The Characters Behind the Exodus – Sermon on Exodus 2

The Bible is a history book filled with people. There are rich people, poor people, righteous people, and sinful people. There are young and old, male and female. And each of these people has a story. Their lives are recorded for our benefit. We can learn from their successes. We can learn from their failures. We can see qualities in them which are a model for us to follow. And we see qualities in them which we should avoid.

And most of all, we see how God works in their lives. Through their lives we see reflections of God’s character. We see His grace, His mercy, His providence, and sometimes also His justice. We see that this world is not the result of random decisions by random people. But God instead uses flawed people and their flawed decisions to bring about His perfect plan

In today’s passage we will look at three people, learning from their character, good or bad. And through them we will learn more about our good and great God.

Which of the people in this story are mentioned in the hall of faith in Hebrews 11?

If you said, “Moses” you are right. But if you said, “Moses’ parents” or “Moses’ mother” you are also correct.

Character Study of Moses’ Mother (1-4)

Hebrews 11:23 – By faith Moses when he was born was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

His parents protected Moses’ life risking their own.

A. Brave

One of the unsung heroes of the Exodus story is Moses’ mother. Her name is not mentioned in this passage, but is listed elsewhere as Jochebed. She was a woman who lived in a horrible time. It was the law in the land that any Egyptian could freely murder the Jewish baby boys. They were not only allowed to do this, but they were commanded to do this. It was the national policy.

Imagine the fear and horror that Jochebed must have felt. She bravely sheltered him for three months. Babies are not quiet and every whimper must have sent her heart racing that he would be found out. She would have had to continue her normal work in addition to secretly caring for baby.

And she did. Some would say, “That is what mothers should do.” And that is true. Mothers should bravely and selflessly protect their children. But not all do. Jochebed did.

Good mothers sacrifice for their children.

B. Faith and Hope

After three months it was no longer possible to keep the baby a secret anymore. So she made a little ark for Moses, putting him in to the basket and letting it go onto the river.

Jochebed knew that she could protect the child no longer. In order to save him, she had to let him go. She hoped that somehow, some way it would work out and his life would be saved.

Letting go can be the hardest thing. But sometimes God makes us let go in order to build our faith in Him. Did she have faith in God? Did she pray? Did she trust God would take care of Him? The text does not tell us directly. But in light of her faith mentioned in Hebrews 11 it is very likely.

Moses was out of her control. But he was now safer than he had ever been in God’s loving care.

God had this.

Her desperate action of faith was rewarded. The baby was saved and she herself was called upon to be his nurse.


Behind every leader is a mother – This could be a good passage for Mother’s Day. Because it reminds us of the important role of the mother.

Mozart, Abraham Lincoln, Hitler, Martin Luther, and Napoleon each had a mother. Some may have done better jobs than others! A mother who does an amazing job raising her children can have a huge influence on the world. John and Charles Wesley’s mother told them the gospel from a young age.

Jochebed didn’t have many chances to train up Moses. But she did save his life. And in so doing, she had a hand in saving all of Israel from slavery.

Mothers, you are powerful. You have a great opportunity to shape the next generation. Pray for your children. Ask God to save their spiritual lives. And then teach them His Word. Raise your children up to be great leaders for Him.

Let go and trust God –

I believe the hardest thing that Moses’ mother did was let him go, putting his basket into the water and walking away. She couldn’t protect him anymore. He was beyond her control and influence.

Do you like control? I do. I like to have a plan. But brothers and sisters, we are not in control. If you are with someone in your house now, turn and say to them, “You are not in control!”

2020 has shown us that. The governments are not in control and neither are we. For almost all of us, our plans have changed. Perhaps you are in a different country than you planned to be in. Maybe you have a different job, or maybe no job at all. Perhaps your academic plans have been all messed up.

God is teaching you a lesson. You are not in control. And you never have been. You are not the master of your own destiny. Your best laid plans may come to ruin.

Proverbs 16:9 – The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

How will you react when those plans are shattered? You must learn to let go. In fact you never had control. Thinking that we have control is an illusion. But you must let go of the illusion that you are in control.

