“the name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed, a descendent of Levi, who was born to the Levites in Egypt. To Amram she bore Aaron, Moses and their sister Miriam.” (Numbers 26:59)
We’ve spent the last four weeks immersed in the brief account of Jochebed, Moses’ mother. Most of us assume her scriptural contribution concludes in Exodus 2 after she weaned her boy and returned him to the Egyptian princess.
Unless of course, you catch a couple obscure references in Numbers. This one, in particular, has a few deterrents. First of all, it’s in Numbers; the book where most Bible reading plans expire. Secondly, it’s buried in a second census. (Snooze!) And thirdly, Jochebed isn’t a recognizable name. Exodus 2 hadn’t provided Moses’ parents with proper nouns. They were unnamed until the lineage listed in chapter 6. Of course, Aaron, Miriam and Moses could only be the famous trio who championed the emigration of God’s people from Egypt.
I tripped over this scripture last summer on my tenth or so time through Numbers. Moses’ mother was listed in the census of the replacement generation that crossed into Canaan. She is one of very few people to experience both the exodus of Egypt and the entrance into the Promised Land. It’s kind of mind-blowing!
Let me back up a moment. The book of Numbers is named for the two censuses that dominate it’s pages. It’s content covers the time period between borders. The Israelites had successfully navigated the wilderness once, they had stood at the edge of the Promised Land within a year of leaving Egypt. In fact, they sent spies to scout the nation. Ten of the twelve spies returned with a bad report. Overnight, the Israelites believed the words of men over the promises of God and their consequence was an extended return to the wilderness. God vowed that every last disbeliever would die in the desert, but their children would return and one day possess the very land they had rejected.
Forty years of wandering followed. The former slaves of Egypt got an education on how to live as people of God: meal by meal, day by day, turn by turn. And His word came to pass. The unbelievers expired by various means along the way. Even Moses paid the price for his disbelief at Meribah, he died on the last mountain overlooking Canaan.
It is widely preached that only Caleb and Joshua; the two spies who gave an accurate and God-honoring report on Canaan remained. This second census toward the end of Numbers is a list of people crossing over into the Promised Land. Joshua and Caleb are included, but remarkably, so is Jochebed.
Let’s pause to consider the losses Jochebed had endured at this point: full decades emptied of Moses, widowed by Amram, the premature passage of all three adult children in the wasteland between Egypt and Canaan, even the apostasy and destruction of two grandsons, too. Jochebed had endured far more than her fair share of misery, and yet, there she is in the end Numbers, persevering in her love of God and pursuit of His promises to her. Despite her pain, she pressed on to embrace the life He was leading her toward. Jochebed lived well enough and long enough to set foot in the dreams of her children. She embraced a new adventure even in her twilight years. What an inspiration!
Honestly, we trend the other direction. Nests empty. Kids grow up and out. Mom stagnates. We get stuck in our grief, in our sudden absence of identity and purpose. Sometimes even in our hairstyle. (We all know ladies still sporting their 90’s best, right?) Our children move and and it’s tempting to remain unchanged.
Having emptied my nest, I have compassion, even understanding. It is devastating to move from being essential to being an after thought. Even moreso if our child has given themselves over to a life we can’t be included in. Moses went to Midian. Our child may go to the military, missions, or any manner of things that limit their connection to Mom and Dad. What we do in these moments of rearrangement matters. A lot.
Jochebed could have gotten stuck. And honestly, she may have for a few months or years. But at some point she decided to take God at His word again and follow Him wholeheartedly, no matter what was happening with her kids. We know this because by the time Moses returned as a mighty man of God emancipating his people, his mother is more than willing to follow suit. In her son’s prolonged absent, her faith managed to flourish.
By my math, Jochebed would have been eighty or so when she participated in the Passover and pulled up stakes in Egypt. Consider the faith required to leave the only home you’ve ever known as an octogenarian! And yet she did. She followed her son, and far more impressively, her God, out into the wilderness. His promises to her were more real than anything she was leaving behind.
Momma; our kids are going to grow up and leave. It’s the natural course of things. They may leave and make great choices. They may leave and make lousy ones. Either way, we’ve got to decide how we are going to invest the time we’ve got left. Will we get stuck or will we grow?
Both of my children were out of the nest before I turned 42. I treasured our twenty years together and when it was over, I had to decide what to do with my second half of life. I’ve elected to view this empty nest season as a gift. I’m determined to make it my empty best. While I have moments of longing for days gone by, the Lord continues to convince me; there is still adventure ahead, even in the route is marked with hardship and loss.
The reality is, we are all still making our way toward the Promised Land. Jochebed reminds us, we can’t afford to get stuck. Our kids are going to grow up and out of our house, but we can grow, too.
“May the Lord cause you to flourish, both you and your children.” (Psalm 116:14 NIV)
Lord, if we are honest, we grieve our empty nest. Help us not to get stuck there. Lift our heads, help us understand that You aren’t done growing us up, also. May we continue to pursue You in prayer, worship, study and presence. Keep us on our toes as we follow You into the next adventure. Amen.
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