The story in Exodus 1:1-22 tells us that the powers that be wanted to maintain the status quo. The “establishment” was afraid of change. Things were different all around them. There were new people in the society with a different lifestyle, culture and language – and they were growing in number and influence.
So the leaders decided to stop these changes by all means necessary. They told the midwives to commit murder: to kill all the newborn Hebrew boys to stop the growth of their population.
Does this sound familiar? I think we can find parallels between what the Scripture describes and the situation in our country today. I don’t have to give you details.
People of color and immigrants from the global south are growing at a greater rate than whites. U.S. census data confirms that this 21st century trend is changing America from a majority white country to a majority minority country.
The world is changing and some “pharaohs” don’t like it. Those who want to maintain power react by instilling fear and lashing out against those who are different, both in society and in church.
In Exodus, the midwives (who feared God more than the establishment) decided to stand up for justice. Our daughter Vanessa is a doula, someone who helps women in the process of having their babies with a midwife. She is also a seminary graduate. Vanessa shared with me these thoughts:
“The midwives look weak in withholding the whole truth from Pharaoh, but it is their courage in remaining faithful to God’s law that speaks out against murder that also led them to go against the demands of a tyrannical ruler. When confronted by Pharaoh, they reply in a nonviolent manner rather than revealing the whole truth. ‘Midwife’ roughly means ‘with woman.’ Midwives accompany women through an experience that is biological and natural, but also profoundly painful, life altering – that teeters on the edge of life and death. Perhaps as a result of knowing and seeing this on a very intimate level, the midwives of the Exodus story had less fear of these immigrants than the natives did. They knew how very human these strangers could be.’’
We need midwives in our midst. We need people who are willing to stand up for what is right. We need midwives who are willing to set aside stereotypes and seek and recognize the common experiences we share as humans made under God’s image.
We need midwives that remind us of our calling and the demands that the gospel places on all of us. We need to prepare the way for people of all nations and walks of life to join us in the building of the church and in the worship of God. We are called by God to enter into the new society that Jesus came to inaugurate and was modeled by the original Jerusalem church – a place where people of all ethnicities worshipped God within the context of their own cultures and languages. We need midwives today as the Hebrew people needed them back then to withstand the onslaught from those who refuse to see the realities of our changing world. We need midwives today who are willing to question, to think critically and to act on behalf of those who are marginalized by unjust systems.
Tony Aja is the pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and mode