Scratch-Off Faith - Bible Study

by Tom Bulick and Stephanie Thomas on

Bible Studies 1 document
Exodus 2:1–10

  • Scratch-Off Faith | The Scrolls | January 23, 2022

    Copyright Central Bible Church

The Scrolls is a weekly Bible study written by pastors and other leaders at Central Bible Church, based on that week’s sermon topic. Use The Scrolls as a personal Bible study tool, for family devotions, and for small group discussions. You can read part of it below. The downloadable PDF also includes discussion questions, more in-depth commentary, end notes, and a kids’ page designed for families to study the topic together. This lesson goes with the sermon "Scratch-Off Faith."

Faith and faithfulness are closely related. The first is the foundation on which the second is built, the soil in which the second is rooted. Put differently, the relationship between faith and faithfulness is analogous to the relationship between belief and behavior—one leads to the other. Moses’ mother provides us with an example of faith expressed through faithfulness, an inference that assumes her actions were driven by something more than just a mother’s love. While she did what one might expect any loving mother to do, there seems to be something more behind it.   

The Bible tells us: “Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, 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” (Ex 2:1-3). The story drips with irony as one commentator observes: “When she could no longer hide him, she constructed a reed basket (an ‘ark’), sealed it, and placed the baby ‘in the Nile River’ (Ex 2:3)—ironically, just as Pharaoh had decreed (1:22). Furthermore, the child was saved not only by the carrying out of Pharaoh’s decree but in fact by Pharaoh’s own daughter” (John H. Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative, 242). 

Scripture suggests that there was something different about Moses. In Exodus 2:2 he is called “a fine child” (cf. “beautiful” NASB, “healthy” NET). In Acts 7:20, Stephen calls him “no ordinary child” (cf. “beautiful to God” NASB, “beautiful in God’s sight” ESV), as does the writer to the Hebrews in 11:23 (cf. “beautiful” ESV, NASB, NET). Was Moses simply a pretty baby; is that what motivated his mother to employ an extreme scheme to save him? On this question one commentator writes: “When Moses’ mother looked at the child after his birth, she saw that he was ‘fine’ or ‘good’ (tob, 2:2). Just what is meant by this comment is hardly clear and has exercised commentators since before the time of Christ. The lxx [i.e., the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament] uses asteios (handsome) for the Hebrew tob, a Greek word also found in Acts 7:20 and Hebrews 11:23, influenced no doubt by the lxx. This does not solve the problem, however, of what the comment means. Why did the writer feel it necessary to include such an apparently incidental comment in this otherwise terse narrative? Are we really to conclude that Moses’ mother simply saw how good-looking he was? It was, after all, that observation that influenced her to hide the child. Are we to presume that the child’s mother would not have hid [sic] him had he been ugly? What mother would not think her newborn son to be handsome? Also why would physical beauty warrant his salvation rather than some other trait?” (Peter Enns, The NIV Application Commentary: Exodus, 61-62). 

The commentator’s point is that the use of this language to describe Moses echoes the refrain in Genesis 1, where God pronounces “good” what he has created, suggesting that God has provided this particular child to deliver his people from their slavery in Egypt. By faith his parents recognized as much and in faithfulness acted to save the child. The same commentator writes: “The birth of Moses is not merely about the birth of one man, but represents the birth of a people. The savior of God’s people is born, and through him they will receive a new beginning. Their slavery will end, and their savior will bring them safely into their rest, the Promised Land” (61-62). 

Two things are worth noting. “Josephus claimed that God had revealed to Amram in a dream that Moses would humble the Egyptians. There is no scriptural support for this tradition; it may or may not be true” (Thomas L. Constable, “Notes on Exodus,” 2021 ed., 24, and his father and mother are later identified by name as Amram and Jochebed (Ex 6:20; cf. Nu 26:59, but see The NIV Study Bible, note on Ex 6:20). 

Clearly, the story of Moses’ birth told in Exodus 2:1-10, that is, the lower story, is a story about his mother’s faith, grounded in her understanding of God’s promise made to the Patriarchs and what she perceived to be extraordinary about him, and her faithfulness to preserve his life by devising a cunning scheme to secure his rescue. 

Central Message of the Text

Remain faithful to your faith for God uses his people’s faithfulness to accomplish his purposes.

Family Talk

When I think of Moses’ mother, Jochebed, I am awestruck by her living example of faith. As I read our passage, I imagine her to be a fierce protector, a woman to be reckoned with, a mom with an amazing amount of courage. Babies are cute and precious and all kinds of wonderful squishy things, but let’s face it, they’re loud! At any moment, this “fine” newborn baby boy could have been hungry or dirty and squealed just a bit too loudly, causing their whole world to crash around them. Take it a step further and imagine if Moses had colic. What in the world would have happened then? I try to wrap my brain around the moment she released baby Moses in the river and it’s inconceivable. When my oldest son had a cavity and needed laughing gas so the dentist could perform the filling, I had tears streaming down my cheeks as I prayed, “He’s yours, Lord. Help me to trust you.” It was a simple filling in a fancy pediatric dentist office with all the modern equipment and resources available in the twentyfirst century. Here is Jochebed literally watching her child float away and I can’t even stand by to watch my child get a filling. The unbelievable faith and trust in God she demonstrated inspires me. The irony in the whole situation is that technically Jochebed obeyed Pharaoh by putting Moses in the Nile. The double irony is in how God provided for her. Her baby was returned to her loving arms, and she was paid to raise him. Courage, trust, and faith in God, may they grow in each of us.