The Midwives, Who Feared God

Exodus 1:15-22

Genesis tells story of God’s creation of world, God calling all things out of nothing into existence by his powerful word. Exodus tells story of God’s creation of church – God calling a people out of world into worshiping community. In both stories, antagonist appears on scene very quickly – chapter 3 in Genesis, Fall of first parents into sin and condemnation. Even closer to beginning of Exodus story – God has made clear his intent… to grow children of Israel into great nation, among whose posterity would come none other than Redeemer of mankind. Onto world stage steps one who has no loyalty at all to God’s people, quickly becomes willing tool of Great Deceiver.

Pharaoh given status of god by people, he did little or nothing to discourage that. This particular dynasty of kings made obvious by actions toward Hebrew children – had absolutely no fear of Hebrew God in any sense. If even existed, was merely one of many, certainly not one to worry about. Absence of “fear of the Lord” ailment common to mankind from almost beginning – apparent characteristic of Cain; declared by David Ps. 36:1 “concerning the transgression of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes”; repeated by Paul Rom. 3:18. Sadly persists today, even among those who should know better.

King of Egypt one of most powerful men in ancient world, yet no match for humble servant of God who feared the Lord. That, brothers and sisters, just as true today as ever. The one who genuinely and sincerely fears God need fear no other, not even arch-enemy Satan. In text, seems pretty obvious Satan diligently working to thwart God’s purpose if he can, live up to his reputation as “murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). So… king hatches his evil plan, is countered by midwives godly practice. God blesses their obedience, while Pharaoh writes his own sentence. No surprise, God abhors culture of death.

A. Pharaoh’s evil plan v.15-16

actually phase 4 of the plan – remember where it started

started with taskmasters and affliction (11)

building store cities – hard manual labor, made purposely burdensome – intended to limit population growth

ramped up to more affliction (12)

fear of unknown can be powerful motivator – even more powerful when you imagine worst outcome possible, certainly encouraged by Pharaoh

finally reached level of rigor, made life miserable (13-14)

not quite to unbearable but close – miserable almost to point of desperation, readiness to do anything to make it stop

not next week or even month

passage of time to gauge results

effect on population growth takes months if not years to establish a trend – easy to forget when reading story just how many years actually in view

Moses parents not even married yet – Moses aged 40 when left Egypt for Midian, 80 when returned to Egypt

so far, outcome exactly opposite of Pharaoh’s plan

Pharaoh’s taskmasters pouring water on fire to put it out, God silently converting water into oil to fuel fire, make it grow

the harsher their treatment, more God blessed

suffering and hardship often tools God uses to shape his people – yet God also provides blessing and encouragement

tries to enlist cooperation of Hebrew midwives

probably not the only ones – these two the managers responsible for overseeing others, position of influence

may have been Egyptian midwives for Hebrew women

speculate Pharaoh not foolish enough to think Hebrew midwives would take mandate seriously… to murder their own people

important here, like other settings – don’t paint with too broad a brush: were some Egyptians who feared true God

orders them to kill all the male newborns

obviously despicable treatment of group of people based on ethnic identity nothing new – makes it no less offensive to God

B. midwives godly practice v.17-19

feared God

knew what God expected – commandment not formally engraved in stone yet, God’s position on murder no secret

Cain knew before he killed Abel that God disapproved; made more explicit to Noah – Gen. 9:6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.”

obeyed Him

midwives’ fear of God directed course of daily action, even when strong motivation to fear man instead

did not obey the king

right kind of civil disobedience – principle not opinion – are obligated to submit to civil authority unless doing so requires disobedience to God

king commanded what God forbids – an unjust and unwarranted taking of human life clearly displeasing to God

saved the babies

proper application of 6th commandment

numbere of modern versions: “let the boys live” – not stretching language to make it purposely active as NKJsaved the male children alive”

commandment forbids unauthorized taking of life, positively commands preservation

reasonable to believe midwives did their part to protect / preserve lives of newborn males however could best do that

“lied” to Pharaoh

commonly accepted take on their actions – did their job according to conscience and best of ability, made up story for Pharaoh

not only option open to them – could have worked a deal with expecting mothers so as to show up immediately after birth – timing is everything!

was certainly extreme situation: if choice was truly take life or tell untruth to Pharaoh, they made hard decision to preserve image of God

C. God blesses obedience v.20-21

prompts question – if Pharaoh set on killing male Hebrew babies, why not disobedient midwives?

his word / decree law of the land – midwives had obviously failed to carry out Pharaoh’s edict, sufficient reason for king to order their punishment / execution

thought he had absolute power – viewed himself as supreme authority, answerable to no one else, able to do as he pleased without consequences of any kind

probably suspected midwives duplicity, perhaps suspected some other power at work – Hebrew population growth described in large terms, enough to defy explanation

God’s hand at work

dealt well midwives – whatever king might have been thinking / planning, God preserved midwives from harm, honored their obedience when could have been very costly

dealt well with all Hebrew children – were already enough so Egyptians were nervous, God increased their nuimbers miraculously

they gave God “a people”, he returns the favor

God established their posterity – he provided households for them – iow, God gave them families who would be loyal to him

would lose nothing of importance by obedience to God – true always for all those who fear God… never shortchanged by God

D. Pharaoh writes his own sentence v.22

enlists aid of all Egyptians

started with state workers – taskmasters, responsible for king’s building projects intended to make name for himself

added in medical profession – this one didn’t work so well, in fact had opposite result from what he desired (imagine if had been Planned Parenthood he was dealing with)

broadens out to include everyone – racism not new either – probably an easy task… word had gotten around, they afraid, too

policies passed down through dynasty

will see that later on – Moses’ observation of harsh treatment of his brothers, God’s acknowledgment… heard their groaning

practices persisted even though not effective – like all those who follow worldly wisdom – hope if you try harder, do it longer, at some point it’ll start working

time of plagues – different individual, same kind of Pharaoh who drowned in Nile

Pharaoh tried to require life of male children yet failed – God foiled attempts and abundantly blessed his people instead

God did require life of all firstborn not under blood – final plague carried out on Pharaoh judgment he tried to impose on Hebrews

E. God abhors a culture of death

sent his Son to give life

to many present culture would throw away – 1 Cor. 1:26 “not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.”

baby given to wrong kind of people in wrong kind of circumstances

unmarried, teenage girl, engaged but… how long would that last once truth were known – talk about ruined prospects

mired in poverty – relied on expensive gifts from magi to cover expenses of temporary relocation in Egypt

imagine if today

yes, Joseph and Mary had principles, but… how well would they maintain those principles, even hear God’s voice?

incredible pressure from all sides to avoid inconvenient birth and all that comes after – no thought for God’s purpose

Birth of Christ prefigured centuries before – “As God, in His providence, prepares to save His people in a most unlikely way. If your people faced extermination by the execution of infant boys, how would you come to rescue them? God’s plan was to send an infant boy into the world. A child is born, and he is, ironically, cast into the Nile in technical accordance with the command of Pharaoh, but all the while under God’s watchful providence.” Duncan



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