Devotions for the week of: January 8, 2020
Exodus 1:15-22 (NRSV)
The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”
The infant mortality rate in Ethiopia, the poorest country in the world, is high. The CDC reports the US infant mortality rate to be 5.8 to every 1,000 births compared to 39.1 in Ethiopia. The pet name for a newborn child in Ethiopia is “Lynnae” meaning “death you cannot have her for she is mine.” That is my name, Lynnae, and I was born in Ethiopia.
In the story of God’s people in Egypt, we find strong women who defied the powers over them by taking matters into their own hands to protect children. Shiphrah and Puah become examples of faithful women who loved and feared God enough to stand firm in ways of justice and power. They saved babies instead of killing them.
Didn’t Pharaoh know that the midwives main work was to preserve and assist in new life, so they would be radically opposed to taking life? Why would he only want to kill the boys? Was the Pharaoh so out of touch with the female power dynamic that he feared only the male Hebrews?
God blesses the two women because of their bravery and compassion. Good midwives, nurses, doctors and other medical people value life over politics, power and punishment. Despite Pharaoh’s efforts, God brings the Deliverer into this world. In this season of Christmas, we remember that Shiphrah and Puah, like Elizabeth and Mary, were all instruments of God’s plan for a holy purpose.
Death, you cannot have him for he is mine.
Rev. Lynnae Sorensen
Hope Lutheran Church, Sioux Falls
Lord of all, as the birthing stool continues to bring your prophets and midwives into this world, raise-up women and men that stand against injustice and violence. Lead us into your way that protects the innocent and defies the cruel. Amen.
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