Monday, November 26, 2018

Exodus 1:15-22

TAKE TIME TO REFLECT:

Scripture affirms the equity of life. Take a moment to read Isaiah 58:6 and Micah 6:8. All people created in the image of God, regardless of their skin color, their sexual orientation, and so on, deserve respectful and humane treatment. Just because we are different racially or culturally or just because we disagree on lifestyle matters never gives us the right to treat another human being in an unkind, uncivil, unloving manner.

Scripture affirms the sanctity of life. Take a moment to read Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 127:3, and Psalm 139:13-16. I know that some people will argue that a child is only the potential of life in utero, but tell that to a child's beating heart between 8-12 weeks after conception. Plus, my wife and I have spent time in the NICU: make your argument with a child fighting for his or her life outside the womb at 24 or 25 weeks. Whenever talking about the humane treatment of other persons, should we not fight the hardest for those who cannot stand for themselves? Shouldn't we have a heart for the unborn?

Scripture affirms times for civil disobedience. Take a moment to read Acts 5:29 and Romans 12:18. When the equity and/or sanctity of life is denied to a particular group of people, it is certainly fitting to seek to secure those rights through non-violent means. For instance, recall little black boys and girls blasted across sidewalks with water hoses in Birmingham, AL. What did those children want? They wanted the same rights as little white boys and girls. What were they doing? Just sitting in non-violent protest.

The first instance recorded of civil disobedience in Scripture appears in Exodus 1. Pharaoh, the most powerful ruler in the world, ordered Hebrew midwives to immediately dispose of male Jewish babies upon their birth. In other words, he repudiated both the equity and the sanctity of life. Only Shiphrah and Puah - the two midwives that Exodus 1:15 mentions by name because they probably served as head nurses over all the others - refused Pharaoh's order. 

The manner in which Shiphrah and Puah defied the order of the governing body is not definitively laid out, but the words recorded in verse 19 give a pretty good clue. Douglas Stuart contends that these two midwives likely forged a plot among all the Hebrew midwives to inform Israelite women to do "everything possible to give birth before we are summoned to your home. We'll take it from there. But whatever you do, don't call on us before the baby actually comes." 

Much more important than the manner in which Shiphrah and Puah defied Pharaoh is the lesson that their civil disobedience teaches us. God can take unassuming people to do extraordinary things for others and for His Kingdom purposes. 

Some individuals might protest that these women were deceitful and thus question how God is honored through that. But the brutality of Pharaoh and the hardness of his heart left him undeserving of loyalty and truth. [If a Christian family in Nazi Germany provided safe haven for Jews and a member of the Gestapo knocked on their door to ask if they were hiding anyone, how should the family respond?] 

God clearly had no problem with the midwives approach to the situation in which they were confronted. Not only were an increasing number of children born as a result of their manner of civil disobedience, the Lord even blessed Shiphrah and Puah with families of their own. 

Still, Pharaoh had zero intention of seeing his designs thwarted. Fearful that the growing number of now oppressed Hebrew boys would pose a future military threat to his earthly kingdom (cf. Ex. 1:8-14), Pharaoh ordered Egyptians to drown all newborn Israelite sons in the Nile River. 

The Hebrew midwives had acted in a form of civil disobedience, but they could not stop the brutality of Pharaoh's order now. In fact, Pharaoh's edict is just one of many similar attempts of Satan to use a despot to snuff out the birth of the Messiah.

In Genesis 3:15, the Lord pronounces that the serpent would bruise His Son's heel but that Jesus would crush Satan's head. People recover from bruised heels but not from crushed heads. Consequently, Satan was at work through various antichrists to snuff out the seed by which the Messiah would come. 

Pharaoh first tried to do it through the order he issued to the Hebrew midwives, but two obscure ladies took a stand for innocent babies and for God's Kingdom. 

Pharaoh then tried to do it through the order he issued to the Egyptians, only his own unnamed daughter had compassion on a three-month-old baby boy that she discovered in a basket floating down the Nile River. This male child named Moses would eventually deliver his people from their bondage in Egypt (cf. Ex. 2:1-10).

