By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“The midwives were God-fearing and so did not obey the king; instead, they let the boys live” – Exodus 1:17
School Year Begins
I would like to say at the outset that the basic aim of education in general, and theological education in particular, is not just to accumulate knowledge and information, but to make human beings more human. Education is one of the most powerful instruments for humanization, for enhancing what is truly human in us and among us. A truly educated person is a humane person.
It’s good to reflect on these noble thoughts as school year begins, and educational as well as theological institutions open their doors to those who would come over to drink from their fountain of wisdom.
Story of Two Midwives
For our reflections, let’s take an old Biblical story about two midwives by the name of Shiphrah and Puah, found in the Book of Exodus, chapter 1. A midwife, as we know, is educated to perform a very important task in the birth of a child, in bringing life into this world. According to the story, the two midwives had unselfishly exercised such a noble task at the time when the Israelites were suffering in the hands of the Egyptians.
Analyzing it more deeply, the suffering of the Israelites was a result of a false sense of security. The Egyptian Pharaoh thought that the Israelites were a threat to their national security. He thought that a time might come when the Israelites would grow in number and join their enemies and would take over the reign of government. And so, the Pharaoh planned to exploit the Israelites and ordered his people to treat them as slaves to prevent them from growing in number.
Indeed, a false sense of security would make a ruler inhuman and the people dehumanized. It happened to the Israelites in ancient times; it is also happening even today.
The Egyptians soon realized that the more the Israelites were exploited, the more they grew in number. Strange as it may seem, but truly people who put their ultimate trust in God would never take their sufferings as a sign of weakness or defeat. They would always find strength in their sufferings, because they believe God is with them.
Hence, the Pharaoh thought of an evil plan. He ordered the two midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, who were helping the Hebrew women to do something to prevent the growth of the Israelites. He said to the midwives, “When you help the Hebrew women give birth, kill the baby if it is a boy; but if it is a girl, let it live.”
This is always the case of political leaders who are desperately trying to hold on to their power and authority. They would do everything they could to hold on to power, even if this would mean death and sufferings to a lot of innocent people.
The midwives’ response, however, is very significant. The story goes on to say, “But the midwives were God-fearing, and so they did not obey the king; instead, they let the boys live.”
Their response is very important because it would help us draw the line of obedience to political authorities. We do believe that political authority is ordained of God; it ultimately comes from God. But here is a clear example of a political authority whose will and purpose run contrary to God’s will and purpose for life. The story suggests that such kind of political authority deserves to be disobeyed.
The Pharaoh learned what happened. And so, he summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why are you doing this? Why are you letting the boys live?” The midwives must give an answer that would be convincing to the Pharaoh. And so, they said to the Pharaoh, “The Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they give birth easily, and their babies are born before either of us gets there.”
The midwives’ explanation is a clever way of using facts to avoid the real issues. This was the only way they could get out of the situation without being killed by the Pharaoh himself. The way the midwives handled the situation is a good answer to the question, “How to disobey a tyrannical ruler and yet stay alive?”
But that is not the end of the story. The story concludes: “Because the midwives were God-fearing, God was good to them and gave them families of their own. And the Israelites continued to increase and become strong”.
Certainly, people who obey God rather than men will find at the end that God’s blessings are awaiting them.
Theological Education for Humanization
This is the story of two midwives. Their names may not be found in our list of Biblical heroes. But nevertheless, their lives are precious reminders for us on how we should use our theological education for humanization. One of the enduring lessons we could learn from the midwives is their insistence that education is meant to enhance life, to make human beings more human. To the midwives, the preservation of human life and dignity is a priority that should outranked all other priorities in life, not even national duty or even national security.
To be educated is to be truly human. And to be truly human is to care for that which is human. And we can only find our true humanity by giving our life so that others may live.
The life of the two midwives reminds us that education, particularly theological education is meant to serve our people. Shiphrah and Puah made use of their education to serve their own people. At the time when they were exploited by the Egyptians and life was hard, they did not leave their own people. They struggled with them; they suffered with them.
The way the two midwives made use of their education is truly a challenge to each of us. Unfortunately, we have in our country today a commercialized educational system that develops human potentials more for economic gains than to serve people. That’s why it is quite difficult to find people who truly offer their education in the service of our people.
Our doctors would rather go abroad and work as nurses and earn dollars for themselves, rather than to stay with our poor people and help cure our sick society. Our teachers would rather take their chances in the urban jungles of the world, and serve as domestic helpers to earn dollars for themselves and their families, rather than to struggle with our people and help teach our young and save them from ignorance and hopelessness.
Even pastors or church workers are tempted to go abroad to look for greener pastures for themselves not for the flock, rather than to stay and minister to our people. That’s why we discourage those who would enter the Christian ministry for material gain; they would only be frustrated and become problematic church workers later on.
Education in the Service of the People
To genuinely serve our people with our education, especially in our time is never safe or easy. It would take a lot of risks and sacrifices. Even our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, because of his deep compassion and love for the masses of people, who were like sheep without a shepherd.
And so, the cry of our generation is a cry for God to raise among us men and women who are courageous and daring enough to rise above the materialistic and inhuman culture of the day, and to offer their education in the service of our people for the glory and honor of the Greatest Teacher of us all. Amen.# nordis.net