As we embarked on our journey towards adoption, the Lord used one figure to repeatedly remind me of the fact that he has used adoption since the beginning of time to establish his will and purpose for his people. Allow me to (re)introduce you to Moses – the first person to be adopted in the Bible. Although Moses was not perfect, God designed his story to fulfil his purpose of freeing the Israelites from captivity. God turned the complicated start and character flaws of this Hebrew boy turned Egyptian prince into a story of great leadership and redemption. The journey of Moses is a beautiful illustration of how God can use anyone, from any background as an instrument in his hand.
The first time his story and his adoption really came together for me was during the Proverbs 31 Ministries online Bible study of Hidden Potential by Wendy Pope. During the same period the Holy Spirit repeatedly prompted me with the word from Exodus 14:
Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today…
The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.Exodus 14:13-14
I read an article in our church’s online magazine one Saturday evening, and then it was used as the basis of the divine service the very next day! The following week we had another session with our social worker and one of the first things she asked us was: who was the first person adopted in the Bible? It was too much to ignore. The Lord was speaking to me.
Let me introduce you to Moses (again).
If you are more of a visual learner, this video from the Bible Project might interest you.
The Adoption of Baby Moses
About 400 years after the Israelites came to Egypt they had grown so large in their numbers that they became a threat to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. To attempt to control their growth in population Pharaoh enslaved the Israelites, forcing them to perform hard labour. When that did nothing to dampen their growth, he ordered all Hebrew boys to be killed by drowning in the Nile.
One Levite woman, Jochebed, gives birth to a healthy boy and hides him for three months. When she can no longer hide him, she places him in an insulated basket in the Nile and hides him among the reeds. While the baby’s sister Miriam watches from afar, he starts to cry and is discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter, the princess. She takes him from the river and realizes he is a Hebrew boy. Miriam approaches the princess and offers to find her a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby. So it happens that Moses’ mom nurses him and returns him to Pharaoh’s daughter where he is raised in the palace as her son.
As Moses becomes older, he must know that he is actually a Hebrew man, because the harsh treatment of the Israelites by the Egyptians so enrages him, that he kills an Egyptian and flees for his life.
Moses wanders in the desert for forty years where he eventually comes across his future wife and is employed by her father. One day he is tending sheep when he sees a burning bush which is not being burned up by the flames and decides to approach it. From the bush, God speaks to Moses and commands him to go to Pharaoh and be the ambassador that would allow the Israelites to be freed from Egypt and led into the promised land of Canaan.
Moses disputes this task, but God convinces him with many signs and wonders and an answer to every excuse he can come up with. Moses goes to Pharaoh, and ten plagues and mass devastation later, the Israelites are freed from Egypt after God kills the firstborn Egyptian sons in response to the old decree of Pharaoh many years ago when Moses was born.
As the Israelites flee Egypt they come to the Red Sea, and God parts the sea for them to cross to the other side just before engulfing and drowning the Egyptian army.
Lessons from the adoption of Moses
- Surrendering and trusting
Jochebed trusted God wholeheartedly to take care of her son as she floated the basket near the spot she must have known to be a favourite of the princess’. She hoped that the princess would be won over by her adorable baby and rescue him. She had no idea what God had in store for Moses, but she entrusted him in God’s hands. Similarly, a birth mom entrusts her baby via the social worker to an adoptive family. In many cases, she gets to choose the family, but in desperate situations, she must trust that whatever happens to her child is better than what she could provid
2. It takes more than a village
Moses is a vulnerable child in serious danger. He is a victim due to no fault of his own, at risk of losing his life. Fortunately, a few women come to his rescue and make it possible for him to live a full life – eventually becoming an instrument in God’s hands to execute his plans for his people.
Similarly, adoption requires many people to step up and speak up for vulnerable children such as social workers, foster parents, adoptive parents, extended adoptive families and congregations, teachers, and church leaders. These individuals make great sacrifices to fight for the child’s wellbeing and enable the child to grow into the instrument in God’s hands for his purpose. The welfare of an adopted child is the responsibility of everyone that forms part of the child’s life, not just their adoptive parents.