And then you must turn to God and acknowledge that He is in control, that He has a plan, and that it is a good plan. Trusting in God’s power and goodness will enable you to stand upon Him, the solid rock in the middle of the storm. He is our refuge. He is our fortress. He is our strength.

I would invite you to come before God in prayer now. In your prayer acknowledge before Him, “I am not in control. I trust in you. Be my refuge.” Cast your worries on Him because He cares for you.

You and your family are safest not when you have a plan, but when you trust in God.

II. Character Study of Princess (5-10) (Adoption the Loving Option)

I am only going to briefly mention Pharaoh’s daughter. We don’t know much about her except the few things we can glean from this passage:

  • She is willing to adopt a Hebrew child. The text says in verse 6 she “took pity on him.” Most of the Egyptians despised the Hebrews, so she shows she is different.
  • She adopts Moses. Moses’ story is a story of adoption. Adoption is the loving option. Did she do it out of desire to help the Hebrews? It is more likely that she did it because she wanted to raise a son and didn’t have one.
  • She raised Moses as her own son. It is likely that some of Moses’ better qualities were at least partially due to her influence. For example, Moses’ demonstrates compassion and she showed compassion when she adopted him.

III. Character Study of Moses (11-22)

Exodus 2:11 – One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people.

Hebrews 11:24-26 – By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.

A. He chose the difficult and narrow way of God rather than the world

Movies like the Prince of Egypt and The Ten Commandments depict Moses as a royal prince in the House of Pharaoh. Some movies even show Moses as a potential heir to the throne of Egypt. Was it really like that?

We do get some clues from the passage. He was the adopted son of a princess, which would make him a prince. And in Hebrews we see that if he wanted he could have chosen the “fleeing pleasures of sin” and the “treasures of Egypt,” had he not instead sided with his people. These are pictures of the life he would have had as Egyptian royalty. And in Exodus 2:11 it says “he went out to his people.” Their life was foreign to him. He didn’t grow up as one of them. His life was separate. So it is logical to conclude that Moses indeed was enjoying the comfortable life of Egyptian royalty.

What motivated Moses to give up his cushy life and try to help his people?

B. Compassionate

One motivation was compassion. In two places in this chapter we see Moses show compassion, both times to strangers. Read verse 12.

Clearly it bothered Moses to see these people, his people, being treated like this.

Then later Moses saved the Midianite girls from unruly shepherds. He didn’t know them. He didn’t have to act.

Moses was not afraid to act on the behalf of the weak. It seems that he had a strong sense of justice as well as empathy. Jesus demonstrated this same type of attitude when He cleansed the temple from the traders.

It was far easier for Moses to stand by in his cushy life in the palace than to get involved. And it was easier to just stay out of it when he witnessed these shepherd’s disputes. But we see Moses choosing the hard path because of his empathy.

So Moses had some important qualities that make a good leader. He was willing to sacrifice for God. He was compassionate. And he was bold. He was willing to fight for the weak.

But Moses was not ready to be a leader, not by a long shot. It wasn’t God’s timing and God had not finished preparing him yet.

Not ready to be a leader – (God is going to sculpt him like a master sculpture) –

Acts 7:25 – He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand.

So here is Moses. He thinks about his brethren. And he says to himself, “I can help.” At least in some part he sees himself as their deliverer. But they say, “no thanks.” And God says, “not yet.”

And it was not God’s timing yet. Moses was not ready for the huge task of delivering God’s people out of Egypt. He was trying to do it in his own strength. He used his own power to beat down the Egyptian. Apparently he was strong. But he wasn’t nearly strong enough to save them from the might of Pharaoh.

And he was trying to do it in his own intelligence, his own way. He didn’t pray. He didn’t seek God. Later when God did deliver Israel, Moses never had to lift one finger in violence. Apparently Moses was smart. But he wasn’t nearly smart enough to save them from the might of Pharaoh.

Moses was not ready for one main reason. He did not yet fully depend on God alone. Moses was a work in progress. He was like a raw stone and God was the sculpture. Only when God finished sculpting him could he be ready to then fulfill God’s mission.

When a sculpture looks at a stone, he does not see the ugly and dirty unshaped rock before his eyes. Instead he can already picture the finished statue. It is up to him to chisel away the excess stone and cause that image to become a reality.

