We’ve done some traveling over land and over time this week, haven’t we! We followed Abraham and his entourage from Haran to the land of Canaan, witnessed the separation of uncle and nephew and the near destruction of Lot and his daughters but for the grace of God and the intercession of Abraham. Lot’s wife didn’t fare as well as the rest of her family though as she did not heed the words of the angel. You could say we live or die by our choices. “Remember Lot’s wife.” Then, we fast forwarded to the land of Egypt where the descendants of Abraham settled when famine struck the land. As the Hebrew population multiplied, the new king of Egypt feared that the continued growth of this people would be a detriment to the safety of his kingdom. He had to take action. Enter into the scene two women who made a far different choice than Lot’s wife when a decision was necessary.
Can you imagine Shiphrah and Puah standing before Pharoah and being told to take the lives of newborn baby boys when your chosen profession is to help bring life into the world. Imagine being told to kill by the most powerful man in the kindgom who at any given moment can order your death? We aren’t told what they felt, thought or said about the circumstances they found themselves in but we do know what they did or rather what they didn’t do. When called before Pharaoh to explain why his command wasn’t being followed, the reason they gave was satisfactory to him. Isn’t God’s protection amazing! I wonder if theirs was a lie or if they perhaps, as some have suggested, delayed their arrival at these births (and instructed the other midwives to do the same as they weren’t the only midwives but the head midwives). That matters not. They choose to obey God rather than man. And the reason they made the choice they did is what is emphasized in the Scriptures. “But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them.”(Exodus 1:17)
The theme of fearing God or the fear of the Lord runs through the Scriptures and we’ll only touch the tip of this subject today! The Hebrew word for fear is “yare.” Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words defines yare as “used of a person in an exalted position, connotes ‘standing in awe.’ This is not simple fear, but reverence whereby an individual recognizes the power and position of the individual revered and renders him proper respect.” Let’s add to this what Jerry Bridges shares in his book, The Joy of Fearing God, to complete our understanding of what we see happening in the lives of Shiphrah and Puah. “Obedience is the fruit of the tree of which the fear of God is the root. We cannot rightly obey God if we do not fear Him – if we do not honor, reverence and love Him.”
The Hebrew midwives feared God and that motivated them to make the choice to obey God. “And because the midwives feared God, He gave them families.” (Exodus 1: 21). I would venture to say that they were among the women of whom it has been said:
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.
Their choice not only brought blessing to their own lives but affected the history of the Hebrew people. As way of honor, I believe that God allowed us to know their names. I would so love to end on that note but this week was a contrast of choices and we must remember Lot’s wife. She made the choice not to obey the direct command from the Lord given by the angel. She wasn’t a woman who feared the Lord. Her choice of disobedience led to a curse not a blessing and it affected the history of her family as we discover when we read about Lot and his daughters.
As we end our look into the lives of these women, let’s remember what the Lord said to the His people as recorded for us in Deuteronomy 10:12 Replace the name Israel with your own.
“And now, ____ , what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul”
May God bless you as you seek Him to become a woman who fears the Lord!