What Was vs. What Ought

Sometimes, the Bible appears to contradict itself. God’s commands are clear, but actions by Bible characters discount those commands. When there is no unambiguous rebuke by the Lord, we reason that the sin is not a big deal.

Because the Bible is true, it presents real-life events as they were, not as they ought to have been.

In Exodus 1:8 ff. Pharaoh turned against the Hebrews and enslaved them. Still, their numbers grow. The king orders the midwives to kill the male infants as they are born. They do not. When questioned by the king they say, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them” (vs. 19).  

In the next verse, we find that “God dealt well with the midwives” (vs. 20).

Two possibilities:

  1. They lied to Pharaoh. They attended the births but did not kill the little boys.
  2. They dissembled; they responded slowly and missed the births but allowed Pharaoh to believe they responded as before and thus they at least trained to obey the king.

In any case, some degree of dishonesty was involved; they lied. But, these two women “feared God” (vs. 21) and chose the righteous way of life rather than the king’s way of death.

So, did God bless these women for lying? He did not! David Churchill at ExploringGodsWord.co says God blessed these two in spite of lying!

The Bible says, “And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families” (Exodus 1:21). They were blessed because they chose God over Pharaoh, righteousness over evil, good over bad.

While Shiphrah and Puah ought to have told the truth, they did not. The Bible records what, not what ought to have, occurred. This is an important concept. Scripture presents mankind in all ways, good and bad.

They were not alone. Abraham and Isaac both lied for fear of the king (Genesis 20:1-18; 26:6-11) and both were blessed. David sinned with Bathsheba but was still a man after God’s heart (1 Samuel 13:14). Noah was a drunkard, Lott was a drunkard and incestuous, Moses lost his temper, Solomon lost his way with women and idols, Peter denied knowing Jesus and Paul was the chief sinner. The Lord blessed them in spite of their sin.

When examining the lives of these “saved sinners,” we see that the pursuit of God was foremost in their lives. They desired to know, follow and obey, the Lord but still fell short.

People are the same today. They are righteous much or even most of the time, but they still sin. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Still, we are blessed immensely by a loving, gracious Lord.

We pursue righteousness daily, in the grind, in the struggles, and in the trenches of spiritual warfare. The Christian life has never been neat and easy. It is hard. Still, we run the race.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us”

 (Romans 8:18).

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