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“And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand. And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow? And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known. Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.”
Here the Spirit of God tells us about the faith of a man just like us, a sinner washed in the blood of Christ, robed in the righteousness of Christ, and saved by the grace of Christ. If we read this passage by itself, we might think, “That does not look like faith to me. It looks like presumption and fear.” But we must interpret Scripture by Scripture, not by our own reason and experience. And in Hebrews 11:24-27 God the Holy Spirit points to this very event in the life of Moses and says, “Look at this. This is what faith is.”
“By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.”
Moses is an example of faith that is very well suited to us. There are many examples of faith held before us in Holy Scripture, examples we follow in spirit, but not in deed. God has not called us to offer up a literal sacrifice, like Abel. He has not called us to build a literal ark, like Noah. And the Lord has not called us to literally leave our homeland and families, to dwell in tents, or to offer up our Isaac, like Abraham. But Moses’ faith exactly tallies with the experience of all God’s saints. Moses’ faith made him walk in the same path, make the same sacrifices, and endure the same trials as true faith requires of us today. As it was with Moses, so it is with all believers. True faith in the heart manifests itself by the same characteristics of life demonstrated by Moses.
Identified With Israel
Moses identified himself with Israel (Exodus 2:11-12).
“And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.”
The reason Moses went out unto his brethren at this time, when he was forty years old, is clearly stated by God the Holy Spirit in Acts 7:23. He did so because “it came into his heart to do so.” It came into his heart to identify himself with God’s people, and thereby to identify himself with the God of Israel, because God put it into his heart to do so.
When Moses openly and publicly took the part of the Israelite against the Egyptian, God the Holy Spirit tells us that when he did it, when he slew the Egyptian, he did so as an act of faith. This is what we do in believer’s baptism. We publicly identify ourselves with Christ, his gospel, and his people. Moses preferred Israel to Egypt. He preferred being an Israelite to being the most prestigious, powerful man in the world. He preferred the care of God’s church and people to his own honor and well-being. Has it come into your heart to identify yourself with Christ, his gospel, and his people? Has the Lord God given you faith in Christ? If so, “Why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized.”
Things He Refused
When it came into his heart to visit his brethren, Moses gave up some things any man would naturally prefer not to give up. Specifically, we are told that Moses gave up three things for the sake of his soul. He could not have followed Christ, he could not have been saved had he kept them. So he gave them up. He sat down, counted the cost of following Christ, and willingly paid the price of doing so. Moses made three of the greatest sacrifices a man could ever make.
1. He gave up rank, position, and greatness. – “When he was come to years, he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” We are told, by tradition, that Pharaoh had but one daughter, his only child; and that Moses was her only child. She had adopted him as her son. He was next in line for the throne of Egypt, the greatest nation in the world. He could have been a great man, the most powerful, influential man in the world. But Moses refused it. This was a very great sacrifice. He refused the throne of Egypt. He forsook his family and a mother whom he loved. And he made the decision to do so when he was a man of forty years of age.
2. Moses gave up earthly ease and pleasure. The pleasures he gave up would have been for other men matters of indifference, involving no sin in themselves. They were simply the pleasures of wealth, security, comfort, luxury, and ease of life. But for Moses, they would have been “the pleasures of sin,” because they were contrary to the will of God. This, too, was a great sacrifice. Moses gave up that which all men and women of all ages and social conditions most naturally seek – pleasure!
3. And Moses gave up great, great riches. “The treasures of Egypt” were his. He had more wealth than any of us can imagine in his hand; but when God put it into his heart to visit his brethren, he dropped it all, every penny, like a hot potato. This, I dare say, was his greatest, most difficult sacrifice. Most men are far more willing to give up both position and pleasure than give up prosperity. Yet, Moses did not give away only a portion of his wealth. He gave up all his wealth.
Let me show you something of how great Moses’ sacrifices were. He gave up all of these things, ¾ position, pleasure, and prosperity, ¾ all at one time. He gave them up deliberately, as a wise, well-educated, mature man, a full forty years old (Acts 7:22). His was not a hasty, rash decision made in an emotional moment, but a deliberate, willful, calculated choice. He knew exactly what he was doing. He knew what he was giving up. And he knew what he was choosing.
And there was nothing that obliged Moses to give these things up, except the fact that he believed God. Pharaoh had not disowned him. The children of Israel did not want him to become their leader. He was not a dying man who was about to leave the world, and, therefore, willing to give it up. He was not a beggar who had no rightful claim to or hope for these things. He was not an old man who could no longer enjoy these things. Moses willingly made these sacrifices for the honor of God and the good of his people, hoping for and expecting nothing in return.
