1. Introduction and Midwives (Exodus 1:1:15-21)Related Media
I. Introduction: This weekend we are going to be talking about influence.
Are you a woman of influence? Do others see you as a woman of influence?
In our world, people of influence get attention.
Time magazine publishes annually a “Person of the Year” issue that features and profiles a person, group, idea or object that “for better or for worse...has done the most to influence the events of the year”.1
Christianity Today magazine recently had an article (Oct 19,2012) “Fifty Women you should Know” as their cover story: about Christian women who want to pursue influential roles in politics, the church and public life…
Every week ABC News has the “person of the week”=someone who has stood out and affected others.
Influential people get our attention and they can change our lives.
1. Since we’re going to be talking about influence this weekend let’s first define it.
Dictionary = “the power to change or affect someone or something”
“The power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways: sway”2
Examples: He used his influence to reform the company’s policies.
It’s a Powerful word representing a phenomena that one can’t see, touch, taste, smell or hear, but yet it can be sensed. Few would dispute its existence and fewer could dispute its common use and abuse.
So influence is about affecting, changing, swaying people’s thoughts/opinions, or their actions for either good or bad. I desire to be someone who influences others for good, don’t you?
We’re going to look at 5 different women: 2 are midwives, one is a mother, one is a sister, one a wife. All are women of influence who vitally affected the life of Moses and all can teach us timeless truths that can impact our families, our friends, our world for good.
2. I’ve been living with these women for months, thinking about their lives, studying them, reading commentaries and journal articles about them.
I’ve often been frustrated because there isn’t more information to answer questions I have about them, to tell me more about what they were thinking, feeling as their lives circled around this giant of a man named Moses. Good bible students and teachers hold back and only teach what is in the text as truth, only what is there, not what we imagine or think but what we read. So much of the stories of our women are left out. Most times we don’t know their motivations, their tone of voice, their feelings, we’re not told the details. We can only speculate what’s in between the lines. It’s at these times I’m reminded that God has given us all we need to know:
2 Peter 1:3-4 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness though our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (NIV)
And even though we may wish we knew more, we have enough here to give us truths and lessons in their actions, in how they influenced their world by what they did. Just think for a minute, Moses would not have lived past 3 months old if it had not been for the providential care of God working through 4 of our 5 women. Moses would not have made it back from Midian to Egypt to become God’s deliverer had it not been for the plan of God and the intervention of his wife. These are the stories of how God can and does use women who are willing, obedient, courageous, and faithful for His good and His glory. I can’t wait to introduce you to them, but first lets do a little background review of the times and life of Moses, set our scene.
II. Review of Historical Times and Brief look at the life of Moses
1. “Exodus” is the title of the biblical text where we find the stories of our women and our introduction to Moses.
The English word “Exodus” given to this book is a transliteration of the Greek word meaning to “exit” or “way out”. The Hebrew title is abbreviated to Shemot= “Names” which is the opening words of the book. Exodus is part of the Torah, first 5 books written, we believe, by Moses and the book tells us how the Hebrew people made their “way out” of Egypt. Time covered is approximately 1500-1400 B.C. When Exodus begins, the Hebrews had been in Egypt for about 400 years.
2. We need to ask, “How did they get there?” The book of Genesis tells that story.
Abraham was called to leave his country and God made a covenant with him, He promised him land, and he would become the father of a nation, and through him, would be a blessing to the entire world. One night through a vision God reaffirmed this covenant but also gave him a prophecy:
Genesis 15:12-14 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a dark sleep and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. (NIV)
Let’s skip ahead to Genesis 37.
Every family has conflict, right? Families are messy; the biblical families are no different. Abraham’s great grandson Joseph was his father Jacob’s favorite. That favoritism caused family conflict, as it usually does. Joseph, the favorite, hated by his brothers was sold into slavery in Egypt. Through providential care the family is eventually reunited and all the Hebrews move from the area of Palestine to Egypt just as God had foretold. Over time, over many years, the Hebrews, these foreigners, aliens who lived separate from the Egyptians, they multiplied and grew and became slaves to the Pharaoh. Life was miserable for them. They cried out to their God for mercy, for help, for rescue. God heard their cries
Exodus 2:23b-25 ...the Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them. (NIV)
Isn’t it comforting to know God hears our cries when we’re in trouble and isn’t it comforting to know He wants to help, He wants to be involved in our lives, He wants us to call out to Him.
God’s people needed Him to intervene and He does. He raises us a Deliverer named Moses.
