“I can’t do that, but I can do this!”
Need: (though not vital) a baby doll, some straw/reed to show plaiting and weaving, a straw basket.
This is a story from the Old Testament of the Bible. (Exodus 2)
A long time ago there was a cruel king in Egypt. Kings of Egypt were called Pharaohs. This Pharaoh liked having power, making people do what he told them to. But that meant that he was always worried that someone might take his power away, someone bigger and stronger than him. At that time there were a lot of people who came from the land of Israel living in Egypt. They had come to Egypt many years before when there was no food in their own country, but then they had stayed and settled down and had families there. By the time of this Pharaoh there were a lot of Israelites in Egypt, and he didn’t like that one bit. What if they all ganged up on him? So he made them all into slaves, who had to work hard all day for nothing and couldn’t do what they wanted any more. He made them build his big buildings and pyramids, pulling heavy stones around.
But still they kept having children and their numbers grew.
So Pharaoh thought of another plan. A really wicked plan. He sent out orders to all the midwives, the people who helped women who were having babies. “When an Israelite woman has a baby boy, you must kill it straightaway,” he said. The midwives were horrified – they were there to bring babies into the world not kill them. They couldn’t do it. After a while Pharaoh realised that it wasn’t happening, so he summoned two of the midwives to his court. They knew they were in trouble, but they weren’t going to let these babies be killed. They got together and they thought of a plan. “We aren’t strong enough to stop Pharaoh – we can’t do that – but that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything. We can do this…” and they whispered their plan to each other…
So they went to Pharaoh “Why aren’t you killing the boy babies?” he shouted. “Ah, well, Pharaoh, you see it’s like this…” they said. “The thing is that those Israelite women are so strong and fit that they give birth to their babies very quickly, before we even get to them, so we are never there in time to kill them…” That was a lie, of course, but it was a lie told to keep the children safe, so it was ok. And Pharaoh couldn’t do anything but believe them.
But Pharaoh didn’t give up his wicked plans. So, when one Israelite woman gave birth to a fine healthy son, she was very worried. (I brought out the baby doll at this point) For three months she hid him, but as he grew it was harder and harder to keep him hidden. “What shall I do,” she said to herself. I’m not strong enough to defeat Pharaoh. I can’t do that…but I can do this! And she went and got herself a whole pile of dried reeds and began to weave them together. (I produced the basket and the reeds and did a bit of plaiting to give the younger children some idea of what she was making.) She wove and wove until she had made herself a basket out of the reeds. Then she painted the outside with sticky, black pitch, which was used to make ships waterproof. And she took her baby and laid him in the basket and took him down to the river and put the basket very carefully in the reeds at the water’s edge. Perhaps someone would find him who could look after him.
Now this mum had an older child too, a daughter called Miriam. And she watched her mum do all this. She felt very sad because she loved her baby brother. But what could she do to help? She knew she wasn’t strong enough to fight against Pharaoh. “I can’t do that… she thought – I’m much too small – but I can do this…” and she thought up a plan. When her mum took the basket down to the river she followed and when her mum went sadly home she stayed behind to see what happened.
After a while, someone did come along. It was the daughter of the Pharaoh, a very fine, rich woman. She had come to bathe in the river. But what was this? A basket in the reeds? And what was in it? A baby! Pharaoh’s daughter wasn’t like her father. She was kind. Who would leave their baby in the river like this, in a basket so carefully made? It must be one of the Israelite women’s babies, who her father was trying to kill. She was very sorry. But what could she do. “I’m not strong enough to stop my father, the Pharaoh, she said. I can’t do that… but I can do this…” And she picked up the baby and told her servants that she was taking it home with her to look after it. At least one baby would be saved! “I will call him Moses” she said – because that means “I have pulled him out of the water”.
Now Moses’ sister saw all this. She was glad to see that her brother had been found, but she didn’t like to think she and her mum might not see him again. “I can’t make it so that we can all be together and safe the way we’d like,” she thought to herself. “I can’t do that…but I can do this…” and she skipped out of her hiding place up to the Pharaoh’s daughter. “What have you got there?” she asked. “It’s one of the Israelite baby boys” said the Pharaoh’s daughter. “I’m going to look after him, but I’ll need someone to help…” “I know an Israelite woman who could do that…”said Miriam. “Would you like me to fetch her..?” And that’s what she did. She fetched her mum, Moses’ mum, and Pharaoh’s daughter gave her very own baby back to her, and gave her some money too. “Look after this baby for me,” she said, “and when he is older he can come and live in the palace with me.” And Moses’ mother was only too happy to do so. And that’s how Moses came to survive. And when he grew up he managed to rescue all his people from Pharaoh.
But it was all those people – the midwives, his mum and sister, and Pharaoh’s daughter who made that possible. They knew they weren’t strong enough to get everything sorted out, but each one could do something to help, and that was all it took when they were working together…
There are lots of things we can do – and lots of things we can’t do. Sometimes we think of the things we can’t do and we feel really helpless. Perhaps we might know someone who is poorly; we can’t make them better, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything to help. What could we do?....Children suggested staying with them, fetching their medicine etc. Or perhaps we’ve got to do something at school that feels difficult – if your teacher tells you to write a story, it might feel really difficult to do, but what can you do to help yourself get started …Children suggested making a story map and thinking through what it would be about…
There is always something we can do to help, like the people in the story of Moses and those small things all add up to make a real difference.
Prayer – think of the things we struggle to do, and remember that there is always something we can do, even it seems small.