“Moses: A Real basket Case”
Some years ago my family and I had the opportunity to visit the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, one of our greatest presidents. We were able to walk through the log cabin he grew up in. It took us about two minutes. It’s small. There is nothing really special about it. Dirt floor. One window. Really just a square hole. No glass. And a front door. But no actual door. Just an opening. As you walk through you cannot help but wonder, how did this man succeed?
It is said that Mrs. Lincoln only owned one book: the Bible and that Abe was taught daily from the scriptures. His accomplishments are almost too many to list…and in time he became one of America’s greatest leaders. When you look at all that Lincoln accomplished you have to ask how did a man with such humble beginnings, with very few advantages, become such a great leader?
Lincoln is not the only person we have seen who has emerged from having almost nothing to becoming a truly remarkable leader. We could also count Franklin Roosevelt, Nelson Mandella and many others who had very humble beginnings, faced many trials but became truly great leaders. This morning we add one more to the list: Moses. This chapter doesn’t mention it but Moses was not their firstborn child. Moses had an older sister named Miriam and an older brother named Aaron. Verse 2 tells us that his parents hid him for the first 3 months. Now they did this for two reasons. (1) in an attempt by Pharaoh to destroy the Israelites, any male child ran the risk of being killed by Pharaoh. Only the girls were allowed to survive. This was Pharaoh’s way of decreasing the population. So Moses was born at the wrong time in the wrong place and he was the wrong gender as well. (2) the Bible says he was a fine child. Some translations say that he was beautiful.
I’ve been to the hospital countless numbers of times when a church member has just had a baby and I can tell you one thing I have never seen…I have never seen an ugly baby. To hear the parents talk she looks like a model or the next great football player. I overheard one family looking at the newborns at the hospital and they had found their little grandson and were arguing about who he looked the most like …the father or the mother. He had grandpa’s eyes, he had Aunt Susie’s smile and they had just about figured the baby out completely when the nurse pointed out to them that they were looking at the wrong baby. There have been times when I would look at the baby and you just don’t know what to say. You know when a baby is 1st born they sometimes look a little rough…head is stretched out a bit and you just say yeah that’s a baby alright. Or of all the babies I’ve ever seen that’s one of them. I don’t know any parent who has ever thought that their child was anything but beautiful and that’s how they felt about Moses.
So to keep him safe they hid Moses for the first 3 months. But as Moses grew it was harder to hide him. They were concerned that Pharaoh might find out so they had to come up with an alternate plan. They got a basket made from papyrus and coated it with tar and pitch. Papyrus was used to make baskets, sandals, boats, a variety of things. Papyrus is a plant-like reed that grows along the Nile River and it looks like a giant stalk of celery. Scrolls, parchment is also made from it. The Bible then says that they placed the child in the basket and placed it the water near the bank of the Nile River. This was very smart because the basket being made from those reeds was now floating in an area that was surrounded by the same things the basket was made from. So it was great camouflage. We don’t know exactly how long Moses and the basket were in the water before he was discovered but we get the impression that it wasn’t very long.
Pharaoh’s daughter had gone down to the Nile and she saw the basket and sent one of her slave girls to get it. She opened up the basket and Moses was crying. The girl immediately recognized that this was one of the Hebrew babies. When I read this story I get the distinct impression that it was almost as though Moses had a wall of protection around him. Here was a child who would come from a very unlikely place found in a basket in the river; he could have drown, he could have starved to death, could have been injured in a thousand ways yet God says that is someone I want to use. He was an unlikely candidate for leadership. This is something we notice in many of the men and women in scripture who became leaders. Many of them started life at a great disadvantage. Let me give you 3 examples from the scripture.
First if all look with me at the example of Joseph in the book of Genesis. When he was just 17 his father sent him to check on his brothers who were out in the fields tending to the flock. His brothers were jealous of Joseph because he had such big dreams so they planned to kill him. One of the brothers, Reuben convinced them not to kill him but instead to throw him in a pit. While he was in the well/pit they decided that instead of allowing him to die there that they would sell him into slavery which is where he spent the next two years. Then for the following 7 years while he continued to live in Egypt, all of this time his father thought that Joseph was dead. But through a series of events God had called him out to be a leader. People began to take note of Joseph and his potential and he quickly became a head of state, next in rank to the king. Joseph had to work very hard to overcome his circumstances. He was literally in a pit.
