As I read the following words from Exodus last night during our campus study, a chill went down my spine.
“Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them.”
These words were written thousands of years ago, but they resonated with me as if they had been written yesterday.
A people had immigrated to a foreign country because of life-threatening conditions in their homeland. The immigrants thrived in the new land and their population grew. For many years they lived peacefully in this new land and made great contributions to its well being.
Then a new king arose.
And this new king began to spread fear about the immigrants. They were multiplying. They were becoming powerful. Soon this new race will outnumber and outpower our own!
We must close ranks in fear.
We must deal shrewdly with them to tame their numbers among us.
Thousands of years ago this resulted in a pharaoh commanding midwives to kill all the baby boys born to Hebrew women in Egypt.
Today it has resulted in parents being put in jail for something that is not a crime (seeking asylum). These parents children are being stripped from them and either put in jail themselves or flown miles away to a location where they will be assimilated into American culture by people other than their parents.
Thousands of years ago a new law was meant to strike fear in the hearts of Israelite refugees, to kill their children and their spirits.
Today the new immigration policies are meant to strike fear in the hearts of Hispanics refugees. Fear great enough to cause them to flee America or to prevent them from seeking shelter here in the first place. Even though these actions may lead to their children dying in gang violence before they become adults.
Both laws were placed upon a people who in good faith sought safety in a new land. The Israelites left ancient Israel and walked for countless miles to Egypt because of a great famine that threatened their lives. Modern-day Central Americans leave their homeland and walk countless miles to America because of the extreme poverty and violence that threatens their lives.
When the new laws were issued, in both cases it seems that the refugee’s fate may be sealed.
But thousands of years ago two brave women, Shiphrah and Puah, said NO. Shiphrah and Puah were the Egyptian midwives that served Hebrew women. They had spent their lives bringing new life into the world and now they were asked to snuff out that new life as it was about to draw its first breath.
But Shiphrah and Pauh said No. Because they were about choosing life and not ending it.
So they dealt shrewdly themselves. They lied and told Pharoah that the Hebrew women were giving birth so fast the babies were born before they even got to the birthing tents. And all the while they were holding the hands of these immigrant women and catching their children as they made their way into this complicated world.
Thousands of years ago Shiphrah and Puah said No. And among the children they saved was baby Moses. The man who would end up freeing the Hebrews from Egyptian oppression and leading them back to their homeland.
Today we have the opportunity to say No.
We can choose to reject the fear that is being stirred up among us and continue to care for those who come to us seeking shelter. Instead of dealing shrewdly with them we can deal kindly and faithfully with them.
What does it mean for us to be help bear life into this complicated time?
For me, it means supporting efforts to reunite the children that are still separated from their parents.
It means not being afraid of the caravan on refugees who approach our borders.
It means I try to find ways to choose life instead of death and hope instead of fear in these times.
I don’t know how the Shiphrah and Puah story will speak to you, but I beg of you to listen to it. Hear its truth and call for your life.
There will always be new kings who decide to deal shrewdly.
But we do not have to go along with their plans.
We can instead choose life over death and faith over fear.