Setting: Exodus, chapter 2
Miriam felt the firm hand on her shoulder and the rough shake that followed. She vacillated between a dream world and the harsh reality of her own.
“Miriam, wake up. Hurry.” Her mother’s hushed voice was tinged with anxious hysteria. “Wake, girl. I need your help.”
Moaning, Miriam hitched herself up on one elbow, sighing. “Just a moment more, Imma.”
The tug on her arm nearly knocked her off balance. “Come.”
The soft patter of her mother’s sandaled feet as she moved away almost lulled her back to sleep, but Miriam knew better than to linger. It might be her father who came to wake her next and he would not be in the mood to deal with her dallying. Pushing aside her thin blanket, Miriam slid her hips forward and sat up, rubbing sleep from her eyes.
Her baby brother had cried out several times in the night, and the soothing voice of her mother had quickly answered each cry as she comforted him. Twice, her mother muffled her brother's cries by holding him to her breast, more to quiet him than his need to be fed. Miriam knew her parents would be more exhausted than she was this morning.
We can’t go on like this much longer, Miriam thought. If Moses isn't kept quiet, we are sure to be discovered. She wouldn't be surprised if someone pounded on their door this morning after all the disturbance from last night. Even friends and neighbors they trusted might report the presence of a forbidden infant boy when they had been forced to sacrifice their own sons.
When Miriam had dressed, she made her way to the main room. Peering through the dusky light that filled the room, with their only window covered for privacy, she barely noticed the large straw basket lying near the hearth. A thick, dark substance covered the outside of the basket.
This is the basket Imma has been working on for several days.
“Miriam, come here.”
Miriam looked away from the basket to her mother, who held the sleeping Moses in her arms. Even though the kitchen was warm, he’d been swaddled in several layers of cloth. Moses smiled sweetly in his sleep, then his pink lips puckered, filling the room with soft sucking noises. Miriam wished she could feel as calm and peaceful as her baby brother did this morning, but she hadn’t felt calm or peaceful since he’d been born and her parents had chosen to hide him rather than follow the king’s decree to relinquish all baby boys to the murky river.
Miriam moved toward her mother and lowered herself onto the bench next to her. Her mother looked at her, then smiled down sadly at the sleeping baby in her arms. “It’s time,” she said, her voice catching in her throat. Instinctively, Miriam shot a look toward the hearth. “The basket?” Her mother nodded. “Yes, the basket. It’s our last hope.”
Moving toward the hearth, careful not to wake her son, she spoke in a quiet voice. “He will be surrendered to the Nile today, but not to die. I have prayed to Jehovah that the river will save his life.” Kneeling, she lowered Moses gently into the basket, adjusting his blanket and tucking it tightly under him. He stirred and made more sucking noises, but did not awaken.
Together, they lifted the basket and made their way down the path that led to the river’s edge. The first rays of orange streaks were just beginning to crawl across the sky as they pushed through the dense brush that butted up against the river’s edge. They gently lowered the basket into the water. Miriam held her breath as the basket dipped low in the water before rising again. Her mother’s knuckles glowed white as she ran her hands over the inner lining, checking for signs of water seeping into the basket while taking care that the movement did not disturb her son.
When she was satisfied, she pressed two fingers to her lips and touched them to the flushed pink cheek of Moses. Miriam watched her mother’s face. A lone tear coursed down her cheek. Miriam wanted to cry, too, but her fear of getting caught was too great. She could cry later.
“Miriam,” her mother spoke, her lips brushing Miriam’s temple. “You must hide in the bulrushes. Follow the basket. See where it takes him.” The whispered words held desperation. “I must … I must know.” She leaned back as her hand reached toward the basket cover that Miraim held in her hands. Instead of surrendering it to her mother, Miriam leaned forward and lowered the cover on the basket herself.
“I’ll be right here, little Moses. I promise to watch over you.”
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The prophetess, Miriam, was born around 1576 B.C. She was Moses' older sister. It is believed that Miriam was around seven years old when Moses was born. Even at such a tender age, she played a key role in saving his life. Miriam was tasked with following the basket that held her brother as he floated down the river. She watched as pharaoh’s daughter drew Moses from the water and took pity on him. In that divine moment, Miriam stepped on the scene and offered up their own mother to nurse him. The destiny of Moses would forever be sealed.
Wait, did you say seven years old?
It’s hard to imagine a child so young being used to usher onto the stage one of God’s greatest prophets. We are awestruck that a child would be entrusted with such a vital part of God’s plan. But Miriam proved to be courageous and a willing servant, even as a child. And her role continued to be integral throughout much of Moses’ life. Many years later, Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt and slavery. And Miriam, now a grown woman, was right beside him even then. In Exodus 15:20-21, we find her leading the women in rejoicing over God’s deliverance:
And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.
Miriam was a vessel of courage, faithfulness, loyalty to family, and willingness to serve. We never see God dismissing her usefulness because of her age. From her earliest childhood to her old age, Miriam was valuable for God’s purpose.
And so are you, my friend.
There are no age distinctions, physical limitations, geographical or economical restrictions, or anything else that limits your use as a vessel for God. With a willing heart, mingled with a tiny dose of courage, you can do great things for God.
*Imma (Hebrew: mother)
Photo Credit: Photo by Nadim Shaikh