2. Finding Moses

<< Exodus 2: The Finding of Moses >>

And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river: and her maidens walked along by the rivers side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it. And when she had opened it, she saw the child, and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews children. Exodus ii. 5, 6.

IT is an adage trite and true, that great events arise from little causes. No doubt, there is another side to this truth. There must be causes adequate to produce all effects. And behind and underneath causes apparently weak and small, there must be immense powers, when the causes increase and become mighty, and change the face of the world; yet how simple and powerless they seem at first. How forcibly is this truth illustrated by the circumstance presented in our text. Here was a little child born of despised parents, hidden for safety in a frail chest of bulrushes, crudely preserved from the water and the observation of the dangerous crocodile, feeble as feebleness itself, to all appearance; yet that child was to be the deliverer of his people, the legislator of his nation, and not of that nation only, but through the Divine Word, of which he and his nation were the receivers and depositories, of the ever-increasing Christian nations, and for all time. Even in heaven they sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb.

How clearly and how wonderfully does this teach us not to despise the day of small things, not to imagine that the race is ever to the strong, but to rest in perfect faith on the truth, that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will. If any one had been asked at the time of the event recorded in our text, which will be the most influential in the world, the proud and powerful Pharaoh who ruled the worlds mightiest and most ancient throne, or, that weak and weeping babe, especially if the courtiers had thus been questioned, there would have been no doubt the king would have had every suffrage, but it was not so; the name of the once proud despot is scarcely known, while the name and influence of that infant will never die, God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and base things of the world, and things which are despised, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence.–1 Cor. i. 27-29.

The greatest of all examples of this kind, is that of the Lord himself: lonely, forsaken of every disciple, left to die upon the cross. He was rejected, despised, crucified. Against Him were his own nation, his own kindred. Against Him were the Jewish dignitaries, entrenched in their rank and influence by centuries of usage and prejudice, behind them the Roman Power, the greatest the world had ever known. There were Church and State in both these powers, rooted, ramified, triumphant. To all appearance, the dying Savior would have no influence in forming the new age, like that which these old and powerful organizations would exert. But how different is the event. Embodied and entrenched error, though surrounded by the respectability of antiquity, rank, fashion, prejudice, magnificence, and power, has nevertheless faded, crumbled, and gone; while TRUTH, small, weak, rejected, trampled upon, supposed to be extinguished, nevertheless rose again, and with healing in its wings, spread its holy splendors ever wider, ever grander, and will spread them until they embosom the whole earth. The moral of all this is, let us be ever on the side of truth, however feeble or few they may be who hold it now. The day is sure to come when the truth despised to-clay, will be welcomed by millions. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Fathers good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Permit me now to direct your attention to the spiritual lesson enclosed in the divine narrative before us. It is the birth of the law in the soul; that inner sense of right which becomes law to the conscience. The name Moses signifies DRAWN OUT, and in giving it, Pharaohs daughter said, Because I drew him out of the water.–Ex. ii. 10. The spiritual Moses now, is the law of the divine commandments, its seen in their essence and explained by the Lord. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.–Matt. xxii. 40.

The narratives, the histories, the prophecies, and psalms of the Divine Word seem to treat of an immense number of subjects, besides the two spoken of by the Lord, yet when their aim, their purpose is drawn out, the inculcation of love to God and love to man is really in them all.

This essential law, then, is Moses. He is said to be born from a man of the house of Levi, and a daughter of Levi (ver. 1); because the conjunction of goodness and truth in the soul is likened in the Weld to a marriage, and is a spiritual marriage. When faith in the intellect is joined to affection in the heart, and is no longer faith alone, then holy feelings and thoughts are bent in the mental household within, and the prime birth of all, is this conscientious sense of divine right, this reverence for the divine will. Moses, stands throughout the Sacred Volume for the Law, sometimes in a wider, sometimes in a narrower sense. They have Moses and the prophets, said our Lord, let them hear them.Luke xvi. 29. And, beginning at Moses, and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself Luke xxiv. 27. But even to this day, said the apostle Paul, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their hearts2 Cor. iii. 15. The law then signified by Moses, must be born in the soul, or no deliverance is possible. The law is our school-master to bring us to Christ.–Gal. iii. 24. I have hid thy word within my heart, that I might not sin against Thee.–Ps. cxix. 2. The law of his God is in his heart, none of his steps shall slide.–Ps. xxxvii. 31. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.–Ps. xix. 7.

When this devout sense of right, this heart-felt reverence for the will of the Divine Being is born within, then hope enters the soul with all its blessed promises. This sight within of new virtue, this beginning of a holier state, is the commencement of the new man, the realization of the divine admonition, Ye must be born again. It is the dawn of an inner brightness, of inner purity and life, of an inner heaven. What new glories break upon the soul when this young angel is felt there. He is a goodly child, as is said of Moses. Yet in this blending of fear and hope, the soul, conscious of how much has to be done, and hardly daring to trust that redemption can be effected, hides the young child, for three months.