Moses choices were as great as his sacrifices. He chose to walk in a path that was completely contrary to the flesh, contrary to worldly wisdom, and contrary to personal desire. The Holy Spirit tells us that Moses chose three things: — “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25). Moses’ choices were hard, costly choices. But they were necessary to the salvation of his soul. The things Moses chose did not in any way merit, earn, or cause his salvation. But had he not done these things, he could not have been saved. Though we choose to obey our Savior, and obey him willingly, obedience is not an option with God’s people. It is essential. We see that clearly in Exodus 4:24-27.
1. Moses chose a path of affliction and suffering. He chose conflict instead of comfort, adversity instead of prosperity, sorrow instead of satisfaction, pain instead of peace, and suffering instead of solace.
2. He chose the company of God’s despised people. He left his family and friends and became one with the people of God. Their troubles became his troubles. Their sorrows became his sorrows. Moses not only preferred God’s despised people to the people of this world, he preferred God’s people to himself.
3. And this man, who believed God, chose a path of reproach and scorn. He was, no doubt, mocked, belittled, ridiculed, and laughed at. He must have been the joke of Egypt. He saw reproach and scorn before him, and deliberately chose them. Most of us can face almost anything easier than we can face scorn and ridicule.
It is true, he was chosen of God to be one of his own; but Moses’ chose to be numbered among God’s people. At first glance, this might not seem to be a very difficult choice for anyone to make. After all, these were the chosen, redeemed, peculiar people of God. These were the people to whom alone God gave his Word and ordinances of divine worship. God himself was with them. And Canaan was promised to them. But Moses’ was fully aware of the consequences of his choice. He counted the cost and chose rather to suffer the afflictions of God’s elect than to enjoy the pleasures that were his in Egypt. He knew that the afflictions they endured were hard afflictions indeed; but he also knew that they were afflictions endured as the people of God. He knew that they were divinely appointed, fatherly chastisements, that they were for the glory of God, that they were only temporary, and that they were spiritually and eternally beneficial (1 Peter 1:3-9).
There has never been a man, except the God-man, who made such sacrifices and choices as Moses made. He gave up a king’s throne and chose a slave’s rags. He gave up the king’s palace for a place among God’s people. He gave up riches for poverty. He gave up respectability and chose reproach.
Motivated by Faith
Why would any sane, reasonable man make such choices? What compelled Moses to act as he did? What motivated him? The Holy Spirit tells us that it was “by faith Moses” did these things. Moses believed God. Faith motivated him. Faith directed him. Faith controlled him. Moses did what he did because he believed God.
Moses believed on Christ. He believed God’s promise that he would send a Deliverer, a Redeemer, a Savior, a King of the seed of Abraham in whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. He believed God would keep his promise. He would fulfill his covenant. He would deliver his people. He would never forsake his own. Moses believed that with God nothing is impossible. The deliverance of Israel and the overthrow of Pharaoh seemed impossible. But Moses believed God! He believed in the wisdom and goodness of God’s providence. Like Joseph before him, he was in the place of God, and he knew it. Moses believed God is faithful (Lamentations 3:21-26).
Blessed be his name, our God is faithful to his purpose, to his promise, and to his people. It was faith in Christ that caused Moses to see things that had not yet come to pass. Faith caused him to see temporal things as temporal and eternal things as eternal. Faith, remember, is the response of the believer’s heart to God’s Revelation (Romans 10:17). Because he believed God’s Word, Moses knew what God would have him to do; and faith in Christ gave him strength to do it. Yet, marvelous as Moses’ sacrifices and choices seem to be, they are really not very marvelous at all. He believed God and acted accordingly.
The Reproach of Christ
Because he believed God, Moses esteemed the reproach of Christ to be far greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. — “Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward” (Hebrews 11: 26). The Scriptures do not declare that Moses esteemed reproach for Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. He esteemed the reproach of Christ, that is to say the reproach Christ bore for him upon the cursed tree, as his Substitute, when he suffered and died under the wrath of God, being made sin for him (Psalm 69:9).
Moses considered it his greatest wealth and honor to be allowed to identify himself with Christ and bear the reproach of Christ as his Substitute (Philippians 3:10). He gladly bore the reproach of the gospel, the reproach God’s people endured, and the reproach of worshipping his unseen God and Savior. May God make us willing, always willing, to bear the reproach of Christ (I Peter 2:19-24).
He was all the more willing to bear the reproach of Christ, because he had respect to the promises God had made in his Word. Believing God, “he had respect unto the recompense of the reward” (Hebrews 11:26). That is to say, he believed God would do what he promised, and he looked for the recompense of reward. He expected it and anticipated it (2 Timothy 1:7-12). He was “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life!” Moses was looking for the deliverance of Israel out of their bondage, the blessings of Canaan, the blessedness of eternal glory with Christ.
