12 Pentecost, Aug. 27
“Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, ‘Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we’” (Ex. 1:8-9). The stage is set for disaster, but prepared as well for the intrusion of God in the work of many women, and especially the saving ministry of three: Pharaoh’s daughter, the sister of Moses, and the mother of Moses.
Fearing their great number, Pharaoh set taskmasters over the Hebrews to oppress them with forced labor in a massive building campaign to erect the cities of Pithom and Rameses, and yet the Hebrews multiplied. And so the Egyptians became ruthless and made their lives bitter with hard service. The Egyptian king then ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill male newborns, but they feared God more than the king, a disobedience God rewarded. And wherever the gospel of the dignity of human life is preached, these women are to be remembered, these women who saved with their sacred and venerable hands the heirs of father Abraham (Mark 14:7 and Pre-Reformation Words of Institution).
Finally, “Pharaoh commanded all his people, ‘Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live’” (Ex. 1:22). When power even seems to be threatened, holy innocents suffer (Matt. 2:16-18).
A Levite woman “conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months” (Ex. 2:2). When she could hide him no longer, she took a papyrus basket, plastered it with bitumen and pitch, and then set the infant Moses on the bank of the river among the reeds. “His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him” (Ex. 2:4). The daughter of Pharaoh came to bathe at the river, and “saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it” (Ex. 2:5). “Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?’” (Ex. 2:7). Indeed, it was said in some circles that Moses refused the milk of Egyptian women (Gregory of Nyssa, Life of Moses). “So the girl went and called the child’s mother. … So the woman took the child and nursed it” (Ex. 2:8-9).
He was baptized among the reeds in the offertory of his mother, his sister watching to see what God might do. He was pulled out to new life, fed with the food of his mother’s flesh, and he listened irresistibly to the sound of her murmurs and her words and her nursery songs. She told him who he was, planted the seed long before a bush fire appeared. Moses is the story of baptism, Eucharist, and the Word; a river, milk, and a mother’s voice.
Who are we but the infants of Christ? We have been offered at a font, pulled from the snare of death, fed with the body and blood that endure to eternal life, and filled with the Word both preached and infused that fits us to God’s will, “what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). While each member of Christ’s body has a unique gift, there is another gift common to all the baptized. The new humanity, the bread of life, and the Word of truth draw out these words: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). We know this because the Father, like a mother long ago, has whispered from heart to heart (Matt. 16:17).
Look It Up
Read Matthew 16:17.
Think About It
Who speaks to you?