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In Praise of Shiphrah and Puah

In Praise of Shiphrah and Puah

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Category: Leading in Hope

Fatalism holds that what will be, will be. Or, as immortalized in the signature song of actress-singer Doris Day, Que Sera, Sera.

It seems to be the actual or implied explanation of life for many people. There was nothing I could do. It is just my fate. I wish things could have been different. We have no choice. It is God's will. Don't fight it.

No matter how you verbalize it, this passive way of reading life and your place in it reflects more superstition than faith. It declares that something or somebody has put you in a set of circumstances where nothing you do will matter. It is a way of proposing that one conform, give in, and accept her fate.

But your choices, reactions, and willingness to push back against life do matter. They make all the difference for you and others.

Do you know the names Puah and Shiphrah? They definitely were not fatalists! In a situation others judged hopeless, they believed they had a moral duty to act on what they knew was right. When it would have been easy to say there was nothing they could do but follow orders, they believed their choice to do the right thing could make a difference. When they could have pleaded their insignificance in the grand scheme of things, they defied a king.

Shiphrah and Puah were midwives in Egypt over 3,000 years ago. At a time when it appeared the God of the Jews had forgotten them, they made a decision that allowed a male infant named Moses to live.

Pharaoh was bothered by the growing population of Jews in his domain. So he enslaved the ethnic group that had been invited into Egypt back in the days of Joseph — Egypt's deliverer in a time of famine. Pharaoh gave the order to the midwives attending Jewish women to allow female babies to live but to see to it that the males did not survive their birth (Exodus 1:8-22).

Thus two women from the lowest social and economic strata of their time were thrust into the mainstream of biblical history. Although we are not certain of the name of the Pharaoh they defied, their names are right there on the page of your Bible. World leaders are bit players in the biblical way of thinking about and living through history. People such as Puah and Shiphrah are at the heart of the story of God's activity to bless and save. The same is true in your world.

If you are discouraged to the point of being ready to give up, don't. If you think your presence doesn't matter or that nothing you can do will make a difference, you are mistaken. If Shiphrah and Puah had thought that way, Moses and Aaron would have been dead on arrival. They did what was right. God took it from there. They may not have lived to know the outcome.

Life is not hurtling down a predetermined path to a forgone conclusion. You matter to the way God sees and moves what we call history. Choose wisely.

About the Author

Rubel Shelly
Rubel Shelly preached for the Woodmont Hills Church in Nashville for thirty years. He is the author of more than 20 books. He has accepted the position of President of Rochester College. For more details, click here or email Rubel.

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