3. Moses was born right into this difficult world of slavery.
His life like ours can be divided up in different ways: early years, middle aged, senior (mature) years. A popular way is to look at Moses’ 120 years in 3 divisions of 40:
1. First 40 years he lives in Egypt, most of that in the Royal Palace as a prince of Egypt. However, there came a day when he began to feel with compassion the plight of his biological people, the Jews. In that effort to save them he killed an overbearing Egyptian and tried to cover it up. But the cover-up failed as they always do, and he fled the country, which takes us to the next 40yr
2. Moses from 40 years old to 80 is a shepherd in the desert around Midian. There he marries and becomes a father. Its in the desert that Moses has great opportunity for solitude and personal reflection, and becomes so convinced of his own inadequacies that it was initially very hard for God to convince him that he indeed was the man to deliver the Hebrews from Egypt. But the call of God was obeyed and Moses at 80 returns to Egypt to move into the 3rd part of his life.
3. The next 40 years Moses leads the people of Israel out of bondage into the wilderness, receiving the Law and taking them to the very border of the Promised Land.
Hebrews 11:24-28 gives us his Divine Biography:
By faith, Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith, Moses when he had grown up refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt not fearing the king’s anger: he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of bloods that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. (NIV)
Faith is an attitude of the Heart, and God had Moses’ heart.
But our focus will be on the women surrounding this amazing man of God. These are amazing women and the story would not be the same without them.
“One of the most interesting observations for a woman who looks closely at the man Moses is the fact that many of the key players in his life are women. Humanly speaking those women must have helped to determine the events of his life. Many of the women acted courageously and defied tyranny and oppression in so doing. They were wise and resourceful in handling tough and seemingly impossible situations.” 3 Dorothy Patterson
Our study this weekend will represent women of all ages. We have a very young girl, young mother, middle-aged wife and some mature women. They are each one going to encourage us and challenge us to be women of influence, affecting our world for good for God. Let’s start with the midwives.
III. The Midwives (Exodus 1:15-21)
Pharaoh had a problem. The Hebrew slaves had become so numerous that he feared insurrection or an alliance with a foreign nation so he ruthlessly worked them but they continued to multiply and grow as a sub people group within the nation. So his next plan was to command the Hebrew midwives to kill all baby boys, to commit male infanticide, yet allow the baby girls to live.
Exodus 1:15-16 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you assist the Hebrew women in childbirth, observe at the delivery: If it is a son, kill him, but if it is a daughter, she may live.” (NET)
Here we meet Shiphrah(shif ruh) and Puah(poo ah). They’re called “the Hebrew midwives” but were they Hebrew or Egyptian women? Original text is not clear. (Jewish Study Bible) “the phrase could mean ‘midwives to the Hebrews’, or midwives who were Hebrews” 4It’s been assumed by some that they must have been Egyptian since one would hardly have expected Hebrew women to have aided Pharaoh in killing the baby boys. But, both of the names are Semitic. In Hebrew, the name Shiphruh = “beauty” or “fair one”; the name Puah= “splendid” or “girl”. Likely that they were not the only midwives but probably the chief midwives, or oversaw the midwives. The Hebrew word “midwife”= “one who helps to bear”. Midwife helped at childbirth by taking the newborn, cutting the umbilical cord, washing the baby with water, salting and wrapping the baby. In Egypt and among the Hebrews, women often crouched down in delivery on a pair of bricks or stones or on a birth stool.
So, instructed by Pharaoh, his command, at this time, right at delivery, the moment of birth, as the midwife is catching the baby, she is to determine the sex of the child, and if it were male, she apparently was to suffocate the baby so it appeared to be stillborn. She would have the opportunity to do that as she handled the newborn. And then she would have to cover up the murder. What a difficult position these women were put in. Their boss, their ruler, their authority told them to commit what they knew in their hearts was wrong. They had to make a decision; they had to make a choice.
I wonder have you ever been there? In a hard place like that?
Exodus 1:17 But the midwives feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them; they let the boys live. (NET)
“Feared God” Wikipedia “Fear of God is the idea of living in respect, awe, and submission to a deity”5 In the Hebrew =serious fear, serious reverence. The word for God = ELOHIM, the God of Israel. The choice they made was to disobey Pharaoh’s command and reverence God who is the life-giver. They believed human life is precious and they could not kill the babies.
What implications that has for us today! With this choice came consequences.
Exodus 1:18-21 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this and let the boys live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women– for the Hebrew women are vigorous; they give birth before the midwife gets to them!” So God treated the midwives well, and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he made households for them. (NET)
1. Confrontation with Pharaoh (v. 18)
Have you ever been called in to your boss, teacher, your mother and you knew it was going to be bad? You knew you were in trouble? Can you imagine what these women felt when they were summoned to Pharaoh? Would they be found out? Would they be killed?
