About 400 years after Joseph exhorted his heirs to be sure to take his bones with them when they left Egypt and entered the promised land, Moses was born. He would be the one to make sure Joseph’s request was carried out. Just as Joseph believed in the promises of God, so too did the parents of Moses, Amram and Jochebed. Hebrews 11:23 says, “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.” We get some further information about the baby Moses from Stephen’s sermon in Acts 7:20. He says, “At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight.” Biblical scholars, both ancient and modern, agree that what was seen in the baby had more to do with God’s purpose to use Moses to fulfill the promises that Joseph’s bones reminded them of daily than his physical appearance. William Lane says, “The evidence indicates a well-established tradition of interpretation that found in the word ἀστεῖος (The word translated ‘beautiful’) an indication that the infant possessed a visible sign of God’s elective favor. According to v 23, Moses’ parents found in the extraordinary appearance of their son a basis for faith in the as yet unseen purposes of God.”[1]

Jon Courson preaches that this little passage is about us and how we view our children. He says, “I suggest it was through the eyes of faith that Jochebed and Amram said of their son, Moses, “This child is going to be special” (see Exodus 2:2). So, too, Mom and Dad, if you think your child will never amount to much, that he’ll always struggle or that she’s not quite up to par—that’s simply a lack of faith because faith is the substance of things not yet seen. If you see your kid as a problem child, this will be understood within his soul, and it will greatly hinder what God can do in and through his life. Such was not the case with Amram and Jochebed. Knowing Moses was special, they went to great lengths to make sure his life was spared.”[2]

I do believe parents should build a positive self-image in their children, but this passage is not about us and what we do but about God and what He does. I’ve counselled many people who are still trying to measure up to unrealistic expectations of their parents. To live our lives in the “performance driven” mode is to live a very unsatisfactory and compulsive life. Also, to tell parents that they have the power to thwart what God wants to do in their children is to lay burdens that are too heavy for any one to carry. This verse is not about us as parents. It’s about believing that God will fulfill His promises! It’s about faith! It is about Jesus. Moses’ parents saw something in their son that was ordained by God just as those at Jesus’ birth saw the baby Jesus as something associated with the fulfillment of God’s promises. We see in Moses, the deliverer, a picture of the coming ultimate deliverer Jesus. Herod issued an edict in Jesus’ day to have him killed as an infant. But Jesus is better according to the author of Hebrews!  The Apostle John thought so too. In John 1:17 he writes, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

[1] William L. Lane, Hebrews 9–13, vol. 47B, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1991), 370.

[2] Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1497–1498.