The Choice of Moses’ Faith
Scripture: Hebrews 11, Acts 7:17-39
Text: Hebrews 11:24-27
Sermon by Rev. G. Vandenberg
Orthodox Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1984
© Burlington United Reformed Church; Vol. 1, No.12
This sermon may be used in worship services for free; please state the author and church above.
Congregation beloved of the Lord Jesus Christ,
This passage speaks clearly of the faith of another member of that great cloud of witnesses. “This is that Moses,” Stephen said in Acts 7, “which said unto the children of Israel, ‘A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me, Him shall ye hear.’” This is that Moses that was with the church in the wilderness, to whom the angel of God spoke from Mount Sinai, the great law-giver, the Old Testament mediator of the covenant.
Before we speak about Moses’ faith today, I would like to remove a common misconception with regard to the matter of faith and its subjects in Hebrews 11. This is the notion that the people in this great chapter on faith in sacred scripture were some kind of unique, special and wholly different people. Supposedly they are set forth in the Word of God before us as ideological examples that we can never approximate, but we can only stand back and admire them as they exercise their faith.
We forget that all of these men, from Abel who is mentioned first, all along the line to Moses who is mentioned in our text, were men, as the scripture itself says about the great prophet Elijah, “of like passions as we are.” They were people who lived in the midst of the present world, the same kind of life and experience, the same temptations, and the same trials, the same realities as you and I do in our everyday life. Don’t forget that.
If that common error is entertained, then what follows is that we look at faith in Hebrews 11 as some kind of endowment that is given to these special, unique, ideological examples. We forget that it is not that at all, but it is the gift of God to His people. And that gift of God to His people does not work in just a few selected, outstanding, special characters. That gift of God to His people is a power of God that is manifest in all of His children down through the ages.
I want to emphasize that as far as these verses are concerned (though they speak of his entire adult life), the emphasis is undoubtedly the fact that Moses made a choice of faith.
We are no different, because faith was God’s gift to Moses but also to us. If you and I do not have the faith that makes exactly the same choice as Moses did, we have very serious reason to question whether we really have true faith at all. Then we’re in serious trouble.
So today I want to speak about “the choice of Moses’ faith.” We will follow the Word of God rather closely. I’m going to speak in the first place of this choice as it consists of a total rejection. Moses rejects something. If we have true faith, there’s a very important element of rejection that has to take place in our lives. If we’re not rejecting something, then the thing we call faith is not genuine. It’s not real.
In the second place, we’re going to see that Moses’ faith functions as a positive selection. We don’t only reject, but we also select. Moses rejects, and then Moses selects, and then we’re going to see that Moses makes a choice of permanent endurance, because that’s the way faith works. The text says, “and Moses endured as seeing Him that is invisible.”
What is it that Moses rejects? Well, the first thing we ought to observe here is the fact that it begins by stating, that “Moses, when he came to years...” It’s not talking about Moses when he was a little baby in his parents’ home. It’s not even talking about Moses when he was a youth, when he grew up in the court of Pharaoh. It’s talking about a young man who came to maturity and therefore is able to look at the world and make some very important decisions.
Beloved, each of us grows up in a world that requires us to make very important decisions. We don’t expect those decisions to be made by our children when we hold them by the hand, and when we bring them up in our homes. But when our children “come to years,” to that time in life when they make decisions about very important matters affecting their future, we hope and trust that they would make these decisions as Moses did; not simply with regard to secular and worldly things, but with regard to the matters of the faith.
When Moses came to years, he looked around. He considered his environment. He looked beyond his own immediate environment. He saw nearby a slave people in a great camp of enslavement, suffering, being tortured, and being cruelly oppressed. He took all these things into consideration, and then acted. And the first thing he did was to totally rejected three things.
Notice the text: First of all he said, “I refuse to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” Secondly he said, “I refuse to participate in the pleasures of sin.” And thirdly he said, “I refuse to make this Egypt my homeland.” These three rejections on the part of Moses constitute a total rejection of the world and the things of the world; a total rejection of all that is outside of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because it’s so very important, I want to say a few things about each of these three elements that Moses rejected. And consequently, you and I must also, with the same faith as Moses, reject the same realities that are signified by these three statements of the Word of God.
