Exodus 1: 15-22
I invite us to see the Pharaoh in the passage as a stand-in for every dominant system of power and wealth that believes it is legitimate to accumulate endless money, food, land, and human resources, which is the business of scarcity. Yes, Pharaoh is a good metaphor for every political and social economy in which every big one who eats little one, and the powerful take advantage of the vulnerable-- today’s Pharaoh can be everyone who has many names and many faces.
We do not know “why” the Bible does not tell us about Pharaoh’s name. Rather, I invite us to think of “why” the Bible records these two seemingly nobody-like women’s names: because they were carriers of newness. It is amazing that we know their names-- Shiphrah and Puah--even though we do not know Pharaoh’s name in this episode.
By defying Pharaoh’s decree, two women did not kill the babies that Pharaoh wanted to kill all of them. When the two women were asked by Pharaoh’s national security team—“Why have you done this?”--they did not tell the investigators that they feared God. The two women are convinced that the true force of life comes from the creator God, not the Pharaoh, not the dominant power around them, but the power of God.
I believe this tension is still an ongoing contest between the power of today’s Pharaoh and the unlikely power of today’s Shiphrah and Puah. Who and what is today’s Pharaoh for us?
The temptation for all of us that lies ahead of us every day is to conform automatically to Pharaoh’s rule, to the dominant way and system in reality—saving more because we do not have enough yet, getting ahead of your neighbor, excluding all who are unlike ourselves, fending off all strangers who can take advantage of us.
Maybe giving to the church is also one good example of how we might refuse to conform to the way of the world, where saving more and more sounds like the natural course of action. Being a believer, a disciple, and a Christian means that we all are called to be transformed to go against today’s Pharaoh, which can reveal who we are and whom we trust, the God of Exodus.
The calling for us this morning is that we keep refusing to conform to today’s Pharaoh. Rather, we are being transformed over and over again—choosing to practice generosity instead of conforming to today’s Pharaoh in parsimony, choosing to practice hospitality instead of conforming to today’s Pharaoh in exclusiveness, and choosing to show and practice neighborliness even among our enemies, or those who hate us, instead of conforming to today’s Pharaoh in vengeance.
This is very good news that we are called to practice. With this story, people will know and remember who we are as Christians and whom we trust, the God of Exodus, who still calls us to act and live our daily lives in transforming ways.
Thanks be to God.