by Pastor Keith Graham
Please read the Scripture passage referenced above, then keep your Bible handy. Thank you!
Let's define the term "midwife" before delving into this passage's milk and meat...for the Bible is just that for disciples. It is the sincere milk of the Word for babes in Christ, and hearty meat for the mature believer. All children of the Father gain appropriate nourishment for the soul as they continue to grow in grace and knowledge of their Lord by hearing and obeying the Bible's instruction, under the inward illumination of God the Holy Spirit.
A midwife is a woman who assists pregnant women in childbirth. Although this honorable and valuable work has not been common in our society for some time, it appears to be "making a comeback". With conventional medical costs and risks increasing, midwifery is the fine alternative to which many families are turning.
Our passage today focuses on the courage of Shiphrah and Puah, two ancient Hebrew midwives. When the wicked king of Egypt, the new king "who didn't know Joseph", sought to destroy the infant sons of the covenant, Shiphrah and Puah refused to comply; they obeyed God rather than men.
There is much more to this account than Shiphrah's and Puah's bravery against an Egyptian Pharaoh, however. For God's saints wrestle ultimately not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places, Ephesians 6:12.
For some time now (most of 1997 A.D.), the messages from the Locktown Church pulpit have been expositions of the First Book of Moses. As we now move into the Second Book of Moses, called Exodus, we will continue to see that inexorable (unstoppable) progress of God's great plan for the redemption of the world which has been pointed out again and again in these messages.
That redemption was first promised on the day of the Fall itself in the garden of Eden. The unfolding of God's redemptive purposes continued from that day, with the preservation of a godly remnant in that wicked age following the Fall. This evil age culminated with that real, historical, and inconceivably destructive cataclysm, the global Flood. With Divinely spared Noah and his descendants, God established His covenant, giving them the sign of the rainbow, and His promise that while the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night would not cease - which speaks volumes against the popular notion that the earth is "fragile", or that mankind could ultimately destroy it.
When nations began to form in the dispersion following God's second great historical act of judgment at the tower of Babel, God's plan went forward with the supernatural call of one man Abraham, the friend of God and father of the faithful. Through Abraham, God promised to build one elect nation, from which nation the Messiah of ALL nations would come. And so we came to that point in history wherein Abraham's grandson Jacob's household of seventy persons took up residence in Egypt, taking refuge there from a famine - a refuge which their brother Joseph (whom they mistreated) had prepared.
In all that has been said about God's work in effecting His plan, not much has been spoken about the forces of evil working against Him. The Bible so speaks, so preaching the full counsel of God must include mention of THE DRAGON.
Let's compare John the apostle's words about the dragon in Revelation 12:3-5, with Genesis 3:15. Please read those passages.
Now the Apocalypse (the book of Revelation, no final letter "S" there, smile) is a most difficult book to understand, and this preacher for one seeks to be very careful in teaching from it. Teachers, says James (3:1), will incur a stricter judgment, and those who care for the souls of others by the public proclamation of the Word of God will give an account for their words.
Verse 9 of Revelation chapter 12 affirms that this dragon or serpent is that evil spirit being called satan. The depiction of the dragon in this chapter is of a malevolent (extremely evil) adversary of the male Child Who comes forth from the woman in John's vision, a male Child Who is to be Ruler of the nations. This is surely our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Psalm 2, Micah 5:2, Daniel 7:14, et. al.)
Meanwhile, back in Genesis 3:15, God had thundered His decree that the "Seed of the woman" would crush the head of the serpent. Though the events of our passage in Exodus 1 took place many centuries after that thundered decree, the ancient serpent had ever remembered God's threat of judgment to come upon him. He continued to remember it long after the days of Shiphrah and Puah. Ever since the promise of redemption through the Seed of the woman was made in Eden after the Fall, satan has longed to destroy that Seed - that promised male Child - at all costs, and thus defeat God's plan!
Consider these other instances of the dragon trying to destroy the seed of the woman:
The first instance was Cain's murder of Abel. John writes that Cain was "of the evil one" (1 John 3:12), and hence slew his brother Abel. Did the evil one reckon that by instigating Abel's demise, he had destroyed the Seed?
Herod, another tool of the devil, ordered the murder of Bethlehem's male babies when the magi, those first fruits of Christ worshippers from all nations, evaded Herod by Divine warning (Matthew 2). Does it not appear that the dragon was at work in this, seeking to wipe out the One born King of the Jews?
And according to Exodus 1, Egypt's king, acting as the devil's pawn, desperately sought to destroy the male covenant heirs!
The first application of these observations from our passage I will make is one of WISDOM. Here is a key precept which you as a Christian possess in your valuable knowledge of our adversary the devil: satan is not OMNISCIENT.
There's one of those theological words again! Omniscient means "knowing all things". We speak of God being omni-potent; He is able to do all things. God can accomplish all His holy, inscrutable will. God is also omni-present; there is no place not immediately open and accessible to the One Who fills all things. So too is He omni-scient, possessing all science, that is knowledge.
