"And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, 'Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive?' And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, 'Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them.'"
Exodus 1: 18, 19
King James Version
"Shiphrah and Puah"
A Word Spoken In Season
"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver."
Proverbs 25: 11
King James Version
How have I seen the use of words impact a situation?
Do I ask for God's wisdom when I speak?
"Wisdom is knowing when to speak your mind and when to mind your speech."
"….a word spoken in due season, how good is it!"
Proverbs 15: 23
King James Version
I am blessed to have heard some wonderful speakers in my lifetime. Because I was quite young when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was so brutally shot, and his life cut short, I never had the benefit of hearing him speak in person. However, I do know individuals who were present when he delivered some of his most famous speeches, including, "I Have A Dream." And what they have told me is that it wasn't just the words Dr. King spoke that moved them so much, it was also the passion of his convictions that made these words have such a powerful effect, not only during his lifetime, but even to this very day and into the future.
Woven throughout all the words Dr. King delivered, was a constant call to all of us to rise above hatred; to eschew violence in favor of peace; and to become inhabitors of courage instead of victims of fear.
Speaking about courage in the face of fear, Dr. King said:
"Courage is an inner resolution to go forward in spite of obstacles and frightening situations; cowardice is a submissive surrender to circumstance.
Courage breeds creative self-affirmation; cowardice produces destructive self-abnegation.
Courage faces fear and thereby masters it; cowardice represses fear and is thereby mastered by it.
Courageous men (and women) never lose the zest for living even though their life situation is zestless; cowardly men (and women) overwhelmed by the uncertainties of life, lose the will to live.
We must constantly build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear."
Thousands of years ago, two midwives in an Egyptian throne room, before the mighty Pharaoh who held the balance of power in his hands, built a "dike of courage" as they used their God-given wisdom and spoke simply, plainly, and passionately to power.
Ordered by Pharaoh to come before him, Shiphrah and Puah were confronted with the fact that Hebrew boy babies were not being killed. Pharaoh pointed at the two culprits. The disobedient midwives who feared God, not Pharaoh. With all the power and authority under his dominion, Pharaoh demanded answers. And boy, he got answers.
Remember, Pharaoh had come up with "Plans" for eliminating the Hebrews. Plan #1 was to work them to death. And now the midwives used Pharaoh's own failed plan as a weapon against him.
"Pharaoh," they began, "The Hebrew women are different than the Egyptian women. Your own work program has made these women tough and strong. Having babies is nothing to them in comparison with the torture of an Egyptian taskmaster. When we are notified a baby is on the way, by the time we arrive, it's too late. We aren't needed anymore." The word the midwives used to describe the Hebrew women was "lively," which means "vigorous." These were healthy, strong women whose strength was partly the result of Pharaoh himself, who through hard work, only made God's chosen people stronger.
How could Pharaoh argue with a situation he helped create? He could not gainsay the wisdom spoken by the midwives. Talk about words spoken in season. As Solomon wrote, the words of the midwives were "apples of gold in pictures of silver."
What a lesson we can learn from Shiphrah and Puah. They didn't argue. They didn't denigrate. They didn't attack. With the quiet confidence of a God they feared and a God who was on their side giving them the words they needed at the time they needed them most, these two life-givers spoke truth to power. With the courage of heaven in their hearts, they stood up to a King who feared the strength of a people whose God he mocked.
Courageous confidence in the face of fear. This is what Shiphrah and Puah's God promised them because they respected and followed Him. God's daughters today can still count on their Father's courageous confidence when called upon to stand by their convictions in the face of Pharaoh's power.
"God grant me the courage not to give up what I think is right, even though I think it is hopeless."
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz
Be Thou My Vision
"Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
Naught be all else to me save that thou art;
Be thou my best thoughts in the day and night.
Waking and sleeping thy presence my light.
Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word.
I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord.
Be thou my breast-plate, my sword for the fight,
Be thou my armour, and be thou my might,
Thou my soul's shelter, and thou my high tower,
Raise thou me heavenward, O Power of my power."
8th Century translated by
Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus