The Secretes Of Unlocking God’s Promises 2
Shiphrah and Puah
There came a time when the sons of Jacob where living in Egypt and things began to turn out for the worst for them. It was a time when everything and everyone that mattered lined up to do them evil. A time the king of Egypt came up with the perceived idea that the sons of Jacob could pose a threat to his kingdom should war arise? So he set up machinery to protect his interest the best way he could. It could be a trying and perplexing time for anyone when you cannot put a finger to what you may have done wrong, yet people who had the capacity to hurt you manipulate the system to deal treacherously with you and to crown it all, all your cries and prayers seem to fall on deaf ears. The Bible had better speak for himself in our case study.
In time, Joseph and all of his brothers died, ending that entire generation. But their descendants, the Israelites, had many children and grandchildren. In fact, they multiplied so greatly that they became extremely powerful and filled the land. Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. He said to his people, “Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us and are stronger than we are. We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don’t, and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country.” Ex.16-10 NLT.
A brief background to our discourse will do. When a devastating famine hit the land, Pharaoh was pleased to invite Jacob and his children because Joseph, his deputy, Jacob’s favorite son had the secret for keeping his country from extinction. The secret was divinely revealed to Joseph who was then in prison because he feared God and lived a godly life in a society that was utterly corrupt. He never allowed the corruption of the system to change his godly lifestyle: And God took note.
The news soon reached Pharaoh’s palace: “Joseph’s brothers have arrived!” Pharaoh and his officials were all delighted to hear this. Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Tell your brothers, ‘this is what you must do: Load your pack animals and hurry back to the land of Canaan. Then get your father and all of your families, and return here to me. I will give you the very best land in Egypt and you will eat from the best that the land produces.'” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Tell your brothers, ‘Take wagons from the land of Egypt to carry your little children and your wives and bring your father here. Don’t worry about your personal belongings, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’” Gen.4516-20
This Pharaoh was grateful to Joseph and welcomed his father and siblings with joy apportioning to them Goshen, the best region of Egypt. However, the Bible recorded God’s stand on this:
So Jacob set out for Egypt with all his possessions. And when he came to Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father, Isaac. During the night God spoke to him in a vision. “Jacob! Jacob!” he called. “Here I am,” Jacob replied. “I am God, the God of your father,” the voice said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make your family into a great nation. I will go with you down to Egypt, and I will bring you back again. But you will die in Egypt with Joseph attending to you.” So Jacob left Beersheba, and his sons took him to Egypt. Gen.461-5
All that transpired was God’s idea and not any man’s doing. It’s important to establish in your heart that God alone is in control of this world. He knows the exact number of grey hairs in my head and determines the very ones that my barber will remove next time I come under his blade. Yes, He is that detailed. He planned and supervised the movement of Israel to Egypt and personally gave them Goshen, the best region of Egypt. There is no phase of your life that is not under the loving and watchful eyes of the sovereign Lord. Not even our most profound fears or educated doubts. We should trust in Him even in dire conditions. Yes my God is in charge and will do you well despite any bloodcurdling diagnosis.
When Joseph and all that generation died and God fulfilled His word to Jacob by prospering his children abundantly in Egypt, and when indeed it was time for them to get back to their own land, something happened that unsettled them. A Pharaoh came to power who did not know Joseph. This goes to confirm secular history that claims that the present rulers of Egypt were conquerors and not the original African Egyptians that Joseph worked with. It explains his fears that should war break out; these Jews will join forces with the original Egyptians to send them packing. Hence his plans to decimate them were to protect his personal interest. What he and even the Israelis could not comprehend then was that the Supreme Lord of all was working out things for the good of His chosen people. Right now, He is working out things for your own good including the very inclement conditions you find yourself in. yes! He understands.
