Two more brave women, largely unsung, figure into the story of Moses. Jochebed and Miriam were Moses's mother and sister. Since the Hebrew midwives wouldn't kill the boy babies when they were born, Pharaoh ordered all Hebrew women to throw their newborn sons into the Nile River. Jochebed didn't throw her son into the river. Rather she wove a small boat for him and placed him in the river where she knew he would be found by someone from Pharaoh's household. Then she posted her daughter Miriam as a watchwoman to see what would become of him.
When Pharaoh's daughter found him and wanted to keep the baby as his own, Miriam bravely stepped up and suggested that a Hebrew woman nurse him. So Jochebed got to keep him for a few more years (Exodus 1:22-2:10).
Jochebed, had to give up her son twice. First, when she put him in the river. Second, when she sent him to live with Pharaoh's daughter. She desired life for her son enough to go through all that so that he could live. Shiphrah and Puah had to stand up to Pharaoh and disobey his orders. Miriam, just a slave girl, had to speak to the princess of the land and make a suggestion. It took the courage of these four women to bring to life a man who would change the world. Without their tenacity, Moses's mission would not have come to fruition.
For Reflection: What sacrifices or decisions have I made that I didn't understand at the time, but later realized they made a big difference in my life? When have I had to be courageous?
Let us pray. Lord, I struggle to be courageous like Shiphrah and Puah, Jochebed and Miriam. I don't know that I could defy someone as powerful as Pharaoh if an unlawful order is made. Would I be as resourceful as Jochebed? As brave as Miriam? I don't know.
Many Christians around the world today are under persecution as powerful as that of Pharaoh, Lord. Help me to stand with them in prayer at least.
(Note: Many Christians will be standing in prayer for persecuted Christians in various nations on August 1. Won't you join us in prayer?)
How important is being mentioned by name? Often at the end of an event you hear thanks being given to those people who helped to organize it and who gave their time to make sure all in attendance were well taken care of. Rarely does the speaker have the opportunity to thank everyone by name.
In Exodus 1, two women are mentioned by name. Because the Hebrew slaves were increasing in numbers and strength, Pharaoh became fearful of an uprising. He told the slave masters to work them ruthlessly. And then he ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill the baby boys that were born. But the midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, refused to do that. When Pharaoh discovered this, he summoned them for questioning. No doubt two slave women brought before the king were afraid, but they stood up to him and were spared their lives.
Only two midwives were named in Exodus though it is more than likely that many midwives served the Hebrew women. Shiphrah and Puah were probably the leaders among the midwives and that's why they were brought to Pharaoh. And so they are mentioned in the account, like the organizers of an event, as a way of thanking them and their coworkers for their service. These women, who were not afraid to stand up for what they knew to be right, saved lives and entered the pages of history.
For Reflection: We are all descended from a long line of ancestors. What courageous people do we have to thank for the gift of life? Who crossed a sea or fought a war or stood up to a king that I might someday be born?
Let us pray. God, I thank you for Shiphrah and Puah and their bravery. I thank you for all of my ancestors - my ancestors in life and my ancestors in faith. I thank you for the few I know by name and the many whose names I don't know. I thank you for all those who struggled and persevered for my sake.
This standing that we are to do in chapter 6 of Paul's encouragement to the Ephesians is one of holding our ground because the battle has already been won by Christ. Christ defeated the enemy so we are holding onto the ground he has already won. As Paul says elsewhere (Romans 8:37) we are more than conquerors. When we stand with Christ we are overcomers.
As has been pointed out by many authors over the years, the armor we are to put on is defensive, not offensive. We don't need to take the ground, we need only to hold it.
For Reflection: Since Christ has already won the battle, defeated the enemy, we should be praising and thanking him for that. We need not ask him to win the battle for us, it is already won. Let us stand in strength, serenity and confidence.
Let us pray. We thank you, Jesus, for having already won the battle. We praise you for your victory over every enemy. We praise you for your victory over temptation, sin and even death. We stand with you as victors, overcomers and conquerors.
Sit, walk, build, imitate, love, submit. What is next in Paul's exhortation to the church in Ephesus? Stand. Yet we cannot move into the standing position if we do not progress through the earlier ones. And whereas walking comes out of sitting in the heavenly realms with Christ, so does standing. Sitting is our place of rest and nourishment. Sitting is our grounding. We must be grounded and rooted in Christ and what he has done for us before we endeavor to do anything with him. We cannot do anything for Christ, but we can do many things with him who strengthens us and enables us to fulfill our calling, our destiny to help establish the kingdom of God on earth.
