What Would You Do?

salvadoran youthPentecost 11A: What Would You Do?

Exodus 1:8-21

August 24, 2014


Exodus says, “There arose a new king over Egypt who did not know Joseph…”

Now that’s a problem….


It’s a historical problem because Egypt didn’t have kings…

so they couldn’t have a new one!

Egyptian rulers were called ‘pharaoh’, not king.


But of course the Bible is not a history book,

it’s a book of faith.

This verse reflects a faith problem as well.

The faith problem is that this new pharaoh does not know Joseph…

Joseph had been the old pharaoh’s chief of staff.

Pharaoh depended on him.


A long time ago, Pharaoh had had a dream,

and Joseph correctly interpreted it.

He predicted that the dream meant

there would be a great famine in Egypt – and he was right.

There was a famine for seven years.


Joseph was put in charge of pharaoh’s storerooms,

and carefully rationed food so that whereas other communities

died because of the famine, the Egyptians survived.


Joseph was able to bring his entire family,

to come and live in Egypt.

Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah,

Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin,

Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher—

all 11 of Josephs’ brothers and their wives and families came to Egypt.

They were known as the Hebrews or the Israelites.


This new leader doesn’t know anything about Joseph or the Hebrews.

The only thing he knows is that there are too many of them,

and their increasing numbers frighten him.


This pharaoh has an idea about what to do with the Israelites –

this minority race whom he fears.

He puts them to work as slave labor.

They become the slaves who build the great cities of Egypt.


But this idea doesn’t work.

The more the Israelites are oppressed, the more they grow.

The Egyptians begin to dread them….what kind of people is this, that they grow stronger and not weaker

under such oppression?


The new leader increases the brutality.

We are told the Egyptians become ruthless over the Israelites.

And yet, even still, such force doesn’t work.


The new leader comes up with a different plan to get rid of the Israelites…

since the problem is that too many of them are being born,

he decides to attack the problem at its beginning.


He summons the Egyptian midwives,

and he tells them that when they go to help with the delivery of an Israelite,

if the baby is a boy, they are to kill him.


Enter Shiphrah and Puah,

two Egyptian midwives who are given these instructions.


Imagine for a moment that you are Shiphrah or Puah.

Imagine that you have been summoned by a king or a pharaoh,

…or a boss or a police officer or even a parent…


Imagine you have been summoned by someone in authority,

someone who has some power over you,

and imagine they tell you – they order you – to do something you know is wrong.

What would you do?


One brief story from my trip to El Salvador…

Teens in El Salvador are forced to make such a terrible decision every day.


A gang wants a teenage boy to join their ranks.

Here’s his choice:

Join the gang and kill someone– as initiation.

Or don’t join and be killed yourself.

What would you do?


A teenage girl walking to school learns that a gang member ‘likes’ her.

Being liked by a gang member is not a good thing.

It means rape and forced prostitution.

Here’s her choice:

Become attached to this guy who will hurt her.

Or refuse and be killed.

What would you do?


It’s not much of a choice.

The teens are desperate.

Their parents are desperate.

And so as many of them as can raise enough money (thousands of dollars)

to pay a coyote to take them,

are fleeing to the US.


These are real stories.

Real teenagers.


They are from Piedra Azul (Blue Rock) about 150 miles east of San Salvador.

They are Lutherans.

Their pastor is Pastor Donal.


I’ll change their names because they may even so be at risk…

The boy I’ll call Rafael left is now with an aunt in New York.

This is his fourth attempt to get asylum.


The girl is Madeleine and she hasn’t been heard from since she left a month ago.


In all likelihood, many if not most of these teens arriving in the US will be sent back.

When they are sent back,

they are sent back to even greater danger.


Last week in a single city in Honduras,

5 teenagers were killed

shortly after being deported from the US.


As soon as they can raise the money,

when teens are deported they try to go back again.


These are difficult choices.


When a pharaoh in Egypt long ago became frightened

of a minority population which was getting too big,

he tried to get rid of them.


Two women, Shiphrah and Puah,

choose life over fear.

They refuse to take part.

In a courageous act of civil disobedience,

they defy this new pharaoh.


Our text says,

“They did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them.”


The midwives refuse to act as commanded,

they are willing to risk their own lives,

because of their faith.


They go back to the new leader and lie to him.

They tell him that they would’ve if they could’ve,

but those Israelite women…you know how they aren’t like us Egyptians…

they deliver their babies before we can even get there!


With this radical act of faith,

this radical inaction,

Shiphrah and Puah save countless infants.


What would you do?



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