June 14, 2015: Fear of Those Who Are Different

Posted on : Jun 11th, 2015 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

When you die, who is going to remember you; and what are they going to remember you for?

This Sunday in our journey through Exodus we hear about a major generational shift that has taken place. Joseph and his brothers, and the Pharaoh whom Joseph served, had all died.

Joseph was a unique “player” in Egypt’s history because Joseph was Jewish. He was not only Jewish, he was sold into slavery through the cunning work of his older brothers who hated him because their father favored Joseph over all his older brothers. Then Joseph was thrown into prison when he refused to have sex with the wife of the family he was indentured to and eventually rescued from prison after he was able to interpret a series of horrifying dreams Pharaoh had.

Because of his ability to “discern” the meaning of Pharaoh’s dreams, Joseph was elevated to the number two leader in Pharaoh’s kingdom. Pretty amazing for a Jewish kid, who was left for dead, sold into slavery and thrown in jail. The Egyptians and Jews were never friends. In the end, Joseph’s wisdom and discernment saved the Egyptians and Joseph’s family from famine, starvation and death. Sadly, as I said on Sunday, Joseph saved his family and the Egyptian people by literally selling them into slavery to Pharaoh.

Even in the midst of serving Pharaoh, God blessed the Hebrew people and they increased in number – mightily!

The generational shift begins in this week’s story after Joseph and the Pharaoh whom Joseph served had died. The story begins with these ominous words:

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.”

Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor…They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.

Since this is LGBT Pride Sunday in LA, this is a perfect story that teaches us that “phobias” – irrational fears of those who are different – have been around for a long time! When people fear those who are different or fear losing their position of power and privilege over someone else, they often dehumanize and oppress them. This is currently happening in our time concerning LGBT persons in various parts of our country, immigrants and immigration legislation; and with brutal force and often deadly violence against African-American men by some police officers. When fear takes over, there is little time or space for rational thinking.

In Sunday’s scripture from Exodus 1, the fear became so strong that the new King of Egypt told the mid-wives (the Hebrew women who helped pregnant Hebrew women give birth to their babies) that if a Hebrew woman delivered a baby boy, it was to be put to death (genocide). Girls could live.

It was not safe to disobey the King of Egypt. If you did, you would be put to death. But the two Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah [Shiff-ruh] and the other Puah [Pooh-uh], believed more strongly in God than they feared Pharaoh, so they disobeyed his order. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before we get to them.”

Those clever, subversive women! As you’ve heard me say many times, in the time in which the bible was written, there are not a lot of women who are named. We only know the names of a handful of women throughout scripture. Usually, it is the men who are named. But in this story, the opposite is true. Some four thousand years later, no one knows the King’s name. But we surely remember Shiphrah and Puah!

In the larger scheme of things, people who are remembered and revered are those who do what is right and just. They are people who save others or set others free. They are people who believe more strongly in God than in Pharaoh. That is a great message for us on any Sunday of the year, but especially this Sunday as we celebrate LGBT pride!

Blessings,

Dan

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Exodus 1: 8-22

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, ‘Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.’

Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, ‘When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.’ But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?’ The midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.’

So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, ‘Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.’

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