THIS IS GLORIOUSLY TRUE OF GOD, BUT IT IS CERTAINLY NOT TRUE OF THE DRAGON!
satan did not know in ancient times the inconceivable greatness of God's plan for the redemption of the world, which continues to unfold to this day. Even now, the mighty, everlasting Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ keeps calling out from the kingdom of satan those who are God's elect. Christ is redeeming souls like the stars of heaven or like the grains of sand by the sea for number, calling them from the four winds. Nor did the devil always know when Christ would be born. He thought he might thwart God by filling Pharaoh's heart to do this despicable evil of killing all the male infants.
Not only is the devil far from all-knowing, but his depraved and consuming pride makes him actually the biggest fool in the universe! The Genesis 3 decree of Almighty God declares ultimate doom for satan. Yet, rather than fall at God's feet and beg with all his might for pardon, the devil goes on in utter futility, fighting against the Almighty!
In Psalm 14:1, David wrote, "the fool has said in his heart, there is no God".
A-theism is not only the insane, ridiculous belief that God does not exist. Those who know He exists can be PRACTICAL a-Theists (intentional spelling; think about it). People can say with their mouths that there is a God, but in Psalm 14 David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, describes a deeper, heart a-Theism.
James (2:19) wrote that the demons know there is one God, and it makes them t~r~e~m~b~l~e. But like simpletons, they still follow their leader satan in acting as if God was NOT their Almighty Judge and Executioner! satan and the demons are PRACTICAL a-Theists. This is abject foolishness, despite their sensual, imitation wisdom! (James 3:15). You who desire to be found in Christ are to be TRULY wise!
You may acknowledge that God exists, but if you don't live in light of the fact that He hates sin and will judge and condemn sinners, you are like the dust eating old serpent - a card carrying fool.
In fact, the one who won't believe the Gospel is even more foolish than satan. satan has no offer of salvation extended to him. Human beings not only have the knowledge that God hates sin and will judge sinners, but the wonderful Gospel news that God offers his eternal love to sinners who repent of their sins! "Come every one that thirsts! Come to the waters! He that has no money; come, buy, and eat; yes, come, buy wine and milk - without money and without price!" (Isaiah 55:1)
Putting off to some vague future the time that you will repent and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, pushing aside the God Who may not offer you another opportunity, is to behave like the devil, foolishly trusting your own misguided belief that you can live however you please and yet escape, regardless of what Almighty God has said.
And this is what He has said to you: 1 Cor. 6:9 - "...do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God".
Many are deceived about these things. There is a terribly DECEPTIVE acceptability of these very practices today in our apostate, decaying society. Let's reflect on a few of them from the Holy Spirit inspired list above. FORNICATION occurs when a man and a woman who are not married to each other engage in sexual relations. Today many fornicating pairs (for they are far from being morally equal to married couples) "live together". This "living together" in the sin of fornication is actually the state of being dead in trespasses and sins together, and on the road to hell!
HOMOSEXUALS do not practice a "valid alternate lifestyle", they are habitually sinning in a most grievous way, and are on the way to eternal misery! This is what God Almighty, Who created mankind male and female, says about those involved in this abominable practice!
According to God, DRUNKARDS are not people with a "disease", they are rebels against God, on the way to the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
REVILERS like those who imitate and approve of cartoon characters like "Beavis and Butthead" may laugh now. Perhaps you laughed upon reading those names in this sermon. But the sobering truth is that according to the Lord, those who behave like this, those who arrogantly despise others and verbally attack their neighbors with satanic venom under their tongues, are on the slippery descent to everlasting shame. Be wise unto salvation...
Let's return more directly to the matter at hand. We said that satan did not know in ancient times the greatness of God's plan for the redemption of the world.
The covenant people had grown to over half a million in number, with a "mixed multitude" attached to them when they finally did leave Egypt (Exodus 12:37, 38). It may have appeared to an observer at the time, one who knew the Divine promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob centuries before, that God's great plan for world redemption was about to be consummated. Surely, one may have thought, the Deliverer was now to come, and world history be wrapped up.
Sound familiar? This seems to have been the mindset of some when Jesus came the first time. Some today are convinced that the final curtain is surely about to fall. Is there not a lesson for us here? "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has fixed by His own authority", said the Lord Jesus (Acts 1:7). No doubt God's plan is bigger than any of us imagine...
At the time of Shiphrah and Puah, the devil apparently thought, "THIS IS IT! IT'S NOW OR NEVER! KILL! KILL! KILL!" And so, maddened by the bravery of a couple of midwives, he moves his princely toadie to issue a ridiculous edict which the Pharaoh couldn't really expect to be obeyed, commanding "all his people" to cast every son who is born into the Nile, and keep alive every daughter (Exodus 1:22). Ha! We see satan and the king of Egypt behaving like two rabid dogs, wildly seeking to destroy anyone on whom they can put their paws and jaws.
But God's plan was greater. Moses the deliverer of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, about to come into the world, was to be only a foreshadow of the greater Deliverer, Jesus our beloved Lord and Savior! The number to be delivered by Him was to be not a mere million or so, but untold billions, who would come from every corner of the earth - from every tribe, tongue, and nation!
