The Paper-thin Plan

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"God works out His perfect will in amazing ways." [Merida]

Exodus(34) (Part of the Rescued(33) series)
by Stuart Johns(233) on September 4, 2023 (Sunday Morning(341))

God's Providence(2), Protection(10), Provides(12)


The Paper-thin Plan

(Exodus 2:1-10)



“An Oklahoma man went to extreme measures to impress his wife in 2004. Trent Spencer, a 27-year-old high school teacher, paid two teenagers $100 each to break into his house and tie up his wife. After she was bound with duct tape, Spencer raced in and ‘fought off’ the ‘intruders.’ He even pre-cut a board so it would break when he hit one of them with it.


The police were called and began an investigation. The plan might have worked—except that one of the teenagers blabbed to his parents. Surprisingly, when the police found out, they didn't arrest Spencer. Instead, they slapped him with the bill for the investigation.


Source: (Vol. 20, No. 17).





  • ME

    • Paper-thin plan

        • While in high school, some of us from work decided to decorate a friend’s house with toilet paper

        • The neighbor dog starting barking through the screen door, which drew the attention of the neighbor who started hollering at us

        • We all ran down the street and left


  • WE

    • Paper-thin plans

        • How many of us have gone ahead with plans that we didn’t really have great confidence in – we knew they were paper-thin

        • We just hoped that everything would work out fine


We learned last week that Pharaoh had ordered all of the Egyptians to be watching the Israelites to see when they had children. ​​ If the baby was a boy, they were to throw it into the Nile River. ​​ If it was a girl that could let the baby live. ​​ This was Pharaoh’s desperate attempt to thwart God’s plan of explosive population growth for the Israelites. ​​ We are not told how many Israelite families tried various ways to save their baby boys, but we will see one family’s plan, today, that involved papyrus (also used as paper in the Ancient Near East). ​​ Even though God is not mentioned in this narrative, we know He was working out His perfect will for His people. ​​ He did it in an amazing way! ​​ We will learn today that . . .


BIG IDEA – “God works out His perfect will in amazing ways.” [Merida, 13]


Let’s pray


  • GOD (Exodus 2:1-10)

    • Riding the River (vv. 1-4)

        • Nameless parents

          • This is a continuation of the narrative from chapter 1

            • Pharaoh’s population control order was still in effect

            • Every Egyptian was to spy on the Israelites to see whether their new born babies were boys or girls

            • If they were boys, they were to be taken to the Nile River and thrown in

            • If they were girls, they were allowed to live

            • In the middle of this horrible order we find a young couple with a dilemma

          • Amram (am-rawm’) and Jochebed (yo-keh’-bed/yo-hair-red)

            • A man married a woman

            • While the man and woman are not named here, we know their names from later in Exodus

              • Exodus 6:20, Amram married his father’s sister Jochebed, who bore him Aaron and Moses. ​​ Amram lived 137 years.

              • Both Amram and Jochebed descended from Levi’s line

              • In Exodus 6:20 we learned that Amram married his aunt, his father Kohath’s sister

              • This kind of marriage was not a problem at this point, but would later be prohibited

          • Their heritage

            • They were both from the line of Levi

            • The reason for specifying his parents heritage instead of their names emphasized that they were both Israelites/Hebrews

            • Being from the tribe of Levi would be significant as Moses’ role was eventually revealed as the religious and spiritual leader of the Israelites

            • The tribe of Levi would be the tribe that served the Lord as priests and most of the court judges (Deut. 21:5)

          • After getting married the woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son

        • Birth of Moses

          • The way it is written here, it sounds like this son was their first born child

          • But we know they had a daughter (Miriam) and another son (Aaron) before this son (Moses)

        • Obeying the letter of the law

          • Jochebed (yo-keh’-bed/yo-hair-red) saw that her baby boy was a fine, good, and beautiful child

            • I can’t think of any parent who would look at their child and say they were poor, bad, and ugly

            • Most parents are partial to their children and think they are smarter, better, more talented, and more attractive than anyone else’s children

            • I think God has placed that partiality in the heart and mind of every parent – we love our children!

