Christianity 201

January 14, 2016

The Background Details Provided by Scripture

I continue to be amazed at the intricacies of the Bible. Regardless of specific words employed by different translations, there is a beauty to the arrangement of passages, and an attention to details that should wow the scientist or the engineer.

One of these has to do with the narratives that occur just before or just after a more familiar section. Willie E. Hucks looks at one such case in an article at MinistryMagazine.org. Click the title below to read at source.

The story before the story

From childhood I knew the story of the birth of Moses, found at the start of Exodus 2: A Hebrew baby born in a foreign land, hidden for three months, placed in a papyrus basket that was coated with tar and pitch, placed among the reeds along the banks of the Nile River, his sister staying nearby to watch and protect him.

But no one told me the story before the story, toward the end of Exodus 1: that of Shiphrah and Puah—two midwives who risked their lives to save newborn Hebrew males (Exod. 1:15-21).

15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” 17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. 18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?”

19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”

20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.

That Moses the author connects the story of these women with his own birth points to their significance.

Shiphrah and Puah remind me of the countless behind-the-scenes individuals whose efforts are noted by a handful and publicly acknowledged by even fewer. But God’s work would be severely hampered if it weren’t for their labors. We find it easy to laud those whom we see up front: in the pulpit, behind the lectern, chairing the committee, on the television, and yes, in the editorial pages of a journal. But we are never in a position to succeed without those seemingly invisible others.

To put it another way: true revival and reformation reveals itself through recognizing that we all contribute to God’s call, and we, as spiritual leaders, humbly acknowledge that others make it possible for us to fulfill the ministries the Holy Spirit has given us.

“LORD, bless us as spiritual leaders to recognize and publicly acknowledge that it takes everyone and all talents in the body of Christ to fulfill the mission.”

The book, All The Women of the Bible (sourced at BibleGateway.com) delves further into the courage of these two women whose story sets the stage for all that follows in Exodus:

…Receiving the royal command to commit murder, these two loyal, vigorous, middle aged women were caught between two fires. Whom should they obey? The God of the Hebrews in whom they had come to believe, or the tyrannical king of Egypt? True to their conscience and honored calling they knew it would conflict with the divine command to kill, and so “saved the men children alive.” Thus, they obeyed God rather than man, and in so doing brought upon their heads the rage of Pharaoh. Confronting his anger, Puah and Shiprah took refuge in a partial truth. They said that because Jewish women had easy deliveries, their children were born before they could reach them and assist the mothers in labor.

Cognizant as He was of the partial truth the two midwives told, God knew all about the crisis behind it, and commended Puah and Shiprah for their courage of faith. They had risked their lives for many Jewish infants. Such an act was meritorious in the eyes of the Lord, and He honorably rewarded them by building them houses. Fausset suggests that the nature of such a reward consisted in the two midwives marrying Hebrews and becoming mothers in Israel (2 Samuel 7:11, 27). Puah and Shiprah are striking witnesses against the scandalous practice of abortion, which several nations have legalized.

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