One of the forgotten doctrines of Christianity is the Doctrine of Lesser Magistrates. While it can most certainly be said that verses in Genesis create a foundation for this doctrine via the establishment of differing jurisdictions of earthly authority (Genesis 3), in Exodus 1 we see the first instance of this doctrine applied.
In brief the Doctrine of Lesser Magistrates is where Christians get the notion of defying earthly authorities, particularly as it relates to their disobedience to God’s own authority. For instance, the Bible teaches that the husband is head of the household. However if he were to prostitute his wife and daughters, it would be righteous for them to drive him off with stones, the example cited in the historic Magdeburg Confessions. Our submission to earthly authorities is taught in Scripture as an extension of our submission to God. So what happens when earthly authorities not only defy God but compel us to do the same.
It does not take long for this issue to come up in Scripture. With the Hebrews in a tributary bondage under Pharaoh, their population boom was becoming problematic for the balance of power. So he wanted to cull their male population.
15 Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah, and the other was named Puah; 16 and he said, “When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live. 18 So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live?” 19 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 can get to them.” 20 So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. 21 And because the midwives feared God, He established households for them. 22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born, you are to throw into the Nile, but every daughter, you are to keep alive.”
In modern application, this would be similar to China’s one child policy which created a gender gap in their population. But in the United States, it would more closely parallel sex selective abortion. After all, if the Egyptians had the ability to perform ultrasounds, they would have no reason to let the male baby reach term. As we see in verse 22, Pharaoh doubles down on his murderous policy.
Pharaoh’s intent is clear. His authority is also clear. Yet the Hebrew midwives are rather quick to defy him because they recognized the limitations on Pharaoh’s authority as well as the divine punishment for committing such an evil act as they had been commanded. The Bible makes it clear that this was not a hard decision for the midwives. In fact, it was an easy one because they feared the Lord, far more than they feared Pharaoh. And God blesses them for their obedience.
What is our excuse when the government allows and compels the butchering of unborn babies? It seems like America is filled with too many politicians that fear political blow back more than they fear the Lord. This misplacement of our priorities has consequences.