'she got a papyrus basket for him placed the child in it and put it among the reeds of the Nile.’ Exodus 2:3
Brothers and sisters, we began last week a study of the first part of the Book of Exodus. In summary, we heard the call to be faithful in the small things, to resist evil through small acts of great love. However, last week we didn’t have the opportunity to ask how we can possibly find the hope and the confidence to follow in their footsteps. For in times of difficulty, the terrible actions, situations, and events of the world, fill our vision, and we then are in danger of forgetting who is really in charge, of forgetting that there is a God, and that He has promised that all evil shall finally be overcome. So, this week, as move on in our studies, I want us to learn the secret to staying hopeful, of seeing the light, even in the darkest of times. And the secret is: remembering. The people who persevere, the people who keep hope alive, the people who stick with Jesus, are those who remember. One of my favourite series of books is the Chronicles of Narnia. The penultimate book, ’The Silver Chair,’ is about such times as we find in Exodus 2 when darkness descends. The children have a long journey to make and lots of it is underground, away from the light. During these difficult and dangerous times the enemy tries to convince our heroes that good things don’t exist, that Aslan doesn’t exist, and that it is better to give in and go along with the way things are. And so, before they set out, Aslan gives them this command:
‘remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs […] I give you a warning. […] Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. […] Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.’
Remembering the truth when all about you deny it; remembering the Gospel when all about you suggest it is made up; remembering the light when all about you is darkness; that is the way to maintain hope, and it is in the context of hope that you will be able to resist, and remembering is the way that you will be able to dream, and to love. Remembering the past will give you hope for the future, and in our the true story—outlined in Exodus 2—we see that God works to ensure that in the events of Moses’ birth the people remember God’s actions in the past and so have hope for the future. Two memorable events are deliberately brought to mind of what has God had done in the past in order to give the Hebrew people hope in a time of unimaginable darkness. First, the Creation itself, and second the rescue of Noah.
Look first at verse 2: ‘[A lady] became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months.’ Now, admittedly it is easy to miss, our English translation doesn’t really do justice to what is much more obvious in the original Hebrew. Do you remember the Creation account. God created lots of things, and each time we’re told: ‘And God saw that it was good.’ The same words are written here in verse 2. Perhaps a clearer translation might be: ‘[A lady] became pregnant and gave birth to a son […] she saw that he was [good].’Amidst the chaos before Creation what is created by God is good. Amidst the chaos caused by an evil king what is created by God, through a lady, is good. God, through the writer—who we believe to be Moses himself—is reminding the Hebrew people that He has overcome chaos before, that He has overcome darkness before, and that He will do it again. In the midst of evil, under the oppression of a dictator, when His people are tempted, no-doubt, to give up, God is actively bringing light out of darkness, and so calls on His people to hold on. It is as if God—through the Scriptures—is saying ‘Remember the signs and believe the signs. I have not abandoned you, I have not forgotten you and though evil may rule for a time I will overcome. Remember what I have done in the past and that will give you hope for the future.’Moses’ mother remembers, and so she resists; through remembering what God has done, she is inspired to act.
Look now at verse 3: ‘she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile.’ Again, the English translation hides what in Hebrew is only too obvious. The word translated ‘basket’ is the word used in only one other place in the bible, and it is the word for ‘ark’. Let’s try that verse again: ‘she got a papyrus [ark] for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it’ Just as God had Noah make an ark to save His people when evil had descended on the world in Genesis 6, so now God has Moses’ mother make an ark to save His people once again. When the Hebrews read the story of Moses’ salvation, Moses, inspired by God, wanted God’s people to see the link, to remember what God had done in the past and so have hope for the future. ‘Remember the signs and believe the signs.’ I have not abandoned you,’ says God ‘I have not forgotten you, and though evil may rule for a time I will overcome’. In the middle of a terrible state-wide extermination God causes His people to remember and so have hope for the future. And it is through remembering the past that all of us can have hope for the future. The first time I took Amelie swimming as a toddler, I stood her on the side of the pool and told her to jump, that Daddy would catch her. Not surprisingly she hesitated. Eventually she jumped and I caught her. Now when we go swimming and I ask her to jump she has no hesitation. Why? Well because she remembers I have always caught her, I have never let her fall. This is what God is trying to help us to do as we read the Scriptures. He is trying to get us to remember how He has acted in the past so that we have hope and confidence for the future.
Two quick points of application. First, read the Scriptures every day. How did CS Lewis put it?: ‘remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night.’ How can we remember the great acts of God if we don’t read the Scriptures, if we don’t daily bring His actions to mind and so remind ourselves of His character? Brothers and sisters, read the Bible daily!Remind yourselves of God’s great acts and of His great love, so that when darkness descends you will not lose hope. Second, make sure you make a weekly Communion. What did Jesus say—which we repeat at every eucharist—as we take the bread and wine: ‘Do this in remembrance of me’. We repeat that act, we repeat those words, as a reminder of what God has done for us, so that when darkness descends we will not lose hope. These two acts—daily Bible reading, and regular Communion—are given to us for a reason so that we might not lose hope. You may not be like the midwives of Exodus 1 or like the mother of Moses in Exodus 2, but you may face ridicule for your beliefs; you may be asked to do something you know to be wrong; you may face cancer or other health scares; and sadly you almost certainly will lose a loved one! How can we keep trusting God when these things arrive? Only by remembering what God has done in the past can we have hope for the future. The midwives of Exodus 1 remembered the Lord, and so maintained their faith. Moses’ mother in Exodus 2 remembered the Lord and so trusted Him to save her baby. Through both these events—and the ways in which God had the events recorded—the Lord ensured that His people going forward had more reason to trust, and more reason to hope. However, God did not stop there. God Himself, in the person of Jesus, came to earth, and as our Gospel reading reminded us, suffered the same threats that His people experienced in Exodus 2. He too was sentenced to death as a baby by an evil dictator; He too had to hide in Egypt; only to finally give His life on the cross that we might go free. We have even more reason to trust Him than the midwives, than Moses’ mum, than the Hebrew people ever did. Brothers and sisters let us not forget what God has done in the past, let us daily remember His deeds, and at least weekly remember His death, so that we too might have hope when darkness descends. Amen. (from Fr Mike).