Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church


Exodus 1:1-2:10

I've never been very big on thinking about the devil in the characteristic way… you know… the guy dressed in red… with horns… and a pitchfork. Obviously the devil is not a person… any more than God is a person. But just as we believe in God… who represents all that is good in the world… so too we believe in the devil who represents all that is evil. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that there is definitely a spirit of evil in the world… and its most prominent characteristic is turning away from God… doing evil instead of good.

Needless to say… there's a lot of evil going around in the world… even as we speak. And recently… it seems to have gotten very, very personal. We never really know… as we set out in the morning… whether we might be the victim of some horrible incident sometime during the day. Thank God, none of you has yet encountered such an immediate danger… but it has been happening throughout the country… in our schools… our post offices… our workplace… our streets. Quite honestly… it often occurs to me that I could be shot accidentally as I drive along the city streets on my way to and from church several times a week. And I don't think that is an entirely paranoid thought!

But you know… I think we are faced with evil in many much more subtle ways that perhaps we think very little about. When was the last time an evil thought crossed your mind? When were you last tempted to do something you knew wasn't right? Let me see… I think it was this very morning… when I got upset at another driver who was acting like a crazy fool on the highway. My standard reaction is to hope… at the very least… that the police will catch this person. Or even better… that he or she has an accident! Now that's a pretty horrible thing to wish on anybody, isn't it! It has occurred to me that perhaps I ought to be praying for that person… that they not hurt anyone… or be hurt themselves… as a result of their foolish… and, yes… evil behavior? I might go so far this morning as to define evil behavior as action that takes no thought whatsoever of others… or of God… and I can't help but wonder how many times a day each of us does that. Perhaps it's worth some thought this week.

Our story this morning is about four ladies who recognized evil when they saw it… and chose to resist it. None of their actions were heroic… at least not in the way that we think of heroism. But, in fact… each of them chose to put her life on the line when she decided to resist the edict of the Pharaoh that all Hebrew boy babies were to die. These women were caught in an impossible situation… and each of them… in her own simple way… defied the Pharaoh. And that was not a laughing matter! You know… it just wasn't done!

Our story begins about 400 years after Jacob and his sons moved to Egypt to be near Joseph… who at that time was in great favor with the Pharaoh and the Egyptian people. After all… he had saved them from the great seven-year famine! But 400 years later… nobody remembered Joseph… let alone what he had done for the country… and the Hebrew people had multiplied like rabbits… just as God had promised.

Being in the minority is a scary situation… as the white races of the world will soon discover if they have not already… and one way to remain in power is to enslave the majority! When the Hebrews began to outnumber the Egyptians… Pharaoh got scared. He ordered the Egyptians to enslave the Hebrews … to be used as forced labor to build the government's infrastructure… probably roads… water supply systems… sewage plants… things like that. At least two "supply" cities that were built by the Hebrew slaves are mentioned in this story.

Well, things went from bad to worse for the Egyptians because the Hebrew people kept increasing in number. So Pharaoh decided to get drastic… all the boy babies were to be killed at birth! I think Pharaoh must have been a little dim witted because he ordered the Hebrew midwives to do this! "Now really, Pharaoh, you know you're going to be outwitted on this one." And, sure enough… at least two of the midwives took their life in their hands… and defied Pharaoh! When they were called on the carpet… they told Pharaoh that the Hebrew women give birth so easily… they just couldn't get there quick enough to intercept the babies!

Well… what did Pharaoh know about birthing babies anyway? So he decided to have his own people drown all the boys born to the Hebrews. At this point we meet a young Hebrew mother who decides to resist Pharaoh by hiding her son for the first three months of his life. But you can only hide a baby so long… particularly when you're a slave… and the day came when she knew she could no longer do it. Her resistance takes an exceptional form of obedience… she puts the baby in the river all right… she puts him among the bulrushes… in a waterproof basket!

Now she probably knew that the Egypian women came to that spot to bath… and perhaps she was relying on their empathy as women to save him somehow… but I wonder if she knew that Pharaoh's daughter came to that spot to bath?

I can't help but think that Pharaoh's daughter is perhaps the most courageous woman of the four we meet in this story. She had the courage to take a Hebrew baby into her father's house and raise him as her son. What did she risk? Well… Pharaoh might have decided to kill the child anyway… and he might have decided to do away with this impertinent daughter as well! This is an amazing story of how God accomplished his work through four women who had the courage to resist evil at the risk of losing their own lives.

God willing… we will never be called upon to make such life threatening decisions to resist and defy evil in our lives. But I do think that each of us has many opportunities in our everyday life to resist evil. The problem is that we are not entirely aware of how subtly evil enters our life… like the way that I characteristically think about bad drivers who scare me. Perhaps part of our new life in Jesus Christ is to become more aware of how and what we decide to do and think.

I'd like to plant in your minds this morning a seed that the Holy Spirit can work with as you grow in your Christian life with God. Perhaps we could each add to our thought process… and our decision making process… the question of whether our thoughts or actions took God and others into consideration. I can assure you that in the beginning you will only do this after the fact… but that's OK… we have to start somewhere.

The next time you find yourself cussing out another driver… stop and think about your thoughts and/or action. Was it in the best interests of God and others? I can also assure you that if you do this on a regular basis… eventually you will be doing it even as you are thinking or doing the behavior. And… at some point… you will think about God and others before you make your decision to think or act. That's growth in the Spirit and it will change your life. May God bless you in your spiritual growth. Amen.

A Sermon Preached on August 22, 1999.
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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