When we come to passages like the first chapter of Exodus, we are reminded that God’s law always comes before man’s law. Scripture does not teach blind-and-blanket submission. The fact is, there is a time to submit, and there’s also a time to resist.
Before we run with that principle too far, however, a word of caution may be in order. The Exodus passage does not teach children to disobey their parents, wives to usurp their husband’s leadership in the home, or anyone to reject ethical authority. But the passage does make one thing clear: submission to civil authority has limits. As Peter once told the Jewish ruling council, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
In other words, when the king’s edict directly violates God’s clearly stated will, we ought to fear God, even as a couple of brave ladies named Shiphrah and Puah feared God. And they, being dead, still speak. Scripture tells us that God honored the faith of these midwives. It says, “The people multiplied, and became very mighty. Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them” (1:20–21).
The midwives valued God’s favor more than that of Pharaoh. Motivated by a deep and abiding reverence for the living God, they refused to obey the king’s wicked edict. When that king told them to violate God’s basic principle, the preservation of life, they refused to do so.
The date on the calendar may have changed since the days of the Exodus, but human nature has not. Apart from the redeeming work of Christ, our hearts are desperately wicked. Cruelty existed in Moses’ day, and cruelty exists today. Tyrants ruled in the ancient world, and tyrants rule in our day. Injustice hurt the innocent in Pharaoh’s time, in Herod’s time, and still in our sophisticated twenty-first-century world.
But in the days of Exodus there also lived men and women ready to stand alone for righteousness, even in the face of death, just as there are today. God always has His remnant.