How a people grew mighty with many children during the worst distress

When the Israelites quit Egypt after the passage of God’s Angel of Death at the Passover, they emerged with a great multitude of people, almost all conceived in amorous marital trysts enjoyed in a time of public works projects and other humiliations by their betters.

I know a Christian man who covenanted with the woman he was about to marry that they would have no children; the world is getting worse, and no faithful Christian would put a child into the world to suffer. Jesus is coming soon, he warned; the world is about to descend into chaos.

“So when I met my wife, she agreed with me, and this promise of having no children was a condition for our getting married,” he explained.

The barrenness of this union was planned; the couple is living out their beliefs about God’s authority over the future and His mercy.

A woman contemplating an abortion makes a similar decision as this sweet pair. She chooses barrenness.

Her impulse to make an appointment at an abortion clinic in Knoxville, Nashville or Atlanta overrides contradictory demands upon her, other claims that lie against abortion that would encourage her to face up to her actions and bring a baby boy or girl into the world.

Lack of money, poverty of prospects, a pile of unpaid bills are problems that could be met with optimism, joy and confidence — not despair.

THE SCRIPTURES TELL how the Israelites are such a people who, during a time of slavery and oppression, grow rather than shrink. The Bible records how they become “a mighty people” rather than a dried-out cinder of a race.

Their oppression is worth examining, especially when one considers that they multiply against a conspiracy that the Egyptian king finally organizes to kill their children at birth.

As recorded in the first chapter of the book of Exodus, the Israelites had settled in Egypt at the invitation of their patriarch, Joseph, and the Pharaoh whom he had helped in time of national distress. Finally, Joseph, who had saved the Israelites, and his generation died. “Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any way, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.”

Very likely the language of the Pharaoh about the aliens living tightly in Goshen (the best part of the land) is mere pretext to show cause for enslaving the Israelites, sheep herders whom the Egyptians by custom feel are odious. He fears that the Israelites will “get them up out of the land” if they grow too big and strong. No doubt the Israelites are prosperous and a people of peculiar genius, valuable to the land of the pyramids.

Other circumstances of the population explosion bear investigation, too. The Egyptians put over the people of God “taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens.” The conscripts built for the monarch treasure cities, including Rameses and Pithom.

WHAT FOLLOWS is remarkable.

“But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.” In other words, the imposition of poverty and servitude does nothing do diminish the ardor of God’s people in the marital bed. Husbands and wives, despite the sweat and degredation in the public place, at home, at night, enjoy the fruits of love and marriage, and bring forth more and more children.

What kind of man is it who, suffering humiliation by day, can be a Romeo at night when he is home? What sort of woman remains eager for her husbandly lover when she perceives that only peril and clouds lie thick over the future?

What sort of respect does she have to receive her husband when she knows he may have been beaten on the job site?

I suggest that such a man and such a woman are ones who are confident of God’s care and promises.

The promises a merciful and good God gives to the captives in Egypt, He also gives you to you and me.

The congenital optimism of the Israelites is put to a more severe test.

THE RECORD OF MOSES tells how the taskmasters become brutal, make the Israelites “serve with rigor. And they made their lives bitter, with hard bondage, in mortar and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service wherein they made them serve, was with rigor.”

So careless are God’s people of this double rigor, so full of ardor are they as couples, and so populous are their cribs and baby beds that the Pharaoh schemes to co-opt the local of the midwife guild to fulfill a policy goal of reducing the strangers in his land.

That crafty fox approaches the Hebrew midwives, those women who assist mom’s at the hour of birth. Caring little how preposterous it sounds, he directs them to kill every Israelite boy on birth. He tells Shiphrah and Puah, “When you do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools: if it be a son, then ye shall kill him; but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.”

The midwives, no doubt agreeing before the king that they truly understand his wishes, flatly disobey. They “feared God” and refused the king’s command, “but saved the men children alive.” Their disobedience later in the Bible is mentioned with great favor as a blessing on the nation.

His majesty perceives little result from his exterminative command.

He sues the midwives for an explanation.

They declare that their race is strong and lively. “The Hebrew women,” they demur, “are not as the Egyptian women: for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them.” The midwives are blessed for refusing to, in effect, “abort” babies after birth. “Therefore God dealt well with the midwives; and the people people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.”

THE BIBLICAL NARRATIVE should give courage to women considering abortion and couples who feel oppressed by the duress of national economy, of employment, multiple levels of taxation, inflation, lack of savings and the like.

For a woman contemplating an abortion, the story of the Hebrews has three helpful points:

• Though you are poor and oppressed, you should do no harm to your child, but give birth, confident in God’s provision. Christian people will help you. The baby was conceived without your intention, and is a “mistake.” But conception is always a miracle, and your baby is genetically and physically a separate person from you and the father, and innocent of any evil.

• The midwives disobeyed the king and prospered. You should disobey, too, the loud clamor in your ear to exercised an alleged right to abortion. These voices say that abortion is a good thing if it will help you become the real you and let you find yourself. If you disobey these popular conceits and put them out of your mind, you will share in the same sort of prosperity that the Israelites enjoyed during their time in Egypt.

• The Israelites were enslaved, but God freed them by a series of sweeping, earth-shaking miracles you recollect from sermons you’ve heard about them. You, too, can be freed from your servitude of poverty by waiting on God to provide you means in addition to the cheerful confidence with which he promises to lift your spirit.