Then Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave this order to the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah: “When you help the Hebrew women as they give birth, watch as they deliver. If the baby is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.” But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders. They allowed the boys to live, too.
So the king of Egypt called for the midwives. “Why have you done this?” he demanded. “Why have you allowed the boys to live?”
“The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women,” the midwives replied. “They are more vigorous and have their babies so quickly that we cannot get there in time.”
So God was good to the midwives, and the Israelites continued to multiply, growing more and more powerful. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.
Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Throw every new born Hebrew boy into the Nile River. But you may let the girls live.”
About this time, a man and woman from the tribe of Levi got married. The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She saw that he was a fine child and kept him hidden for three months. But when she could no longer hide him, she got a basket made of papyrus reeds and waterproofed it with tar and pitch. She put the baby in the basket and laid it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile River. The baby’s sister then stood at a distance, watching to see what would happen to him.
“The child is the future of the man” is a phrase we often hear. For us Christians born of the Holy Spirit it is even more the case, because Jesus – the Word of God – left heaven to be born as a human child.
Let’s just think about the suffering of many women and their husbands, couples facing infertility. What they wouldn’t give to have a child, their own flesh and blood, and watch them laugh, cry, play, learn, and develop in so many ways? They just want to be a family, a family that is quite different from the relationship between a couple or between those who are single.
Why the Midwives are important?
These two women are named in the Bible. They played a vital role in the lives of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt, a role recognised even by Pharaoh, the enemy of the promises of the one true, all powerful, creator God.
Paul tells us in Philippians 4:3 that our names are written in the Book of Life. “And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.” (NLTse).
The midwives refused to follow Pharaoh’s orders and claimed that the Hebrew women gave birth before they could get there to help.
So how do we react in the face of the worldly pressures that surround us?
Generally, children are looked after physically, morally and intellectually in our free, Westernised society, but not spiritually. Spiritual education in schools is being replaced more and more by courses in “Citizenship” or “Moral Education”.
Pharaoh is still there in a more up-to-date form, and the enemy is the same: those whose aim is to remove this and future generations from the power of a new life in Jesus.
It is primarily within the Christian family, therefore, that spiritual education needs to happen, with the support of the church and its specially-designed structures and trained workers.
So what is to become of the children who do not have the advantage of being brought-up in a family that has Jesus at its centre, or who have no possibility to of being in a local church community? Should we just let them grow up and do nothing, except rely on the mercy and love of God to do something?
These two midwives – Schiprah and Puah – feared God and allowed the children to live…and God blessed them and their families. (And, just to be clear, men can now be midwives as well!)
This is, therefore, our message: lead a life that is focussed on the Lord, bring the children to Jesus and get them into the body of Christ (the church), so that they will grow in body, mind and spirit.
In Luke 18:16, Jesus says, “…Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them!”
In Luke 2:25, Luke tells us, “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and all the people.”
To move forward, we need a deep conviction, time, commitment, perseverance, a real relationship with the Lord, more specialised training in understanding the needs and the stages of development of children, the ability to work as a team…choosing to get involved and to plan.
What should be our view of children?
Among all the new-born babies in Israel, a mother saw that her little boy was beautiful. And the other mothers probably thought the same about theirs! In general, parents see their babies not just with their eyes but with their hearts.
That mother, Jokebed, Levi’s daughter, Amram’s wife, didn’t just see her little boy as a son, or as the next generation of the family, but also as a human being known by God and sharing in the promises of the God of life. She had already brought Aaron and Miriam into the world and she was absolutely sure of one thing: God had a plan for each of her three children. She hid her son for the first three months (a really important time in anyone’s life). And even when the baby was welcomed into the family of Pharaoh’s daughter, absolutely nothing could remove his ingrained sense of belonging to the chosen people. Later, as an adult, Moses supported the cause of his own people, the Hebrews, despite the years spent in Pharaoh’s court.
Psalm 8:2-3 says, “You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength, silencing your enemies and all who oppose you.”
…and Psalm 139:16, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in our book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”
Let’s pray that young people, women and men, hear the voice of God that is calling them to communicate the good news to children, allowing them to choose as early as possible to be part of God’s family.
Acts 2:47 reminds us, “…[they enjoyed] the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.”
A child’s potential
Scientific discoveries continue to uncover the richness of the physical, emotional and intellectual qualities of children. The relationship between twins in a mother’s womb, and the way in which different areas of the brain work to create the senses of smell and taste are some of the most impressive of these discoveries. For example:
- The brain of a new-born baby already contains the one hundred billion neurones, and more than half of the millions of billions of synapses fire-up just after birth, at a time when there is so much new to learn.
- The taste-buds on our tongue that make us sensitive to sweetness, saltiness, bitterness and acidity appear somewhere between the seventh and fifteenth week of life in the womb.
- Two to three months before birth, a baby is able to detect, analyse and remember the odours in the amniotic fluid which come principally from its mother’s food.
Psalm 139:14, “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvellous–how well I know it.”
And when Jesus entered Jerusalem before that first Easter, riding on an ass, a large crowd – including children – welcomed him, waving palm branches and shouting, “…Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD! Hail to the King of Israel!” (see John 12:12-15)…just as Zechariah had prophesied: “…Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey – riding on a donkey’s colt.”
In the crowd there were plenty of hypocrites and religious people, but there were also men, women and children who were disciples with a sincere heart.
Some sort of conclusion
Matthew 11:25 says, “At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: ‘O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike.’”
Let’s go to the children and bring them the water of life which will spring-up from their hearts and give them eternal life (John 4:14).
If we go, children will become participants in their spiritual lives, and begin – one revelation at a time – to own the truths and promises of God for themselves, in Jesus, and with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Psalm 119:130, “The teaching of your word gives light, so even the simple can understand.”
After a weekly open-air meeting in a difficult area, Loan, a girl of about 10 years old, from a war-torn country, one day said to the people who had been telling her about Jesus, “I like it when you are here, because then I can really think about my soul.”