“Every woman has a story AND every woman’s story matters to God”. (Tabitha’s Daughters)
The planet Earth is on a divine pause and God has pushed the button. It is clear, especially to those who honor and love the Lord that God is speaking and humanity is now compelled to listen. The grandiose plans of world leadership are temporary halted and no presidential power on this earth can restart them. The busyness and perceived importance of our daily lives are cancelled, as the entire globe is currently on a forced shutdown. Like sitting in front of a celestial drive-in movie, we must admit to ourselves that we are in control of very little, though we have operated under the delusion of self-agency until now. God has pushed us into a state of vulnerability and littleness. We now realize there is not much we can do about the present state of crisis and chaos of the globe EXCEPT – depend upon God for understanding, direction, grace, and mercy. In this, we are no different than our ancestors and elders who once declared: “We’ve come this far by faith leaning on the Lord. Trusting in His Holy Word, He never failed me yet!”
As we consider together the story of Jochebed, the great ancestor of our faith, we are inspired by a woman who lived out this articulation thousands of years ago – even in the time of personal and communal crisis and chaos. Jochebed teaches us a valuable lesson – one that we can use to manage our present state of bewilderment, anxiety, and doubt.
And now, THE WORD from Our Sponsor___________________________________
Exodus 1: 22- Exodus 2:4 – “Then Pharaoh give this order to all his people: “Throw every newborn Hebrew boy into the Nile River. But you may let the girls live. About this time, a man and woman from the tribe of Levi got married. The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She saw that he was a special baby and kept him hidden for three months. But when she could no longer hide him, she got a basket made of papyrus reeds and waterproofed it with tar and pitch. She put the baby in the basket and laid it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile River. The baby’s sister then stood at a distance, watching to see what would happen to him.”
Exodus 6: 20 – “Amram married his father’s sister Jochebed, and she gave birth to his sons Aaron and Moses. (Amram lived to be 137 years old).”
Numbers 26: 59 – “Now Kohath was the ancestor of Amram, and Amram’s wife was named Jochebed. She also was a descendant of Levi, born among the Levites in the land of Egypt. Amram and Jochebed became the parents of Aaron, Moses, and their sister, Miriam.”
Hebrews 12: 23 – “It was by faith that Moses’ parents hid him for three months when he was born. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s command.”
For every woman (and man) there is a blueprint to empowerment, dignity, sovereignty, and destiny that is designed by God and connected to the stories of women in Scripture. The life of Jochebed is her testimony to the journey of faith, which led her and her family to the miraculous manifestations of a holy and compassionate God.
Jochebed’s story starts with her genealogy (a description of the line from which she came). She was a descendant of Levi, who was a son of Jacob, the great patriarch. Jochebed was born in the nation of Egypt. Much like we are, Africans in America, Jochebed and her people were forced into captivity and slavery. They were a nation within a nation, one which treated them with hostility and contempt. As Hebrews in a foreign land, their lives were filled with continual chaos and crisis.
When we encounter the center story of Jochebed’s life in the Old Testament, we find a state sanctioned environment of persistent violence and hostility against her people. Pharaoh, with the power of Egypt behind him, commanded the nation to murder the boy children of the Hebrews.
How does one live in such a sustained environment of chaos and crisis? Jochebed’s story answers this and other questions we may ponder, even as we now find ourselves in similar circumstances.
In her story, we discover that Jochebed has three children: Miriam, the oldest, Aaron, the middle child, and Moses, her baby. Aaron was old enough to have aged out of the edict Pharaoh declared; but, Moses, an infant Hebrew boy was endangered by Pharaoh’s evil genocidal plan. The text tells us Jochebed and Amram managed to keep their baby safe for three months; however, the risk of hiding Moses became too dangerous when Moses continued to grow.
In an incredulous move, Jochebed decided what she must do. Reading the text from a social location vantage point is a must here because it assists us in understanding her desperation and her riveting decision to partner with God, instead of leaning on her self-agency. With her female counterparts, Puah, Shiprah, Pharaoh’s daughter, and her oldest child, Miriam, Jochebed defies the Egyptian nation. Jochebed commits civil disobedience and displays uncommon courage, which ultimately saves her baby’s life, and the life of her nation.
One of the first things we should realize is Jochebed’s partnership with God. Can you imagine placing your 3 month old baby in a basket and sending him or her down the Nile River? Of course not! Yet, we see Jochebed doing just that. Her faith journey begins, not when she places her baby in the ark; but when she begins to build the tar and pitch structure. Her spiritual eye and ear are open to the voice of God; for surely Jochebed, a responsible wife and mother, would have never willingly placed her baby in the basket and floated him down the Nile, with no assurance, whatsoever, that Moses would live. Her actions seem completely irrational to us; but, Jochebed permits the voice of God to be louder than the presentation of her self-agency. She releases control over the circumstances, in the beginning of the process, allowing God to work a miracle that can only be described as kairotic faith.
Definition of kairotic – an appointed time when conditions are right for the accomplishment of a crucial action : the opportune and decisive moment. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
Jochebed teaches us the difference between kairotic faith and episodic faith, as she releases control over the life or death situation of her child and allows God to ordain Moses’ future.
