Torah Portion: Sh’mot(Names) Exodus 1-6
HafTorah: Jeremiah 1:1-2:3
Tonight we read the beginning of the redemption of the people from slavery. We read of the birth of Moshe and the first years of his life. This portion is filled with many spiritual lessons for us and I would like to cover a few of them. I believe these will speak to us about who we are and how we are to live as G-d’s people in today’s world.
First, I would like to speak about some of the women in this Torah portion and their contributions to our understanding of how to live in our world. I would like to look at the two midwives and Pharaoh’s daughter. These three women give us a good lesson in how to live our lives when confronted by a society that goes by a standard that is directly in conflict with G-d and His will. Let us begin with the two midwives. Here we have two women given a direct order by Pharaoh himself to kill all the male children that were born to the Hebrews. As far as we can see, their actions are the first case of civil disobedience recorded in scripture. It is recorded in Sh’mot (Exodus) 1:17 they did so because they feared G-d.
When they were summoned before Pharaoh they gave him an explanation that was not true. They refused to carry out what they saw as an immoral edict of the king. They did so without a fuss or making such a big deal about their actions. They did it because it was right and it was what a human being was supposed to do. They did it because they feared G-d.
It took the world awhile to catch up with these two Hebrew midwives. In 1946 the Nazis on trial at Nuremberg offered as their defense that they were just following orders. A new legal concept was established that struck down that defense saying that moral law transcends and over-rides the law of the state. For their stand, G-d gave these two midwives houses. (Sh’mot, Exodus 1:20-21.)
My point in all this is we have an obligation as G-d’s people to speak out against immoral acts of our government. Never let us fall back on the excuse, “They know better than I.” We are to rely on G-d’s word when looking at the acts under taken in the name of law. It does not give us the right to take a life or destroy another’s property but for us it does require that we stand on the side of G-d Almighty. They saved lives when they could. Pharaoh’s daughter falls into the same category as the midwives. She knew the demand of her father yet she took this baby from the water and later he became the leader of the Exodus. Let them be our example.
Connected with this idea is the contest of wills between Pharaoh and G-d. To understand I want us to look at Shemot 5:1 where we read, “Thus says the L-rd, let my people go.” I want to talk a bit about the Hebrew words, “Thus says.” In Hebrew it is koh amor. This phrase is used often in the Hebrew scripture. In fact it is used 461 times and of those 291 times it refers to G-d. It is a way of introducing the words of the sender of the message that is to follow. It is showing the authority of the sender. So here in Sh’mot 5:1 we see it introducing G-d’s message to Pharaoh. In Sh’mot 5:10 we see the exact same words used by Pharaoh when he denies straw to the people making bricks. This is no accident on Pharaoh’s part. He uses these same words to set his authority over and against G-d’s. Again it is a test of who is the real authority. Pharaoh is now on a collision course with G-d. Who is really in charge? In the ancient world and in our world this issue of authority is vitally important. Ultimately, this is settled by G-d Himself.
A good example is found in Jeremiah 27:21-22. Here we see Jeremiah using our phrase, “thus says” to give G-d’s judgment on the exile of the people to Babylon. In Jeremiah 28:2-4 we read where the prophet Hananiah contradicted the words of Jeremiah. What are the people to think? Who are they to believe? Jeremiah settled the question in Jeremiah 28:15-16. The false prophet, Hananiah, died two months later.
So it is very important we are able to discern truth in our times. Sometimes society sets itself up as a god, telling us what is right, what is wrong and how to live. So who has the authority? Is G-d being honored by what society tells us? Does the right and wrong of society line up with what G-d has said? We must be able to think for ourselves, what does G-d expect from us? It impacts every area of our lives and our children’s lives. Think before going along with what we are told is right and acceptable. Think and be able to answer that question for yourself, not what the world tells us.