            • For Moses parents, I think it was more than that

            • In Hebrews 11:23 we read these words, By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

              • The NLT says he was an unusual child

              • Most other translations have it as beautiful, comely, fair, goodly, or proper

              • Perhaps God had put something in their hearts that let them know their baby boy was destined for something great

              • It had to be something more than just his looks

              • Notice that they hid him by faith

                • “Moses’ parents trusted God to protect their son’s life. ​​ They were not merely proud parents; they were believers who had faith that God would care for him.” [NIV Application Bible, footnote for Hebrews 11:23, 2237]

                • As parents or grandparents, have you trusted God to protect and take care of your children and/or grandchildren

                • This is not always easy, especially as they grow up and start making their own choices and decisions

                • Some of us understand and know the heartache of having a wayward child and/or grandchild

                • We have to constantly pray for and entrust our children and/or grandchildren to God’s care and protection

              • PRINCIPLE #1 – God can be trusted to protect His people.

                • This includes parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, siblings, etc.

                • God has important work for each of us to do

                • It may not be leading an entire nation out of slavery, like He called Moses to do

                • But, we all have gifts and abilities that God wants to use for His glory and to build His kingdom

                • God’s protection on us is so His plan and will can be accomplished through us

                • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Trust God to protect and care for _____________.

            • Because Moses’ parents recognized that God had a special plan for His life, they hid him for three months

              • This probably was not too difficult to do with a toddler (Aaron) in the house

              • Aaron would have been three years old when Moses was born, so any crying and such would probably not have raised any suspicions

              • I’m sure all Israelite couples, during this time, were cautious about revealing a pregnancy to neighbors

              • If they did, I’m sure their Egyptian neighbors were watching to see when the baby was born and whether it was a boy or a girl

            • After three months, Jochebed (yo-keh’-bed/yo-hair-red), realized that she would not be able to hide him much longer, so she devised a plan

          • Paper-thin plan

            • I call it a paper-thin plan, because the reed-like plant she used had many uses in the Ancient Near East, but mainly for paper to write on

              • “Papyrus was a reed that grew abundantly on the banks of the Nile. ​​ Its inner pith was split and pasted together to provide a surface for writing, but the Egyptians used it for many other purposes as well: ​​ shoes, baskets, containers of various sorts and boats (Isa. 18:2).” ​​ [Mackay, Exodus: A Mentor Commentary, 50]

              • “It had a triangular stalk about the thickness of a finger, which grew to the height of ten feet; and from this the lighter Nile boats were made, while the peeling of the plant was used for sails, mattresses, mats, sandals, and other articles, but chiefly for the preparation of paper.” ​​ [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 277]

            • She took a papyrus basket and covered it with tar and pitch to make it watertight

              • The Hebrew word used for basket is tēḇâ (tay-baw’/tay-vaw’)

              • The Hebrew word literally means “ark”

              • The only other place in the Bible where we find this Hebrew word, other than in Exodus 2:5, is in the flood narrative found in Genesis 6-9 where Noah builds an ark

              • That ark protected Noah and his family, so they could save humanity by repopulating the earth

              • This tiny ark was going to protect Moses, who would save and deliver God’s people from slavery

              • PRINCIPLE #1 – God can be trusted to protect His people.

            • When the “ark” was finished, she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile, which would have kept it from floating away

            • “Jochebed (yo-keh’-bed/yo-hair-red) obeyed the letter of the law when she put Moses in the waters of the Nile, but certainly she was defying Pharaoh’s order in the way she did it. ​​ She was trusting the providence of God and God didn’t fail her.” ​​ [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Pentateuch, 181]

            • PRINCIPLE #2 – God’s providence is mysterious and amazing.

