Courageous Servants, Cowards, and the Church

Joseph Parker | The Stand

In a short, very interesting, and powerful story from Exodus 1:15 – 22, we see two young women with a dilemma who turn it into an opportunity to glorify God and His creation.

   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. Exodus 1:15-21

Picture them – Shiphrah and Puah, two ordinary women who had the job of being midwives. Their job was helping pregnant mothers during the delivery and birthing of their babies.

Then, one eventful day, Pharaoh gives them a strong, very clear order. He directs them to deliberately kill all the Hebrew baby boys when they are born. It does not seem that he gave them any reasons why they were to do it. He simply commanded them to do this.

The Word of God tells us very clearly “But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders. They allowed the boys to live, too,” (Exodus 1:17).

Well, in time, the pharaoh realizes that the baby boys were not dying. So he calls in the two midwives and confronts them, asking why they were allowing the baby boys to live.

Shiphrah and Puah gave this response, “The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women…They are more vigorous and have their babies so quickly that we cannot get there in time.” Exodus 1:19.

Well, what did the pharaoh know about birthing babies? He probably knew little to nothing about the world and business of delivering babies.

So, God, in His sovereignty, gave Shiprah and Puah grace and wisdom enough to outsmart the great pharaoh. So he ended up having to change his whole strategy in getting rid of the Hebrew baby boys by declaring them to be cast into the Nile River (Exodus 1:22).  

These two courageous women stand as outstanding role models of bravery for people who follow the Lord for all time – even in a time of crisis. They courageously stood against the orders of the man who by the world’s thinking, may have been considered the most powerful man in the world at that time.

The great king of Egypt, Pharaoh, gave an order, and they deliberately disobeyed that order. Why? Because “. . . the midwives feared God,” Exodus 1:17.

They stood up for what was right without knowing what the outcome would be. That’s courage. They chose to honor God more than a human ruler. They put the will of God before the will of men. That is boldly standing for God, His will, and His Word.

Walk with courage despite controversy

Shiphrah and Puah, here in this story teach by example how to stand up for what is right. They are showing us boldly that it is right to stand up for right and stand against wrong.

They feared God and knew in their hearts that killing innocent babies was wrong. They didn’t even have the Ten Commandments as of yet. Moses, around this time, was just a baby boy that is born early in Exodus.

Pastors, ministers, and believers in the body of Christ today can learn some very powerful lessons from Shiphrah and Puah. We in the church today stand as ambassadors for the Kingdom of God. And we are guided and counseled by God’s Word.

Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. Joshua 1:6-7

Today governments and governmental leaders, sadly, have told us that it is alright to kill babies in the womb. The government tragically protects and promotes abortion. They tell us that it’s a woman’s right to choose and that women have reproductive rights.

God is looking for Shiphrahs and Puahs today. He is looking for people who fear Him. God is looking for believers who obey His Word. God is looking for believers who know what His Word clearly says about first seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33) and not murdering (Exodus 20:13).

God is looking for believers who will courageously stand up and be counted to stand up for His Word and for His babies. Well, what does it mean to stand up for God and stand up for His children? Well, it can mean many things.

1.  Pray daily for the spirit of boldness for believers, so we will courageously follow the Lord, be disciples, and faithfully make disciples. Pray for the ending of abortion in our nation and in our world.

2.  Pray much for the ministries on the front lines of spreading the gospel and standing for life.

There is never a time to apologize for or shrink back from standing on the Word of God, for following the Word of God or for speaking the Word of God.

God’s Word is our guidebook, our instruction manual for all of life. We are not ever to decide that disobedience to God’s Word for any reason, is ok.

Why do we see so many persons who say that they love God, yet are not involved with the work of spreading the gospel, making disciples, or speaking out against the killing of innocent children in the womb? Sadly, the reasons are varied and numerous.

Tragically, too many believers have opted not to walk courageously. In fact, too many are acting like cowards.

A bit strong one might say? Not really.

The reality is that many among us who say we love the Lord walk and act like cowards. And the reality is the truth hurts. But very often it needs to be said because the truth helps us see ourselves for who we are and where we stand. And once we see ourselves, if we are not who we should be, we can repent and ask God to help us step up to where we should be.

Today, too many pastors walk as cowards when it comes to what and how they are preaching and teaching from the pulpit. Many church leaders choose to stay away from issues and topics deemed “controversial”.

Too often, church leaders shy away from challenging believers to live sacrificially. Why? Well, it’s easier not to ruffle feathers in the pews if we stay away from “controversial” issues and if we avoid encouraging believers to sacrificially serve the Lord Jesus. Too often leaders or church people will say things like “We don’t want to offend anyone.”

The gospel of Jesus Christ is “offensive.”. Preaching the truth is “offensive.” Clearly preaching the Ten Commandments and telling people what is right and what is wrong is or can be offensive.

Too many “believers” don’t seem to believe. And too many who say they love the Lord live as cowards. Sometimes a little inconvenience or awkwardness can cause many a believer to shy away from sharing the gospel or giving out a gospel tract in a given setting.

“The last time I tried to give someone a gospel tract, the man I offered to give it to said he didn’t want it, he was very rude and he really embarrassed me. Should I still witness in public when people sometimes do things like that?” someone might ask.

Well, the Lord Jesus, in order to save us went through quite a lot for us. Christ allowed himself to be slapped, beaten, abused, publicly humiliated, and ultimately crucified. Since our blessed Savior went through all of this for us, can we not simply go through a small degree of sacrifice, inconvenience, and discomfort in service to Him?

When it comes to standing for and preaching about life, sadly, cowards abound. Often pastors say things like “I don’t want to hurt the feelings of my parishioners” or “People will get offended if I talk about or preach about this.”

Consider what happens when we as preachers of the gospel and followers of Christ as a whole, don’t preach, teach, and share the truth. People die in their sins, and people who think they are on their way to Heaven may die and go to hell.

Also, babies die by the cruel means of abortion, and people who have had abortions walk into a devastating life due to the aftermath of an abortion. Men and women who go down this road experience extreme regret, depression, heartache, nightmares, and sadly, sometimes suicide. We are called to preach the truth – the truth that sets people free.

Again, Shiprah and Puah are outstanding role models for the church today when it comes to being courageous in the way we followed our Lord.

Every pastor, preacher, and believer should ask: Am I a courageous follower of Christ or am I a coward? As Matthew 17:20 tells us “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

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About the Author

The Stand
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