This is what happened with Moses. He was like a raw piece of stone, created by God, but not finished. God had a lot of rock to chisel away.

And he kept working on Moses through his 40 years in Midian. What kind of things would God have taught him during those years?

  • Who God is – Moses ran into the camp of the Jethro, who likely worshiped the true God and could have taught Moses about Him.
  • Humility – Moses had always had everything. Most royals don’t need to do much manual labor. As a shepherd, Moses would experience a much different life. He would learn how to be poor. This would help him immensely as a leader to be able to identify with those he led and understand their struggles.
  • Shepherding the sheep – Moses was a shepherd for 40 years. Surely those experiences would help him as he shepherded God’s sheep.
  • Maturity – Moses was only 40 when he left Egypt. He was rash and immature. The forty years in Midian (under a mentor Jethro) could help Moses mature.
  • What else? – Only God knows. But one thing is certain. The time wasn’t wasted. God was using this time to prepare Moses for a monumental task. And it is interesting to note that God spent a total of 80 years preparing Moses for a mission that would last 40 years. If you are very good at math, you will notice that is twice as long spent preparing as doing!


A. Choose the world or God – You face the same choice that Moses did. You can choose the fleeting pleasures and riches of this world or you can choose God. Jesus described it as the broad and the narrow way. Most people choose the broad way. It is easy. It is comfortable. Everybody is doing it.

When you chose to follow Jesus, you chose to follow the narrow way. But this is not a one time choice. Everyday we face the same choice.

Read the Bible or watch a movie.

Pay our taxes or avoid them.

Discussion question: What is a choice between the fleeting pleasures of the world and following God that you often face?

B. Show compassion and empathy –

Apathy is more widespread than ever before. A few years ago a video caught this problem on tape. A little girl was hit by a car and lay injured by the side of the road. A street cam showed nearly twenty people walk by and ignore her before somebody helped. It is the same problem Jesus highlighted in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

People are busy. They are engrossed in their own lives. Most of the time their eyes are focused on their smart phones. And their minds are focused on their own problems and challenges.

Jesus told the disciples to “lift up their eyes” and see the harvest. Much of the time our problem is that we don’t lift up our eyes beyond our own selves. Moses did.

Lift up your eyes. Look around. When you lift up your eyes, you will see causes worth fighting for. You will see people who need the gospel.

The song People Needs The Lord puts it like this:

Everyday they pass me by
I can see it in their eyes
Empty people filled with care
Headed who knows where
On they go through private pain
Living fear to fear
Laughter hides their silent cries
Only Jesus hears

We are called to take His light
To a world where wrong seems right
What could be too great a cost
For sharing life with one who’s lost?

Through His love our hearts can feel
All the grief they bear
They must hear the words of life
Only we can share

We need to open our eyes and see the people around us who need the Lord. Like Moses, we need to go out from our place of comfort and sacrifice for the sake of the gospel.

Do not turn a blind eye to the suffering of others or to their eternal fate. Lift up your eyes and see. Then go.

C. God is still working on you –

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship created for God works which He prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

Moses was being worked on by God because God had a work for Moses to do for God.

And the same is true for you. Each of us is a work in progress. God is chiseling away at you to turn you into what He wants you to be so that you can do what He wants you to do.

It might not be comfortable. Your job is to be a willing participant in the process. We must humble ourselves before God and meekly accept the trials and challenges He brings our way because we know that they are for our good.

A lost job, a failed exam, an inconvenient virus, a rejected visa application: these are some of the things which is God is using to sculpt you. These are meant to develop your character. God is more concerned with your spiritual character than He is with your comfort.

When you face these, your job is simple. Trust God. Thank Him. Ask Him to grow you. Persevere.

IV. God’s Character

The most important character we see in this story is God. Although things looked bleak for the Jews, God is not absent. He is behind the scenes orchestrating one the most remarkable stories in history. He is going to save the Israelites in a visible display of power for all to see.

But He doesn’t always show Himself in awesome displays of power. More often He works subtly and only the most observant notice.

And that is how we see Him working in this chapter.

