They were unknown.
They were midwives.
They lived far away and long ago.
And they were very brave.
Their names were Shiphrah and Puah, unusual names to you and I. In fact, not many of us have ever heard their names before. This could be because these are Hebrew names and they lived more than 3,600 years ago in ancient Egypt. I, myself, only recently met these two women on a bible study excursion into Exodus. But because I have been so impressed by their bravery and wanted some of it for myself, I wanted to know more about them.
Here’s their backstory…
The Hebrews had been in Egypt for more than 400 years and had “been fruitful and multiplied.” So much so that Pharaoh feared they would rise up against him someday.
This Pharaoh plotted many plans to curb the Hebrew population: cruel slavery, harsh labor, even casting them to the lowest tier of society -- slaves. Still, they grew in numbers and prospered.
Finally this Pharaoh resorted to murder. He ordered that all male babies be killed.
Shiphrah and Puah were called before Pharaoh where he commanded them as they went to deliver the Hebrew babies to kill those that are male, telling the mother it died in childbirth. As for the girls, they could live; no worry of uprising there, and there were many uses for girls. But as for the baby boys, kill them all.
Imagine what that was like, standing in front of the King of Egypt, whom the Egyptians worshipped as a god. This “god” had the power to destroy these women if they disobeyed his commands. And now he was ordering them to kill the innocent infants of their own people with their own hands.
Just so you know, they don’t do it.
Sorry for the spoiler, but you looked worried.
“But the midwives feared God [with profound reverence] and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded, but they let the boy babies live.”
Exodus 1:17 (Amplified Bible)
Shiphrah and Puah choose to follow their God and not what the culture around them saw as a god. No matter what the consequence, they would stand between the villain and the vulnerable. These two women served God faithfully and risked death to deliver His people. Quite literally.
This. Is. Bravery.
This is not so different as the world we live in today. Our culture calls us to believe that money, power and any number of things are what we are to pursue and serve as if it were our god. It takes courage to stand with God when you are called to choose what you will follow.
However, there are many stories of those that stand in bravery even now; Some are big and obvious where people lay down their lives to preserve the lives of others, much like Shiphrah and Puah’s.
And some acts of bravery are small, unseen and come in everyday ways. I am sure you have been brave in many of these ways…
Forgiving careless words when you could hold a grudge
Choosing right when wrong looks attractive
Being a peace maker
Making change inside yourself
Embracing the outcast
It takes an act of bravery any time you place what God asks before what the world asks.
It’s not popular and can even be risky, as it was for these two midwives.
Can I assure and encourage you, friends? Each time you and I step out in courage and act like we trust God more than anything else, God promises two things:
God will be there to help.
There will be rewards for your work.
God promises that there will be rewards, some being personal and some to benefit those around us. But all are both real and eternal.
“But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak,
for your work shall be rewarded.”
2 Chronicles 15:7 (ESV)
Let’s look to the life story of Moses to see the rewards God gave! As unknown as Shiphrah and Puah are, Moses is downright famous. Nonetheless, the bravery of these midwives, standing up in bold reverence for God, is what make Moses birth and life possible!
God’s plan for Moses as “The Great Deliverer” of the Hebrew people out of slavery came to be because of these brave women, and the nation of Israel was born. That was a reward for generations of God’s people, including the decedents of Shiphrah and Puah. God rewarded their bravery by giving them a family!
Reflection Time! How would you answer these for yourself?
What does bravery look like in your own life?
When presented with the choice, how will you stand with God?
What risks are you taking/want to take that need this kind of bravery?
What rewards or benefits have you seen because of your bravery for God?
May your eyes and hearts be opened, my brave friends, to see the opportunities God is sending your way to step out in bravery.
And I’ll be standing right there with you. We’ll be brave together!