One of the hardest questions that I’ve had to answer as a student pastor is this: “Why doesn’t God just deal with the bad things that are happening in the world?” When we’re faced with challenges, difficult circumstances, or evil we often ask why God doesn’t intervene. And right now, with the circumstances that our church and world are facing, I think this is an easy question for us to be asking God. “God, why don’t you fix what’s going on here? I know you can do it, just deal with all of these problems!”
This isn’t a new question—in fact, it’s something that people have probably been asking God since the early books of the Bible. I have to imagine that the people of Israel were asking something similar while experiencing the oppression of Pharaoh during their time in Egypt. Take a look at Exodus 1:8-10:
“Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, ‘Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.”
An interesting observation—Pharaoh’s name is never given here, and I think there is a purpose to that. Pharaoh and Egypt become an archetype for how evil exists and plays out in the world. The biblical authors are going to refer to them time and again as an example of evil, and often we’ll find the biblical writers referring to other people and nations as Pharaoh and Egypt because they’re calling us back to the archetypal example of evil to claim that those people are being like Egypt.
So I think, in the same way, we can look at Egypt and this point in Israel’s history as an example of how God responds to evil—and when bad things happen in our own lives, we can recognize things about how God responds here that will be true again for us there and now. Jump forward in the story to Exodus 1:15-21:
“Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, ‘When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.’ But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this, and let the male children live?’ The midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.’ So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.”
In this instance, we start to get an idea of how God works and how he responds to evil. How is God at work in this dark time of Israel’s history? Through the obedience of faithful people. It’s the fact that the Hebrew midwives choose to follow God and do something about the evil they face even when they are confronted with a difficult situation that the children of the Israelites are saved.
When we’re faced with challenges, difficult times, or evil, we often ask why God doesn’t intervene—but the biblical narrative challenges that line of thinking. Instead of asking why God doesn’t intervene, the better question is this:
What are you doing in response to this situation for God to intervene through you?
God likes to use us to bring about his work in the world. It’s the nature of the partnership that he desired with us at creation. Just as God uses the faithfulness of ordinary people—these midwives—to keep many others alive at a dark time in the people’s history, he can use you to make a difference in the midst of the difficult situations we face today.
Middle School Pastor