Beginning and the end –

Revelation 22:13 – I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

God’s part in this story is easy to see later when He does the ten plagues. He is the end. He had the final say. Even the most hardened unbeliever recognized God’s hand in saving the Jews.

But God is also the beginning. He is working in the first two chapters of Exodus. In chapter one, God was multiplying His people to become a great nation. Here in chapter two God is preparing His deliverer.

Notice when the people pray. They cry out to help from God down in verses 23-24. It says that “God heard their groaning, and remembered His covenant… God saw the people of Israel – and God knew.”

But that is after Moses is born. That is after the princess adopts him. That is after he flees to Midian.

What does this show us?

It shows us that God was already answering their prayer BEFORE they even prayed it. I bet if you think about your life, you can think of sometimes when God was already at work answering a pray you hadn’t even prayed or providing for a need you hadn’t even discovered.

Notice also how long it takes until the people start to see the answer to their cry. It looks like they prayed this at some point while Moses was still in Midan and he was there for 40 years. So it is likely 2 or 3 decades between when they cried out to God for help and when they saw it.

God heard them. He was answering. They just didn’t see it.

And that leads us to the next point.

His Ways are Not Our ways – It must have been incredibly difficult for the Israelites to wait for God’s answer. They were slaves. Every day was filled with tears, sweat, mud, pain, and bitterness. And it went on and on and on. For years. For decades. Many died before seeing the answer.

And many must have started to doubt God and say, “Why? Why aren’t you answering?”

His ways are not our ways. It was not the easy way, but it was the best way.

In the next chapter Moses asks God who He is and God answers, “I AM WHO I AM.” God is God. He is all-knowing. He is all-good. He is who He is and not who want Him to be. His plans are perfect, but not what we want them to be.

Many times we don’t understand what He is doing, but we must trust that He is good.

Discussion Question: Describe a time when God’s plan for you was difficult at the time, but later you realized the goodness in it.

Providential – This chapter shows the subtle working of God’s providence. It’s not flashy, but its there. Providence is something that you have to look for and observe carefully or you will miss it. So let’s look back at the passage carefully.

Reflect: Where do you see God’s providence in your life?

  • The birth of a son (Moses) – I guess you could say it was 50/50 mathmatically. But it isn’t. Kids are not the result of math. They are the result of God’s plan. Each of your children are a gift from God designer made.
  • 3 months without discovery – I have had four kids and I can’t imagine being able to keep them quiet enough that they could go without discovery for three months. Moses’ quiet demeanor, the lack of incidents by patrolling guards, and everything else in those three months providentially worked together to keep baby Moses safe.
  • The “chance” encounter with Pharaoh’s daughter – Out of thousands of potential people that might have stumbled upon Moses, how many would have killed him? How many would have actually adopted him? And how many many would actually have raised him as an Egyptian royal and given him a quality education (an education that would later help him to lead his people and to write the first five books of the Bible)? It so happened that the very best scenario played out. It was God’s providence.
  • Then the princess asked Miriam to get a wet nurse for Moses, and his own mother could be with him longer. God’s providence.
  • In Midian, Moses encounters these shepherdesses at the exact time they needed help. Then God gave him a family, a wife, children, and wise mentor in Jethro. God’s providence.

From beginning to end the story of the Exodus is a story of God. History is His Story. Your life is also a story of God’s grace and mercy. Where have you observed God’s providence in your own life?


One easy way to do a Bible study on almost any Bible passage is to ask three questions, The first two are “What do we learn about people?” and “What do we learn about God?”

What do we learn about people (us)?

  • People are often caught in desperate situations and there is only one hope for deliverance, God.
  • Mothers’ sacrifices and prayers can save their kids and change the world.
  • We have to choose between the fleeting pleasures of sin and a life of service to God.
  • God uses difficulties to shape us and prepare us for the mission He has for us.

What do we learn about God?

  • He is the beginning and the end.
  • He knows our prayers and is answering them even before we pray.
  • His ways are not our ways.
  • He works providentially in the lives of His people.
  • God works through people. He worked through Jochebed, the princess, and Moses. Will you let Him work through you?

The third is what do we need to obey?

Think about the answer and see how God leads you to obey what you have learned in this sermon of Exodus 2.


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