Do You Know Shiphrah and Puah?

If you had asked me this past Saturday who Shiphrah and Puah are, I would have responded, “Uh………you know, as familiar as those names sound, I’m just not remembering Shiphrah and Puah right now.”  Perhaps some of you know of these two women, but I would have drawn a blank.  Not now, though.  Yesterday’s message at church from Exodus 1 reintroduced me to these two women, and I’m very thankful for that privilege.
For a little background, the people of Israel had traveled to Egypt under the rule of Joseph.  Jacob’s family grew and grew, filling the land of Egypt and becoming mighty.  All the original Israelites had died, including Jacob and Joseph, as well as the Pharaoh who knew and loved Joseph.  A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph.  This king became fearful of the numbers of Israelites who lived in the land, thinking that if there was war then the Israelites would join with the enemy and overtake Egypt.  Therefore, this king made the Israelites become slaves……….but the more he afflicted the people of Israel, the more they multiplied and spread out.
Seeing that Plan A wasn’t working, this Pharaoh moved on to Plan B.  He ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill all the boy babies that were born, thinking that this barbaric form of birth control would limit the growth of the Israelites and thus eventually rid Egypt of the Jews.  This is where Shiphrah and Puah come in.  They were midwives……….probably two chief midwives.  Pharaoh instructed them to kill the boy babies that were born to the Israelite women but to keep the girl babies alive.  Simple enough, right?
But Pharaoh didn’t count on one complication.  Exodus 1:17 says, “BUT the midwives feared God…….”  This fear of God forced Shiphrah and Puah to make a decision.  Verse 17 continues, “……….and did not do as the King of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.”  So sure enough, Pharaoh found out that Shiphrah and Puah were not killing baby Israelite boys………and he called these two midwives to come in for a little meeting.
I don’t know how Shiphrah and Puah felt at this point, but I imagine they were more than a little scared.  This is Pharaoh, who had no qualms about killing innocent baby boys and other Israelites as well.  From everything that was going on around him………….everything that he had initiated concerning the Jews…………..this Pharaoh seems more than a tad bit brutal.  I wish we knew all that was said at this appearance before Pharaoh.  I love thinking of the bravery of Shiphrah and Puah!  Yet it goes far beyond being brave.
Shiphrah and Puah were obedient to God, first and foremost.  I imagine that they feared Pharaoh………..but they feared God more.  This is the fear of God that involves reverence OF Him, and trust IN Him.  It’s the fear of God that Peter and the apostles had when they were given strict orders by the authorities not to teach about Jesus anymore………and Peter answered in Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than men.”
So back to Egypt.   I had never paid much attention to the fact that in verses 20 and 21, God lets us know that He was “good to the midwives.”  Verse 21 clearly says that “…….because the midwives feared God, that He established households for them.”  God blessed them and was good to them because of their obedience.
I really like Shiphrah and Puah.  I love the example they have set for me…………an example that is both profound and yet very simple.  Obedience to God comes first, in every single area of my life.  Obedience takes many different forms for each of us, but in whatever area that God is requiring obedience to Him, it’s best to obey.  Solomon said it so well in Ecclesiastes 8:12, “Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I know that it will be well for those who fear God – who fear Him openly.”
Shiphrah and Puah probably wondered if they would have their heads cut off……….or worse………..as they stood before the king and declared their loyalty to God.  I don’t know what my obedience to God will cost me, but obey I must.  I do know that God promises it will be well for me if I obey.  His blessings take various forms, and some we won’t see until eternity.  But we can take God at His word and know that it will be well for us when we fear Him, and fear Him openly.
Shiphrah and Puah are amazing!  Not because they were women, or because they stood up to mean old Pharaoh, or because they saved babies………all of which are important…….but they are amazing because they obeyed God above anyone and anything.  That’s the kind of amazing I want to be, every day, through good and bad.  Whatever the pressure……whatever the decision………whatever the pain……….whatever the outcome………

 

Fearing and obeying God!

Lessons From the Icicles

 

It’s been another very mild and very dry winter here in Kansas.  It’s felt and even looked more like spring than winter this year.  While it’s been nice not to find ourselves maneuvering over slick roads, we do need some moisture.  And boy, did we get it!  A huge storm plowed into Kansas this week, leaving us in our part of the state with at least 14 inches of beautiful snow.  We woke up to a world of glimmer as the sun shone brightly on the newly fallen snow.  The ground is encased in a sparkly white wrap, fresh and mostly untouched in our big back yard. 
 
I also noticed another result of our massive snow storm as I looked out of our upstairs windows.  There hang long rows of icicles.  They have their own unique beauty, all clear and shiny like hanging crystals.  No two seem to be the same shape as the once dripping water has frozen into various forms and sizes.  Icicles are fascinating to observe and can be very pretty when the sun is shining on them, causing them to gleam in the light.  But icicles also have another aspect.  They can be sharp and dangerous as well. 
  