First of all, we too with Moses must refuse to be called the sons or the daughters of Pharaoh; or to put it in today’s setting, we must refuse to acknowledge that the state is our parent. That’s what Moses is saying: “I refuse to belong to Pharaoh and the state of Egypt. I was not born of that state, and I do not belong to it. I refuse to acknowledge that my roots are there.”
It was not an easy thing for Moses to say that. But perhaps in a sense it’s even more difficult for us today than it was for Moses, to refuse to be called a child of the state. This is because the state today is sweeping out so far, embracing everyone of all races and creeds, and saying in effect, “These are all my children. I’m going to bring them up and I’m going to educate them. I’m going to do it as I please. I am their parent.” And faith says, “I won’t have it that way. I refuse to be identified with Pharaoh.”
The second thing Moses rejects has even broader implications. He says, “I refuse to have anything to do with the pleasures of sin.” Now let’s get one thing very clear before we proceed — Moses is not talking here simply about sinful pleasures. If that were the case, the whole matter could be quite easily resolved. Today’s world engages in all kinds of pleasures that are, to say the least, pleasures that the apostle Paul would describe as “the things they do that we can’t even talk about.” They’re too terrible — immoral, corrupt, devilish and wicked. The Christian doesn’t have difficulty rejecting that. But that’s not what Moses has in mind. Moses is talking about pleasures which in themselves are not sinful. They are not what you would call good, they’re not what you would call bad. But they are pleasures which, in order to obtain them, would necessitate on Moses’ part, a sinful behavior.
Let me illustrate. One of those things is the procurement of Egypt’s riches, which the text speaks of too. There’s a certain pleasure in being rich. The more money people have, the more fun they can have because pleasure takes money. Moses could have had all the money in the world. He had access to it. And there was plenty of it because Egypt was the great world power in that day. Egypt was the banking center of the whole world, something the USA is today in the world markets. Egypt’s currency was important, and their dollar was higher than all other dollars. Egypt was the power. And Moses could have controlled all business if he would only be a son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses could have had the pleasure of riches, but he chose to reject it because it would involve him in sin.
Another opportunity here was the pleasure of a very prestigious and dignified position in the world. Historians accurately tell us that if Moses wanted to, he could have been the next prime minister of the land of Egypt. He was next in line. Pharaoh’s daughter had no other son, and had Moses simply chosen to identify himself with Egypt, on the death of that Pharaoh, Moses would ascend the throne. Look how nice that would have been — Moses having all the power in Egypt. He could have looked with mercy and leniency towards the children of Israel. What a pleasure it would have been to release all his brethren, all his kinsmen according to the flesh, from their state of captivity and bondage. Just think what good he could do! He could have done as much good for them as Joseph did when he was prime minister some centuries before this. But Moses, in order to gain that position, would have to sin. And he would not have the pleasure of an honorable, prestigious position in the world if it involved him in sin.
And so it goes. Anything and everything in this present life that is pleasurable to the flesh, is not in itself a sin, but if it can be procured only by living in the way of sin, it must be called a pleasure of sin that needs to be totally rejected.
Let me make just one more simple, but nevertheless practical application of this. Let’s suppose we have a baseball game, an event in which many people find great pleasure. And let’s suppose it conflicts with an activity or duty in the church of Jesus Christ. It’s not wrong to go to a ball game. It’s not sin to have pleasure in sports. But if it involves us in a sin of neglect towards God’s church, we are not rejecting the pleasure of sin, and we are choosing sin over against Christ.
We have to do as Moses did and look at all the realities of our existence in this world of total iniquity and sin. Then in faith we must reject every pleasure, every thing in which we would find delight and satisfaction, if it causes us to neglect to serve God with the zeal and devotion that we are called to demonstrate in that service.
And finally, Moses rejected in the third place, the fact that Egypt was to be his homeland. I think Moses was very conscious of what we read earlier about some of these heroes of the faith, and he too would say, “I’m a pilgrim and a sojourner. I’m a stranger as all my fathers were in this land and this is not my home. Canaan, the land of promise — that’s my homeland. And I refuse to be identified as one whose homeland is Egypt. It just doesn’t belong to me.”
And God’s people must realize that too: that this world is not their native land. Yes, we were born and raised here, and our life was spent here. Yet it’s not our homeland. Our homeland is the land of promise, and we are pilgrims and strangers journeying through this world. Yet so often those words are an empty acknowledgement that has no meaning in our souls. We don’t experience the reality of being entirely sojourners and pilgrims in this present world, because we have not engaged in total rejection.
