February 2, 2009 Ration

Exodus 1:17,21

“But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the boys live. …Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them.”

The midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, feared God over the king of Egypt. The king of Egypt, the one to whom they were enslaved, gave a direct order that if followed, would put them in opposition to God. On the human level, the king of Egypt had the power and authority to make their lives miserable or profitable. But they did not fear the king’s authority or decree. Their hope was not set on what they heard from man. They set their fear, their hope, on God who gave the king of Egypt his throne.

A midwife assists in the revealing of what God has brought into existence: a human soul. These midwifes knew that the male children were not theirs, nor the king’s, to dispose of. Their role was to be a steady, mature, disciplined hand in the birthing process as the work of God was to be revealed.

A midwife, while much different in regard to medium and valuation of what she works with, is not much unlike an artist. Or it may be more appropriate to say that an artist is not much unlike a midwife. An artist’s role is to steadily, diligently, effectively, and faithfully nurse an idea into a mature expression. On the midwife’s part, it is clear to her that she is coming into what has already begun apart from her. These midwives understood that God was the creator of the child in the womb, and so their affections rightly feared and enjoyed God as the One to whom they would answer for their work in the process.

But artists, as we see our ideas flow from within us, are easily tempted to believe then that we are the authority over our inspiration – our little “creation.” When we (incorrectly) affirm ourselves as the governing authority over our work, we will work out of a respect for ourselves. We will work according to the strength that we can summon and deliver. This is exactly the king of Egypt’s error.

Shiphrah and Puah, however, were not deceived by this affection as the king was. They knew God to be the Authority over the boy-child and the king of Egypt, and the One to whom they would have to give account for their work. They feared rightly, and God rewarded such fear and faithfulness. God established households for them.

Artists, though it may be harder to initially connect, it is no less true: God is the One who put in us our skills, abilities, discernment, imagination, articulation, and discipline to bring about a “created” work. We are creatures of God. We are not of our own doing. God, then, is the One we are to fear with regard to our work. We must not fear the various “kings” or “authorities” in the realms of the art world. They are not the ones who hold the power to establish households for us. And neither are we. That power is God’s alone, and He establishes whomever He wishes – be they kings or peasants.

In the labors of our artistry, then, may we fear the Lord alone, and not ourselves, nor any another man. “Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them.”

Jason Harms


© 2009 The Gaius Project