Fear, but No Fear
There appears to be a contradiction between Exodus 2:14 and Hebrews 11:27. Exodus 2:14 tells us that Moses was afraid of Pharaoh. But Hebrews 11:27 tells us that he was not afraid of him. That is an obvious contradiction; but it is not a contradiction in the Scriptures. It is a contradiction of flesh and spirit. When Moses thought the thing was known to Pharaoh, he was, to put it mildly, afraid. I suspect he was utterly terrified. His heart must have quaked within him. But he overcame his fear of Pharaoh by his fear of God. Faith triumphed over fear; and he fled from Egypt, not in fear, but in faith (1 John 4:4; 5:4-5).
Moses made no effort to appease Pharaoh’s wrath. His fleeing was not an act of cowardice, but of obedience to the will of God. There he must wait for God to send him for the work to which he was ordained. He must be trained in the prophecy school of hardship, isolation, and trouble in the Midian desert. “Temptation, prayer, and meditation,” wrote Luther, “make a minister.”
Pharaoh was a roaring lion; but Moses did not fear him. So, too, those who are called by the grace of God, out of a state of darkness and bondage, and out of a strange land, forsake this world and everything that is near and dear, when it is in competition with Christ, not fearing the wrath of any temporal king or prince, nor of Satan, the prince of this world.
And Moses’ faith was enduring faith. — “He endured” (Hebrews 11:27). Faith perseveres. Faith never quits. Faith endures, and endures to the end. It endures the trials of providence, the afflictions of the gospel, the rod of chastisement, the warfare in our souls, and even countless falls. And the thing that causes faith to endure in God’s saints today is the same thing that caused Moses’ faith to endure. Being “kept by the power of God through faith,” it endures “as seeing him who is invisible.” The cause of Moses’ great faith, the thing that sustained him to the end was just that. Moses had seen and lived seeing him who is invisible (Hebrews 11: 27).
This was not a one time sight, but an ever-increasing sight, a sight which guided, sustained and refreshed this man Moses unto the end. He saw the Lord God in Christ. He saw the invisible God in Christ. He saw Christ in the Word of God taught to him by his parents. He saw the Savior in the bush. His life was ruled by “the good will of him that dwelt in the bush.” He saw Christ our Passover sacrificed for us in the paschal lamb and sprinkled blood. He saw Christ in the salvation wrought for him and Israel at the Red Sea. His sight of God was the sight of faith, just like ours. It was entirely the spiritual sight of faith. It was a glorious, but humbling sight. It was a transforming sight. It was a separating sight. It was an inspiring sight. It was a sustaining sight. And it was a costly, but satisfying sight (Exodus 33:13-19).
What lessons are we to learn from this man who believed God? We have seen what Moses did. He denied himself, took up his cross, and followed Christ. And we have seen why he did it. He believed God. But what does all of this have to do with us? What does the Spirit of God intend for us to learn from Moses’ example?
If we would be heirs of eternal life, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Christ (Luke 14:25-33). Where there is no cross, there is no crown. Where there is no sowing, there is no reaping. Where there is no battle, there is no victory. Where there is no struggle, there is no triumph. Nothing will cause a man in his heart to deny himself and forsake this world, except faith in Christ. If we believe Christ, we can and will follow him, regardless of cost or consequence.
If we live for ourselves and refuse to forsake this world, we cannot have faith, we cannot have Christ, we cannot have eternal life (Mark 8:34-38). If I prefer my will to God’s will, if I seek my way rather than my Lord’s way, if I prefer the world to Christ, if I place the things of time before the things of eternity, if I live for the comfort of my body, rather than for the welfare of my soul, if in my heart I prefer myself to Christ, I do not know Christ and I have no faith. No man can serve two masters. We will either serve self, or serve Christ. We will either deny self, or deny Christ. We will either live for the world, or live for Christ. Choose you this day whom you will serve. If we believe Christ, follow Christ, and seek the will of and glory of Christ, our God will take care of all our earthly and eternal interests (Matthew 10:28-33).
This faith, the faith Moses had, the faith all God’s elect have in this world, is the gift of God. Only the Spirit of God can create true faith in a sinner’s heart (Ephesians 2:8-10). Has God given you faith? Has the Lord given me faith? Surely, then, it is a most reasonable thing for us to give ourselves to him.
“Jesus, spotless Lamb of God,
Thou hast bought me with Thy blood,
I would value none beside,
Jesus –Jesus crucified.
I am Thine, and Thine alone,
This I gladly, fully own;
And in all my works and ways,
Only now would seek Thy praise.
Help me to confess Thy name,
Bear with joy Thy cross and shame,
Only seek to follow Thee,
Though reproach my portion be.
When Thou shalt in glory come,
And I reach my heavenly home,
Loudly still my lips shall own –
I am Thine, and Thine alone.”