The text and audio of today’s sermon preached at Berkeley Springs Presbyterian Church in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, is available below. The audio includes an impromptu childrens’ message where I retold the story of Exodus 1 as background to today’s sermon and mentioned that other childrens’ stories they know well follow a similar outline of three. Here the third cycle shows us Moses in a basket. Or was it really an ark? The first artwork is Edward Hicks’ painting of Noah’s Ark. Hicks was a Colonial Pennsylvanian artist. The second work is The Exposition of Moses by Nicolas Poussin. It was painted in 1654.
Yes, Moses Was on an Ark (Sermon Audio)
Have you ever been tricked by the question: “How many animals were on Moses’ ark?” Perhaps you have even used it on others. The answer normally given is: “The ark wasn’t Moses, it was Noah.” But not so fast. The Hebrew word translated “basket” in verse 3 is only found here and in the Flood story – in the Flood story we translate this word as “Ark.” So yes, Moses was on an ark. The text even mentions that it was treated with pitch, a detail mentioned for the ark in Genesis. Thus the correct answer is not really “The ark wasn’t Moses, it was Noah.” The correct answer is: “None, there weren’t any animals on Moses’ ark; the only passenger on Moses’ ark was Moses when he was a little baby.” But do not miss the reason that the text has drawn this comparison: the righteous man Noah and his family were saved from death on an ark in Genesis and now we will see that one particular innocent child who would be named Moses was also saved from death on an ark. Moses was a new Noah. And first he would have to survive infancy. Hear the word of God.
Moses was saved on an ark as an infant because he would lead the people of God out of Egypt.
Moses was not the only one to survive Pharaoh’s decree for Egyptians to throw Hebrew baby boys into the Nile, but he was special. We know that many God-fearing Hebrew mothers must have shielded their baby boys from that watery grave. Later genealogies show that others survived during that time. But Moses was special.
His mother even saw that he was different. She decided to hide her son the text tells us “when she was that he was a fine child” (v.2). You have probably wondered, “What does that mean? Isn’t it normal for a mother to think her son is handsome?” The same Hebrew phrase is translated in Genesis 1: “and it was good.” So when she looked at Moses she saw an innocent baby boy that made her think “new creation” and therefore made her think “Noah” because the story of Noah and the ark is a story of a “new creation.” Moses was not just any child, she saw that he was special. Thus when she could not hide him any longer she made an ark for him and put the ark among the reeds by the river bank and posted his sister to see what God would do.
Mentioning his sister brings up the other major ways that the passage shows that Moses was special. First of all, we are told that “a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman” and she “conceived and bore a son.” The way that this reads would make you think that this son was their firstborn child. But we know from a few verses later that he has this older sister and in chapter 4 we meet his brother whom we find out later is also older than Moses. So Moses was not an only child or even the oldest child in his family or even the oldest son in his family. But this passage reads like Moses was the firstborn and a firstborn son to make the point that Moses was special. We also know from later passages the names of his siblings. His brother was Aaron and his sister was Miriam. We even learn that their father was named Amram and mother named Jochebed. And it is no accident that we are never told the names of Pharaoh or Pharaoh’s daughter in the book of Exodus. But it is also no accident that in Exodus 2 we are told no names at all—we are not even told the names Miriam or Jocehbed—we are told no names at all until Pharaoh’s daughter is said to have called him Moses. Indeed, Moses was a special child.
Moses would lead the people of God out of Egypt. The most obvious hint of this future is the explanation of his name. The text tells us that she named him Moses because she drew him out of the water. In Hebrew, the name Moses sounds like the verb to draw out. In the Bible names actually mean something and often they tell you what the person given that name will do. Thus Moses would one day draw the people of God out of Egypt. In fact, for Israel to be drawn out of Egypt was to be drawn out of the water because to leave Egypt they had to cross a body of water. When Greek translators looked at a map they said, ‘Oh so you mean the Red Sea.’ But the Hebrew phrase is actually the “Sea of Reeds.” Where was it that the mother of Moses placed the ark in the Nile River? “Among the reeds by the river bank” (end of v.3). This is a hint that now gets lost in translation. But it is a hint that what happened to Moses in his infancy would happen for the nation of Israel in her infancy. And for someone reading this in ancient Hebrew when they saw the word “reeds” they would also be thinking “extinction.” Both words would have looked the same in ancient Hebrew. In other words, just as Moses had been saved from waters of extinction in his ark as a baby so too the new nation of Israel will be saved from the waters of extinction when they leave Egypt. In the New Testament both the flood and the Exodus Event (by which I mean the crossing of the Sea of Reeds or Red Sea) are types of baptism. Therefore, our passage today was Moses’ baptism setting Moses apart to baptize Israel at the Exodus Event. Moses was saved on an ark as an infant because he would lead the people of God out of Egypt.
Jesus also survived the threat of extinction as an infant so that He might accomplish an Exodus.
This particular passage comes to a climax with Moses and points us to the Exodus that would be accomplished through Moses later in the book of Exodus but the story of Scripture as a whole comes to a climax in Christ and the Exodus He accomplished. To say that Jesus was a special child is an understatement – He was totally good – a new creation – the Holy Spirit having conceived Him in the womb of Mary. And He escaped Herod’s decree to kill the children two and under in the region of Bethlehem. Israel had become a new Egypt, so Mary and Joseph fled this new Egypt with the infant Jesus until that Herod had died. All of this foreshadowed what would happen later. Luke tells us that at the Transfiguration of Jesus, Moses and Elijah were discussing with Jesus “His Exodus, which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:30-31). They were discussing His death and resurrection and called it His Exodus. A few chapters later Jesus told His disciples, “I have a baptism to be baptized with,” (Luke 12:50) by which again He meant His death and resurrection. These themes here in Exodus 2 are themes that run throughout the Bible – you might look for them in your own study of the Scriptures…(OT Prophets – new exodus)…but these themes come to a head in Jesus Christ and the Baptismal Exodus He accomplished with His death and resurrection.
Jesus accomplished this Baptismal Exodus for each and every one of His people. Yes, you were on an ark – the cross of Jesus. You have been baptized into His death and resurrection. His Exodus saved you from extinction and from slavery to sin. Neither the flood nor the law could change hearts but the death and resurrection of Jesus makes it so that His people are truly part of the new creation. A saving faith in Jesus takes you from a house of slavery to sin under threat of extinction onto the ark of the cross and into the new creation. This is why Christians in the early church would go to places where unbelievers would abandon children to die from exposure to the elements and they would save those children and raise them as Christians in “arks” like orphanages or families adopting children. This is why Christians build “arks” to save babies from abortion and then work and pray for God to continue to do great things through those children. Those saved from death want to save lives. This is why Christians living under persecution and the threat of extinction will not only endure but multiply and spread. They may or may not physically survive the persecution but they know that should this body die they will be with Jesus and should this body survive they can aim to please Jesus. Indeed God could have delivered Moses or Jesus from their circumstances, but instead God worked through those circumstances. This too is why Christians do not expect to avoid grave illnesses, oppression, or any other hardships but we know that it is often through such things that God will somehow work all things together for good and for the saving of many lives. This too is why we share our own testimony of how God has saved us or how God has been working through our challenging circumstances for good. We do these things not in order to save ourselves, but because we were on an ark – because Jesus accomplished an Exodus for us.