Last Sunday our church started a new sermon series on the book of Exodus. I gave the series the title ‘Journeying Home’ which, I think, captures the meaning of Exodus and the language used in Hebrews 11 as it considers the Exodus in the light of Christ.
Pharaoh deems the Hebrews a threat to social cohesion and cultural prosperity … he mandates the death of every Israelite boy that is born.
However, Exodus begins with a violent and discordant juxtaposition. On one hand, the LORD blesses his people and they multiply: the seventy men and women who entered Egypt at the time of Joseph, have become more than a million. On the other hand, Pharaoh is threatened by the Israelites. He deems them a threat to social cohesion and cultural prosperity, and so moves to subjugate them. When this brutal strategy proves inadequate, he mandates the death of every Israelite boy that is born.
But two Hebrew women, Shiphrah and Puah, become heroes as they ignore Pharaoh’s decree and refuse to end the lives of these children. Frustrated that his ‘health plan’ is failing, Pharaoh pushes further: ‘Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile’ he declares in Exodus 1:22. The river that symbolises the source of life for Egypt must become a graveyard for thousands of babies.
Sacrificing Lives for Lifestyle
I begin with the Exodus story, partly because it’s fresh in my mind and because we are rightly appalled by what we read. To hear of the mass destruction of the young should create outrage and tremendous grief. How can a civil authority feel so threatened by a people group that he gives licence for infant boys to be disposed of? At the same time, Pharaoh was trying to protect a way of life: Egypt’s autonomy, position and future.
We are still making the same sort of trade. Of course, there are significant differences between what goes on in Exodus and our contemporary situation as regards abortion. But there are also uncomfortable parallels when the State takes it on itself to declare children disposable or sanction their destruction in the name of progress and lifestyle. The evil perpetrated by Pharaoh does not stop at the fact that he seeks to control an ethnic group but that he treats these young human beings as commodities.
Ending Roe vs Wade
Today, the news story dominating the United States is the future of abortion after the majority opinion of the Supreme Court was leaked to Politico. Written by Justice Samuel Alito, the paper sets out the argument to overturn Roe vs Wade. This is the first time in American history that a document of this nature has been leaked and many people are interpreting this leak as a last-ditch attempt to pressure the Supreme Court Justices to change their minds and uphold Roe vs Wade.
Overturning Roe vs Wade does not mean abortion will become illegal throughout all of the USA. It does, however (and in my mind correctly) determine that the United States Constitution nowhere presents or protects abortion as a right. It means that the issue of abortion will return to the states and, therefore will become the responsibility of the people to decide what laws will govern the unborn. In practice, this will probably mean some states will restrict abortion (limiting it to pregnancies under 24 weeks or 15 weeks), others may prohibit abortion altogether, while other states will continue to commit abortions even up to the point of birth.
There and Here
Of course, decisions made by the US Supreme Court have no legal bearing on Australian law, but the cultural influence of America inevitably inevitably washes up on our shores. I look forward to seeing how this development might affect things here in the State of Victoria, where abortion is aggressively defended as an unfettered legal right up to birth. In such a environment, I am thankful for any public and legal decision that weakens the abortion position.
In the 50 years since Roe v Wade, 60 million children in the United States have been taken from the womb. In Australia, tens of thousands of children are aborted every year—some because they have been diagnosed as carrying a disability or disease, others because the child is felt to be an impediment to the dreams and life preferences of the mother (and sometimes the father). Over the weekend, a famous (now retired) Australian swimmer revealed how her coach once pressured her into having an abortion. These stories are far more common than we dare acknowledge.
As news broke about Justice Samuel Alito’s draft statement, one could observe the palpable joy and thanksgiving among many Americans. One could also hear the anger of others. Progressive figures such as President Biden, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Elizabeth Warren—along with many other politicians and commentators around the globe—have raised their voices in anxious and loud demands that nothing be allowed to interfere in what they euphemistically describe as a ‘woman’s health care.’
I pray that pro-life Americans will not gloat but resolve to do even more to love and care for women who are facing unwanted or difficult pregnancies
Should Roe vs Wade be overturned, and I pray that it will be, I also pray that pro-life Americans will not gloat or rub it in. I hope that they will give humble thanks to God and resolve to do even more to love and care for women who are facing unwanted or difficult pregnancies. Justified anger at the destruction of life must be coupled with compassion and commitment for helping those who struggle.
When the Supreme Court decision is finally announced and comes into effect, may the final word not be one of triumphalism or anger. The story of Exodus doesn’t end with a river of death. It becomes a story of grace and mercy. There is atonement for sin and freedom found for those who cry out to God.
The blood of 60 million babies cries out for justice. God hears. There are also countless women who, to this day, grieve over their dead children and the decision they once made. The wonderful news to which Exodus points, and which is found in Jesus Christ, is a word of forgiveness and hope and restoration. The final word isn’t judgement. Unending guilt isn’t the only option. The God of the Passover—the God who rescued the children of Israel—is the same God whose only Son gave his life to remove every stain.
As Jesus himself said, during that most famous of Passover meals, on the night he was betrayed, ‘this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins,’ (Matthew 26:28).
Christians, we should be encouraged by, and support, the removal of Roe vs Wade. But we should be even more encouraged by the gospel of grace and forgiveness, which is our only hope.
First published at murraycampbell.net