Portrait of a Godly Mother: The Story of Jochebed
The Difference Made by a Godly Mother
A 27 year old McDonald's worker from California was recently caught trying to drown her newborn baby by placing him face down in a McDonald's toilet after giving birth to him in the bathroom a few minutes earlier. Thank God the baby lived and is doing fine after being taken from the mother and placed in foster care.
Compare that to the story of a young mother who, years ago, was making her way across the hills of South Wales. She was carrying her tiny young infant in her arms when, sadly, she encountered a blinding blizzard. The mother never reached her destination. Searchers, hours later, found her beneath a mound of snow. But the people who found her lifeless body also noticed something else. The mother had taken off all of her outer clothing and wrapped it around her tiny infant to keep him warm. Surprisingly, when they unwrapped the child, they found that he was still alive and well. This mother had placed her body over his, giving her life for her baby.
Years later, the child, who was known as David Lloyd George, grew to manhood and became prime minister of Great Britain. And many have called him one of England's greatest statesmen.
We all know a bad mother when we see her. And we know a good mother. Thank God for the good mother's throughout history who have literally shaped this world because of their love and nurturing deeds on behalf of the children to whom the Lord has entrusted them. We owe them much.
It was Abraham Lincoln who said: "No man is poor who has a godly mother." And that was a sentiment that Moses, the great leader whom the Lord used to take His people out of Egypt and into the promised land, could have echoed. For he had a great and godly mother named Jochebed who saved his life as an infant so that he could become one of the greatest figures in biblical history.
I. Who was Jochebed?
Jochebed, whose name means "Yahweh is glory," was born to Levi the third son of Jacob and Leah, when Levi lived in Egypt. Amram, her husband, was the son of Kohath, who was also a son of Levi. That would make Jocehbed Amram's aunt as well as his wife. Although this kind of marriage between relatives was later forbidden in the Law of Moses, it was perfectly acceptable at this time in history.
We learn about this godly woman's story in Exodus 2:1-10, although her name is never mentioned there. We later learn her name, as well as Amram's in Exodus 6:20 and again in Numbers 26:59.
All that we know about this fine lady is because of what she, as a mom, did for her son Moses when he was a new-born baby. And she and Amram are later extolled by the writer of Hebrews in chapter 11 for these actions as two of the great people of faith. (Hebrews 11:23).
Although it is not mentioned in the text of Scripture what Amram did, it is abundantly clear that Jochebed played a prominent role in her baby's life and thus made a key contribution in the history of the people of Israel.
II. The Background that Lead to Jochebed's Heroism
In order to completely understand what this woman did, it is necessary to give a little historical background. From the book of Genesis we learn that the Israelites settled in the land of Goshen in Egypt during the time of Jacob and Joseph because of a famine. Joseph, the son of Jacob became a ruler in Egypt who had power that was only exceeded by the Pharaoh himself. God used Joseph to save His people from starving to death and they enjoyed a wonderful life in Egypt for a period of years.
But time went by and Joseph, as well as that whole generation, died and there arose a Pharaoh that didn't know Joseph. The Israelites who entered Egypt were 70 in all but during that time they grew in number, which worried the Egyptians that they would begin to outnumber them and rebel. They feared that the Israelites would side with their enemies if war ever broke out in Egypt (Exodus 1:1-10).
So Pharaoh placed slave-drivers over God's people and made their life harsh. Not only that but, to control the population, Pharaoh told the Hebrew midwives that they were to kill any male babies that were born to the Israelite women. The midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, feared God and didn't do it and when asked why by Pharaoh, they made up a story that the Hebrew women were more vigorous than the Egyptians and gave birth before the midwives could arrive. This infuriated the king and he gave orders that every Hebrew boy born must be thrown into the Nile River and killed (1:11-22).
III. Jochebed's Story
It is at this point in the story that Jochebed comes in. She had born two children prior to this time. Moses' older siblings were Miriam and Aaron. Miriam later went on to become a prophetess and a gifted poetess and musician (Exodus 15:20). Aaron became the first High Priest and founder of the Aaronic priesthood. So, from a strong godly mother came three strong, godly children that played a prominent role in the history of God's people.
It must have been quite suspenseful and agonizing for this tough but loving lady, however. For she spent her pregnancy waiting to see if it was a boy or a girl in order find out whether or not her new-born child might be ripped out of her arms and killed by a tyrannical government. And when he finally was born, she probably cried knowing his life was immediately in ultimate danger of ending even before it had a chance to begin.
But like any good mother, she would never let him die if she could at all help it. Jochebed may not have known all that Moses would ultimately mean to God's plan, but she did realize that he was a gift from God and she loved him and would protect him at all costs.
It is interesting that Scripture tells us three times in Exodus 2:2, Acts 7:20 and Hebrews 11:23 that "she saw that he was a goodly child." She must have known that he was really special in the eyes of God.
Knowing that she could never give her son over to Pharaoh, this mother risked her own life by hiding Moses for three whole months. How she did it, the text doesn't say. But somehow she was able to keep his presence secret (Exodus 2:1,2).