So first of all, true faith that is God’s gift to His people, the faith through which God works the wonder and the glory of our salvation, is a faith which very emphatically looks at this present world in all its economic, social and political development, in all its pleasures, business and trade, in all its wealth and money, in all that it has; and the child of God says, “I don’t want you. You’re not my life. You’re not the object of my aspirations, the hope of my desire, the aim of my striving. World, as you are, smeared in the power of anti-christ, and ruled by the prince of darkness, I reject you completely.” But the child of God in that faith doesn’t stand simply as a rejector, but turns immediately with Moses and says, by the same faith, “I reach out and I make a selection.”
If you ever want to see what appears to be foolishness on the part of the children of God, something totally ridiculous, completely irrational, almost insane, then consider when a child of God says, “I reject the pleasures of Egypt. I reject a position of honor and riches and name and everything else. And what do I choose?” They are three things:
1. To suffer affliction with God’s people;
2. To carry the reproach of Jesus Christ; and
3. To regard the recompense of reward. That is, to choose that reward and regard it as the proper recompense, that makes the suffering with God’s people and the reproach of Christ worthy. Yes, it makes it worth more than all Egypt has to offer.
Now if you think that’s easy, then you’ve got to put yourself for a moment in Moses’ position. Moses didn’t come to this conclusion by reasoning through a logical system and finally coming to the conclusion that this choice was the best for him. No, if he had done that, Moses would never have done what he did. This was the selection of faith.
And notice that here’s a man who stands with his hands, as it were, in the coffers of Fort Knox, ready to grab all the gold that his hands can handle. He is ready to be given power to rule the world, and has everything going for him, and he says, “Hey, I’m going to cast my lot in with those slaves who are being beaten every day, whose children are thrown into the Nile River, who are nothing but a pain and a headache.” You say, the man is crazy. What kind of mentality is that anyway, to choose suffering with the people of God over the promising future he had? Yet that’s precisely what Moses did.
Young men, young women, you are coming to years. Don’ t look at that world and say to it, “How much do you have to offer me? How much can I make for myself? How great a name? How high a position? How many riches? How much pleasure?”
Look at God’s people. See them suffer? See them oppressed and afflicted? See them denied jobs and positions and everything else in this world for Christ’s sake? The faith of Hebrews 11 says, “I’ll cast my lot in with them. Rather than to be rich, prosperous and powerful in this world, faith says, “I take the reproach of Christ.”
That’s amazing. Moses lived some 1,500 years before Christ even came. What did Moses know about the reproach of Christ? How in the world could Moses choose the reproach of Christ when Christ hadn’t even come? And someone like the prophet Isaiah had not even spoken yet, as he does so beautifully in the 53rd chapter of his prophecy about the disgrace, shame and suffering that would be heaped upon Jesus Christ in his revelation. Did Moses know anything about this? Yes, he did. Do you know why? It wasn’t because he could figure it out. It wasn’t because he had a great mind with which he could look into the future. No. He knew because he had the same faith that was in Abraham.
Remember that Abraham saw the day of Christ, and he rejoiced when he saw it. Moses also with that same faith saw Christ, and he saw Him as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. He saw all the reproach of our sin heaped on Christ. You could say that Moses saw that cross of Jesus, the Son of God dying, suspended on that accursed tree by wicked hands. He saw Christ spit upon, scorned, ridiculed, and all the rest of the reproach of Christ.
Many would say “that is one thing I’m going to avoid. I don’t want any part of that.” But faith says, “I am willing to carry that cross too. I am willing to have the reproach of that cross upon me. I am willing, if they do this to my Master, to suffer the same fate.” And that Master said, “They hated me, and they will hate you.” He also said, “In the world you shall have tribulation.” So faith says, “Lord, that’s all right.” The reproach of Jesus and the tribulations for His sake are worth more than all the treasures that Egypt can give me.”
I think of Jesus’ tremendously important words to the rich man who had a bountiful harvest so great that he didn’t know where to put his surplus. So he proposed to build more and more so that he could lay away goods for years to come. And Jesus said, “What doth it profit a man if he gains the world?” What of it if he has stores upon stores of the wealth of grain products to sell that will give him abundant profit? What of it if he has securities and bonds and investments and Wall Street at his disposal, so that he is called a millionaire or a multimillionaire? What of it if he’s got all that and he loses his soul? What good does it do him?
