Sermon: The Courage and Compassion of a Mother and Sister

The Courage and Compassion of Moses’ Mother and Sister
Exodus 2:1-10
Sept 10, 2017
Pastor Paul R. O’Neil

The message that God would have us consider this weekend is that as the people of the Lord, we are to be compassionate and courageous, to save and preserve life.

In our scripture today, the Jewish people were in distress. The Egyptian pharaoh, Ramses II had enslaved the Israelites and forced them to build his pyramids and other building projects.  The Pharoh was so afraid of the Jews that he ordered his officials to throw baby boys into the Nile River.  One compassionate and courageous Jewish mother and her daughter risked their lives to save baby Moses from the Pharoh’s edict.

My text is Exodus 2:1-10.
Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. 2 The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. 3 When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. 4 His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

5 The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. 6 When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said. 7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” 8 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. 9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. 10 When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”
This is the Word of God.

The scriptures tell us that when Moses was born, his parents, Amram and Jocebed, hid him for three months. They already had two other children: Miriam, who was about six or seven, and Aaron, who was about three.  Because they were older, Miriam and Aaron had already escaped the Pharaoh’s murderous decree.

Now I am sure other Jewish parents did their best to hide their children and if all of us lived back then, we would have done something too. Little Moses’ mother chose to make a basket-like boat out of papyrus reeds as a means of deliverance for her baby boy.  Moses’ mother and sister showed compassion and courage risking their lives to save him.

As the people of God are called to be compassionate, to do what we can to save and preserve life. Though our actions might not be as dramatic as those of Jocebed and Miriam, they can nonetheless be as meaningful.

In the article, “Telltale Tears” Bruce Theilman wrote about an unusual pediatric intern. It seemed that this doctor had a magical effect on children.  The children would submit to his tests and exams without fuss or complaint, but they were less enthused about, and sometimes afraid of, the same treatments issued by other doctors and nurses.  The hospital administrator was curious about the secret of this doctor’s amazing bedside manner, so he assigned a nurse to find out the reason for this doctor’s success with children.  At the end of the day during her second week on the job, the nurse discovered the doctor’s secret:  he would go back to the ward and hug, kiss, and wish each child a good night.  The children responded to that simple act of kindness and compassion.

When we go the extra mile, go above and beyond, or become involved in some special way in people’s lives, the compassion we show to others can be more powerful than words, and when we do it in the name of the Lord, it opens up hearts to the gospel.

In the past two weeks, our country has experienced two hurricanes where the first responders, the military and FEMA have provided lifesaving acts. But in the recovery phase, there are things we can do:

  1. First is to pray.
  2. Second is that we can make personal donations to UMC Hurricane Relief or donate items to UMCOR or United Methodist Corp of Relief.
  3. Those who are able can become part of the UMC Emergency Response Team to help put tarps on roofs to prevent further damage, clean out the mud and debris from houses and provide overall comfort to families.

It takes courage to leave your family, pay your own way, drive a thousand miles with a group of strangers, and work for about a week. The only reward is the reception ERT’s get when they become involved, and the volunteers say it is worth it.

Other scriptures speak in the name of compassion”:

  • 1 Peter 3:8: “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers and sisters, be compassionate and humble.”
  • Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.”


About three years ago, the news of the day was about the deadly Ebola Virus Outbreak that has plagued Africa. This dangerous virus which had a high mortality rate, and many volunteer health care providers stayed away.  Samaritan Purse doctor, Dr. Kent Brantley, and Nurse, Nancy Writebol, chose to go to the heart of the epidemic to help others.  Dr. Brantley said, “God has a call on my life and did not give me a spirit of fear.”  Both Brantley and Writebol knew the risks, but their compassion for others was their chief concern.  Unfortunately, both of them were infected, and they almost died.  However after recovering, they both had the courage to return to Africa and serve.

Here are some quotes on compassion:

  • “What this world needs is a new kind of army-the army of the kind.” ~ Cleveland Amory
  • “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because some day in your life, you will have all of these.” ~ George Washington Carver.

Historians tell us that Pharaoh Ramses II had 60 daughters, including the one who went to the Nile to bathe. When she saw the baby Moses in the reed basket, she was moved with compassion.  Maybe it took some courage to raise a Hebrew child in the court of pharaoh.

Compassion doesn’t always happen naturally. We can become more compassionate by inviting Christ into our hearts.  Our relationship with the Lord can help us remain sensitive to the needs of others.  And when it is our time of need, the Lord will see to it that we are helped.

It has been my observation that the best fire fighters and ambulance workers are the ones who take the time to speak kindly to others, and go out of their way to comfort other family members and their pets.

Let me close. Don’t underestimate the power of compassion: send a sympathy card, attend a funeral, bake some bread, give a ride, visit someone in a hospital, make a telephone call, give a hug, sit down and listen, invite someone over for a meal, be understanding, show mercy, seek someone out, or volunteer for a mission trip.  When you show you care, you can help change someone’s life for the better.

May the Lord give us compassion to save and preserve life.