This morning I saw that the icicles hanging on the front of our house were starting to drip.  They were melting because they were facing east, where the morning sun was beating down upon them.  There was not a cloud in the sky and even though the temperature was cold, the warmth of the sun was still able to reach into their icy coverings and begin the melting process. 
Soon I walked into another bedroom on the west side of our house, where the sun was not yet reaching.  There hung another long row of icicles, still firm and cold in the shadow of the morning.  The sun had not yet touched these frozen fingers of ice, so they were still solid and stiff.  They didn’t really even appear as shiny and beautiful as the icicles that were being touched by the sun.  These hanging jabs of ice seemed colder, even more harsh, than the icicles in the front that were warming in the sun.
 
These icicles reminded me of some of the lingering results of personal storms in my  life…….especially times that have involved the hurt inflicted by others.  I imagine that you have had those hurts as well.  We all experience that pain at some point in our lives.  If we’re not careful, those wounds can develop into icy slivers of bitterness in our hearts.  Where there was once the flowing warmth of relationship there is now the frozen stab of disappointment that has pierced our heart.  Sometimes the situation is private and no one knows about it but us.  Other times the hurt is very public and embarrassing, misunderstood and whispered about by others.  The results are the same, though.  The pain created by these wounds is still very intense regardless of how they occur.
 
Solomon wrote about these matters.  In Proverbs 14:10 he said, “The heart knows its own bitterness…..”  No one but us knows what is in our hearts.  We may appear to be fine and normal to others, but those icy shards of bitterness have frozen our hearts.  We dwell on the situation and rehash the hurtful words and scenarios over and over again.  Our heart knows its bitterness, so very well, and we become numb in our pain……….and numb to the other Person who also knows what is in our heart.  God knows…..and He does care very much about that chill that has encased us and frozen us. 
 
In Ephesians 4:31-32, there are several sins that God tells us to put away.  The first one listed is bitterness.  Then God says to “……be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other…..”  So how can I be kind and tender and forgiving to those that have hurt me so deeply?  How can my heart be warmed again when it is so frozen with injustice and pain?   Well, it’s not easy, but God tells us here that the first way to start is to remember that we are to forgive “……..just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”     How can I be unforgiving when I have been SO forgiven by God?  I am forgiven……..and I must be forgiving to others. 
 
When I take this first step and realize my position in Christ, then His light will begin to thaw that immobile, cold heart of mine.  Forgiveness here carries the idea of releasing.  I need to constantly release to God the people and the situations that have so chilled my heart.  Let Him bear my pain and let Him warm my cold heart.  And if those people are still present in my life, then I am to show kindness and tenderness.  Look for ways to serve, to be kind, and to be tender hearted……..not hard hearted with a frozen heart but to be tender and loving.  It’s not easy, but God will enable and give grace to do what is the most difficult. 
 
Soon l will hear a dripping noise and realize that my once solid, icy heart is thawing out under the warmth of God’s love and His enabling.  He won’t force me to allow His light to shine in my inner being, but if I open that door and allow Him in, then the melting will begin.  Slowly but surely the damaging icicles will dissolve as I focus, not on the other person or on the pain that they have caused, but as I focus on the light of God’s forgiveness and love in my once cold heart.

 

 
Shine Your light in my heart, O God, and let the melting begin!

Lessons From the Long Root

I spent many hours outside last summer as I struggled to keep our flowers, bushes, and vegetables alive in our severe heat and drought. With no sprinkler system, I would spend lots of time standing and spraying our plants with water – or propping the hose up while I busied myself with something else and then would hurry back in order to rearrange the hose once more. During these times of watering was when I noticed the little weed in the flower bed that surrounds the light pole in our front yard. This small area was where I usually began my morning watering. I would prop the hose up just so and then I would take that time to pull more of the hose out of the hose box, get the pruning shears out of the cabinet in the garage, or put on my garden shoes before moving the hose to another flower bed.

I saw the little weed and thought that I really should pull it, but then would forget about it as I began to take care of other matters. It was nestled along the edge of my pretty yellow Coreopsis and wasn’t very noticeable. Its leaves even blended in with the Coreopsis leaves and so it wasn’t offensive or annoying. Day after day went by. Some days I didn’t even think about the little intruding weed. On other days, when it would once again grab my attention, I was usually busy with something else. I told myself that I would pull it later, or that tomorrow I would get to it. Besides, it wasn’t doing any harm there. It actually added some nice green color to our flower beds that were becoming increasingly brown in the oppressive heat. There was always an excuse for not pulling the seemingly harmless weed.

