“But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders. They allowed the boys to live, too” (Exodus 1:17 NIV).
Shiphrah and Puah are not biblical names you hear much about. They lived in a season where Joseph, the one with the colorful coat, was not even acknowledged. Joseph had gone from being in a pit to being a signficant part of the Egyptian governing system because of how his prophetic gift in dream interpretation had helped Pharaoh.
Joseph had died and the current Egyptian government did not like the abundance of the Israelites. They wanted to weaken them and use them as slaves. I wonder if they were afraid the Israelites would realize they could outnumber their slavemasters.
“Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them. Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. ‘Look,’ he said to his people, ‘the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country’” (Exodus 1:6-10 NIV).
I will continue to do my job
Besides being brutal slave drivers over the Israelites, the Egyptian rulers mandated for the Hebrew midwives to kill all the baby boys.
What would it have been like to hear the stories passed down from generation to generation about Joseph? Through God, Joseph helped his people when they went through a famine (Genesis 41-47). I wonder if these stories about Joseph reminded them of God’s faithfulness? Or the God who does the impossible when providing Abraham and Sarah their promised heir long after their child-bearing years? Or the God who desired honesty and wrestled with Jacob?
I’m not sure what went through the minds and hearts of Shiphrah and Puah, but it’s evident that fearing God was a higher calling than fearing their slave drivers.
And when the authorities discovered they were not following orders: “The midwives answered Pharaoh, ‘Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.’ So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own” (Exodus 1:19-21 NIV).
“So God was kind to the midwives…” is a phrase I hold onto. He knew their hearts and desire to save lives even if it meant going against the Egyptian orders.
My only fear is God
When was the last time you wrote down your fears? All those what-ifs you internalize?
Beginning in mid-March 2020, I went through a season of high anxiety. I remember trying to sleep at night with my mind racing and my heart beating at the rhythm of my stress and worry about all our world faced and its potential personal impact.
Fear had gripped me. It was like a noose around my neck.
A few months later, I came across Psalm 91 and realized someone had already written down my fears and juxtaposed them with the LORD.
“‘If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,’ says God, ‘I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust me. Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times; I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party. I’ll give you a long life, give you a long drink of salvation! ’”(Psalm 91:14-16 MSG).
If you haven’t made this Psalm a prayer for this season, I encourage you to read it (and read it again and read it again) and see what Holy Spirit highlights.
Be a life-giver
When fear is juxtaposed with the LORD, HE gets bigger and the fear gets smaller. I imagine Shiphrah and Puah had this in mind every time they heard a newborn baby boy cry.
Little did they know fearing God in those moments would encourage others to fear HIM, too, setting the scene for one of the greatest life-giving leaders in scripture, Moses.
“Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him” (Exodus 2:1-4 NIV).
Moses led his people from slavery toward freedom.
As we continue to live out this season in our world, what honest fears do we need to bring to the Lord? What God characteristics do we need to juxtapose with those fears? And how are we called to be life-givers, like Shiphrah and Puah?
Don’t underestimate the small steps of faith and trust in the Lord you take today. Each one is counted (Romans 4:3).
Join me in exploring what the Lord says about anxiety-driven fear and also fearing (being in awe of…) HIM. I look forward to sharing my discoveries here. Join me here again next Friday! And better yet, bring a friend!
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