As did Joseph's betrayal, affliction, and bondage, all the devil's schemes just keep backfiring in his face, and ultimately advancing God's high and holy purpose to abundantly glorify Himself in bringing many sons to glory and eternal bliss. Not only is there wisdom in understanding this, but we can make a second application of these observations from our passage.
The second application I will make is one of COMFORT. There is a secret delight in all this for God's people.
When I was a boy, sometimes I would get involved in a certain childish folly with other children. It involved taunting one another about our fathers. "My father can BEAT your father", was the cry one would make, alluding to his dad's imagined superlative proficiency as a pugilist. Little did we know then that all of our dads, when in their right minds, would probably avoid such physical confrontations like the plague! But those who had loving dads, as I did, knew that our dads would face anything for our good. "My right arm, if you need it", my own dad would often say...
(Now let me be swift to share an "ASIDE" with any youngsters into whose hands this doctrine may come. I am not saying that to take up the "my father can beat your father" taunt is a good thing! This pastor was not a Christian disciple as a youth. If you already are a committed Christian disciple as a very young person, let me assure you - you are very blessed, and even now are called to live a life utterly unlike the lives of your worldly peers. Don't succumb to the temptation to be a reviler, but let your words be words that cheer up, comfort, and encourage others. See Proverbs 25:11. Moms and dads, make sure they look up that verse)
Nevertheless, there is an analogy to be drawn from those childish affirmations of parental prowess. The Bible pictures all men as either sons of light or sons of darkness. Despite popular opinion, God Who is surely the universal Creator and Provider is not the universal Father in a redemptive sense! Jesus the unique Son of God told those who hated Him, point blank, that they were sons of the devil (John 8:44). The point should be obvious...the One Who is Jesus' Father and our Father can indeed beat their father!!!
What a fine assurance! God's kingdom ever plunders satan's illegitimate kingdom, and grows greater and greater, as Daniel said in his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream: "And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever." (Daniel 2:44)
Christ will build His Church, the gates of hell cannot stand against it. The picture in this saying of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 16:18) is one in which the forces of hell are cowering in their doomed stronghold while the Church, mighty through God, batters it down!
The Lord's people flourish despite all satan's malice, see Exodus1:20. There is great comfort for them in this truth. We are more than conquerors, Romans 8:37. God restored twice as much to Job as the devil took away, Job 42:12ff. The Male Child Who is our Deliverer has ascended to the very throne of heaven, and can't be touched by satan anymore (Revelation 1:18; 12:5, Romans 6:9).
The third application of these observations from our passage which I will make is one of FAITH. Our Hebrew midwives Shiphrah and Puah were on the front lines of a battle. Verse 17 of our text says that Shiphrah and Puah feared God. They were women of faith in a hostile world. Here's the result of their faith:
1. The midwives were not deceived by the arch-deceiver, but had the apostolic mind-set of 2 Cor. 2:11, that is, not being ignorant of satans' schemes. Exercising by faith the wisdom we have in God's word about the devil, we can avoid being deceived by him. The apostle John wrote, "And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. We know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we may know Him Who is true, and we are in Him Who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life." (1 John 5:19, 20)
2. Shiphrah and Puah feared God, not the power of the evil one. Jesus said, "...My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you Whom to fear: fear the One Who after He has killed has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!" (Luke 12:4). When a child of God has true faith, he does not have a cringing terror of his heavenly Father, but a deep reverence and awe of Him which removes all other fears and energizes him to amazing courage...courage to defy the "Pharaohs" of life, face wild beasts or burning stakes, do whatever is necessary to be faithful to God.
3. They were rewarded by God. In Proverbs 11:29 we read, "He who troubles his own house will inherit the wind...". Shiphrah and Puah blessed God's household, namely the covenant nation. And in verse 21 of our text, it is written that God in turn ESTABLISHED households for these two women of God! To this day, some 3,500 hundred years after their heroic deeds of faith, these two ladies are remembered by name in God's inspired, infallible, inerrant, and fully authoritative Word, the Bible. The faith of Mary the sister of Lazarus, according to the prophetic promise of Jesus, has been memorialized in the proclamation of the Gospel. For Jesus said that wherever that Gospel would be preached, the account of how Mary anointed Jesus for His burial with a costly ointment would be spoken in memory of her (See Matthew 26:13 & Mark 14:9, cf. John 11:2 & 12:3). Even so, the names of Shiphrah and Puah are honored for their faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God. When we have faith, God is pleased, and rewards us beyond anything we deserve. The greatest reward is His love.
In conclusion, fellow believer, know that your adversary the devil prowls about like a roaring lion, 1 Peter 5:8. Be wise then, not deceived as is the world that doesn't know our God. Take comfort in knowing that your King, the promised Seed of the woman, has crushed the head of the ancient dragon, and even now uses the devil to bring about good in the long run. Have a courageous faith like those excellent Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah.
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