Thursday, January 1, 2009

Midwives Serve God

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending January 04, 2009

Scripture Text: Exodus 1:8-21(NRSV)

Purpose: To prioritize our commitments around our primary loyalty to God.

Exodus 1:8-21
(8) Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. (9)He said to his people, ‘Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. (10)Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.’ (11)Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labour. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. (12)But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. (13)The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, (14)and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labour. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.

(15) The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, (16)‘When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.’ (17)But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. (18)So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to 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 became very strong. (21)And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

As we start a new year, we continue our study of “commitment”, but now we will go to the Old Testament for the next two months and study about commitment from that perspective.

The Book of Exodus is part of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. I have an old Lutheran baptismal certificate that refers to Exodus as the second book of Moses. Most Bible scholars agree that Moses was the author of the first five books of the Bible.

This lesson begins with some very sad words, A new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. There are times today when one has to wonder the same, not just of our political leaders, but also of our supposed spiritual leaders. Often the “new” seems to have no connection to the past. In fact we are told almost continuously to forget the past and get with the new. I am happy to report that there are instances when the new sometimes returns to the old.

As of January 1, 2009 there are two subtle changes within the United Methodist Book of Discipline. Both involve the oath of membership. When we receive new members, we will now say; “To be loyal to Christ through The United Methodist Church and do all in their power to strengthen its ministries”. That is an improvement over pledging our loyalty to a particular Church. Another improvement is:"To faithfully participate in its ministries by their prayers, their presence, their gifts, their service, and their witness".

Both of these changes reflect the very lesson that we are learning in this study. The midwives loyalty was to their God not to Pharaoh. They also carried their witness to a higher calling than that of a king. These midwives were willing to risk there lives in order to save the lives of new born sons. Even though they seemed to mislead the king, God rewarded them with families of their own. If only the king had known a little about Joseph, he may have realized how futile his efforts would be to suppress this group of workers that believed in a miracle working God. As with most groups, the more they were persecuted, the stronger their faith grew. Even today we see that people are returning to the churches as times become harder. Our economic times could be a warning, we have become a people “that did not know Joseph”.

As we approach the season of the Epiphany, there is an old tradition that I want to bring to your attention and also to initiate this year in our Thursday night Bible Study, it is called “The Chalking of the Door”. This is an old Scottish tradition, that the church recognizes as a way to start a new year and is something that all of us can do at our home.

There are several Liturgies that you can find on the internet for your own use, the United Methodist, the Evangelical Lutherans, as well as the Roman Catholics and others offer suggestions on doing this service. The basic premises is to chalk your door post or lintel as the Israelites did with blood, with the following marks: "20 C M B 09". Chalk is used because it is from the earth and is used in instruction. The C M B may stand for the names of the three wise men, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, although these names are traditional and not found in the Bible, or C M B may stand for the Latin “Christus Mansionem Benedicat," meaning "May Christ bless this dwelling," much the same way we use the Greek monogram of Christ (I H S) in our churches.

I hope each of you have glorious new year, and may we continue to challenge ourselves to a new commitment of service and new commitment to serve our Lord and Savior more fully in 2009.

1 comment:

Carolyn said...

Thank you , Burgess. Especially for the song 'How can I keep from singing.'

Carolyn Thomas