The Composite Mother
Text: Exodus 1: 15-21; 2:1-10
Proposition: The complexity of being a mother is like a composite of situations, traits and responses all galvanized together in the desires of godly love.
Introduction: Composite,it’s a word that refers to a putting together of parts that that create a new picture, strength or identity. On this beautiful morning of Mother’s Day I’d like to look at the many different kinds of mothers there are, the things that work together to make a woman a mother. Mark Twain once said, “My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.”
There is something wonderful and profound that occurs when a woman becomes a mother, it’s more than just a biological process or a natural next step in a relationship. Artist Sarah Walker once said that becoming a mother is like discovering the existence of a strange new room in the house where you already live. The changes in body chemistry and even in the activities of the brain create and prepare the body and soul for the wonder of bearing and giving birth. But motherhood doesn’t restrict itself to those able to conceive, there are many beautiful and wonderful mothers who have never conceived. Author Robert Brault noted that, “There is an instinct in a woman to love most her own child — and an instinct to make any child who needs her love, her own.”
This morning I’d like to look at a very well known story that reveals a composite of situations, traits, commitments and faith that floodlight the significance of what it means to be a mother. Have a look at Exodus 1:15-21 with me.
I. A Mother’s Heart Is Both Fair and Splendid, Overthrowing Nations.
When you read this portion of Scripture what is easily overlooked is that the nation of Israel has grown from 70 people to over 2 million people in a little over 400 years. In verse 8 the Pharaoh of Egypt sees the Hebrews as being vital to the economic well being of Egypt. Ironically it was a quality of life concern, if the Hebrews ever left Egypt things would not be so good. There were so many male children being born to the Hebrews compared to their birth rate that they might one day overthrow them. So Pharaoh proposes a plan, today we would call that plan, ‘post birth abortion’. He seeks to have the Hebrew midwives kill the male infants just after they are born. He calls in two Hebrew midwives, women who likely headed up the many who served as midwives for a nation of 2 million. There is little said about them yet what they do helps to change the course of two nations, Egypt and Israel. Mothers are not only nation builders, they are used to change the course those nations because of who they are and what they believe. Just look at the names of these two women who, incidentally, were likely not mothers themselves. Perhaps they had been unable to have children of their own and this is what allowed them the time and desire to do what they did. The two women referred to here are Shiphrah, her name means ‘fair, clear’ and Puah, her name meant ‘splendid’. Let me suggest that these are composite qualities for every woman but especially for mothers. These two likely influenced many of the others who served Israel in those days as midwives. So what directed Shiphrah and Puah to risk their lives in defying the great Pharaoh? In verse 17 it simply says, “But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive.” It was their faith, their knowledge of Scripture, even their deep reverence for God over the very well being of their own lives. In that sense they feared the Lord more than anything else, it was a belief that the commands and revealed will of God superseded that of state. Ultimately it is God we are accountable to, ultimately it is God who determines who lives and dies, ultimately it is God who creates life and it is His choice as to what is fair, clear and splendid. Our call is to honor and protect that. This is what was in their hearts. They were held accountable by Pharaoh, they risked their lives even as they saved life after life. Did you see how this was recognized by God? Look at verse 21, “And so it was, because the midwives feared God, that He provided households for them.” That word ‘households’, what do you suppose it means, a nice home… a cat, a couch and a kitchen? I think it can certainly include that but what I think it primarily refers to is family, descendents, a husband and children of their own. A mothers heart is both fair and splendid and God can use it to overthrow the godless thinking of any nation. It is such a high value to God that He blesses that heart with the greatest gift next to salvation, He blesses them with life, He entrusts them with the lives of persons He intends to bring freedom. We don’t know but perhaps it was Shiphrah or maybe Puah that helped to deliver Moses.
II. A Mother’s Heart Has To Be Perceptive, Persistent and Compassionate.
Let’s face it parenting is not easy, it starts that way but it gets tricky fast. Many of you have heard the name Phil Callaway, a writer, speaker and generally good guy and godly father. He said his 16 year old daughter told them that she was putting a verse of Scripture on her bedroom door.. that sounded good. Turns out it was Psalm 56:1, “Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me”.
The account of Moses is one of those beautiful but difficult stories that describe the providence of God as it accommodates the permissive will of God to shape the woman of God and her family. For three months she kept her infant son, loving him and hiding him and holding him. I love what it says in Exodus 2:2, “So the woman conceived and bore a son. And when she saw that he wasa beautiful child, she hid him three months.” The word ‘child’ is assumed meaning that the original language simply says, ‘when she saw he was beautiful’. I’m not sure if it is the amygdala in the brain, the part that stores, encodes and interprets emotions, but when she saw he was beautiful it was more than just a sight thing. She loved the way he looked and moved and even smelled. This works in fathers too by the way, fathers have amygdalas too! I mean, our daughters were so beautiful to me that even their poop didn’t stink , at least not at first. Mothers are meant to perceive beauty where others often overlook it, to perceive value and to love in a way that shapes the child’s heart. It was that ‘beautiful’ that drove the mother of Moses to persist against all odds, to give her son whatever hope there could be for life, even the hope of setting him adrift on the Nile. Her daughter could watch for his safety for awhile but again what enabled her to move through this great risk and pain was to trust in God. He had given Moses to her, He had a purpose and He is good. Little could she know that before the sun would set that day she would have her son returned to her arms and the might of the Egyptian kingdom would now protect her and her son. God is good, His ways are unsearchable, what we learn to let go of, God has a way of returning to us.
There is one more mother’s heart that is here for us, it’s seen in the person of the woman who would become the adoptive mother of Moses. Pharaoh’s daughter goes to the river just as the cradling ark of Moses comes into view. It’s her reaction to it that I want to draw your attention to. Her maid gets the tiny ark and brings it to her. Verse 6 describes what happened, “And when she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby wept. So she had compassion on him…”. ‘Compassion’, it means there’s a wonderful ‘softness’ to her as she heard his cry. Mothers have that, a wonderful softness to their touch and voice and heart. Why do you suppose that is, what is it that makes a mother so resiliently soft, so perseveringly compassionate? Let me suggest to you that it is the very heart of God that is meant to be seen and experienced in that compassion. Compassion has many qualities but perhaps the most obvious one that is mentioned in this passage is seen in the way that she names this child. When Moses has been weaned, perhaps two years later, he is brought to Pharaoh’s daughter, verse 10 describes the moment. “And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. So she called his name Moses, saying, “Because I drew him out of the water.”That’s what the name ‘Moses’ means, ‘drawn’. It has the inference of rescue, of pulled close, of being reached for. Mothers are meant to do that, in part because we need it but mostly because it is what God does and they are used of Him to reflect that truth. He draws us to Himself, He rescues us, He reaches out, He pulls us close. In the beauty and compassion of who you are here this morning as mothers, He reflects this great design and in this case through a woman who is an adoptive mother.
There is a composite mother seen in these women this morning, some you see in yourself or in your mother but all of what it means to be ‘mother’ reflects the great complexity of God’s heart for us. So today honor your mothers. Rachel Wolchin once wrote, “Call your mother. Tell her you love her. Remember, you're the only person who knows what her heart sounds like from the inside.”