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  • Susan Brown

Ladies’ Bible Study: Jochebed

Text:  Exodus 2:1-10

Write a thumb-nail sketch of the person’s life.

Jochebed was a mother in a tough time.  She was poor. She had no freedom, no options. She was a slave in a country where her people were despised.  Yet, this poor woman, who was uneducated and without money or influence, was a mother whose children changed the world.

How did she do it?  Let’s take a look at her story.

We know that Jochebed lived in the days when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt.  They had lived there in peace for many years, and God had blessed them. They grew from a large family to a nation. The Egyptians were afraid that they might turn against them and take over, so Pharaoh  tried to get rid of them.

His first plan was to make them slaves and mistreat them so badly that they would die off.  That didn’t work, because God was with them. He looked after His own people, and they  prospered and grew in spite of the persecution.

His next plan was to get rid of the baby boys.  First he called in the head of the midwives, who were named Shiphra and Puah.  He told them they could save the baby girls alive, but to kill the boys when they were born. These ladies defied the powerful king and refused to kill the babies.  God protected them and rewarded them for doing the right thing.

Shiphra and Puah are an example to us of an important principle.  We are to respect and obey our authorities.  We are to keep the law of the land, and to follow our husbands, except when an authority commands us to do something God forbids us to do. For Shiphra and Puah, that was killing babies.  When they obeyed God, they could have been killed, but Pharaoh mysteriously let them go. I believe God protected them.

If the midwives wouldn’t kill the boy babies quietly, then Pharaoh decided to openly attack the Israelites.  He made a law that all male children under two years old should be thrown in the river Nile.  The penalty — we gather it was death for the whole family.

Jochebed had two children already. Miriam was about 11 years old and Aaron was about three. Then she discovered she was going to have another child.  Can you imagine how fearful she must have been?  How much she hoped this child would be a girl?  But it was a boy.  She had a terrible choice to make. She either had to give up her baby or risk her entire family.  Perhaps she and her husband would be killed for disobeying Pharaoh.  Perhaps Miriam and Aaron would be killed, too, or left destitute as orphans.

But she looked at her beautiful baby boy and knew she had to do what she could to save him. For three months she hid him.  Can you imagine how hard that must have been to keep him quiet and out of sight?  At last, though, she saw she could no longer hide him.  She would do as Pharaoh commanded and put him in the river — but with one change. She made a little boat for him out of a basket that she carefully waterproofed.

Then she took her baby in his little boat-bed, and she put him in the river.  Do you think was frightening?  There were crocodiles in the river, as well as snakes and other animals.  A river certainly isn’t a safe place for a baby.

But Jochebed trusted God.  That’s the key to her success as a mother.  She didn’t just put her baby in the river — she put him in the arms of God.  She set little Miriam to keep watch over him and left him there.

And God can be trusted to take care of our children!  The one person who could rescue the baby came along just then.  It was Pharaoh’s daughter, coming down to the river to swim.  She saw the basket and sent a maid to see what it was.  When she opened the basket, the baby began to cry.  Her heart was touched and she decided then and there to keep the baby and raise him as her own.

Miriam boldly came up to the princess and asked, “Do you want someone to nurse the baby for you?  I know of someone who will be glad to do it.”

Of course, she ran to get her mother, and Jochebed was able to take her baby back home and raise him openly and safely.

That was just the first time she had to give him up, though.  Moses stayed with her while he was a baby, but when he was big enough, he went to live in the palace and became known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.

Perhaps it was even harder to give him up the second time.  He would face a different set of dangers this time. The people in the palace were pagans.  Would he forget about the true God? About his heritage?  Would he forget his true mother?

The Bible doesn’t tell us, but I believe she must have trusted God, because Moses never did forget his people.  He chose not to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. (Heb. 11:24-26)

He did learn many things in the palace that equipped him for the work God had for him. God chose Moses to lead His people out of slavery to the promised land. I’m sure he learned a lot about leadership there in the king’s palace.  It was while he was being raised as a prince that he learned to write — and so was able to write down the first five books of the Bible.

Aaron, also was Moses’ helper and the first in the line of priests in Israel.

Miriam was known as a helper and a leader, and her song is recorded in the Bible.

List all of her characteristics. What does the Bible say about those character qualities?

We see her faith.  How do you get faith?  Is it something you try to feel? Can you make your own faith grown like a plant grows?   No, faith comes from knowing God.  The more you know Him, the more you trust Him, because He is good and He is trustworthy.

Sometimes we get confused and think it is by faith that we accomplish miracles. No, it isn’t  our faith — it is our God.  It isn’t about our strength and ability, but our trust in God.

As you learn more about God and draw closer to Him by Bible study and by prayer, you find it easier to trust Him.  When you trust Him, you can let go of your worries.  He can take care of them!  The more you see Him answer and take care of needs, the easier it is to trust Him the next time.

(Example: If I offered to cut your hair in a new style, you might not be confident that I would do it well.  You might be afraid and say, “No, thanks.” If, as we got to know each other better, you learned that I had gone to school in America to learn to cut hair, you might feel more trusting, but you still might think, “Well, she went to school, but she might not have passed.”  If we become better acquainted and I show you pictures of people whose hair I cut, you might begin to feel more faith in my ability.  Then one day three ladies come to class with their hair in beautiful new hair styles.  They say, “Sister Susan cut it for us.”  Because you know that I have had experience cutting hair and because you have seen my work with your friends, you have enough faith to trust me to cut your hair. Suppose I do a beautiful job, and your hair looks gorgeous!  Everyone tells you how beautiful you look. The next time you need a haircut, you won’t worry at all.  You will just ask me to cut it for you.  This is just an example — and I really cannot cut hair. You shouldn’t trust me!)

But you can see how it is the same with God.  You may have trouble trusting Him, and you may worry whether He will take care of the things you are praying about.  But as you get to know Him better and better and learn more about Him, you will see that He CAN be trusted. He will never fail.

How did her life and character affect her husband and children?

We learn that her faith encouraged her husband’s faith.  When Moses was born, Scripture says SHE looked at him and saw that he was a goodly child.  SHE hid him for three months.  SHE made the basket boat.  Her husband obviously didn’t disagree, but it was her faith and courage that saved her child alive.  If your husband doesn’t trust God as he should, perhaps you can be an encouragement to him.

Sometimes women are DIScouragers.  If your husband sees you worrying and fretting over money, for example, it will put pressure on him and make him worry, too, instead of trusting God to supply.  I have seen several preachers who quit their ministry because they felt like they couldn’t give their wives the things they wanted or needed.  One woman was so sad when her husband left his church. She felt like he lacked faith and should have stayed and served. She didn’t realize that her constant talking about money and the things they didn’t have made him feel like a failure. He quit so he could earn the money to make her happy.  That wasn’t her intention, but that’s what happened.

If you trust God to take care of your daily needs and determine to be content with what you have, your faith will be an encouragement to your husband.  It will also be an example to your children.  If the mother in the family is worried, everyone will feel worried. If mother is at peace, trusting God, the children will not worry either.

Jochebed made her children a priority.  It was a big risk to keep her baby alive, but she took that risk, because children are worth it!  They are worth any sacrifice we can make.

Many mothers are not willing to sacrifice — their time, their money, their emotions.  But they are treasures God gives us. We should gladly serve Him by giving ourselves to our children.  As you look at the little boy who is always getting into trouble, or that little girl who is always whiney — you don’t know but that this child will one day be a great leader of God’s people!  They are worth the investment.

What if you don’t have children? There are lots of children in Thailand.  There are probably many in your church.  Can you be a blessing to them?  There are many in your village.  Can you bring them to church? Can you tell them of Jesus Jesus said that as you have done it to a little child,you have done it unto Him.  You can serve God in a real way by serving and loving the children in your life.

Jochebed taught her children when they were very small.

Don’t think you will start when they are teenagers teaching your children about God.  You can do the best teaching when they are very young.  Moses went to live with Pharaoh’s daughter as soon as he was weaned. We don’t know how long that was in his culture, but we know he was just a small child.  Yet, he never forgot his mother, his people, and his God.  (Hebrews 11:24-26)

What do you think is the leading lesson taught by her life?

Jochebed shows us that God is faithful. When we surrender our most precious possessions to Him, we can trust Him to care for them.

What applications can you make to your life?

Jochebed was a woman of faith. How can you grow in faith?  By getting to know God better. How can you do that?

By spending time with Him in the Bible. Don’t just read over the words — but ask the Lord to show you Himself in the Bible.  Look for clues what He is like.  Notice how He treats His people.  What can you learn about Him from the stories in the Bible? Make your devotion time a time of getting to know Him better.

Get to know Him in prayer.  Pray for the things you need, and thank Him for the things He has given you.  As you thank Him for answered prayer, it will help you have more faith in Him.

Notice His hand in nature. He made the great mountains and the beautiful flowers and plants that provide fruits and vegetables for us. What can you learn about Him from seeing His creation?

Spend time worshipping with His people.  As you talk together of His answered prayers and of things you learned in Scripture, you will learn to love and trust Him more.  Seeing Him at work in your friends’ lives will help you trust for your life.  What if you don’t talk about those things at church?  Maybe you should get that habit started. Think of three things God has done for you this week and mention all three when you see your brothers and sisters at church on Sunday.  If everyone there tells three things about God or about His work, then it will be a wonderful time of worship together!

Think about God, and about how He has worked in your life until now.  Even the bad things He uses for good to make you like Jesus.  If you see God’s hand in your past, it will make it easier to trust Him in the future.

Jochebed had an important influence for good on her children when they were very young.

How can you teach your little one — or your grandchild — or little ones in the village about God?

You can show them by your life.  Can people tell you are a Christian by the way you live your life?  If not — there is something wrong!

Tell them.  I started when children were little babies in my arms. I told them about Jesus and how to be saved.  They couldn’t understand — but I wanted them to know about God from their earliest memories.

And you can let him know that Christianity isn’t about keeping rules and NOT doing things others do.  It is about serving and loving the living God who cares for us and takes care of us.  If you are a Christian, but are always angry or mean, your children won’t be interested in being Christians when they are older.

Does doing all these things right guarantee that your children will be saved?  No, because salvation is by grace. It isn’t by works. It isn’t by your children’s works and not by their mother’s works.  It is by grace.  We must do all we can, but each child must come to God on their own and form their own relationships with Him.

But we can pray and ask God to save our children, and we can do all that we humanly can.  And we can trust our children to God.

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