Shemot/Exodus 1:18 And the King of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, "Why have you done this thing?"
Although the word 'obey' - variously translated in the pages of the Tanakh from , guard or keep, , hear or listen, or , keep or observe - does not appear in the text, obedience is the key to the verses that surround it in the Torah. The Hebrew midwives had been commanded by Pharaoh to allow any new-born girls to live, but to kill any Hebrew boys at birth. The Midrash goes beyond the biblical narrative by telling us that Pharaoh's astrologers had told him that a boy would be born who would save the Israelites (Shemot Rabbah 1:14). Like King Herod, some thousands of years later (Matthew 2:16), Pharaoh over-reacted and decided to try and kill all the boys rather than miss the one he feared. But the Hebrew midwives simply did not carry out his orders, which brings us to the text. The midwives gave an evasive answer that was enough to show Pharaoh that he couldn't expect them to obey him in this matter, so instead he ordered that the baby boys should be thrown into the Nile.
Sha'ul, the first king of Israel found himself having to decide who to obey when he was sent to obliterate the Amalekites. "Now go and attack Amalek, and completely destroy everything they have. Don't spare them, but kill men and women, children and babies, cows and sheep, camels and donkeys" (1 Samuel 15:3, CJB),Adonai instructed him through Samuel the prophet and judge. But pressed by the people who no doubt wanted some spoil or booty form their fighting, Sha'ul kept alive the Amalekite king and the best of the sheep and cattle, later trying to pass this off as an intended sacrifice to the L-rd. Samuel has to rebuke Sha'ul with these famous words: "Does Adonai take as much pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying what Adonai says? Surely obeying is better than sacrifice, and heeding orders than the fat of rams" (1 Samuel 15:22, CJB). No matter how it is dressed up, our relationship with G-d requires that we obey Him at all times, no matter what the alternatives might be.
This is a choice that G-d's people are always having to make: who do we obey? Shortly after being used to heal the lame man in the Yaffa Gate of the Temple (Acts 3), Kefa and Yochanan were telling the crowds in the Temple all about Yeshua when they were arrested and hauled before the Sanhedrin who were shocked to hear of the miracle and that the issue of Yeshua was not going to go away as they had hoped. Being unable to deny the miracle which many had seen, the Sanhedrin ordered the two shluchim not to speak or teach in the name of Yeshua again. Kefa and Yochanan replied, "Whether it is right in the sight of G-d to give heed to you rather than to G-d, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:19-20, NASB).
Further Study: 1 Samuel 13:8-14; Acts 16:23-34
Application: When it comes to the crunch, what would you do? How obedient would we be when faced with these sorts of situations? Most of us have to take this sort of decision every day and it is all too easy without even thinking to fall in line with those around us rather than stand out by being obedient to G-d's word.
© Jonathan Allen, 2004
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