Times governed by the sun correspond to states of love. When love reigns, it is summer in the soul; when love is cold it is winter. Hence, it is said of the holy waters which are to flow from Jerusalem, in summer and in winter shall it be (Zech. xiv. 8). But times governed by the moon represent states of faith, for faith reflects the light of love in spiritual darkness, as the moon reflects the light of the sun.

The number three is used in the Word to represent a full state in relation to truth, as we see illustrated where the Lord tells us that the kingdom of heaven is like a woman, who hid leaven in three measures of meal.

Moses is represented as hidden for three months, and then he could no longer be concealed, to express what always happens in the early stages of the souls conversion.

The new states are kept secret for a while, until faith has become more full and perfect, when what the heart feels must be uttered, it can no longer be kept back. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh. The new state is seen and felt in new words, and new works, yet not nakedly to the world, but in an ark of bulrushes.

The ark is an ancient symbol, appearing from time to time before us in the Word. There was the ark of wood, and you will remember that it also was covered with pitch. Then there was the ark made in the wilderness, of sacred cedar wood and gold. And lastly, there was the ark seen by John in heaven (Rev. ii. 19). In all these cases, the ark represents religion as a PROTECTION. The ark of Noah signified religion, as a defense against the deluges of iniquity which then overflowed the world.

Then, as in this ark of Moses, it is said to be covered with pitch, because it symbolizes religion as it is first received, when it is the religion of fear. Man is first afraid of the God whom afterwards he adoringly loves. This dread however serves a salutary purpose; while his state is so low that he is incapable of higher feelings, the coarser ones guard him well; the pitch keeps out the flood. In good time he will have an ark of gold,–a religion of love; the law will be written on his heart. In fear there is torment, but perfect love casteth out fear.–1 John iv. 18.

The laying of the ark among the flags on the rivers brink is expressive of the souls feeling that religion is an actual face, a fact for science equally with other facts, a definite thing for the memory while the trifling character of worldly knowledge in contrast with religion, is expressed by there being flags by the rivers brink. The temporary events of the day, the things of mere outward science, important as they seem to the actors in them glowing with worldly love, are mere flags, rushes,–things of no value, trifles light as air, when compared to the sublime concerns of eternity. The state portrayed, is that delineated by the poet.

In heaven above, or hell beneath,
When I have passed the vale of death,
Must be my final state;
Today attend the call divine,
Tomorrow never may be thine;
Repent ere tis too late.

Awake from languid Natures dream,
Vast is the change whateer it seem
To vain and worldly men:
Lord, at thy footstool I would bow,
Bid conscience plainly tell me now
What it would tell me then.

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the rivers side.

It is an interesting fact in the history of Egypt, as now disclosed by the monuments, that though very unusual in the lines of Egyptian monarchs to have a queen regnant, yet there was one about this time, who reigned in her own right, and erected in her life-time an obelisk at Thebes, one of the most splendid monuments in that wonderful necropolis, whereon she describes herself as royal wife, lady of both countries (the two Egypts, upper and lower), great royal sister, and by the significant title of Pharaohs daughter.

The daughter of Pharaoh will figure to us, a pure and chief affection for the things of science. Her maidens will represent the subordinate affections. A similar image is presented here to that in the 45th Psalm. The kings daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework: the virgins, her companions that follow her, shall be brought unto thee. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought: they shall enter into the kings palace.–13-15.

The daughter of Pharaoh coming to wash herself at the river represents the earnest affection in such a soul to be right. In all things of science and outer knowledge, represented by the Nile, the river of Egypt, the true soul desires to be genuine, faithful, correct: and hence, is constantly studying the truths of science and yearning for the guidance of divine wisdom, and by their means to free itself from prejudice and misconception. Such a soul is ever desirous of washing itself. To such a state of feeling the ark is revealed, and she sends her maid to fetch it, or in other words, seizes it with affectionate interest. She opens it also. And when she had opened it, she saw the child, and, behold, the babe wept.–ver. 6.

This opening of the ark represents the exploration of religion by the earnest mind.

To be content to take divine things as others have handed them down, is the mark of a sluggish and heedless soul, content to be saved it may be, if it can be done without any trouble, but with no reverence, no love for the truth. Every one that asketh, receiveth, and he that seeketh, findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.–Matt. vii. 8. The careless, the sluggish, the seekers after worldly wealth or distinction, who are so occupied as to have no time for eternal riches, never enter into divine things, and sever become rich toward God. Such were not meant by this daughter of Pharaoh. She opened the ark, and saw the child, and behold the babe wept.

This weeping of the babe is expressive of the grief of the inner soul at the disorders, the infirmities, and vexations of the outer man. The law within is holy, just, and good, and the soul delights in the law of God after the inward man (Rom. vii. 22). But, all around, in the flesh of the soul, the outer man, corruption reigns. I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members. O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death.–Rom. vii. 23, 24. The babe weeps. But Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

When there is a pain felt at sin, there is life. When disorder is mourned over, there is a hope of cure. It is well for the babe to weep. If he weep, he is alive, and may become a lusty man. The inward man may become stronger day by day, and at length, like Moses, effect the complete discomfiture of Egypt, and the complete deliverance of Israel.

