So . . . what’s a mother to do when Pharoah is feeling threatened and murderous, and she knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that the crocodiles in the Nile are hungry for Hebrew babies? Build a basket.
Really, you say? Life is hanging in the balances, time is limited, and we’ve been called to build a basket? Yes, indeed. This is something we are capable of, and God asks us to do it because we can. This is not basket-weaving as a hobby or pastime (with no disrespect to readers who may enjoy that); the life-and-death quality of this basket-weaving gives it serious dignity. The basket Jochebed set out to build was the very means of salvation, the only hope of survival, the one thing that Jochebed could do with the materials at her disposal to thwart the plans of a powerful King. Because of the urgency of our task, we, like Jochebed, should start where we are, and use what God gives us, and engage in this simple task that is within our capability. God tells us to build a basket. Under his watchful eye, this will be enough. But does He tell us how?
God has given us much direction in this regard. In Deuteronomy, He gives clear instructions for basket-weaving, and He expects mothers to act promptly and with utmost diligence to His directives. It is imperative that the basket has strength, that it keeps the water of the Nile out, that it stays afloat despite the challenge of a living and squirming occupant. In Deuteronomy 6:7, God asks us to give ourselves wholly, in each day, in each activity, to teaching the next generation of Him, His ways, His works, His Word, His will, and His overarching worldview that exposes the Egyptian reality for the sham it is. He does not condone any negligence in this department. “Teach them diligently” is His expectation for mothering. But how? What kind of material goes into this basket-weaving? And how do we coat it with pitch, and imbue it with strength?
The materials we must gather and use are very basic and readily available, much like the reeds Jochebed collected close to her home. God has given us His Word, the treasure store of all the wisdom and knowledge we need. It is the compass that will guide our children home. It is the lens that brings everything into sharp focus and exposes error. It is the lamp that illuminates the right path when the darkness is pressing in. God’s Word is of utmost importance when building the basket. It must be an integral piece of our childrearing program if Pharoah and the crocodiles are going to be kept at bay. So open it up. Read it every day to your little crew in a form and at a level they can understand. Expound on the lessons from each story. You will be surprised how much it fortifies your faith in the process, and you will find a sure guide to all the struggles a little person encounters. God’s idea of conflict resolution, how to deal with the bullies, whether lying and cheating get you ahead in the long run, how to behave during success and failure, comfort for days that just don’t go quite right . . . all these things come to light with just the routine, daily reading of His guidebook for us. Sing it, watch it, read it, listen to it, memorize it, talk about it. Immerse them in His truth.
But what of the pitch? How do we keep the water out? The fervent prayer of the righteous mother avails much (James 5:16). Children need to know that prayer is essential in our warfare with this world. The compression felt by the mould of Pharoah and his military machine are hard to fight. Prayer acknowledges our need of God to fight for us. He knows how to throw the horse and rider into the sea (Exodus 15:2), while we watch awestruck on the far side of it (Exodus 14:29-31). Our children need us to cover them with this invaluable weapon, and they need to be given this weapon themselves. “Teach us to pray”, the disciples said (Luke 11:1). Teach them to pray. Show them what faith looks like in the auditory realm: a request voiced in faith. And record the victories of the Lord. You might hardly notice them if you haven’t been participating in the battle through prayer.
And finally, ballast. How to keep this little boat from tipping over when the energy it contains is uncontainable. This comes from living the truth of what is read and prayed. In each moment, in each circumstance, in each task . . . live it out. The example of applying God’s principles to all our living is unmistakably effective in leading the way to a different kind of life than that of the Egyptians around us. Tell those little ones that we must forgive if we ever want to receive forgiveness. Show them that generosity begets generosity, but stinginess impoverishes. Impress upon them that it is “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Live out the mercy and compassion of the Saviour. Be friendly and gain friends. Resist the devil, flee temptation, live in the light, practise honesty. All these are portraits contrary to the ones Egypt puts on display. They are hardly believable in the Egyptian context, but the life they produce is hard to dismiss.
We are in good company as we engage in this task. Noah had a similar call. Gopher wood, pitch, more than a few survivors, and a wide open sea . . . all with a view to ensuring salvation and the preservation of a people for God. We are called to do the same on a smaller scale. Gopher wood is hardly necessary for one small occupant, and 100 years for construction is out of the question, but we must not despise small things. One little basket, made of just the ordinary things that are close at hand, and placed carefully along the edge of the Nile . . . what could God do with such an offering?
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