Unsung Heroes: Shiprah and Puah
Pastor Diane Gordon
Mt Pleasant FUMC
August 27, 2017
Scriptures: Exodus 1:8-22 and Exodus 2:1-10
††††††††† I truly believe that the Lord works in mysterious ways. There are events and happenstance that some might call coincidence but more often than not, there was more to it than we know.
††††††††† In the 1300-plus years before Jesus was born, the Israelites lived as slaves to Egyptians. Gone were the days when Joseph was Vizier over the Pharaohís properties and his visions and plan saved all the people from starvation due to famine. Gone were the days when the Israelite people were protected by virtue of association with Joseph, trusted leader under the Pharaoh. Joseph was long passed, and new Pharaohs ruled the land. No one remembered.
Now the Israelites were a fruitful ethnic religious group, growing in population numbers and strength and it made the new Pharaoh nervous to think that there were so many of them and they were so strong. They had to be, to build all that they built of stone for the Egyptian rulers.
††††††††† A brutal form of birth control was prescribed by the Pharaoh; the midwives were ordered to kill every Hebrew infant boy that they delivered. We arenít told specifically if Shiprah and Puah were Israelites, but either way, they quietly refused. Their fear of God took precedence over obedience to the oppressive, cruel order of the Pharaoh. They practiced a form of civil disobedience that saved baby Mosesí life.
I would call these two midwives heroes. Most of the world has long forgotten their names, but all Jews, Christians and Muslims remember who Moses was. Had it not been for Shiprah and Puahís refusal to comply with the cruel directive things would never have been the same.
There are times in all our lives when we must consider doing things that go against the grain of common practice, step out of our comfort zones or defy the directive of someone with power over us. Considering what is just, right, and good in the eyes of our faith matters. Going along to get along often leads down a wide, easy path to destruction, both for our own integrity and our faith.
Jesus often spoke of taking the more difficult, narrow path that leads to life. He always urged people to think beyond themselves, their own self-interest or profit, and to consider what good we can do for those least powerful, those at the margins of society: the poor, the widow, the orphan.
When we stop and think about it, each of us has had a Shiprah or Puah in our lives; someone who has taken a risk to help us live through a difficult time, to mentor us, to teach us the right path. Who might that be for you?
My earliest such person was my grandmother, Margaret Allen. My parents had me when they were very young. Margaret supported my motherís desire to finish high school, and volunteered to watch me every day so mom could go to school. My Aunt Jeannette, who was only nine when I was born, helped out after school and on the many weekends I spent at my grandparentsí. Grandpa worked as a chemist for Kelloggís and that trio plus other grandparents, aunts and uncles loved me through my infancy and childhood.
In 1955-56, it was not socially acceptable to get pregnant at age 16. Girls were often sent away during the pregnancy, only to return home after giving birth, leaving the child behind to be adopted. My family gave me the gift of defying that social norm. They loved us all throughout the experience and influenced me with their faith in a God that loves us all, no matter how we started out. Godís hand was at work in many lives, preparing a future that only God could see.
Whose Shiprah and Puah are you called to be? Where have you felt Godís tug to step out in faith and make a difference in someoneís life?
On the morning of Saturday, September 30th, our church is doing a workshop for everyone who considers this their church. We want everyone to participate in this event in order to help put our churchís vision into action. If our vision is to be ďa welcoming, vital church, filled with people of all ages, from all walks of life and stages of faith, growing together to become deeply committed Christians who follow and serve Jesus Christ,Ē we want to know what God has been nudging you towards. What ministry Ė new or old Ė can we grow that will bring you closer to Christ? What area would you love to take part in expanding that will create new disciples? What needs in our community do you see that our church could meet as we serve Jesus? Where do you have connections to people of other walks of life that might help us connect the church and create new relationships?
We want to live into the vision with intentional steps and we need everyoneís voice and place at the table. We hope you will mark your calendars for that morning, the last Saturday in September. Also, there will be an introductory session on Sunday, September 24th, between the two services, to give everyone an opportunity to get a sense of where we are as a church and receive questions to ponder through that week.
Something we will do this year, as a church, will shape lives. The Holy Spirit is speaking into us words of encouragement, courage to do something new that may be difficult, but because it comes from God it will be entirely possible, even if our minds cannot quite understand how. Even if we donít think we can afford it. Even if we have never seen it done anywhere else. All things are possible with God. What is it?
As God prepared Mosesí mother to let go of her beautiful baby boy floating away in that basket on the river, she could not have foreseen what would happen. Thatís faith.
As God touched the heart of the Egyptian princess when she caught sight of that baby in amongst the bulrushes, she instantly loved him even though she knew what was happening. This was a Hebrew baby boy, meant to have been killed. She too committed an act of civil disobedience as she took him as her own, hired a wet nurse and paid Mosesí own mother to care for him. Two women, colluding in this act, for the sake of Godís will that this child grow up strong, educated, and passionate. Thatís Godís hand at work, even though neither woman had known the other and they came from different walks of life.
God calls us to actively serve, just as God has called all people who faithfully and actively gave of their time, treasures, and often their very lives to model for us what a life of faithful service looks like and how powerful an effect it can have on peopleís futures.
We live in a time that needs the power of Godís love more than ever. Together, we will be faithful and move into the will of God, setting aside our fears and doubts, and charting the course that God would have us travel.
May it be so. Amen.