by Robert Brow (www.brow.on.ca).
Faith to fight for Children - "By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months" (Hebrews 11:23). Moses was born at a terrible time when Pharaoh had given the order that every male child must be killed at birth or thrown to the crocodiles in the river Nile. But by faith some of these children were saved. We read in the original story that "the midwives feared God; and they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live" (Exodus 1:17). Saving these children was very important to God, and we read that "God dealt well with the midwives, and because the midwives feared God, he gave them families" (Exodus 1:21). So Moses was first saved by the faith of one of the midwives, and then at great risk to themselves his parents hid him for three months. Finally when the cries of the child would have alerted the soldiers, and the whole village would have been wiped out, Moses was put in a basket among the reeds of the river Nile in faith that somehow God would preserve him. What happened was that he was found by Pharaoh's daughter and raised in the palace (Exodus 1:13-2:10).
Jesus taught how important children are in the Kingdom of heaven. "Truly I tell you unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me." And then he added a very serious terrible word about child abuse : "If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone was fastened around your neck and you were thrown in the depth of the sea" (Matthew 18:6).
Amy Carmichael was a missionary who worked in South India. She was horrified that little children were being given away to serve in the temple sex trade. At great risk to herself she and her helpers would go and find these children and take care of them in a place called Dohnavur. Once when I was on tour speaking in the universities of South India, the last day I was hit by a virus, my throat swelled up, and I thought I would be dead in a few hours. I managed to get on a bus to Dohnavur and I was nursed back to health by a nurse named Jivani, who was Amy Carmichael's assistant. While I was recovering I saw the children in their classes and singing and playing happily in the beautiful gardens, and I had no doubt God was rejoicing in this great work of faith.
But it is not just those who set up orphanages who have faith to save little children. Many parents have looked to God in faith as they agonized for the life of their child. As we saw in the definition of faith (Hebrews 11:1-3), what counts is not the amount of faith, or a particular decision of faith, but a direction of faith. We use all the human means and medical treatment which are available, but we look in faith to God the Creator, the loving Father of our Lord Jesus Christ to intervene in a supernatural way. Right here in our city of Kingston there are hundreds of single mothers, who have been left to raise their children on their own, and some of them have this same quality of faith that saved Moses for the task he was to perform. * see note below.
Faith to save slaves - God also cares about human freedom, and he uses those who have faith to free others at great cost to themselves. "By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called a son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin" (Hebrews 11:24-25). Having been saved from certain death as a baby, Moses could have continued in the luxury of the royal palace. For him faith was a willingness to accept the calling to save his own people from their terrible slavery. When he tried impetuously to intervene, things went badly wrong and he had to flee to the wilderness for 40 years. During that time he became "the friend of God" as he talked to God while minding his father in law's flocks of sheep near the slopes of Mount Sinai. In God's time he was called back, and led the exodus of his people from slavery to the promised land.
We are not likely to be involved in freeing slaves, but it is only a few years ago that Martin Luther King was martyred in leading a march of his black friends for their American civil rights. All around us however there are people who are slaves to the sex trade, promiscuity, abusive husbands, alcoholism, drugs, gambling, and other addictions. All over the world there are prisoners languishing in jail for crimes they never committed. Jesus said : "If the Son shall set you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36). He delights in helping people find "the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Romans 8:21). None of us can be involved in freeing all the people around us who are in bondage. But when God lays the freeing of a particular person on our heart, faith is looking to God to intervene, and move us to do what is needed. As in the case of Moses, this may be very costly, but concern for those who are enslaved is very important to God.
Faith to follow the Lamb of God - "By faith Moses kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood" (Hebrews 11:28). After 3,400 years Jewish people still keep the Passover ritual that began their escape from the bondage of slavery. For their last meal in Egypt they were to kill a lamb and sprinkle its blood on the doorposts of their shacks. The symbolism was very important. The eternal Son of God was known by many names. He was the Lord (Yahweh), the King of kings, the Shepherd, the Rock, our Fortress, our Redeemer, our Healer, and he was also paradoxically both the Lion and the Lamb. Like Aslan in C.S.Lewis's Narnia stories the Son of God is fierce and strong as a lion, but also gentle and willing to be sacrificed like a lamb. Each of these Old Testament names is important, but it was this last name that John the Baptist used. "Here is the Lamb of God who keeps taking away the sin of the world" (John 1:29, the Greek tense is a present continuous).
This means that the eternal Son of God, who came among us as Jesus the Lamb of God, was already pictured at the heart of the Passover ritual. Two weeks ago we thought of Abel bringing a lamb as sacrifice (Hebrews 11:4). As the Lamb of God Jesus the Messiah is also the heart of our communion service. "Our paschal lamb, Christ has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the festival" (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). In the Book of Common Prayer we say "O Lamb of God that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy on us." Earlier in this service we sang "Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world."
What does this suggest for your life pilgrimage? In a way we are all involved in our own kind of Exodus faith. We look in faith to the God who can free us from the bondage of anything that binds us. And we have seen we are also involved by faith in the saving of children, and the freeing of others who are enslaved. We do not do this in our own name or strength. Again and again you will see the Lamb of God mentioned in the Book of Revelation. "They have conquered Satan by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to life even in the face of death" (Revelation 12:11), and "They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb" (Revelation 15:3). Like them by faith we are followers of the eternal Lamb of God, and as we look to the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance we will find ourselves involved in his gentle sacrificial service in the world.
* Note In the current Readers Digest (September 2001) there is
a story by B.J.Markstad titled "Anchors of Love" which describes homes
in many neighborhoods which are open to children who need love and a place
to escape to from an uncaring environment. Many children have survived
trauma and danger in the shelter of such welcoming homes, and we can be
sure God is pleased.