Jochebed knew her baby boy was in danger, as were all of the firstborn sons of Israel. She hid Moses as long as she could and then, with no options remaining, prepared a basket, coated it in tar and pitch, and placed the child in it to float among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister Miriam watched from a distance to see what would happen next, and Jochebed walked home with empty arms.
Hannah struggled with infertility for years while the women of her household conceived and bore children again and again. She cried out to God with a bargain: if He had mercy on her and granted her a son, she would raise the boy up to Him for all of his days. The Lord remembered Hannah and she named her son Samuel, which means ‘I asked the Lord for him’. When Samuel was weaned, she walked him to the temple and left him in the care of Eli the priest for religious training. Hannah returned home alone.
In their old age, Abraham and Sarah were promised a son. The idea was so biologically preposterous that Sarah laughed, and they named the boy Isaac meaning, ‘he laughs’. In what many consider to be the most confounding of all the stories in the Old Testament, the Lord asked Abraham to lead this much-loved son up a mountain to be sacrificed and this, Abraham obediently did.
Surrender is so hard, yet we see it called for over and over again in the scriptures. Whether it’s a person, a job, a vocation, an idea, a belief, or an outcome, we don’t want to let precious things go and in fact it seems counterintuitive to do so. So why does God seem to require surrender as we move through a mature faith life? Is letting go an essential part of the Christian walk? As much as I wish it weren’t, it does seem to be.
Letting things go out of our control requires a trust that can only be learned through loss, and the longer we live this life, the more loss we’ll experience. When we struggle and then finally let go of that person or that dream or those expectations, our open hands are in a position to receive more than we had before, perhaps abundantly more than we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20), things we couldn’t have remotely conceived when our fists were balled up and clinging.
What happened next in the lives of Jochebed, Hannah, and Abraham gives me encouragement that when we finally do let something precious go, we don’t let it go into a void. Rather, we place it carefully into the hands of God, and we open new doors of possibility. The things we surrender become part of the intricate, awesome, and complex story God is writing for our good. (Romans 8:28) He is in the details, and He is unlimited in His reach and we can trust Him. Really.
Jochebed walked away sad that day, but as the basket containing her precious baby floated down the river, the boy’s sister, Miriam, was watching. He was never alone. The Pharoah’s daughter just happened to be bathing further down the river and she took the boy as her own. Miriam’s brave offer to the princess to find someone to nurse the baby brought Jochebed back into her son’s life and Moses grew from his powerful position to lead the Israelites out of slavery, making a covenant between them and God. What had seemed hopeless and aimless on the banks of the river turned for the good in a miraculous way. God was at work, more than they could ask or imagine.
Hannah praised God for his faithfulness in a song that became immortalized and has been read and proclaimed by many millions of people. On yearly visits to bring clothing to her son, Hannah was blessed and went on to conceive and give birth to five more children. Samuel grew up hearing audibly from God and became a powerful prophet, judge, and seer on behalf of his people. His life represented a pivotal chapter in the story of Israel, and in our own salvation story. More than we could ask or imagine.
At the last moment on that mountain, God relented and Isaac was not sacrificed. Because of his obedience, Abraham became the patriarch of Israel and his descendants were ‘as numerous as the stars in the sky’. More than they could ask or imagine.
This pattern of release, renewal, and resurrection occurs over and over again in the scriptures, in nature, and in our very lives. Seeds are buried and become flowers, loss becomes gain, and death becomes life. It’s a pattern we see within us and around us, in the life of Jesus and currently, in the life of His church. We’re dying to ourselves and wrestling to hold on to the things we desperately want to keep while we hear the whispering encouragement of God to let go, let Him fill our empty hands, release control and see what He will do. The whole world is waiting for us to let God grow, shine, and work in us beyond the boundaries of our own limited plans and view. Imagine what will happen when He does.