Unsung Heroes of Faith
1:8 – 2:10
Rev. Randy Quinn
I don’t know if you followed the story in 2002, but
some women took over an oil terminal in Nigeria, demanding jobs for
their husbands and sons.
They were demanding that ChevronTexaco fulfill its promises to hire
local workers and to provide schools, electricity, and water systems to
their village – promises that seemed to have been forgotten by the oil
company as soon as the terminal was put into service.
The sad part of the story is that while
the villagers had received nothing but empty promises from the
multi-national corporation, the oil terminal itself was filled with what
we would call modern amenities, including a medical clinic, a cafeteria,
game rooms, and satellite TV.
The ironic part of the story is that
the name of the oil terminal is Escravos, from the Portuguese word for
The protesting women occupied the port
for ten full days before oil company executives met with them and showed
good faith efforts to fulfill their promises. But they only came to
Nigeria after the women threatened to “shame” the company by stripping
naked on the docks.
In a country where violence is
commonplace, these women bravely and courageously used a non-violent
protest to make change happen.
Theirs is a common story in world
history, though few of the people involved in those stories are known by
name. These same protestors were at Tiananmen Square in China. They
were in Selma, Alabama. They stood alongside Gandhi in India.
But they were in the Bible long before
that. Peter and Paul and Jesus did not resist arrest. Nor did Daniel
and his friends. They waited for the power of God to change the world
rather than using violent means to overcome the evil they saw.
It’s easy to think that our story today
is about Moses, but the real heroes are five women. We don’t even know
the names of all of these unsung heroes of faith.
But their story is told in our text
today. Let’s stand as we hear their story.
If it were not for Shiphrah and Puah,
this story would sound very much like the story of another baby born
many years later – a baby whose very presence brought fear into the
heart of a king; a king whose fear led to the intentional slaughter of
innocent children (Mt 2:16).
Our passage today is about the triumph
of non-violence over violence, the triumph of right over wrong, the
triumph of the weak over the strong, the triumph of slaves over their
oppressors. It is the triumph of God that sets the stage for a much
larger triumph when Israel will be released from captivity and set free
in the Promised Land.
But for now, the children of Israel
remain in Egypt. They had come at the invitation of Joseph who promised
to meet their needs and feed them (Gen 45:11; 47:1-6). But that was
many generations ago.
The new leadership no longer remembered
Joseph’s good deeds. The new Pharaoh only saw a growing hoard of people
who could shut down the entire economic base of his prosperity by
staging a non-violent sit-in. The new Pharaoh feared they might join
with one of his adversaries and violently overrun Egypt.
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