However, when she could no longer hide him, God inspired her to come up with a plan to put him in a papyrus basket coated with tar and then put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. It seems that she did all that she could to protect him. The plaited reeds that the basket was made of were believed to serve as protection from crocodiles. However, then she left him to the protection of God under the watchful eye of her daughter Miriam. Moses' sister stood at a distance to see what would become of the infant (3-4).
As God's providence would have it, Pharaoh's daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, along with her attendants. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. When she opened the basket, Moses was crying and she felt sorry for him even though she recognized that it was one of the Hebrew babies (5-6).
Seeing the opportunity, Miriam went up and talked to the daughter of Pharaoh and asked her if she could get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby. By God's blessing, the woman agreed. And who do you think Miriam got? She got Moses' own mother to nourish and nurture him until the time he was weaned. Not only that but Jochebed got paid by Pharaoh's daughter to do it (7-9).
Then, when Moses grew older, this godly mother once again sacrificed her rights as a parent. For the second time she gave him up because she desired for Moses to have what was best for him. She took him back to Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son. Interestingly his new mom gave him what was probably a Hebrew name. The name Moses sounds like the Hebrew for 'draw out.' She did this because she "drew him out of the water." (10).
IV. Lessons We Learn from this Godly Mom
So, what can we learn from godly Jochebed? In this day and age of selfishness in which we live; a day in which the rights of the mother trump the rights of the baby in the womb, it is refreshing to see that this mother put the welfare of her child above her own. She loved this child even before he was born and refused to allow anyone to harm him.
And when he entered the world, she gave up her rights as a mom to Pharoah's daughter because she knew that her son's life and future were at stake if she didn't do it. The word sacrifice is not heard much in our modern society. But that is just what a good parent does. Their love for their children causes them to sacrifice themselves and their conveniences for the good of those to whom God has entrusted them as their children. A right to choose selfishness is given up to make sure that their offspring has a right to survive and to thrive in life.
But not only did Jochebed have a major role in saving the physical life of her beloved son. She also, in a short period of time, had a major influence on his spiritual life as well. He certainly didn't learn about the God of his ancestors from the household of Pharaoh's daughter.
It is believed by many scholars that Moses could have been in the care of his real mother for three years or longer. As she nursed him at her breast, she must have sung and talked about the God of their ancestors to Moses as well as to Miriam and Aaron. She prepared him for a time when she didn't have direct contact with him any longer. And you can bet that she didn't cease to pray for her beloved children until the day she died.
Good mothers, as well as fathers do that. They make sure that their child has an adequate spiritual education and they teach them all about the God of the Bible. They make sure that they do everything in their power to pass along their own faith to the children whom they love the most on this earth.
I appreciate what Dr. Tony Evans had to say in a sermon I heard recently. He states: "It's a fool who says 'I don't tell my children what to think' Because if you don't, someone else will!"
Moses' godly mother did her best to tell him what she thought was important in life. And a knowledge of God was number one in importance.
Apparently Jochebed's love and dedication to the Lord and to Moses' spiritual growth paid off, for we see from Scripture that when he grew up to be a man, he never forgot what she taught him. Here is what the writer of Hebrews has to say about him:
"By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible." (Hebrews 11:24-27).
We don't know how long Jochebed lived after she gave Moses up to be adopted by the Egyptian princess. She was probably dead by the time Moses was forty years of age and had to flee Egypt for the desert. And if not, she certainly was by the time Moses began his great work of leading the children of Israel out of Egypt into the.promised land when he was 80. But her influence on him and his siblings lived on as they wandered through the wilderness, being lead by the Lord into the inheritance God had promised them and their ancestors.
It was Jochebed's love and devotion to Moses that preserved his life and allowed him to lead the greatest salvation event in Old Testament history. And her influence is felt to this day by the followers of the God of the Bible as we read about the great things that her son did for the people of God of his time. We need more Jochebed's who will stand up for the Lord and for their children and do what is right no matter the cost to self. They are rare jewels in the crowns of their husbands and their families.
I recently read a poem by an unknown author simply entitled 'A Mother's Influence.' It goes like this:
I took a piece of plastic clay
And idly fashioned it one day;
And as my fingers pressed it still
It moved and yielded at my will.
I came again when days were past,
The form I gave it still it bore,
And as my fingers pressed it still,
I could change that form no more.
I took a piece of living clay,
And gently formed it day by day,
And molded with my power and art,
A young child's soft and yielding heart.
I came again when days were gone;
It was a man I looked upon,
He still that early impress bore,
And I could change it never more.
There is no greater influence on a society than a godly parent. And there is no good replacement for a praying, loving and godly mother. Like Jochebed, moms play one of the most important roles in the life of a child that this world will ever know. And her mark on her offspring will affect all the people that her child will go on to lead in his or her lifetime. If you have such a god-fearing mother, then thank her. If she is no longer on this earth, thank the Lord for placing her in your life for however long she was there.
My prayer for all of the mothers out there and those who will one day be mothers is that they will take a lesson from the great faith of Moses' mother. She is indeed one of those women of which it can be said: "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain. But a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." (Proverbs 31:30).
May we continue to praise Jochebed and all mother's who follow in her footsteps. For they are truly a gift from the Lord!
© 2019 Jeff Shirley