Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

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"A Story of Two Real Mothers"

Exodus 1:22,  2:10

Psalm 139:13-18

      Before we read this morning’s primary text, I need to provide some background.  The Book of

Exodus opens with the introduction of a new Egyptian king – Seti --commonly called “Pharaoh.” 

Unlike the previous king, this one was not sympathetic to the Hebrews living In Egypt since the time

of Joseph..  In fact, under this new regime, Exodus tells us that “The Egyptians became ruthless in

imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick

and in every kind of field labor.”  In spite of these oppressive conditions, the Hebrews continued to

increase in number.  Threatened by this trend, the king issued a decree that all male children born

to the Hebrews should be killed.  We begin the story there. 

 (Read Exodus 1:22-2:10)

      Before we get into the meat of this morning’s Mother’s Day message, I’d like to offer a few

ways that real mothers are special people.  Real mothers would like to be able to eat a whole can-

dy bar and drink a whole Pepsi by themselves without any “floaters” in it.  Real mothers know that

their kitchen utensils are probably going to end up in the sandbox. Real mothers have sticky floors,

filthy ovens, and happy kids.  Real mothers know that Play Dough doesn’t come out of shag carpet.

Real mothers sometimes ask “Why me?” and get their answer when a little voice says, “Because I

love you best.”  Real mothers know that a child’s growth is not measured by height or years or

grade.  It is marked by progression from mama, to mommy, to mom, to mother.  We wouldn’t be

who we are without our mothers.  In fact, some of the greatest people in history have made it

clear how important their real mothers were to their lives, such as George Washington once

declaring: “All I am I owe to my mother.”  This holds true for one of the greatest figures in Old

Testament history; a man named Moses.  Moses grew into the kind of man he was because of the

type of mothers he had.  You heard that right, as God gave Moses not one mother, but two

    The decree had gone out from Pharaoh that every male child born to a Hebrew was to be thrown

into the Nile River and drowned.  And Moses’ birth mother, Jochebed, was a Hebrew woman; a

Levite.  As the story unfolds, Jochebed delivered a beautiful baby boy.  How she had managed to

keep her pregnancy a secret, we don’t know.  Then how she kept the child’s birth a secret for three

months longer is even more of a mystery.  But we’re told that after that time, she could no longer

keep the baby hidden.  So in a desperate attempt to preserve her son’s life, she built a little ark out

of papyrus fronds.  She carefully waterproofed it, placed the baby in it, covered him up, and set the

basket among the reeds along the bank of the river.  She then assigned her daughter to stand by and

keep an eye on the child. 

      At this point, we can only guess Jochebed’s intention.  Maybe she had planned to get the baby

after dark each evening, nurse him through the night, then return him to the safety of the reeds in

the morning.  Perhaps she was hoping that someone would find the child, have mercy on him, and

maybe take him into their home. It’s possible that she had no plan at all, and just couldn’t bear the

thought of the Egyptian soldiers tearing her child from her arms and putting him to death in front

of her. [Yes, people could be just as ruthless then as they are today]  But of this we can be sure. 

She must have had faith in her God to somehow save this child who was otherwise destined to die.

      As it turns out, the baby boy was indeed found.  And of all people to find him was the daughter

of the very king who had decreed that he should die.  As she was bathing nearby in the river, she

caught sight of this curious floating basket.  Her attendants brought the basket to her, and when

they uncovered it, they saw this beautiful baby boy crying to be fed.  Pharaoh’s daughter – we’ll call

her “the princess” -- recognized at once that this was a Hebrew child.  But acting against her own

father’s will, she had great compassion for the child.  Here’s a case where thankfully, in a manner of

speaking, the apple fell far from the tree.  Rather than inform the officials of this find, the Egyptian

princess became the savior of this child she’d assumed to be abandoned and left to die.

      The baby’s sister, who had been standing at a distance, stepped forward to offer assistance.  As

the princess was not lactating, she had a suggestion:  “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the He-

brew women to nurse the child for you?”  The princess jumps at the opportunity.  As if the story

isn’t amazing enough, she not only agrees to turn the baby over to a Hebrew nursemaid, but offers

to pay for the service.  So off goes the baby’s sister with her three-month old brother, right back

home to mom!  Over the next few years, mom nurses and nurtures her child; and of all things, is

compensated for it.  After he is weaned, the toddler is returned to Pharaoh’s daughter who takes

him as her own son.  And she confers upon him, not an Egyptian name, but a Hebrew name:

Mosheh, derived from the Hebrew verb mashah, which translates ‘to draw out of water.’  God’s

hand could not have been more evident in circumstances than in this ancient story.  Here is where

this part of the story ends.  One verse later, we’re told that “….Moses had grown up….” 

      Moses grew into a great man.  He was chosen by God to lead the Hebrew people out of the bon-

dage and the culture of death into which he was born.  He was the one destined to lead God’s peo-

ple through forty years of wilderness wandering on the way to their promised land.  He was the one

assigned to bring voice to God’s Law, and to codify that Law into what we know as the ten com-

mandments.   And while we don’t have any record of Moses saying so, I could imagine him declaring

as George Washington once declared:  “All I am, I owe to my mothers.”  In Moses’ case, plural.

      I think it would be accurate to say that the components of Moses’ personality and the features of

his character were equally shaped by his birth mother Jocabed, and by his “adoptive mother,” the

daughter of Pharaoh; the princess.  Moses’ bore in himself the courage of Jocabed, and the com-

passion of the princess; the faith of Jocabed, and the kindness of the princess; the resourcefulness

of Jocabed, and the refinement of the princess; the passion of both Jocabed and the princess to

stand against injustice; to choose life in the midst of a culture of death; to stand against the power-

ful in defense of the powerless.  Moses was truly privileged to have two mothers, from two entirely

different worlds; yet both acting in his best interest, as every real mother does.

      I think it would also be accurate to say that all of us men sitting in this sanctuary on this Mother’s

Day morning have been shaped by real mothers -- the components of our personalities and the fea-

tures of our characters.  They were our birth mothers.  They were our step mothers.  They were our

adoptive mothers.  They were those women who stepped into roles of caring for us, feeding us,

nurturing us.  Some of us, like Moses, are even blessed to claim that we come from a story of two

real mothers. 

      So on this Mother’s Day, we thank you moms; for carrying us; for birthing us; for protecting us;

for keeping us warm and dry; for drawing us out of threatening waters and placing us on the safety

of dry land; for helping us grow into the persons we are, and for keeping us always close in your

hearts.  Let’s close this morning’s message with the Litany of Real Mothers you’ll find printed in your


L. We are so blessed by the real mothers – birth, step, adoptive, all – who have had such a big

    part in molding us and shaping us.

P. We are who we are because of them.

L. Because of their nurture, their care, their protection, their selfless acts and their wise counsel.

P. We have grown into men and women of faith, of courage, of wisdom, of compassion.

L.  So it is we laud and honor our real mothers; one of God’s greatest gifts, and one of God’s

     highest blessings. 

P.  And we praise and give glory to God, whose hand could not be more evident than in

     providing the gift and the blessing of real motherhood.


Central Presbyterian Church

47 Second Street NE
Massillon, Ohio 44646

Telephone: 330-832-7455
Fax: 330-832-7102