But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. (Exodus 1:17)
The new king of Egypt, out of his fear of the Hebrew people, pulled aside two midwives and he demanded the unthinkable. He pulled aside Shiphrah and Puah and said, “Listen, when you go and do as you do as midwives, when a Hebrew woman gives birth to a child. If it is a male, kill it before anyone has a chance to recognize it is alive.” And their dilemma begins.
You might ask me, “Scott, how is this a dilemma?”
That is a great question. Think for a moment of the situation these two women were in. The King of all the land had made a request. It is a horrible request. To defy the order of a King in that land and in most lands where there was a king meant that you would probably die. To defy the order of a King was even given the added weight that in this culture, the King was understood to be Divine. They were understood to be God, or an extension of God’s very self. To defy the King, in this culture, was to defy the word of God.
What would you do if you were in their shoes?
There are some who would throw up their hands and say, “Listen, it is not my fault that this horrible thing happened. I was just following orders. Don’t blame me. Blame the one in charge.” We can be good at passing blame on to others.
But that is not what these women did. These women, these remarkable, strong women heard the request and something within them snapped. These women who became midwives because they felt called to give life, were faced with being the cause of death. And they couldn’t do it.
They remembered their values. They remembered their love of God. They remembered how this God called them to become a part of the larger picture of movement toward life, and they acted – in defiance of the King. They acted, trusting God, not knowing if it would cause them to lose their life. They acted. What values of faith guide you? How are you nurturing those values?
When the King realized that no Hebrew boys were dying, he called the women in and said, “What’s up? Why aren’t you doing what I ask you to do?”
Their response, “Oh, the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women. They give birth so quickly that by the time we get there, it is all done and the babies are alive.”
And the king believed them. And God smiled on them and rewarded them with husbands and a family.
This story served to bring a smile to the faces of the slaves of Egypt. The faithfulness to God and the wit of these women were enough to fool the great King of Egypt. In addition, this story served to remind us to live by faith, trusting God, even if it meant your life might be in danger.
Today, it can still remind us to live by faith when fear sets in. It reminds us to trust God and to move toward life, and wholeness, even when fear can get the best of us. Are you willing to live with and for such faith?
Learning to make a difference is all about doing what Shiphrah and Puah did, it is learning to trust God and to work for life, no matter what circumstances we may find ourselves in. It is about learning to trust God and work for life, even when we find our self in the midst of life’s challenges.
A while ago I read a book called Keep Going. There is a poem in the book that ends like this:
Grandfather says this: “The weakest step toward the top of the hill, toward sunrise, toward hope, is stronger than the fiercest storm.”
Grandfather says this: “Keep Going.”
May we learn to keep going. May we learn to lean on God so that when the challenges of life come and fear wells up inside of us, we may live as these women, Shiphrah and Puah, with courage and hope. Amen
Loving God, you have led us through a most complicated year and a half of Covid. It has changed life and how we live. We have endured isolation and challenges. It is still in our midst, creating challenges. Help us to look to you. Help us to lean on you. Help us to care for our brothers and sisters and do all we can to protect each other. Help us, in your strength and power, to keep going. In the hope that Jesus offers us, Amen.