She had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews children.

Being one of the Hebrews children, means, that this new state belongs to the Church. It is the new birth from above. It is not a new phase of science, or a mere change of temporal experience. It is not mere melancholy flowing from ill health, not an hypochondriacal affection. It flows from heaven. The Lord hath visited his servant. It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good. It is one of the Hebrews children.

Divine mercy provides still further help. A sister of the babe comes into sight. An affection for retaining and preserving this new state is at hand, and suggests that the child will need a nurse; and a nurse is at hand, the childs mother. The spirit of piety, the affection for heavenly goodness, existing but scarcely manifest yet, is meant by the childs mother. This spirit in the Church is the nursing mother of Moses. The babes in Christ must be fed with the sincere milk of the Word, that they may grow thereby (1 Peter ii. 2).

This nursing and feeding of the weak, is one of the Churchs highest duties, its gravest responsibilities, and greatest source of blessing and of joy. The soul, strong, and beautiful; valuable for life, and valuable for eternity; if badly nursed, it will grow stunted, feeble, and deformed.

This work of nursing is at present very inadequately done. We are too often taken up with other and less important work, or too engrossed with self, and hence, too often remiss in obtaining those blessings in abundance, which are spoken of by the daughter of Pharaoh when she concludes her charge. Nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages.

This promise of wages by Pharaohs daughter is an intimation of the great truth, that a soul educated and trained for heaven is also most successful for earth; that is, in securing earths truest, sweetest, dearest joys. Godliness is profitable for the life that now is, and of that which is to come. If we had not to train the spirit for religion, out of regard for divine law, and the angel-life, it would be needful to train it so for the well-being of the world. What beauty has art ever brought forth to equal that which she has produced when religion has inspired her, and breathed into her the breath of life? What buildings have ever equaled those, in which earthly architects have striven to do honor to the Great Builder of the Universe? What music has ever flowed forth in grandeur capable of emulating those strains which again and again peal forth in the glorious song, The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth? Religion, as the patron and the soul of all that is good and excellent, may well receive the earths homage, thus expressed in the language of the daughter of Pharaoh, Nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages.

Moses was well nursed, well nurtured, trained, and taught. He became a master of all the learning of the Egyptians, but he never forgot his origin, or disdained his brethren.

Three things are recorded of him in this chapter. They are extremely significant for all who seek to follow him, and with them we must close. He saw an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew, one of his brethren, and his heart rose against the cruel abusers of the helpless, and he slew the Egyptian, and buried him in the sand. He next day saw two Hebrews contending, and reproved him that did the wrong. He lastly fled, finding he was not strong enough yet to accomplish his mission, and went to Midian.

These three things have to be done by every spiritual Moses.

The Egyptian smiting the Hebrew is a, figure of false science seeking to destroy religious feeling. That is false science, which binds itself to the and sense, and seeks to make matter and body everything. Such are Egyptians smiting the Hebrew and Moses always strikes down these, and buries them in the sand. Or, in other words, rejects them as mere errors, loose and worthless as sand is when compared to rock. His seeing two Hebrews striving on the next day and reproving them represents a perception in the soul of religious virtues not being in harmony. In their yet immature states, even good persons exalt one heavenly principle unduly and unduly depress another. Some make too much of works, some too little. Moses reproved him who did the wrong, but as yet is far from strong enough to put all right. He fled therefore to Midian, and abode near a well with those who were caring for and feeding their flocks, to gather strength and await his time.

Midian, in the wilderness, represents an external state: feeding the hock is expressive of cultivating the spirit of charity: while, abiding near a well means devoutly studying the letter of the Word of God, drawing water as the prophet Isaiah expresses it, from the wells of salvation.–Isa. xii. 4. There are alas too often to be found shepherds like those in this history, who will not allow the seven daughters-representing all holy affections for truth–to water the flocks; who deter the people from a genuine drawing of the water of life to supply the yearnings after truth, but every true Moses stands up for such, and says, Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

Allow me finally, my beloved brethren, to commend the whole lesson to your meditation and practical use. We are all in Egyptian bondage, until the Lord Jesus by His law, our Moses, leads us forth. Hence, to every one the Lord says at the beginning of the Commandments, I am the Lord thy God which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Is Moses yet born within? Is he grown up? And is he doing his holy work of smiting the godless Egyptian, setting right the Hebrews, and feeding the flock by the well? If so, then, is it indeed happy with us. Our spiritual freedom is dawning. From being bond-slaves of sin, we shall become freemen of heaven. And if the truth shall make us free, we shall be free indeed.

Author: Jonathan Bayley — From Egypt to Canaan (1869)