of her son. As the wife of a Levite, she was part of the Israelite tribe responsible for executing the religious duties of the people. Familiar with prayer and the Almighty power of Yahweh, Jochebed also knew the time would come where she could no longer hide her boy. For three months, she cared for the infant in preparation for his release. In that heart space, Jochebed refrained from allowing the temptation of anger and fear to guide her actions. She doesn’t bow to Pharaoh by killing her son. Instead, she continues to ready herself and heart for his letting go.
PHASE #2: EXERCISE COURAGE, BOLDNESS, AND FAITH (v. 3b)
“… she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with asphalt and pitch. She placed the child in it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile.” (v. 3b)
In this phase, Jochebed places Moses in his basket and among the Nile’s reeds. She physically lets go of her son, overcoming the fear and uncertainty of what form his life would take afterward. Would he die? Would he be saved? She didn’t know, and she didn’t let fear stop her from moving forward. She stared down the “face of man’s law” with the “face of God’s law” trusting that Yaweh would ultimately have the final say. Resting in His power, she exercised courage and a boldness in faith to do what many would deem impossible.
PHASE #3: Don’t LINGER IN THE UNKNOWN (v. 4)
“Then his sister stood at a distance in order to see what would happen to him.” (v. 4)
Here, we see Jochebed leave the area, and Moses’s sister, Miriam, emerge. Jochebed retreats from the circumstances to go about her business and wait on the Lord, while Miriam remains lingering in the unknown of her brother’s fate. Listening and monitoring nearby, we see Miriam’s unwillingness to release contrasted with Jochebed’s choice to release.
Sometimes in difficult circumstances, we hover over what we know must be let go. While we may not intimately be near the situation or directly within its mix, we may still choose to hold onto it from afar — waiting to see the first move of man or of God and then intervening when we see an opportunity to get what we want. Our failure to walk away from that which we are called to walk away from – if only for a moment – can alter the situation before us, muddying the waters we may have not been chosen to trudge through.
PHASE #4 and #5: EXPECT GOD’S MOVEMENT and AVOID TEMPTATION TO MANIPULATE THE SITUATION (v. 5-9)
“Pharaoh’s daughter went down to bathe at the Nile while her servant girls walked along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds, sent her slave girl, took it, opened it, and saw him, the child—and there he was, a little boy, crying. She felt sorry for him and said, ‘This is one of the Hebrew boys.’ Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Should I go and call a Hebrew woman who is nursing to nurse the boy for you?’ ‘Go,’ Pharaoh’s daughter told her. So the girl went and called the boy’s mother. Then Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this child and nurse him for me, and I will pay your wages.’ So the woman took the boy and nursed him.” (v. 5-9)
Jochebed’s position away from the Nile gives us hope in the power of expectation and in the power of allowing God to move and call us back into a released situation when he has more work for us to do. Here, we see God provide a space for Pharaoh’s daughter to find Moses and extend a gift of mercy and care upon the child’s life.
Feeling sorry for the infant, Pharaoh’s daughter recognized the Hebrew boy’s affiliation and later accepted Miriam’s offer to find a nursing, Hebrew woman who would care for him temporarily. What joy Jochebed must have felt upon Miriam’s arrival sharing that good news!
In this phase, we also see the power of God’s good intervention in a circumstance the enemy meant for evil. Pharaoh’s daughter’s pity on Moses gifted Jochebed with a rich blessing – an opportunity to receive wages for the nursing of her son and for his later return to the Egyptian family. Such effort would have not normally reaped such a benefit, but in this case, God provided greatly – greatly in opportunity, wages, and Moses’s future. Jochebed accepts these gift seeing the moment for what it is – a time of additional care for her son and another opportunity to be his mother.
PHASE #6 and #7: STAND IN HOPE and EXPERIENCE GOD’S PEACE (v.10)
“When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, ‘Because,’ she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.'” (v.10)
In this final phase, Jochebed completes the release process by bringing Moses back to Pharaoh’s daughter so he could officially become her son. Here, she gives her own flesh and blood over to a new life as an Egyptian; into a life she knew she could never provide for Moses herself.
In that moment, I envision Jochebed wrestling with the conflicts in her heart. I see her struggling to release her son to another woman, yet strongly standing in hope through her faith in God. I see her eventually experiencing God’s peace, as she witnesses her sacrifice bring life to a boy the world sentenced to death, but for whom God knew would be drawn from the water.
It is here, that I see the life of Jesus demonstrated in the pages of Old Testament Scripture. It is here that I imagine the resting of Jochebed’s soul in the goodness of God and in the power of letting go. It is here that I imagine the resting of our own souls when we’ve trusted God fully, abstained from trying to be like him, and allow the transformative process of surrender to shape our lives. It is here that I imagine the readying of my own heart to release among the reeds the very things that threaten to keep me enslaved to the ways of the world.
Sister, what will you choose to release today? What will you place among the reeds?
May Jochebed’s example be the lesson, and God’s power be your guide.
* Reference Exodus 1:8-20