So the Egyptians made the Israelis their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Ramses as supply centers for the king. But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more the Israelis multiplied and spread, and the more alarmed the Egyptians became. So the Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands. 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. Ex.111-17
And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own. Ex.121 NIV
The best option Pharaoh had to handle his challenges real and imagined came from his use of common sense in observing natural and human occurrences. That actually is how the ungodly handle their fears. Pharaoh came up with this ingenious and depraved idea of a systemic extermination of all male Jews at birth. The secret of unlocking God’s promises is a series of which the story of Shiphrah and Puah form the second part.
Considering the danger their disobedience to Pharaoh poses to their lives, why did these women defy the might of Egypt? They understood Pharaoh’s command and knew the fatal consequences of disobedience, why did they choose to lose everything rather than obey Pharaoh? Of course, they did not know that their deliverer, Moses was the target of the command, so what was it that gave them the impetus to defy Pharaoh’s order. The Bible said that they feared God. What does it mean to fear God and how does this fear of God play out in our lives?
The situation these midwives found themselves in brought out the hidden qualities of their characters – what moral virtues that made up their personalities.
Virtue is that character trait that enables one to live a godly life habitually. It requires the right kind of inner attitude and motivation which is built principally on the framework of the word of God. Using the word of God to grow and sustain moral and intellectual virtues is not natural or automatic but a developmental process that we must diligently pursue if we must come to that point in our lives where we come to fear God habitually.
It is not the circumstances that compel you to do what you do no matter how oppressive, rather it is the person you have ab initio chosen to be that determines what you do. And no matter how contrary that person is, he can make changes for the better with the help of the Holy Spirit of God. We can resolve to transform ourselves so that we can begin to make choices like these women, consistently. Yes, we can.
They lived virtuous lives because they were virtuous. For the virtuous, what matters morally is not what we do at a time, but what sort of person we choose to be and become over time. It is the acquisition of a good character that is – or should be – our moral aim. Doing a virtuous action once in a while is not the same thing as being virtuous. Being virtuous affects the whole man all the time no matter the situation. It affects one’s thinking, desires, and emotions. Virtues are trained habits just like the arts. To mature and secure it you must seek it with all your heart and mind. We must be diligent and careful with it because according to Thomas Aquinas, ‘virtue can be undermined by bad judgments due to ignorance, passion or negligence. If you are not mindful of them, virtues grow in weakness gradually until they die’, he concluded. Thus if we forsake careful oversight of our moral and intellectual lives, we lose our hold of even the ones we have developed: ‘Do not be so deceived and misled!’ the Bible says, ‘Evil companionships (communion, associations) corrupt and deprave good manners and morals and character.’ (1.Cor.1533 AMP).
And it is God’s Law that gives us the pathway to follow if we are to make God’s success in this life. God who created and runs His creation set up standard rules of operation for His glory and welfare of man. To live well is to live according to those rules. The goal of life, therefore, is to live for the glory of God and the means to that is by acquiring and sustaining a virtuous character as a lifestyle. The character of a person defines who he is and there is a clear link between moral character and virtue. The virtues and vices that comprise one’s moral character are typically understood as dispositions to behave in certain ways in certain sorts of circumstances. For instance, an honest person is disposed to telling the truth no matter the circumstances.
The keys to unlocking the promises of God lie with the proper understanding and appropriation of God. Things take their rightful perspective only when we look at them from God’s point of view. And anyone who is outside God’s canopy cannot have a true understanding of the issues of life because nothing has any meaning or abiding without Him. It is God that gives meaning to all things hence, only theology offers the guidelines that rule life on earth. The real answers to life’s problems cannot be found within man. The scientifically minded seek solutions in nature; by observation and experiment, while philosophers seek them within the confines of man’s brain; all are exercises in futility. The true solutions to life’s basic challenges lie only with the infinite God. The only wise man is the man who knows and consequently fears Him; he is the true sage. He, who knows God, has access to the source and workings of everything. God alone has the key that unlocks all things; that’s why those that know Him worship and adore Him.