It is sitting and then walking, imitating, loving and submitting that enable us to be "strong in the Lord" and to "put on the full armor of God" (Ephesians 6:10-11) so that we can stand. We construct our own set of armor while sitting and walking. We each have our own belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of the gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation and sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Our belt of truth may be stronger than someone else's, but their shield of faith may be stronger than ours. Together we are one body of Christ equipped with the strongest armor to stand against the enemy. It is important not to stand alone, but to stand as one with the body of Christ.
For Reflection: Am I sitting with Christ? Am I walking with him? Am I standing with Christ and with his body, or am I standing alone?
Let us pray. God, you are my refuge and strength. I sit with you, I walk with you, I stand with you.
Now let's tackle the verses with which so many people have a problem. "Wives submit to your husbands" and "Husbands, love your wives" have caused much grief for wives who misinterpret them and husbands who can't live up to them (Ephesians 5:22, 25). Both commands are compared to how Christ relates to the church. Since Christ is the head of the church, the church, as the body of Christ, submits to the head. Christ loved the church enough to give his very life for her.
These verses (5:22-33) are all of a piece. We can't separate one from another. The burden would seem to be heavier on the husband than the wife. The husband is to give himself up for his wife, to love her as he loves himself, to present the word of God to her, to help her become holy and blameless before God, just as he does for himself because in marriage the two have become one.
Paul is, of course, speaking to two Christians married to one another. Then, if the husband does all of this, the wife need only respect and submit. She is not even, in this case, told to love her husband. Yet we know we are to love all people. A husband who can do all of the above is never abusive to his wife, nor demeaning. A wife, whose husband is this good, would never lose respect for him or have a need to nag. Will they argue sometimes or disagree about what is best for their union, their body? Yes.
I'm reminded of a book I read recently which touched on the Civil War in the United States. I was constantly amazed at how far President Lincoln would go to maintain the union, the marriage if you will, among the states. He was tolerant of dissent and disagreement even among his cabinet as long as the goal was to save the union.
For Reflection: If you are married, how strong is your union? What can be done to make it stronger? If unmarried, is there anyone who helps you grow in the body of Christ? How can you honor that person?
Let us pray. God of mercy and love, unite your body more closely to you so that no part, no molecule, may go astray. Unite me more closely to you.
Increase my love for my spouse. Increase my spouse's love for me. Unite us more as one in being with you.
Now we come to that hated word: submit. People today do not like the thought of submitting to someone else. So let's face it and see what it says.
First, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Ephesians 5:21). People who are submitted to Christ, who reverence the Lord, should be able to submit to one another. In all kinds of relationships decisions need to be made. Sometimes all parties agree, sometimes they don't, and one party goes along with the other's decision. The level of submission required depends on the importance of the decision.
One common place that Christians live this out is in their local church congregation. How much talk (gossip) goes on over church decisions? Let's be honest. Lots of decisions are rehashed for months and years. This does nothing to build up the body of Christ, and, in fact, tears it down and ruins our witness. We must learn to use discernment about what matters are really important enough to have a public disagreement about.
For Reflection: We are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Christ first love us. He loved us when we were not submitted to him. If he can do that, can we not love others who love him and submit to others who submit to him?
Let us pray. Jesus, you loved me even when I had no knowledge of you. You submitted your life to the cross for me before I was born. Help me to submit my life to you. Grant me discernment about submitting to others out of reverence for you.
Sit, walk, build, put off, put on. What's next?
In our brief review of Paul's letter to the Ephesian church, we have come across these command verbs. We are to sit with Christ in the heavenly places. This is a time of resting in Him and learning who He is and who we are. When we have done this, we are to walk in the ways Christ has shown us. We are to build one another up into the mature body of Christ. Then put off our old ways, and put on the new ways of Christ.
So what is next? Imitate God. Paul writes, "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:1-2). We learn that we are dearly loved children when we sit in the place of rest with him and learn his ways. When we sit with him in the heavenly places, we observe the ways of the kingdom of God. Since Jesus and the Father are one, when we learn the ways of Jesus, we learn the ways of the Father (and the Holy Spirit). That is how we learn what is to be imitated. Children learn by imitating their parents.