3. Two identities
Moses was a bit older when he eventually moved into the palace since his birth mother nursed him. We can therefore assume that he had a good idea about his heritage and the tension between his identity as an Israelite and now as an adoptive Egyptian prince. This confusion and tension he must have felt are very real for many adoptive children. However wonderful and loving an adoptive family may be, children will still feel drawn to their birth family out of loyalty, guilt, rejection, confusion, or the desire to understand their own story
4. The calling of God
Moses is called by God to perform the seemingly impossible: to free the enslaved Israelites from Egypt. Moses continuously questions this calling, but God shows him many signs and gives him the assurance: “I will be with you.” (Exodus 3:12) I firmly believe it is our deepest calling to show all our children, but especially children from traumatic backgrounds, that they are loved by God, and he has called them for a purpose. This is a lifelong process but God loves these vulnerable souls so much he will never abandon them. It is our job to remind them of this truth as often as they need to hear it.
5. It is not easy to fulfil God’s purpose for our lives
Moses’ leading the Israelites to the promised land was no picnic. They faced hunger, thirst and danger in many forms that seemed impossible to overcome. Yet God came through every single time and provided water and food when none seemed available, and shelter and light when all seemed dark (Exodus 15.22-17.7). Similarly, God provides a way when he has called us to fulfil his will, whether through adoption or any other calling on our lives. He does not leave us to fend for ourselves and comes through in miraculous ways when we least expect it.
6. God can use anyone
Moses had many weaknesses: He had a temper – he killed an Egyptian for mishandling a Hebrew man. He had low self-esteem – “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). He wasn’t a good speaker – “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue” (Exodus 4:10). Moses didn’t want to be a leader – “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else” (Exodus 4:13). Yet God answered every one of his objections and reminded him “I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12).
The Life Application Bible teaches us that God took Moses’s character and moulded him until he was suitable for God’s purpose. God takes what he has placed in us at our creation and uses it for his purpose. God’s greatest work is performed through frail, imperfect people. Moses was eighty years old when God called him which allowed God to use his life experience to grow his faith. Faith to know that he was saved from death as a child for a purpose. Faith to return to Egypt after many years to save a people who did not know him. Faith to command Pharaoh to let the people go in spite of their obvious disadvantage. Faith to cross the Red Sea on foot. God planned the story of Moses better than any person could have, and he continues to do so for each of his children that he calls to fulfil a calling here on earth.
When Moses pleaded with the Lord to be with him and the Israelites God answered in a beautiful way:
I will do the very thing you have asked because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.Exodus 33:17
God knows you by name. He loves you and will be with you every step of the journey has planned for you.
7. We are not supposed to do it alone.
When Joshua and the Israelites fought the Amalekites, he was only successful while Moses was holding up his arms. Have you tried to hold your arms up for a few minutes? I recently tried to take a video with my phone held in front of me, and after a few minutes, my shoulders started cramping. Imagine if your life and the lives of those you cared about depended on you holding your arms up for the duration of a battle. Fortunately, Aaron and Hur stepped up to the plate by giving Moses a place to sit and holding up his arms for him while the battle was raging (Exodus 17:12). This illustration always touches me deeply when I read it. I have been so blessed to have many Aarons and Hurs in my life who have supported me when I had nothing left to give. After we announced that we were adopting we were inundated with beautiful messages of support and love. These messages mean the world to me, but I know that this chapter is only beginning. Our arms are still going to grow very tired (literally and metaphorically) as we embark on one of the toughest journeys of our lives. We need each other on this adventure of life, no matter what our calling or our battle looks like. If you can be there for someone in any way, then be there. You may never know what a message or a favour could mean to someone in a desperate situation. Be an Aaron and a Hur whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Adoption is a journey just like any other battle we face here on earth. There is a lot of sadness involved as one family has broken up to form a new family that could not have been possible in a “natural” way. But God uses this alternative story for his purpose and to bring parents and children closer to him through the lesson of what love can overcome. This is no different from other adventures he has in mind for his children. It is just the journey we are on now and the way he wants to draw us closer to him at this moment.
There were a few songs that I could have chosen for this blog post, but this one seemed especially suitable.