Heroes and Villains: Puah and Shiphrah
One thing I have never understood is racism. I remember when I was little and having a conversation with my mom about World War 2. She was telling me how Hitler and the Nazis would decide who would be put into Concentration camps and who would die. She told me how some people would be put away for silly things such as hair color and eye color, things that no one could control. It made me so angry and every now and then that conversation floods back into my mind when I think about the injustice of racism and the injustice of World War 2.
The simple fact is that we can’t choose where we’re born. We can’t choose our natural hair color, eye color, skin color, etc. Yet, for so many of us around the world, these are the basis from which people judge us and condemn us. The things we can’t control and the things we never could choose.
I’ve always loved Martin Luther King’s dream of people being judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. Isn’t that what we really want? Don’t we really want to be judged and measured against ourselves rather than by lofty standards that we never had a choice in the matter?
I think of that story when I read about Israel in Egypt. Israel was made a slave simply because of ancestry. They didn’t get to choose who their parents were. They didn’t get to choose skin color. They weren’t judged by the content of their character. They were enslaved out of fear and (I think) jealousy. God had made his people successful and abundant and that scared Pharaoh and the Egyptians.
Read Exodus 1:15-22
Yet, in the midst of this injustice, were two midwives. Now, I have to think that for such an abundant nation, two midwives couldn’t have been ALL the midwives there were in all of Egypt. I’d be willing to bet that there were others, yet these two caught the attention of God and as a result, have their story written in the book of Exodus.
What I love about them is how they took their little corner of the world, they took what they were responsible for, and they chose to make right decisions to bring about the health of the Israelite women and their babies. They chose to make a difference in the midst of the impossible demands of the king of Egypt. What do we do with our small corner of the world? Are we faithful in the small things? Do we see our seemingly small positions as a chance to make a very big difference?
They were approached by the king of Egypt to kill the Hebrew male babies and you know what, they didn’t. I was thinking this morning about how they were in such an impossible situation. The collide of their own personal beliefs with the law of their time. They valued life, the law wanted death, what would they choose? And on top of that, we’d learn that after this story the king would issue a decree that all babies under the age of two would be killed. So, did what they do actually make a difference?
First, we don’t know how long the women had spent saving these babies. We do know that it went on long enough for the king to notice that the Hebrew people multiplied and grew even stronger. Second, when it’s all said and done, we can’t control what anyone else does, we’re only in charge of ourselves. We can choose to be faithful in our small corners of the world, or we can choose to submit to an authority bent on extreme violence.
What We Learn from Puah and Shiphrah
They feared God above anyone else. They could have done what the king said simply because it was the king who said it. How many times do we hear people say, “I didn’t have a choice” when in all actuality they did have a choice. They could have chosen a difficult path that might require sacrifice, or they could stay with the easy path that still ends in a bunch of guilt and heartache? These women recognized that they had a choice in the matter. They choose to submit to a higher power and give those babies life. They chose to do the right thing in the midst of wrong ideas.
Sometimes our leaders are in the wrong. Our leaders are human and are just as imperfect as we are. Sometimes they make unwise decisions. In this case, the king made a very unwise and horrible decision, but Puah and Shiphrah recognized this and chose to have no part in it. They chose to make wise decisions in the midst of unwise commands.
Our role matters. They were just two midwives in a sea of who knows how many. They were just midwives, not political leaders. Their voice didn’t carry as much weight as the king, but at the same time, their actions carried just as much weight as the king’s words. They couldn’t necessarily change their situation and bring the end of the slavery, but they could choose to bring life forward in the homes of the vulnerable. They stood up for the vulnerable in a quiet way, but in an impactful way.
We learn that God sees us in these small roles and seemingly insignificant places. He saw what Puah and Shiphrah were doing and the small role they played. He saw their integrity and their loyalty to Him and He rewarded them with families of their own. No matter how small our part is in the grand scheme of things, God sees our efforts. He sees our faithfulness. He sees us standing up to injustice! He sees our small actions, hears our small words, and sees our big impact!
What will we do with our own little corners of the world? Will we choose to make a difference, no matter how small our efforts may seem? Will we choose to stand up for what's right rather than submit to injustice? Will we stand up for the vulnerable in the face of injustice? No effort is too small. Let's not remember that God can make a huge impact with our seemingly small efforts!