One hot day as I worked among my flowers, I looked down and saw that this little weed had grown significantly. Still, it wasn’t huge but it sure was larger than I had noticed before. Silly me, I thought. Why have I been waiting to pull this once-little weed? I just need to get rid of it now, I reasoned. I reached down and gave the weed a pull………and nothing happened. I pulled a bit harder, and still the weed didn’t budge. I gripped harder on the small growth, gave a firmer yank, and still it sat firm in its place in the dirt. This small, harmless weed was certainly being stubborn! It wasn’t letting go of its foothold very easily at all! I was so deceived by the small growth that I could see, that I was in turn shocked by its apparently deep growth in the soil. I once again got a firmer hold, jiggled the weed back and forth, pulled with all my might…………..and finally out came the root. What a surprise! The root was very long – much longer in proportion to the rest of the plant. While I had procrastinated about getting rid of the little weed or argued with myself about how harmless the little weed was, this little weed was growing a deep root system that could have damaged or killed my pretty Coreopsis. There was no excuse for my neglect – a wise gardener knows better.

 

I get very busy in my everyday life. Much of what I do is valuable and important. No matter the season of life I am in, my days seem to stay full and active. I may prop one hose up here while I’m running around over there taking care of other matters. How easy it is for some sin to begin taking root in my life, but I’m too busy to hardly notice. Or maybe I notice an attitude or a thought or an action, but I disregard it as being small and insignificant. When I recognize it again, I say that I’ll handle it later. I have so much of importance to accomplish today. Soon my little sin is taking root in my heart. It’s becoming such a part of me that I don’t feel nearly as bothered by it as I used to. On the outside my sin looks small and shallow, but inside there is a long root. And when the day comes that I am convicted or that my sin begins to affect me or others, and I want to uproot it – I may have a harder time doing that than I ever expected. God, my Master Gardener, will uproot my sin if I let Him…………but the damage in my life and heart may be there to stay. How much better it would have been if I had paid attention to the warning signs…….if I had noticed the growth of that sin in my heart……….and had uprooted it at the beginning.

God warned Israel in Deuteronomy 29 to not associate with the heathen tribes that lived all around them – to not adopt their wicked ways or worship their false gods. In verse 18 God warned Israel: “…so that there will not be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of those nations; that there will not be among you a root bearing poisonous fruit or wormwood.” What pointed and practical advice this is for me today! Wherever I am in life, I know that I need to carefully nurture the good and the spiritual………….and weed out the wrong and the ungodly from my heart. To weed it out quickly before it grows a long root! Give me wisdom and discipline, Lord, to keep the unwanted weeds from rooting in my life.

Lessons From the Brown Pine

I’ve been observing the large pine tree way out back for some time now. Months, really. I look at it out of the kitchen window when I’m at the sink; stare at it while I’m watering flowers out back; glance at it when I pass an upstairs window. Now I know that my first inclinations were true. Our huge pine tree does indeed have Pine Wilt. At first there were only a few brown needles that started presenting themselves among the pretty evergreen. Pines sometimes do that and so there was no reason to overreact. It’s just that our history here has taught us that this might spell trouble. In the 12 years that we’ve lived at this house, we’ve cut close to 40 pine trees because of Pine Wilt. Some were small trees that were crowded into our back tree line and haven’t been missed. Others, like this current pine, are huge and beautiful and leave a hole when they are gone.

 

It’s amazing how Pine Wilt occurs. It’s a disease that’s caused by a small nematode laid by a beetle. This nematode buries itself into the trunk and limbs of the pine tree and begins to eat away at the heart of the wood. No one can see the nematode so there is no way to observe it doing its dirty work inside the tree. A few brown needles begin to appear but sometimes even then we’re not fully sure of the danger within. Some trees continue to live and seemingly thrive despite a few brown patches. However, one day we notice a distinct difference in the tree as the brown begins to overtake the branches rapidly. By the time this occurs, the end has already come and the tree needs to be cut. Actually, when the nematode is deposited inside the tree it spells the end of the tree because there is no way to be rid of this destroyer. The outward evidence only demonstrates the death that has been inside the tree for many months.

I know that in my walk with the Lord for these many years there are nematodes of various sorts that are deposited in my soul if I am not careful. How easy it is to let down my guard during the busy days of this life; during the stresses of living in this world; during the peaceful, carefree days. I may feel that I have a handle on spiritual issues and don’t need to spend so much time with the Lord in prayer and Bible study. Stress can create all sorts of dangers that eat away at my inner being. Worry, fear of the unknown, bitterness towards those who have hurt me, anger at others or at God for my lot in life – the list goes on and on. Even such disagreeable but unseen “smaller” nematodes can eat away at my effectiveness and joy. How often do I envy someone else’s house, figure, or bank account? How many hours do I spend worrying about my children instead of praying? We all have issues that can eat away at our core and make us brittle, unhappy believers. And sooner or later those inner eaters of our joy will start showing outwardly. The brown and ugly attitudes will overtake the pretty green of growing in grace. Our lack of joy and peace and other fruits of the Spirit will be evident to all. Through God’s grace it’s not too late for any of us to say along with David in Psalm 139:23 – “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me; and lead me in the everlasting way.” I don’t want to turn brown and useless. I want to, with God’s grace and strength, let His hand rid me of the inner destroyers of my life and testimony. I want to be evergreen and full of life for His glory!