The Israelites were slaves under a tyrannical ruler in Egypt. Pharaoh attempted to oppose God, defeat his promise of salvation, and extinguish an entire people. But his plans were thwarted by one determined mother.
When Pharaoh called for “all his people” to throw every baby boy of the Hebrews into the Nile (Ex. 1:22), Moses’s mother defied his order. She kept her child hidden as long as she could, then sent him afloat on the Nile. The child’s sister, Miriam, watched over him until he landed safely at the feet of Pharaoh’s daughter, who took him into her house. In the end, the actions of this courageous mother saved not only Moses’s life but the life of a nation.
What does the Bible teach us about courage in this portrait of valiant faith?
1. Courage is making the right decision in the face of fear.
Moses’s mother chose to do what was right despite the pressure to obey Pharaoh. Exodus doesn’t tell us the penalty for defying Pharaoh’s orders, but it would’ve been harsh. Yet Moses’s mother chose to obey another ruler—God’s Word (Heb. 11:23).
To be true, courage must be rooted in a moral vision. One might ask what makes this mother’s insubordination courageous. Is this rebellion? What about the implications for the rest of her family should her resistance be discovered? Was it selfish of her to keep her son when her Hebrew sisters lost theirs? No, Moses’s mother chose the courageous path because she listened to God’s Word over Pharaoh’s. She obeyed God’s law, and her risk was justified.
Courage must be rooted in a moral vision. Moses’s mother chose the courageous path because she listened to God’s Word.
Believers may also ask, “What does courage require of us in each situation?” Answering this question can be a challenge. We need the moral instruction and wisdom of Scripture to understand our times rightly (1 Chron. 12:32). It’ll frequently call us down a path that invites disrespect, mockery, and even persecution from the world. Yet courage sees the cost of following God and obeys him still.
2. Courage comes from God.
One mother’s bravery led to an empire’s humiliation and her nation’s salvation. I love this story because it tells me anyone can have courage.
You may doubt you can be courageous, but what I’ve written above is true. You can have courage if you know where to look for it. We doubt this because we’ve adopted our culture’s view of courage. We assume it’s a trait we find within ourselves. From pop culture, we’ve learned to think that we’ll tap into a reservoir of courage if we look within.
But you find courage by looking upward, not inward. The Hebrew midwives defied Pharaoh because they worshiped God (Ex. 1:17). Nehemiah called the Jews to rebuild the city wall without fear of enemies by remembering the Lord (Neh. 4:14). Likewise, we’re empowered with fortitude to run our race well when we fix our eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:1–2). Courage isn’t developed through confidence in your own strength. It’s revealed in our faith that Christ is with us through every storm. If he’s with us, then we can weather the trial (Mark 4:35–40).
3. Courage is responding to the best of your ability given the circumstances.
Moses’s mother couldn’t propose opposition legislation to Pharaoh’s order. Nor was she able to lead a violent revolution against the brutal regime. Instead, she did her best given her circumstances. She rescued her own child.
Every day Christians face trials, threats, and sufferings they have little to no control over. Most of us aren’t in a position to change laws, lead armies, or steer megacorporations. Are we powerless to act courageously?
Courage isn’t developed through confidence in your own strength. It’s revealed in our faith that Christ is with us through every storm.
The Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was a prisoner in a Nazi death camp, but he learned of a power Hitler’s troops couldn’t steal. In Man’s Search for Meaning, he wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
When you have no control over your circumstances you can still choose valiant faith. For Moses’s mother, this meant sending her infant son afloat on the Nile. For Gideon, it meant going “in the strength [he had]” (Judg. 6:14, NIV). God took their small acts of faith and used them to deliver a nation. Use the strength, opportunity, and freedom you have. God receives what you can give, and he does the rest.
Courage is a Christian virtue. It isn’t reserved for heroes but for all who hope in God. As William Cowper wrote,
The Christian has an art unknown to thee;
He holds no parley with unmanly fears,
Where duty bids he confidently steers,
Faces a thousand dangers at her call,
And trusting in his God, surmounts them all.
Resolve to listen to God’s Word over the opposition’s. Obey God in every circumstance. Then you’ll discover the freedom in Christ that faces a thousand dangers and still perseveres.