The king of Egypt had a real problem in his hand. Like any other monarch, he sought for the surest way to solve the perceived insecurity threats to his kingdom. But his real challenge was that he sought for the solution within the confines of man. He never considered God because of his ignorance of the sovereignty of God.
When the king before him had a serious threat of extinction by famine, he sought and got his solution theologically. His assistant connected him with a man who knew and feared God. He listened to the theologically sourced solutions to his challenges, pardoned the prisoner and empowered him to implement his vision. And it worked for him. Now, this other king had no knowledge or respect for God, so he sought his solutions outside God and predictably, failed.
The Hebrew midwives Shiphrah and Puah had a problem too: A real life-threatening problem. They had a choice to make; it’s either they obey the king’s order to kill the male children as soon as they are born (to save their own lives) or they obey God and refuse to commit infanticide. Whatever they did depended on their character. How you respond to issues of life is an interpretation of your character, external circumstances notwithstanding. The Bible said that the midwives feared God and that was what determined their response. Our relationship with God defines us. For the midwives knew the Lord so intimately that submitting to Him in love became a way of life for them. They soon became part and parcel of God’s system.
You become part of God’s system when you have come to accept the fact that He is the creator and sustainer of all His creation including you. Trusting Him becomes easier when you know and accept His sovereignty and no Pharaoh or life issues will threaten your resolve to live for the one without whom anything that was made was made. Col.115-17
The Bible in Job.2828 affirms this too:
And this is what he says to all humanity: ‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding.’” NLT
And according to A.W.Tozer;
‘The key to the right understanding of existence is theology. Before you can begin to understand anything rightly, you’ve got to begin with God’.
There is, therefore, no one, the king of Egypt inclusive, who can get any correct solutions to their challenges if not from the God of the Hebrew Bible. Thus the right response to Him is to acknowledge, worship and consequently obey Him; all these manifest in total submission to Him without any recourse. When you come to this point, you can no longer tolerate any demands on you from anyone or any system contrary to His will. God took the notice when the three Hebrews chose to obey Him rather than bow to King Nebuchadnezzar’s idol. Dan.315-18: In the end, God took the glory and honored their obedience.
What Shiphrah and Puah did by disobeying the King was a clear manifestation of their belief and fear of God. For them, it was a way of life. The decisions of life are not just what to do but who and whose do you want to be. When you determine the kind of person you want to be, your responses will fall in line with that kind of personality. Character determines conduct. A child of God, who has chosen to dwell under the shelter of God, lives a life compatible with his convictions. And God takes note and blesses accordingly. They did not spare the male children so that God will bless them with their own homes, no! Because of whom they were, they were enabled to resist the temptation to sin even when it was against the order of their boss and ruler. What they did was an expression of their way of life. The child of God does not arm-twist God with acts of obedience or sacrifice in order to be blessed rather we obey God because it is the sweetest thing to do; what He has already done for us is more than enough to obey Him for life. And moreover obeying Him is the only right thing to do anyway.
We short-circuit ourselves and miss the promises of God for our lives when we compromise his will in the face of the threat of the king or our boss or even hunger. Whenever you arrive at the intersection and must take a decision, the question should not be what you should do or how to do a particular thing but who and whose am I and who do I want to be now and at the end of life?
The secret of unlocking the promises of God, therefore, lies in the knowledge and appropriation of the sovereignty of God. When we choose to live daily in obedience to the word of God and not the dictates of our revisionist and relativistic society, His protection and providence become our inheritance and the power and majesty of the Pharaohs of this world pale into insignificance.
It may not be easy, but it is the only secured solution of all our challenges as long as we live on earth.
When we walk with the Lord
In the light of His word,
What a glory he sheds on our way!
While we do His good will,
He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey
2 Not a burden we bear,
Not a sorrow we share,
But our toil he doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss,
Not a frown or a cross,
But is blest if we trust and obey
But we never can prove
The delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor, He shows,
For the joy he bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey
Then in fellowship sweet
We will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do,
Where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.
John H. Sammis
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