2nd, look at the shepherd boy David. David was the youngest son of 8 boys. When Samuel came to his home he came for the purpose of selecting one of Jesse’s sons for the purpose of anointing him for leadership. Jesse brought his sons in one by one and then he would say, the Lord has not chosen this one…then the next one… the Lord has not chosen this one either until 7 of Jesse’s sons had passed before Samuel and none of them were fit for the task. So at that point he asked Jesse, are these all the sons you have? He said well there is still the youngest but he is tending the sheep. Samuels says go get him. So they brought David in. The moment Samuel saw him he said “Rise up and anoint him; he is the one.” David was a very unlikely candidate for the job. He had to overcome his family’s perception of him.
There are some of you today who can identify with that. You were the one that your parents said, you’ll never amount to anything. You never really got encouragement from your family and as a result you had to work harder to get where you are today. You came up at a great disadvantage. I believe that it is the pleasure of God that takes those of us in that at particular situation to take those people and use them. I remember being in a church some years ago and they were interviewing for the position of pastor and one of those serving on the committee said well we should definitely consider that guy…he comes from a great blood line. Listen it’s wonderful if you do, if you come from a long history of wealth and success but that is not the first thing that God looks for. God says I choose the nobodies and make them into somebodies. And that is the story of David. He had to overcome his Family’s perception of him but God promoted him until he became King of Israel.
One more. The apostle Paul. Before his name changed he was known as Saul of Tarsus. His name Paul means little. History books describe him as a man with scanty hair. I like him already… he had crooked legs, a long nose. He spoke of having a thorn in the flesh. (2 Cor. 12:7) Some believe it was epilepsy. Paul knew his illness was a trial/hardship to the people in Galatia. He called his illness a thorn in the flesh; a messenger of Satan. This messenger, as he puts it, caused him to realize that he was completely helpless. But God took him and changed him into the mightiest missionary to ever walk the earth, planting at least 14 churches, probably more. One of those churches he planted in Ephesus which was in Asia-it was the only church he planted in Asia but from that church every person who lived in Asia was able to hear the message of the gospel. In addition Paul wrote at least half of the books in the NT. All of that from a scrawny little bald man with great physical problems. Paul was a very unlikely candidate for leadership. He had to overcome great physical problems.
So as we look at all of this we have to ask what does God look for in a potential leader? These 3 things. (1) He looks for a man or woman who is deeply spiritual. He called David a man after His own heart. When you are after someone’s heart that means that what is important to them becomes important to you. What burdens them burdens you. When they say do this you do it. When they say stop doing that you stop. The OT says that the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. What is God looking for? Men and women whose hearts are completely his. (2) Someone who practices humility on a daily basis. That is a description of a servant leader. A servant has one goal and that is to make the one he serves look better. To make them more successful. A servant doesn’t care who gets the credit, just so the job gets done. God loves the humble but He resists the proud. (3) Someone who has integrity in his personal life. Integrity is who you are when no one is looking. There is nothing fake about a leader like this. He is the same all the time. Honest. Trustworthy. When they give you their word, you can bank on it.
The same gentleman who sculpted out the faces of some of our finest leaders on Mt Rushmore also did a sculpture of Abe Lincoln, cut from a block of stone. One day, as he was working on the face of Lincoln, it was just starting to be recognizable when a young girl was visiting the studio with her parents. She looked at the half-done face of Lincoln….she stared for a moment, then turned to the sculptor and asked if it were Lincoln. He said yes, and then she asked, “How did you know he was in there?”
There never has been a sculptor like our heavenly Father…he sees things we cannot see. He chooses people we would not choose and he calls out leaders who are not very likely candidates. I sometimes think Lord how did you know they were in there? How did you know all of the potential that person had? Really that is what makes God, God. He knows all.
It gets back to the famous story of Michelangelo, who was always annoyed by his critics. One day an unwanted visitor to his studio asked how Michelangelo was able to carve an angel from a stone, he replied, “I just cut away anything that doesn’t look like an angel.” God isn’t finished with us yet. Aren’t you glad? He is still cutting away everything that doesn’t need to be there. If he calls you out to be a leader and you will allow him to do so he will cut out everything that doesn’t look like a leader. Will you let Him? Would you be willing to pray “Lord, if you want me in a place of leadership in this church, Lord I am willing.”