              • God’s providence is His guidance and care for us

              • I don’t know about you, but sometimes God’s guidance and care for me is mysterious

                • There have been times in my life when I knew the direction God was leading, but I did not understand His leading – it was mysterious and confusing to me

                • Eventually I understood his guidance and care for me and realized how amazing it was

              • Have you experienced the mysterious and amazing providence of God in your life?

                • Did you find it mysterious and confusing at times?

                • Were you amazed after you obeyed His guidance?

                • Remember that God will not fail you

                • You can trust in God’s providence in your life even if you don’t understand

              • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Trust in God’s mysterious and amazing providence in my life.

            • That is what Jochebed did when she placed her son in the basket and put him in the Nile – she didn’t know what God would do, but she trusted Him nonetheless

          • God was going to use Moses sister to work out His perfect will in an amazing way

          • “God works out His perfect will in amazing ways.” [Merida, 13]

        • Sister spy

          • We know from later in Exodus that Moses’ sister’s name was Miriam

          • We are not told if her parents instructed her to watch from a distance or not

          • She was probably young enough that she did not have work to do around the house with her mother or in the brick yard and farm fields for the Egyptians

          • She was a another key woman in God’s perfect plan

        • As she is watching over her baby brother in the “ark” a group of women came to the river

    • Rescued by Royalty (vv. 5-10)

        • Ark encounter (not the one in Kentucky)

          • Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to take a bath

            • We are not given her name, probably for the same reason the parent’s names are not given in verse 1and the sister’s name is not given in verse 4 – the focus needs to be on the child who will deliver the Israelites from slavery

            • Her bath may have been for hygiene purposes or religious ritual purposes, but probably both

            • Her attendants were walking along the river bank to ensure her privacy – they would alert her to any intruders

          • Pharaoh’s daughter saw the basket nestled among the reeds

            • She was able to see it, because of being in the water which gave her the perfect angle

            • Her attendants probably did not see it, because of the reeds growing up along the bank

            • So, she sent her slave girl (personal assistant) to get it

          • Pharaoh’s daughter’s attitude

            • After opening the basket she saw and heard the baby crying

            • Her maternal instincts override every other emotion

              • She felt sorry for him

              • Most English translations say that she had “pity” or “compassion” for him

              • “One could translate ‘she took pity on him,’ but I prefer ‘had compassion.’ ​​ One difference between ‘pity’ and ‘compassion’ is that pity means ‘to feel for,’ while compassion means ‘to feel with.’ ​​ In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), the priest and the Levite have pity, but no compassion. ​​ They feel sorry for the victim, but it stops there. ​​ Not so with the Samaritan. ​​ And not so with this princess. ​​ She does not simply feel a brief tinge of sorrow, and then get on with her bathing.” [Hamilton, Exodus: An Exegetical Commentary, 21]

              • She did not feel the same way towards the Hebrews as her father did

              • Her attitude should have been callous disregard for human life, but it was compassion instead

              • While she was probably not a follower of the true and living God, He in His providence, sovereignty, and will filled her heart with compassion for this crying baby boy

            • Even after identifying him as a Hebrew baby, she does not just chuck him in the river

            • PRINCIPLE #1 – God can be trusted to protect His people.

          • As the princess is holding the baby, his sister springs into action

        • Aid offered

          • She offers to go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse him

          • The princess agrees to this plan and tells the girl to go, so the girl goes and gets her mother

            • “The turning point of the story is contained in a one-word command, that of the princess: “Go!” ​​ With that decision of the king’s daughter Moses’ protection was assured.” ​​ [Stuart, The New American Commentary, Volume 2, Exodus, 92]

            • “God works out His perfect will in amazing ways.” [Merida, 13]

          • When Jochebed (yo-keh’-bed/yo-hair-red) returned with her daughter, the princess instructed her to take the baby and nurse him for her and she would pay her

            • What an amazing turn of events

            • This mother who had trusted in God’s providence was rewarded in two ways

              • She would be able to raise her son without fear of him being killed by the Egyptian authorities

              • She would be paid by the princess to nurse and raise her own child

            • PRINCIPLE #3 – God is our provider!