Kairotic faith is a sacred partnership with God that readily acknowledges the divine nature of God’s holy power. Episodic faith moves in rational time and is linear in its nature. This type of faith looks and waits for the expected answers before releasing control. Episodic faith has a plan B for God’s lack of immediate response to our dilemmas. Episodic faith is conditional, rhetorical, and time stamped, as we move through event to event. Yet, God’s actions are never rooted in rational timing or our desire to control God. (“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are My ways your ways, declares the Lord.” – Isaiah 55:8).
For Jochebed there was no assurance that Moses would survive. Her only hope was rooted in an unshakable faith aligned with the assurance and power of God. Somehow Jochebed suspended her normal, rational mindset and her expectations, to seize the God-ordained moment which saved the life of her child and produced a messiah for the Hebrew nation. Moses, largely because of his mother’s actions, ultimately defies and defeats Pharaoh and sets God’s people free.
Releasing the illusion of self-agency, which informs her she needed to control the situation from start to finish, Moses is saved from certain death and rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter. In her story, we see how God sets up the impossible: Moses is not only safe, but is taken into the house of Pharaoh (to understand the ways of the royal enemy). Lastly, Jochebed gains income for her household by being paid by Pharaoh’s daughter to nurse her own son! Jochebed’s personal act of faith and obedience connects to God’s divine intent for God’s people and produces what we understand as “The Exodus.”
But, how are we to read this text from a contemporary standpoint? How does this narrative speak to us about our time of chaos and crisis? Certainly, none of us will be called by God to put our child in a tar and pitch basket and float he or she down the Nile River, as an act of submission. We can, therefore, read the text traditionally (and we should) and we can read the text metaphorically (and we should). Both have immense value for our lives, as a contemporary audience.
In a metaphorical reading of the text, our “baby” can be anything in our lives which God wants us to release into God’s hands. Whether our marriage, our health, our finances, our career, our job, our children, our business, our ministry, or our hopes and dreams, we have a choice: Will we hold on to the illusion of self-agency (control), or will we release the circumstances into the divine timing and power of God through the activation of kairotic faith? This is a primary tension of the text.
How do we know and more importantly, how do we get to this kind of faith? It is easy to say that we will let go to get there, but….when the situation presents itself, will we be ready and able to do so? Surprisingly, Jochebed has even more answers for us!
Jochebed’s name (in Hebrew yokheved) means Yahweh is Glory. She is notable as the first person in the Bible to have a name with the divine element yah, a shortened form of YHWH, a tetragrammaton.
“Glory” in Hebrew is translated as “kavod” and/or “shekinah.” Many scholars believe “kavod” and “shekinah” are identical in meaning. While “shekinah” does not appear in the Bible, and is a formation of rabbinical thought, the verb form “shachan” does. “Shachan means “to settle, inhabit, or dwell.” If the two words are identical then “kavod” is the dwelling presence of God.” (bridgesforpeace.com)
Jochebed, as her name indicates, was able and willing to dwell in the presence of God. This is where Jochebed’s uncommon courage, vulnerability, and unshakable faith were rooted. The light of God dwelt within the soul of Jochebed and enabled her to activate her kairotic faith and move as God directed. We can assume Jochebed was not only a devoted mother, but Jochebed led a godly life. Certainly, Jochebed “practiced” her faith which produced the fruit of submission and obedience. While we cannot be certain of the spiritual practices of Jochebed, we do know that faith is produced from them. Worship, prayer, meditation, fasting, study, service, Sabbath-keeping, and sacrificial giving are some of the practices which build spiritual muscle and maturity.
Jochebed’s name announced who she was/is. She bears the name of YHWH (Yahweh) and her life and spiritual light is reflected in this name. Jochebed reflected God’s glory. Jochebed reflected God’s light.
“The tradition that Moses announces to the Israelites that YHWH (Yahweh) is the name of their God [Exodus 6: 6-8] is thus embedded in his maternal lineage: if his mother bears YHWH’s name, Moses learned it from her. (Meyers, Carol, General Editor. Women in Scripture, pg. 103).
Ultimately, Jochebed teaches us a valuable and unforgettable lesson: God wants us to place our “precious cargo” in the waters of our faith to be cared for, nurtured, and loved by God.
A thing to ponder: In this current time of chaos and crisis, God is ever present with us. The great theologian and rabbi writes: “There are no two hours alike. Every hour is unique and the only one given at the moment, exclusive and endlessly precious.” (Heschel, The Sabbath, pg. 8). Considering this awesome observation, what is the precious cargo which God wants you to place in the waters of your faith, at this particular time?
Questions for our discussion and consideration
Considering the idea that Moses learned the name of God from his mother, how is faith generational? ( Think of the powerful presence of Moses’ siblings, Miriam and Aaron also).
Unpack a much quoted verse of the Church in the light of Jochebed’s kairotic faith: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)
Kairotic faith is built by submission, vulnerability, and courage. Name one thing you can do in your life to enhance/grow this kind of faith.
OUR SENDING PRAYER
Gracious God, comfort of the comfortless and hope of the hopeless, hear our prayer for peace and justice. Restore our faith, make it stronger, Oh Lord, so that we may become channels of Your grace and workers in Your kingdom. We look to You, Oh God, for the remedy to evil, violence, poverty, and injustice. As You freed Your people in the Exodus, free us, Oh God, from this present day chaos and crisis. Forgive us for the sins of omission and commission. Grant us Your peace and bring justice to our circumstances. We bless Your holy and righteous name and call it done in the power and magnificence of Your Son and our Christ, Jesus. Amen!
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