Obviously Pharaoh observed his plan for extermination was not working and he wanted to know why? Why have you let the boys live?
Their response was v. 19. Egyptian women need the care of a midwife more than the Hebrew women who were lively, robust and delivered the babies so fast that they didn’t need the help of a midwife. By the time the midwife comes, the baby is born, washed and with the mother. What could they do?
As far as the midwives arriving too late, that might have been true. Perhaps they just didn’t tell the fact that their tardiness was deliberately planned. The Scriptures don’t tell us the details here so we aren’t even sure if this was a lie or the truth. What we do know was: these women chose to disobey the command because it was the wrong thing to do. Because they did the right thing, the thing that pleased God, they were
2. Blessed by God (v. 20-21)
Exodus 1:20-21 So God treated the midwives well, and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he made households for them. (NET)
They refused to violate the law of life. God blessed them for doing what is right in His eyes. He blessed them with “households” “families” of their own.
That brings us to a truth for all times: to be a woman of influence:
Truth: Know the difference between right and wrong and choose right. This has been God’s desire for us all the way back to the Garden of Eden and all the way forward.
Paul would write to the Romans that God has created us to know Him.
Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (NIV)
We have been given a conscience and the revelation of His Word to learn what pleases God, what He deems right and wrong. Know the difference and choose right.
*In our lives, when we learn truths about God through the circumstances of our lives they become like “stones of remembrance” (Joshua 4)
Illustration: When one of my sons was in middle school he worked in the school library. His second year, a few new boys started going to his school and became his friends, and unfortunately influenced him… negatively. Both of my sons tend to want to please others, but this particular son, at that tender, difficult age, longed for their friendship and was willing to go along with whatever they planned. All them were musical and had a “little” band. They had instruments and speakers but they were lacking microphones. So my son, who worked in the library where the school’s AV equipment was stored, was challenged to “borrow” some microphones. He knew right from wrong, he knew it was stealing, but he choose wrong. Later, that afternoon at home, I’m checking through the book bags and lunch boxes and gym bags getting ready for the next day and I came across the microphones. I asked him what are these? …Just an aside, at home, I was called “the question lady” because I asked the kids so many questions. Where are you going, who will be there, what will you be doing, how many people are going, which parents is home. I was relentless. “What are these?” Right off he confessed and spilled the whole story, how he was the designated “stealer” for their band, and besides no one would ever miss a couple of mikes, they weren’t even going to keep them, just borrow them. I had the normal mother reaction, “just wait til your dad gets home and we’ll talk about this then”. I was sick, it was a private school and I wondered what could happen to him. So my husband came home, was told the story and I remember he calmly said “Tomorrow morning we, you son and I, are going in early to the principal and you will tell exactly what you did, you know it was wrong and you are going to confess”. I was praying “God, please use this for your good and your glory” We felt it was a big thing, little did we know how big. Despite tears and moans and pleadings from our son, my husband took my son to school and he confessed. I wish I could tell you that all worked out fine and they were pleased he confessed and it went away quietly because we had parented well and it since it was the first offense he was gently punished. Not so fast. The principal said it had to go before the peer/faculty committee and they would decide his penalty. After meeting they decided to expel him from school. That was a surprise; we had two other children there. We felt that was so harsh but what really surprised us was some of the reactions and advice from other parents, Christian parents, who said we should have just quietly returned them and not said anything— covered it up. We should not have let our son have such severe consequences without fighting back. Today, we look back and believe it was the hand of God removing our son from further negative influence and helping us see some things we needed to take care of at home. Not only did my son need to learn this truth, we needed to re-affirm our belief too: To
Know the difference between right and wrong and choose right.
Is this where you are right now? Or perhaps someone close to you is facing a hard decision, wanting to do right but afraid of the consequences? The backlash? Perhaps it’s at work, you’ve been asked to compromise, it feels all wrong. Maybe it’s a hard parenting choice and you’re getting resistance. Maybe a friend has asked you to cover something up and you know you will lose the relationship if you say “no”.
I don’t know where you are now, or where you may be headed but I do know to be a woman of influence for good for God in your world you will need to choose the right over the wrong. Others will watch you; your influence will be affected by what you do. ASK God for his strength, His help, to choose right.
3 Dorothy Patterson, Touched by Greatness (London: Christian Focus Publications, 2011) 19.
4 The Jewish Study Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004) 108.