The reproach of Christ is implicit in the salvation of the soul. That’s worth far more than anything that can be found in this present world. Let’s never forget that. You see, Moses’ selection was basically the same selection that is made by faith by every child of God that lives in this world. Moses, in that faith, reached out and said, “I select Christ.” He did not do that of himself.
Man by nature says, “Christ? He’s not important really,” or “He’s not so important that He can interfere in my own self-interests and progress, in my own life as I plan it and want it realized for my own pleasure.” The natural man even goes a step further and says, “Christ? really I hate Him. He stands in my way and I don’t want anything to do with Him.” But Moses isn’t speaking as a natural man; he is speaking as a child of God in whom God has planted the power of a saving, redeeming faith. By faith the children of God cry out: “Christ is all! The world is nothing. I want my life to begin, end and center in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
That was Moses’ selection. And that’s why the text says that Moses endured. Think again about the parable of the rich man. You know that man didn’t endure. He chose the riches of this world and that very night the Lord took his soul. What’s happened to his goods and all his worldly pleasure? It was all gone.
We see that he didn’t endure. There’s no endurance in the things of this world, because the reality is, as Paul expressed to the Corinthian church: The world and the things of the world are passing away. Pretty soon they will be no more.
Let’s look at the more positive side. Moses endured. There are two things that are very important in connection with this endurance of Moses. Moses went right on and persevered, and that’s what endurance means. He could not be thwarted from the way of life he had chosen by faith, one that rejects the world and chooses Christ.
The first evidence of that endurance was that he was not afraid of Pharaoh or the world, and he didn’t have to be. Why should he be afraiid? Why should we be afraid of anything in this world when God, who is above all and over all, is for us? Since God would stop at nothing less than giving His own Son for our redemption, why do we have to fear any one with that God on our side?
The second very important thing is that the text says, “Moses saw the invisible.” That’s why he didn’t fear the king and could act as he did. Now many would say, “But Moses did fear the king.” Many people are troubled with this passage in Exodus because it says that after Moses killed an Egyptian and found out it became widely known, he packed his belongings and took off for the land of Midian. So it appears that he was afraid of the king. And yet the text says, he didn’t fear the king.
You see, there were two different times in Moses’ life. Our text refers to the time Moses was called by God to go back to Egypt and to say to Pharaoh, “God requires that you let my people go.” And Moses appeared again and again before that king with plagues, signs and mighty wonders, and he wasn’t afraid of that king. But that was a different Moses. That was a Moses whom God had prepared, tried, and proven, whom God had equipped to stand before the king without fear.
The Moses that fled from Egypt into Midian was a Moses who was not yet ready, a Moses that would go forth and fight the battles of the Lord in his own strength. This can never be done, and so Moses had to run away and go through forty more years of intensive training before he was ready to stand before the mighty king of the world without fear.
Then Moses sees the invisible: the God of the burning bush, the God of the mighty plagues, the God who controls the sea and opens the sea to His people, the God who leads through the wilderness, and the God who mightily fulfills His promises, of which not one can fail. Moses sees Him, and he trusts in that God. And as we read from Acts, Moses is rejected by Israel, his own people. In the wilderness they will not hear him. They rose up again and again against him, to the point where, humanly speaking, a man would have long ago given up. But Moses didn’t; he endured. He endured to the very end.
But even here Moses fell short. Just before Moses was to go into Canaan and obtain the promise with all the glory of Canaan, Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it as God commanded. And God said, “Moses, because you disobeyed you can’t go into Canaan. Go up into the mount; you must die here.”
So Moses was not the perfect mediator. He didn’t make it all the way, but the Lord Jesus Christ did. He endured. Hebrews 12 tells us that “for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the majesty of the throne on high.”
That’s Jesus — the Jesus whom faith selects and embraces. We hold on to that Jesus, whom Peter says, “not having seen we love.” Clinging to him, we endure whatever may come to pass in this life. It may not be pleasant. It may be very difficult. It may even be very painful, but it doesn’t really matter. We endure.
And through it all we will attain unto that glorious promise of rest. We’ll enter into that land we identify as our homeland, and we will receive the recompense of the reward, which is great. Gloriously great, greater than all the world has to offer.
May we have that faith! Amen.