Obeying God sometimes means disobeying evil authorities.
“Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, ‘When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.’ But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this, and let the male children live?’ The midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.’ So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, ‘Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.’”—Exodus 1:15-22
The Bible is ever ancient, ever modern. Pharaoh had tried to curb the Israelite population by making them slaves. When that did not work, he resorted to genocide in the form of male infanticide. In most forms of infanticide or sex-selection abortions, it is the female who is most at risk. There are millions of girls missing in China and India today for that reason. But in ancient Egypt, it was the males who posed a threat, so they were put to death. The issue is not sexism—it rarely is—rather it’s the brutality and selfishness of the human heart.
We do not know the name of the Pharaoh, but we are given the names of the two midwives—perhaps the two chief midwives—Shiphrah and Puah. Pharaoh is a typical tyrant, rather like Herod at the birth of Christ (Matthew 2:16-18). When the U.S. Supreme Court voted in 1973 by 7-2 to allow abortion on demand, Justice Harry Blackmun stated that “the cancer of poverty will continue to grow if abortion can’t be applied as a cure for the social problems of the poor.” Like Pharaoh of old, Blackmun simply thought that there are too many inconvenient people on the face of this earth.
Herod’s soldiers carried out his orders, but these two midwives refused to carry out what Calvin calls ‘this dreadful barbarity’. God created us and will judge us—and He has declared that murder is wrong. Pharaoh, on the other hand, says that murder is alright when convenience dictates.
Today freedoms are being eroded, as is the respect for conscience. The Christian medical worker faces pressure to take part in abortions; the journalist is expected to slant the news in one direction; and the teacher has to kowtow to the dictates of the Education Department on issues which are ironically put under the category of ‘diversity’.
The midwives no doubt feared Pharaoh, but they feared God more (Matthew 10:28). When there is a clash between God and the civil state, God wins (Acts 5:28-29). This may cost us our comfort, our jobs, our standing in the community, even our freedom—maybe our very lives. Such a choice pressed itself upon the hearts and consciences of these two women, and they feared God.
It seems that the Hebrew midwives, like Rahab in Joshua 2:1-7, lied in order to protect life. Christians become uneasy at this, and in dealing with Psalm 5, Augustine of Hippo said that one “ought to be willing to conceal the truth, but not to tell a lie.”
One hesitates to disagree with the great man, but we are not obliged to tell the truth to someone who is going to misuse it. When Corrie ten Boom’s family decided to protect Dutch Jews from the Nazis in World War II, all members had to be committed to saving life, not appearing as good citizens under the Nazi authorities.
The midwives feared God, and loved the little Hebrew baby boys. They did not choose their circumstances—we do not always get that luxury—so they had to respond to what they faced, not what they wanted to face. To fear God and love the Hebrew babies, they had to deceive Pharaoh. They did well, as did Rahab (Hebrews 11:23; James 2:25). We must do all we can in trying circumstances. In Prestons in Sydney, for example, Hope House has been set up to save infant lives and help struggling mothers (see www.hopehouse.com.au).
Pharaoh was frustrated and wanted his people, even the Hebrew people, to do his dirty work for him. But God blessed the midwives and the Israelites. Be strong and courageous: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). What is our obligation today? To fear God and obey Him. What will be the result of that? Blessing upon blessing.
Our most holy yet gracious God, in turning from You, we have turned from light to darkness, from strength to weakness, from life to death. We turn now to You, and seek that You would pour out Your loving kindness on a needy and wayward people. We pray against the scourge of abortion and euthanasia, and the general culture which promotes suicide and premature death. Christ came that we might have life and have it in all its fullness. We pray that here in this fallen world, we might yet see more of such grace and mercy. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.
Prayer Points for October 2020
1. Pray for a Breakthrough for LIFE, specifically an end to abortion and euthanasia in our nation. Exodus 20:13
2. Pray for a Breakthrough for INDIGENOUS LIFE, specifically an end to high youth suicide and premature death due to ill health. 3 John 1:2
3. Pray for new POLITICIANS for LIFE, especially pray for the upcoming elections in Queensland (31st October), ACT (17th October) + USA (3 November) & New Zealand (17 October). Proverbs 29:2
4. Pray for the Revitalisation of SPIRITUAL LIFE, namely repentance, renewal & transformation, that our nation might return to God. 2 Chronicles 7:14
Rev Dr Peter Barnes has been the Moderator-General for the Presbyterian Church, Australia since 2019. Peter is the Minister of Revesby Presbyterian Church in Sydney, teaches Church History at Christ College, Burwood, and is a well-known evangelical leader. He is President of Evangelicals for Life, and has recently written on the NSW “Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill”. Peter is also known for his involvement with The Banner of Truth.
We invite you to join the daily 1-hour Zoom video National Prayer Call every night:
DATES: 1st– 31st October 2020
TIME: 8pm-9pm AEST
ZOOM URL LINK: https://zoom.us/j/776881184
ZOOM MEETING ID: 776881184
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Daily devotions brought to you by the Canberra Declaration.