“So let’s strive for the things that bring peace and the things that build each other up.” -Romans 14:19
Do you have a favorite superhero? That’s a question I’ve been asking all week to the kids participating in Hero Hotline Vacation Bible School. Let me tell you, these kids don’t have to think twice before they answer. “Spiderman!” “Captain Marvel!” “Batman!” “Hulk!” “Wonder Woman!” “Thor!” “Black Widow!” “Flash!” Whether that hero is able to leap tall buildings in a single bound or read minds or change shape, I guarantee you we have talked about their super powers this week.
Alongside these comic book heroes, we have been hearing the stories of heroes from our Bible. Monday’s story just happens to be one of my favorite parts of the Bible. Since the kids got to learn it, I want to share it with you, too.
The book of Exodus (that’s the second book of the Bible) tells the story of how God’s people, the Hebrews, were set free from slavery in Egypt. In the very first chapter, it tells how that slavery began.
You see, there was a pharaoh who had never heard of Joseph, and how he saved Egypt from a famine (you can read that in Genesis 40-50, right before Exodus). This new pharaoh was intimidated by how many Hebrew people were living in Egypt, and he was scared that the Hebrew people would turn against the Egyptians, even though they’d been peaceful neighbors for decades.
So the pharaoh set the Hebrews to do hard labor, hoping this would dishearten them. When the Hebrews continued to thrive, the Egyptians enslaved them. When they still grew in number, the pharaoh came up with a terrible plan. He called two Hebrew midwives, named Shiphrah and Puah, and told them to kill the baby boys they delivered.
That part of the story usually gets left out of the children’s Bibles and movies. First of all, how do you explain a “midwife” to kids? Well, it turns out, “someone who helps when a baby is being born” is age-appropriate for pretty much anybody. And, as the kids at VBS learned, Shiphrah and Puah respected God more than they respected the pharaoh–so they delivered healthy baby girls AND boys.
When the pharaoh noticed, he was angry. He called Shiphrah and Puah back and demanded to know why there were so many Aarons and Joshuas along with the Miriams and Rachels. Determined to protect their people, the midwives lied. “Oh, well, you see, the Hebrew women are so strong that they have their babies before we even get there!” Infuriated, the pharaoh issued the infamous order to throw all the baby boys into the Nile River, where Moses would soon be put into a basket to save his life.
As we shared this story with the kids, the midwives were called “God’s Wonder Women.” Kids learned that heroes are called to help others. Shiphrah and Puah helped their people by disobeying an evil leader who issued commands that went against God’s commands.
What catches me every time I encounter this story is that Shiphrah and Puah were really only doing what they had been trained to do all along. They were midwives. Midwives help when babies are born. Because they regarded God’s commands higher than the pharaoh’s order, they just kept on helping babies be born.
Heroes in comic books always have some kind of super power– speed, strength, regeneration, invisibility, mind control, or at least being a reclusive billionaire with a batmobile. When God calls heroes, though, God doesn’t look for the strongest or smartest or fastest or richest. God looks for everyday people with integrity to do whatever they do, consistent with God’s commands.
That means you and I, along with each kid at VBS, can be heroes just like Shiphrah and Puah. It doesn’t take being bitten by a radioactive spider or treated with gamma rays. It only takes the faith that God has already given, applied to our everyday lives.
At Hero Hotline, and wherever else God’s people go, we are called to help others any way we know how. Let’s go, heroes.