Move forward to the New Testament and King Herod. Like Pharaoh, he was concerned for his earthly kingdom. Like Pharaoh, he simply served as an instrument of the wicked one. 

In Matthew chapter 2, Herod ordered the slaughter of all baby boys two-years-old and younger in the town of Bethlehem as a response to the news that the Christ had been born (cf. Micah 5:2). Only God directed a poor carpenter and a young maiden to carry His Son into the land of Egypt, away from the cruel hand of Herod (cf. Hosea 11:1). The Lord used a young couple with an illegitimate child in the eyes of the world to do an extraordinary thing for others and for His Kingdom. 

This male son named Jesus, taken from a lowly Bethlehem manager, would come out of Egypt (like Moses) to deliver His people from their bondage to sin. 

How will God now use you to take a stand for others and for His Kingdom? Never let Satan deceive you into thinking that you cannot make a difference. Think of the little children in the streets of Birmingham. Think of Shiphrah and Puah. Think of a baby boy pulled from a river. Think of a compassionate unnamed princess. Think of a poor carpenter and his teenage wife. Think of the Son of God born in a feeding trough. 

You do not have to hold a prestigious title in order to promote justice, to treat others with love and respect, to protect the well-being of those in need, or to advance the glory of God!


TAKE TIME TO RESPOND:

How do you believe God might be calling you to set aside a personal earthly kingdom agenda so as to make a difference for His Kingdom:

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TAKE TIME TO REVIEW:

from Best Devotional Commentary - "Stephen claimed at his trial that Moses 'received living words to pass on to us' (Acts 7:38), and his words apply just as much to us as to his first-century audience. The gap of thousands of years between the Lord's word to Moses and Stephen and on to our possession of Holy Scripture means nothing. There is a contemporary reality about the word of God, so that when we read Exodus we are not just learning of the past, we are learning for the present. This is a living word for us. The people of God - we - are still the twelve-tribe-unity scattered in the world, subject to the world's hardships, suffering the world's sorrows. We would like an answer to our question, 'Why?', but God does not come down to explain Himself. Experiences without explanations - that is what the first chapter of Exodus is all about. Our only comfort is that God comes to us in the day of darkness and lovingly reassures us that, 'It is all right, it is all planned and it will all be well'" (Motyer).

from Best Academic Commentary - About verse 16, Douglas Stuart writes: "it was certainly true that Israelite midwives were in an ideal position to kill babies. They attended the birth and had time at any of various points of looking after an emerging or just-delivered child to suffocate or strangle him. Perhaps the pharaoh believed this could be done without most mothers even realizing it, assuming as he might arrogantly have done that women in the throes of childbirth would not be sufficiently alert to spot such a felony if it were subtly practiced.
     There is nothing about delivery stools (or birth stones or birth stools or the like) in this verse. What the Hebrew says is probably quite simple: 'When you help the Hebrew women to give birth, look at the genitals. If it is a boy, put him to death. If a girl, let her live'" (Stuart).

from Best Preaching/Teaching Commentary - "Pharaoh's attempt to exterminate the sons of Israel anticipated all the antichrists of history. Wherever there is a reign of terror or a culture of death, Satan is trying to destroy the work of God. The slogans change, but the sin remains the same. ...
    There is also an analogy here to the life of the soul. Pharaoh had two strategies for preventing God's people from growing: slavery and death. These are the same weapons Satan uses when he tries to destroy a human being. First, sin leads to slavery, for as Jesus said, 'Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin' (John 8:34). Then once we are enslaved, sin leads to death: 'For the wages of sin is death' (Romans 6:23). What we need is exactly what the Israelites needed: a Savior to deliver us from slavery and to rescue us from death by destroying our enemy. Just as God provided a savior for Israel (Moses), so He has provided a Savior for us (Jesus). Where once there was bondage and death, now Jesus brings liberty and life" (Ryken).