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Baby in the Bulrushes

We live with tension in our lives between conflicting beliefs and obligations. Most are resolved easily with common sense.
The right of free speech does not mean the right to yell "fire" in a crowded theatre when there is no fire.
Some can only be resolved by making a conscious choice to ignore competing claims.

In the second world war, Christians in Holland hid Jews from the Nazis. They chose to disobey one authority and even tell lies about it for what the believed to be the higher authority.

In Romans, Paul tells us that magistrates are appointed by God for the common good. We understand this generally to be true.
But there are times when we choose to disobey a law if it is unjust.
Civil disobedience is a time-honored tactic for advancing a more righteous cause. Sometimes the gesture can be made peacefully with little consequence. But on other occasions, the consequences can be . . .

The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do;
they let the boys live Exodus 1:17

We live with tension in our lives between conflicting beliefs and obligations. Most are resolved easily with common sense.
The right of free speech does not mean the right to yell "fire" in a crowded theatre when there is no fire.
Some can only be resolved by making a conscious choice to ignore competing claims.

In the second world war, Christians in Holland hid Jews from the Nazis. They chose to disobey one authority and even tell lies about it for what the believed to be the higher authority.

In Romans, Paul tells us that magistrates are appointed by God for the common good. We understand this generally to be true.
But there are times when we choose to disobey a law if it is unjust.
Civil disobedience is a time-honored tactic for advancing a more righteous cause. Sometimes the gesture can be made peacefully with little consequence. But on other occasions, the consequences can be severe.
Corrie ten Boom writes of her family's experience of hiding Jews in their home in Haarlem, the Netherlands. The cost was death for her father and her sister, though she survived to tell the story.

In Exodus, we have a similar story of civil disobedience.
We are told that hundreds of years after the death of Joseph, there arose in Egypt a pharaoh who did not know of Joseph and his contributions.
There are various theories about who this might be. It could have been a Hyksos king after the Hyksos invaded Egypt.
It could have been a king following the Hyksos period. Perhaps the interruption in Egyptian rule also erased old loyalties.
Whomever it was, saw the Hebrews as a threat and oppressed them.
Until then, Jacob's descendants lived freely among the Egyptians and multiplied rapidly.
This caused a new generation to see them as a threat. These immigrants lived peaceably but did not become Egyptian and their growing presence caused alarm. We hear echoes of this in our own time in Europe where the growing Moslem population is causing anxiety in many countries.

Pharaoh gives the order that midwives are to kill any male child but spare any females.
Pharaoh's orders are ignored by the Hebrew midwives who make up a story about Hebrew women delivering their children too quickly.

Just a point to notice. Pharaoh seems to buy the argument. Why would he? Isn't childbirth universal?
It is but since the beginning of recorded history, we are always willing to accept the notion that people who do not seem to be like us, really are not like us. When we begin believing that others do not think or feel the way we do, we can begin to consider them as something different and this makes it easier to distance them and then write them off.

So pharaoh gives the order to all of Egypt to throw male Hebrew children into the Nile.
Pharaoh is both stupid and evil on two levels.
First is the obvious level that even this limited genocide is evil.
Ignorance and fear that leads to oppression and murder are always wrong.

But there is another level which Pharaoh could not possibly have been aware.
God had made a promise to Abraham. It is promise to bless Abraham and his offspring, which God is clearly doing here.
But the purpose of this blessing is to be a blessing to all nations.
The vehicle for Egypt's eventual salvation comes about as a result of God's promise to Abraham.

Pharaoh is trying to kill off the agent of God's doorway into heaven for all mankind.
Of course he would have no way of knowing this, which is in itself an interesting point.

God has given all human nations an internal moral compass, regardless of religious faith.
What Pharaoh is doing is understood as wrong by any human standard.
Paul says in Romans that all humans have God's moral revelation and know right from wrong.
That is not enough to know God, but it is enough to know how to live.
And to that we are all held morally accountable.

Pharaoh had no way of knowing what God was doing through these aliens in his land.
Precisely.
Neither do we. We do not see what God is planning to do in the lives of others around us.
But we know what is right and wrong and can do that.
We know how we are to treat others, and we can do that.
The young person with scruffy clothes, carrying a skateboard and listening to something that clearly is not music, just may be God's choice as the next great evangelist or great teacher.

That foreign person with dark skin may go home to become prime minister.
Who knows how God will use that young person? Not me. Not you.
But we know what God requires of us even when we do not know what God is doing.
If Pharaoh had succeeded, he would have undone the Hope of Egypt as well as every other nation.

And we see that there come times in our lives that we may not be able to enjoy the best of both worlds.
We are fortunate in this country. We have not had to take any difficult stands for a long time.
We have not had to risk prison to be true to our conscience.
This may change. We shall see.
History is full of the stories of those who have been willing to risk prison or death to do what is right and what God requires.
In many countries today, you risk your life for just being public about your loyalty to Jesus.

But God honors our willingness to stand up for what is right and for Him.
Not in an obnoxious way, but in doing what we know is right and not doing what we believe is not right.
Our presbytery is thinking through what we should do if we are confronted with a government's wishes that we should marry those who we believe we cannot marry.
Churches may find themselves under increasing pressure to conform by threatening our charitable status.

Would you continue to support your church's ethical stands if it meant you were denied your charitable contribution on your income tax? That is hardly a life and death choice, but its real enough and it may come to that.

Moses is born and an act of disobedience puts the baby in the bulrushes which seems like a very vulnerable spot.
Acting on your conscience may put you in what you feel is a very vulnerable spot.
But remember who is watching over you.
God is very likely working in your life even when you are not aware of it.
I will close with a quote from Corrie ten Boom.
"Look around and be distressed; look within and be depressed; look to Jesus and be at rest."

Preached August 21, 2005
Dr. Harold McNabb
West Shore Presbyterian Church
Victoria, British Columbia

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