The Hebrew midwives present a problem for some people. They essentially lie to Pharaoh, disobey the God-given authority over them — and God blesses them for it. Why?
The Hebrew midwives were putting into practice the words that Peter would utter centuries later to the Sanhedrin: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). The midwives could not in good conscience have killed the baby boys and followed Pharaoh’s command, because that would have broken the 5th Commandment. One hesitates to weigh which command or word of God is “worth” more, or is more valuable, but here the choice was clear. They chose to disobey the king of Egypt’s wrongful order, and figured they’d decide how to square it later if, and when, the time came.
God blessed that choice. He made His chosen people stronger and more numerous through the midwives’ godly work. God, as the Author of life, loves life. He wants us to preserve it and reverence it, not for its own sake, but for the sake of Him who gave it to us. Life is a precious and fragile thing, not least because we cannot produce it on our own. Believers value life as the wonderful gift of God that it is.
Contrast that with the culture we live in today! Today, convenience, avarice, and lack of love link hands to steal life away from the most vulnerable members of our society. What does it say about us that we countenance the killing of the unborn, and that hardly anyone even mentions it anymore? For those who despise God’s gift of children, of life itself – as well as the Giver of those gifts – they will find out what it is to struggle under the burden of unfruitfulness and barrenness. Here we speak not of those to whom the Lord in His wisdom has not yet bestowed the gift of children, but rather those who disregard God’s teaching about children and human life and ignore it – in their hearts and in their actions. If people devalue children, or view them as a hindrance instead of a gift from God, they will find out why God says children are a gift from Him — in what they lack.
Midwives do God’s work, in that they work to help bring new life into the world. They are God’s masks, as Martin Luther says, God’s way of doing His work through their sweat, their attention, their sleeplessness, and their care. If you know a midwife, give her a hug today, or thank her. Like much vitally important work in the world, the material rewards they reap do not always match up with the good that they do — but some work is worth doing, regardless of what you’re paid for it. (The same goes for nurses, teachers, pastors, and parents, for that matter.)
Life is a gift of God — not only physical life in this world, but eternal life with Christ. That’s something that can never be bought or earned. It can only be given to you, through faith in His Son Jesus Christ, born of a woman, born under law. By sharing our human life and dying in our place, then rising again, He gives us eternal life. From our first cry until our last breath, He is the “source, goal, and guide of our lives, now and always.” Thanks be to God for the life He gives.
And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah:
16 And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.
17 But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.
18 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?
19 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.
20 Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.
21 And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses.
22 And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.
— Exodus 1:15-22