Summary: The princess of Egypt knew that God’s law superseded the state’s law; and chose to act for compassion and justice.
As I began this series of three messages on the theme, Designing Women, last week, I said that we were going to be looking for qualities of leadership out of the stories of those women mentioned in the roll call of faith known as the 11th chapter of Hebrews.
You’ll remember that I pointed out that the author of Hebrews, fascinated as he was by the life of faith, listed any number of people from Old Testament days who had made a mark for themselves by some very special qualities of leadership, integrity, character, and faith. He is careful to point out that all of these persons, as fine as they were, were only shadows of the one whose faithful obedience to God we would ultimately see – that is Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. But, says the author of Hebrews, all of these earlier men and women lived in faith and pointed the way for us; they are, he says, a great cloud of witnesses who now watch us and the way we live.
Now while I could preach a sermon on every character mentioned in Hebrews 11, I have chosen during these three Sundays to focus only on the women who are mentioned; there are only three, but they are powerful, significant, instructive women. And I have an idea that these women bring something special to the realm of spiritual leadership, something which their brothers do not bring.
That’s why I call them designing women; they are purposeful women, they are intentional people. They know themselves, they· understand what they are here for, and, in one way or another, they follow that design. They trace that pattern. They fulfill that purpose, in their own special ways.
Last week we heard the name of Sarah called in the roll call of the heroines of faith. And we were grateful for Sarah as the model of a woman who did understand that she had a purpose, under God, and she set out to fulfill it. The problem with Sarah, though, and with Sarah’s style of leadership, is that she nearly defeated her own purpose. She just about shot herself in the foot. Do you remember how?
Sarah just about defeated her own purpose because she fell prey to the temptation to force God to move along faster than He wanted to, and Sarah did it by using unworthy and evil methods, even though she was trying to do a good thing.
And, further, Sarah let guilt and shame and anger and rage take control of her life. Instead of pursuing the straight path, Sarah began to twist and to turn and to let her worst emotions run her life, and she just about shot herself in the foot.
And then, too, we found out that this designing woman failed some of the tests of leadership because she did not learn from past mistakes. When push came to shove, all she knew to do was to repeat the old useless, pointless strategies of the past, and she nearly defeated her own purpose.
But God was able to turn her around, and Sarah made it in, at last, to the roll call of the heroines of faith.
Today we’re going to deal with somebody who is quite different from Sarah. The designing woman whose life we’ll examine today is from the social register. You would find her in the Green Book. Imagine her as well-dressed, well-placed, elegant, literate, privileged; she’s got it all. And the reason she’s got it all is that she’s daddy’s little girl, and daddy just happens to be Pharaoh, King of Upper and Lower Egypt, emperor of the Nile. This is a daughter of privilege, and she is just about to break the law! But she is also just about to show us some very special qualities of courage and leadership.
The author of the book of Hebrews mentions Pharaoh’s daughter only in passing; actually, he is talking about Moses, the great liberator of the people of God. He really is not making much of a point about this young woman. But he does mention her, and I believe that it’s worth our time to explore more carefully this daughter of privilege, this designing woman, who could have dealt with the situation in front of her with a cynical "who cares?" but who did not. She saw, I believe, that her privileges gave her possibilities and responsibilities, and she responded.
Now the Old Testament Book of Exodus opens with a little drama that contrasts power and weakness.
There is the power of the King of Egypt to order and carry out the slaughter of thousands of innocent children; and the contrast with the weakness of tiny babies is overwhelming.
But there is also the power of a choosing, providing, caring God to work through that weakness: the weakness of an infant in a poor weak basket, the weakness of two nondescript parents and their daughter hiding in the reeds, and even the weak position of a designing young woman, the one person in all the world Pharaoh might have supposed he could have controlled: his daughter.