Where do you see yourself in five years? What about ten? Or forty? The only reason we ask these kinds of questions is to get the chance to paint a wildly different picture of our lives. We imagine a life with more of the things we want and less of the problems we hate. Certainly none of us expect to be exactly where we are now, not moving or changing an inch over so many years.
I’m sure the Israelites didn’t imagine that either. If, when Joseph died, someone had asked them where they’d be in a generation, they probably wouldn’t have said “Oh, still here! Serving Pharaoh and stuff. Maybe with a bit more whips and a little less pay!” Yet that’s exactly what happened. A new Pharaoh, who either hadn’t known Joseph (doubtful) or didn’t like him at all (likely!), was now in charge and, well, he was scared. He was scared of the Israelites and just how many of them there were. They kept popping out babies, healthy ones, babies that would grow and perhaps one day decide that they’d had enough of Egypt and their religion and customs and ways.
One too many nightmares of a coming Israelite revolt led Pharaoh to hatch a plan. He wasn’t going to wait around for the Israelites to conquer him. He would conquer them first. So he forced them to work for him as slaves. But this didn’t quite do the trick, because the babies kept coming and the population kept growing. So Pharaoh came across the next best thing. He decided to kill the Israelites’ sons to limit their numbers. At first he tried to do it in secret, via the midwives, but when they heroically refused, he decided to come forward with his barbarism and issue an official decree to kill all Hebrew baby boys. No, the Israelites probably did not imagine being here at all.
The Treasures Within:
“Slavery was a choice!” or so some might say. While that statement was undeniably false of African slaves centuries ago, the situation is a bit more murky in the case of the Israelites. I mean, think about it. How did the Israelites become slaves? The Bible clearly states in verse 7 that they were the majority! Pharaoh even admitted it himself! There was no slave trade; no one sold slaves for their own profit. Pharaoh just, somehow, all at once, forced a huge nation of people who previously had the freedom to come and go as they pleased, to stay and work for him. I mean, what?
Even if the Israelites didn’t immediately revolt against Pharaoh’s enslavement of them (maybe he paid them??), they should have once he started killing their children! But no. For some reason, the Israelites submitted to the evil ruling over them. They didn’t fight back. They gave in. Do we do the same? There’s evil all around us: in our government, at our workplaces, in our churches; oftentimes even in the places where we are supposed to feel safe! Do we surrender to the evil people and powers in our world? Do we let it hurt innocent people, violate truth and justice, or even take control in our own hearts? Are we like the Israelites?
Or are we like the midwives, Shiphrah and Puah? Pharaoh, an evil ruler, came to them and asked them to commit his evil for him. What a horrifying conversation that must have been. Maybe he offered them money. Maybe he threatened them. He must have intimidated them one way or another. Nevertheless, they resisted. They refused to kill. Oh, they gave Pharaoh a pretty excuse about the babies popping out before they could get to the mothers, but their minds were very firmly made up, labor and delivery time notwithstanding. The Bible says that these women “feared God” (verse 17). I’m sure they feared Pharaoh, if under a completely different definition of the word. Yet they dared to put their God first. They trusted Him above the powers that were and God richly rewarded them for it (verse 20-21). These women are role models. They are examples of true faith even in the midst of evil. They are examples of what we can be today if we will only fight.
God’s Message To Us:
“My laws and My commands rank above those of men.” In this story, for Shiphrah and Puah, the righteous decision was to resist their government and its laws. This may not be the correct decision in every situation. After all, Jesus Himself would years later advise the exact opposite: “do not resist an evil person…turn…the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39, emphasis mine). Our wise and just God, who intimately understands our situation, will give us guidance, but here’s something that will never change: when the choice comes down to obeying God’s laws or obeying man’s laws, there is only one correct answer – obedience to our Savior. No amount of money or fear of death should be enough to tempt us to disobey the Man who holds the whole world in His hands; the Man who has all power and wisdom. No matter what, we must stick with Him. We will be rewarded in the end – with blessings, and one day, with eternal life.
There Are Always Questions:
- As confusing as it is to me that the Israelites became enslaved, it’s also somewhat odd to me that Pharaoh even decided to enslave them. Why not kick them out, or, since he was apparently afraid that they would kill him (verse 10), sign a peace treaty with them, like another nation would do in the years to come (Joshua 9)? I wonder if Pharaoh’s reasoning was somewhat similar to the American reasoning for not wanting to give up African slaves (besides racism)? Maybe he realized he could get rich off of them? Maybe he already was and wanted to continue?
What do you think? What did God teach you from your study of this chapter of the Bible? Will you obey God over men?