8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavyburdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. 13 So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves 14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.
15 Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16 “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.”17 But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live.18 So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” 20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. 22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.” (Exodus 1:8-22, English Standard Version)
This mornings’ Scripture reading included Exodus 1. I am the blessed father of two little girls: Natalie (5 years old) and Mary Gwen (almost 3 years old). They are such a delight! I pray I am the kind of father God wants me to be and that they need. This Scripture (Exodus 1:8-22) got me thinking about my own two daughters and the other children in the church: who and what kind of persons do we hope, and more importantly GOD wants, them to become?
Recently, we challenged the members of the church of which I am an associate pastor (Madison UMC) to live out the commitment that is part of the Baptismal Covenant, which says, “we will pray for you, that you may be a true disciple who walks in the way that leads to life” (see United Methodist Hymnal, p. 35). We asked for a specific commitment: take one or more prayer cards on which we have the names of every child in the church (insofar as we know). Then, pray for these children and their parents who have the primary responsibility for faith nurture.
Shiprah and Puah were two special women remembered by name in the Bible. So many people are unknown to us from these times, much less by name. But Shiprah and Puah stand out as exemplary women of God. It is my prayer that Natalie and Mary Gwen will become, by the grace of Christ, such women: God-revering, noble, valiant in faith, willing to resist evil forces and powers and injustice, standing up and standing out for God’s people in a world that seems to be on a downward spiral. And, I pray that this will be true in the lives of all the children and families we are praying for throughout the life of the Church of Jesus Christ–and indeed, all the children of the world!
Prayer: Living and Loving God, you created us all. Children are close to your heart, and you demonstrated that by the great willingness with which your Son Jesus welcomed and blessed them. Work mightily through the Holy Spirit in the hearts of us parents, and especially in the lives of our children, that we may be led to the kind of whole-hearted faith and obedience we see in Shiprah and Puah; through Jesus our only Lord and Savior we pray. Amen.