Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, with her maidens walking alongside the Nile; and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid, and she brought it to her. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you?” And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go ahead.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Then Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me and I shall give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him.
– Exodus 2:5-9 NAS
The opening chapters is Exodus introduce us to a myriad of subjects that are profound and captivating. The one that I find particularly interesting is the “pity” or more precisely, the compassionof Pharaoh’s daughter towards Moses when she found him in the reeds of the Nile. The Hebrew term here literally means: to spare; to have compassion or pity.
The people of Israel are described from outset of this book as being under affliction (1:11-14, 16, 2:11, 3:7-9). The mode of existence for Israel is bitter and difficult. Many will live their entire life in this bondage, born, bred, serve under and die under this affliction. Pharaoh even commanded that every Hebrew male child was to be put to death because he was fearful that the Israelites were multiplying and could not be controlled. Pharaoh’s daughter knew that Moses was a Hebrew child, under a death sentence and should be killed. All she had to do was push his basket under water and watch him drown. But she didn’t; instead she spared his life and even hires his own mother to care for him on her behalf.
Compassion protects and rescues others when they are most vulnerable. Vulnerabilities are those things in our life we would rather keep hidden. In our own mind these are issues that if others found out about them they would leave us completely defenseless. We all have stuff in our life that leave us vulnerable even if most of us pretend that we are invincible. We all have fears, anxieties, brokenness and dysfunction that leave us exposed if someone were to discover them. Pharaoh’s daughter found what was hidden, she discovered Moses by accident when she went to the river to bathe. This is much like life. We like to hide some aspects of our life from others because they make us feel vulnerable. They might be identity issues, moral secrets, dishonoring brokenness, hypocritical thoughts, unrighteousness, feelings of failure, depression, anger or bitterness or a host of others things. These are secrets that would embarrass us if someone found out about them. Sometimes people discover our vulnerabilities by accident, sometimes on purpose. But even if we are adults and appear to have our life all put together, there are times that others will find out about some things we have tried to keep hidden. All we know is that we would rather die than allow others to discover our secrets. Like Pharaoh’s daughter, true compassion protects and rescues others when we discover their vulnerabilities or weaknesses.
Compassion is life giving– Pharaoh’s daughter did an amazing thing. She saw this young child who was crying and she had pity. He was under a death sentence and she should have simply drowned him. Instead, she rescues and protects his life. This is what is amazing about her compassion, she did not just cover up the basket and push it back into the reeds, she saved his life, and she protected and provided for Moses. We have a choice when we see the vulnerabilities of others. We can hurt them or we can give them life. Pharaoh’s daughter demonstrates that compassion protects and rescues people when they are most vulnerable.
Compassion takes responsibility and ownership to walk with those who are vulnerable. Sometimes people leverage the weaknesses of others to keep the upper hand over them. They use it to control others because of the kindness they showed to them. Others love the “gossip” side of knowing something about others that no one else knows about. Some love the idea that someone else is indebted to them for helping them out. Pharaoh’s daughter does not leave Moses in the reeds, she could have ignored him and left him to whatever fate would befall him. But she hired his mother to raise him but eventually Moses became the son of Pharaoh’s daughter – she adopted him into her family. That is a great demonstration of compassion.
Compassion is risky. Pharaoh’s daughter, like the midwives, did not follow the desperate order of Pharaoh. She took a huge risk to be killed herself by defying her own father if he had caught her showing compassion to a Hebrew child. The alienation, friction and contention in their household could have been overwhelming. But compassion does not just mindlessly go along with life and shrugs it shoulders as if it has no responsibility to others. Killing these infants was irresponsible and morally wrong. So along with a host of midwives, Pharaoh’s daughter defied her father and showed compassion to the very ones whom were sentenced to die. Compassion is not always popular or even legal in this particular case. Pharaoh’s daughter was risking much to help this one child; I think if you were to ask her later, she would have said it was all worth it.
Compassion responds to the deepest need of others. This woman did an extraordinary thing – she reached out to a child of a people whom the Egyptians treated like second class citizens… at best. They were labor gangs that were being driven to break their spirit and keep subjugated in their slavery. People who are different than us are often hard to understand and the danger is that we cave in to the prejudice and punitive treatment that others have afflicted on them. Compassion sees a deeper issue that all people have value and Pharaoh’s daughter, the midwives and likely others worked secretly to stand against this injustice, even if it was behind the scenes.
Compassion can radically change someone’s life. We all want to make a difference, change the world or feel like we have made a contribution that has some impact on the world. This simple act of compassion did that very thing. If you know the narrative, preserving Moses life changes everything. He would grow up in Pharaoh’s house, was educationally trained, and empowered with all the privileges and opportunities of Egypt. But Moses rejected all those things to protect, rescue and deliver (at God’s direction) Israel from the bondage of Egypt. He administered compassion for a nation not just one person. If you want to make an impact, learn to show compassion to others, especially when you stumble across someone in a time when they are most vulnerable. It does not matter if it is your neighbor, someone you work with, someone you stumble across in the store or meet on Sunday morning – compassion is a powerful life-changing experience for those are vulnerable.
Sincerely in Christ