              • Jochebed knew that God had provided for her

                • He had provided life and safety for her son

                • He had provided income for her family

              • God provides for us too when we trust in His providence (guidance and care for us)

                • He will provide guidance for our future (school, job, children, finances, housing, retirement, etc.)

                • He will provide care for us in our weakness (healing in our sickness, strength for surgeries and procedures, comfort in our loss, etc.)

                • Even though His guidance and care may be mysterious, we can trust that it will be amazing in the end

              • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Thank God for providing ________________ for me.

            • “God works out His perfect will in amazing ways.” [Merida, 13]

          • She obeyed the princess’s instructions

        • Adoption completed

          • “When the child grew older” or “and the child grew”

            • We are not told how long Jochebed had with her son

            • Stuart says that, during this time, children were nursed for 3-4 years before they were weaned [Stuart, 93]

            • Mackay mentions that the training for a young Egyptian prince may have started around nine to ten years old [Mackay, 54]

            • We don’t know the exact age when the official adoption took place, but Moses was older than an infant

            • When the time came, Jochebed took her son to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son

          • Pharaoh’s daughter named him Moses

            • We know from the Scriptures that she named him Moses, because she had drawn him out of the water

            • Moses sounds like the Hebrew for “draw out”

            • The naming of Moses shows that the princess is officially claiming him as her own

            • “What a perfect name, given the fact that God would use Moses to draw His people out of Egypt!” ​​ [Merida, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Exodus, 13]

        • Moses and Jesus, deliverers have come

          • Moses and Jesus’ have some similarities in their lives

            • They both survived the desperate attempt of evil rulers (Pharaoh & Herod) to eliminate Hebrew boys

            • They both were sovereignly chosen by God to save His people

              • Moses saved God’s people from Egyptian slavery

              • Jesus saved God’s people from sin

          • Gospel

            • We are all sinners (Rom. 3:23; 6:23a)

            • We are all loved by God (Rom. 5:8)

            • We are all able to be forgiven (Rom. 6:23b; 1 Cor. 15:3-4)

            • We can all become a part of God’s family (John 1:12-13)

            • Back of the Communication Card, Send Me Info About: ​​ Becoming a follower of Jesus


  • YOU

    • Who do you need to trust God to protect and care for today?

    • Do you need to trust in God’s mysterious and amazing providence in your life?

    • What has God provided for you that you need to thank Him for today?


  • WE

    • Who do we need to trust God to protect and cared for today?

    • What/Who do we need to trust God’s mysterious and amazing guidance and care for?

    • What provision do we need to thank God for?



“Sandra McCracken writes in CT magazine:


A few years ago, I sat on the front porch of an old farmhouse in Vermont … with two friends. Above us, at the corner of the house, hung a hummingbird feeder. Tiny winged visitors stopped by intermittently to eavesdrop while sipping nectar from the glass globe.


Hummingbird wings move at about 50 beats per second. But when they (hover), hummingbirds can appear completely motionless. A miracle of fitness and form, God made these creatures to be a delicate display of paradox: They are still and active at the same time.


These birds are a moving metaphor for the kind of trust that God outlines in Isaiah 30:15: ‘You will be delivered by returning and resting; your strength will lie in quiet confidence’ (CSB). When I think of God’s grace at play in my own life, my most successful moments happen when I hold steady at the center. Confidence is not found in productivity, but in quietness of heart.


Our plans are not like his plans. As the hummingbird moves, his wings are invisible to us. So too the work of God is often hard to see in the moment, but nevertheless something remarkable is happening. This is what the Lord says: ‘Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it?’ (Isa. 43:19).”


Source: Sandra McCracken, “When God’s Hand Is Invisible,” CT Magazine (April, 2021), p. 24.