Even Paul did not begin his apostolic life by going out right away to do things. He began by learning about Jesus and learning new ways of living and loving. He began from that place of rest in Christ before he began to preach. Although he began with "the big reveal", he had to learn to walk all over again. He had to learn to build rather than tear down. He had to put off his old ways before he could put on the new. He had to learn to imitate God when he himself had not seen Jesus in his earthly life.
For Reflection: There are many ways to learn to imitate God: reading and studying the Scriptures, prayer, meditation, walking with others who are more mature than we are. And, if we belong to a sacramental church, availing ourselves of the sacraments.
Let us pray. Jesus, we know that you do not leave us adrift when it comes to learning how to follow you. Help us, your beloved children, to grow more like you every day. What do you want me to grow in today?
As we grow in maturity in Christ there are things we must "put off" according to Paul. Since Paul is fond of lists, let us list here the things we are to put off: your old self, deceitful desires, falsehood, anger, stealing, unwholesome talk, grieving the Holy Spirit, bitterness, rage, brawling, slander, malice, sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk, coarse joking, darkness, drunkenness (Ephesians 4:17 - 5:20).
Paul gives, of course, another list of what we are to "put on": our new self, righteousness, holiness, truth, wholesome talk (psalms, hymns and spiritual songs), kindness, goodness, compassion, forgiveness, love, thanksgiving, light, understanding, the Spirit.
Many of these have to do with our words, what we say to one another. As James says in his letter, if we control the tongue we control the entire person (James 3:1-12). If we change the way we speak, we will change the way we act.
For Reflection: If we don't find ourselves more in the second list from Ephesians than the first, can we find a way to immerse ourselves in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs?
Let us pray. I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly. . . . I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth . . . . (Psalm 40: 9-10).
When Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians (and his other letters), he was writing to a community of people. He envisioned a group of people who were working together and growing together into greater maturity in Christ. They were to do this by fulfilling the roles to which Christ had called them. Some were called to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers. The goal of all was to prepare the community for works of service among themselves until they should reach maturity. Their first goal was to build one another up into a cohesive unit who know the truth and live as the body of Christ. They were to become such a unit that they could not be swayed by outside influences.
If we picture a human body, we realize that all parts grow at a certain rate. In the younger years there is a great rate of growth. In the teen years things can be a little out of balance physically as the body adjusts to greater maturity. But what if the arms decide they are not waiting for the rest of the body to grow? They want to grow now! Disaster results.
Unfortunately, I've been in churches where people were growing individually but not corporately. Paul consistently warned against this. He was always pleading for people to get along and to grow in unity. I've also been a part of churches where it seemed the goal was not to build one another up, but to tear one another down. This does not help the body of Christ to grow in unity and maturity either.
For Reflection: Am I a source of unity or division in my church? Am I growing together with the body of Christ or doing my own thing? What am I doing to help others grow?
Let us pray. There are times, Jesus, when I have been guilty of doing my own thing. There are times when I have torn down rather than built up. Jesus, I want to fit better into your body. I want to be a better member of your body. I want to do my part - the part you have called me to do. I want to fulfill my destiny in you.
In order to walk our path we must know who we are in Christ. Let's review who we are. We are God's children, heirs to all of his promises and heirs of the kingdom. We have the Holy Spirit on deposit within us guaranteeing our inheritance. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing. We are chosen, forgiven, holy and blameless. We are redeemed through his blood. We are God's masterpiece. We are members of Christ's body, the church, of which Christ is the head. So we are under the headship of Christ. And let's not forget we are loved.
This list of who we are is just what Paul outlines in his letter to the Ephesians. He adds more in his other letters. Given who we are, our life on this earth should reflect what Jesus has done for us. Paul spends the second half of his letter to the community in Ephesus outline how we should live.
Who we are in Christ is God's gift to us for believing in his Son Jesus. We believe; He gives. We do nothing to deserve it or earn it. We just receive it. Then, in gratitude, we try to act like we have it. We don't always succeed, but we keep practicing. We do our best.
For reflection: Where or when did I do well today? Where or when could I have done better today?
Let us pray. Jesus, as I look back over my day, I can see you in certain events, but not others. Yet I know you are always with me. Help me to look for you at the times I find the hardest.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.