“But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.” Exodus 1:17
Have you ever wondered what might have been going through the minds of Shiphrah and Puah on that awful day when they were summoned by the king of Egypt? Here were two ordinary God fearing women dedicated to the care of mothers and their new infants who suddenly found themselves in the presence of their people’s bête noir.
Since they are the only women named, Shiphrah and Puah may have been in charge of all the midwives in the burgeoning population of Hebrews. Imagine how overwhelmed with anguish they must have been upon receiving Pharaoh's command,
“When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him.” Ex.1:16
Knowing rebellion would spell disaster for them and perhaps even for those working under them, the midwives must have had to think fast before the next baby arrived. Their fear of God outweighed any fear of retribution the king might impose on them because they refused to comply with the diabolical decree. When they were subpoenaed for interrogation as to why they had allowed the babies to live, the women shrewdly convinced Pharaoh that the Hebrew women were a hearty lot who gave birth before the midwives could arrive. Satisfied with their answer, the king moved to Plan B, insisting that every newborn Hebrew boy be cast into the Nile.
Pharaoh’s relentless persecution of God’s people proved completely unsuccessful however, because instead of dwindling their population the Hebrews continued to increase, just as God had promised Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3). Furthermore, the Lord rewarded Shiphrah and Puah’s fear of God.
“So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own. Ex. 1:20-21
God’s predetermined purposes could not be thwarted by the evil machinations of this or any other ruler. The Pharaohs who reigned in Moses’ day were under the same sovereign directive that our presidents and governments are under today. Whether good or evil, those in places of civil authority are instruments in the Lord's hands to display His sovereignty and power and to bring glory to Himself.
“For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” Romans 9:17-18
In these troubling times when we become disheartened by those ruling over us, it is good to know “The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.” Proverbs 21:1. Most of us here in the West have never faced serious persecution for obeying Christ, but that may change as the freedom to exercise our religious convictions are restricted.
Historically God’s people have thrived under persecution, and we see this happening today in places like the underground church in China. And last week’s Voice of the Martyrs email read:
“‘What we’re seeing around the world is really a gospel wildfire.’ … ‘We’re seeing the gospel go forward like never before in the history of the church.’
One of the five keys to the gospel’s unparalleled movement is persecution, which Jonathan says, is the “accelerant” for the wildfire. The church is persecuted, but it is thriving and expanding in the world’s most dangerous places.”
The Lord’s return is imminent but until that day He is still in the process of building and sanctifying His people. If our faith should be put to an extreme test some day I pray the Lord will give us the kind of courage these two ordinary women had.
Addendum: “How Will Persecution Affect the Church in the US?” (excerpt) by John MacArthur. 3 min. 37 sec