Faith That Refuses and Chooses

Today we resume our study of Hebrews 11. This great chapter must have been a great encouragement to the saints (especially to the converted Jew) who first received it. Doctrinal lessons on faith are incomplete without real life examples.  Today we continue our study in the life of a true man of faith, whom God used to create a nation of His own people. Moses is the premiere leader of Israel. He is the Lawgiver.  But before he could ever lead others, or become an example of faith, he had to make some difficult choices. Faith by definition is more than a feeling or even a conviction. It is a choice of action. The just live by faith though the choices that they make.

Intro: What motivates our choices in life?  Many times when we contemplate and anticipate the career choices of others, we assume certain motivators.  It does not surprise us when the popular athlete chooses to play where he gets the most money or where he can become a champion or superstar.  But if the athlete turns down more money or instant fame to play somewhere else, that catches our attention. We do not expect that.

Moses’ choices surprise us. When he reaches the age in life where choices make a difference, he refuses what most people strive for, and he chooses what most spend their lifetime trying to avoid.  Why (or how) does he do that?

Hebrews 11:24-26 – 24 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.

  • The writer of Hebrews tells us why he refused what he refused, and he chose what he chose. He did it by faith.
  • The text begins by telling us that Moses made his choices “when he became of age”. Moses’ choices were not made as a youth or even a teenager. His decisions were made after seeing His life through mature eyes, and after the discipline of God had humbled his heart.
  • Let’s take a closer look at Moses’ choices and his faith.

I.   By Faith, He Refused: There is a little word that we often have trouble pronouncing. It is difficult for us to master its use in everyday life. It is the word “no”.  Jesus is the only one who has ever been absolutely successful in using in every time it was needed. But Moses’ was able to say ‘no’ at a critical point in his life.  The ability to say no can define a person’s character.

  • At a very passionate age, Joseph said no to the seduction of Potiphar’s wife.
  • David said no the temptation to retaliate against King Saul.
  • Daniel and his friends said no the call to compromise their convictions and eat the King’s delicacies.
  • In contrast, the prophet Balaam, did not say no to the petition of the king to curse Israel. (Num 22-24)

A.  “when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter” (v. 24) We all recall the story of Moses’ birth. Through God’s protective hand, and the faith of his parents, Moses was saved from the King’s orders to murder all the Hebrew babies.  Beyond that, Moses was placed into the home of Pharaoh’s own daughter, and was raised in the palace.

1.  In Acts 7 Stephen tells us this  …“Pharaoh’s daughter took him away and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds.” (Acts 7:21-22) It seems implied that Moses had an Egyptian birthright. Some suggest that Moses may have been in line to be Pharaoh.  He was a powerful figure – a far cry from the position of his natural parents or Hebrew brethren.

2.  The text of Hebrews 11 points to two elements of Moses’ position in the royal household.  By Moses refused these:

a.  Pleasure (v. 25) – As Pharaoh’s grandson he could do whatever he wanted. He would have had the resources to satisfy all his desires, and nothing would have been off limits.  The text calls these “ the passing pleasures of sin”. Two observations:

  • There is no denying that sin is pleasurable. It enters our life through the desires of the flesh, and provides some form of satisfaction.  But the satisfaction that sin offers is always evil and always passing.  The word translated “passing” here is  proskairos (pros’-kahee-ros) meaning “for the occasion, temporary”. The pleasures that Egypt offered to Moses would not last. He could only enjoy them for a short time.  This is true for two reasons:

1)  The pleasures that sin offers are physical, and therefore only temporary.   Those who have it always want more.

2)  Sinful pleasure will not go unpunished. The certainty of judgment makes any pleasure enjoyed quite temporary (knowing you were getting punished when you got home).  James present these perspective together as he describes the rich of the world.   “You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter.  You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.” ] but in the end, the things they gained are vanishing, and they face God’s judgment.  [ James 5:1-3 – Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! 2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.

  • I am not convinced that Moses was involved in immoral sin in the Pharaoh’s house, but that remaining an Egyptian would have been sinful for him. God was calling him to a spiritual work.  In Acts 7, Stephen tells us that Moses knew he had a mission to perform for God and for his people. “And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him; but they did not understand” (Acts 7:25). Although the people did not understand what he was trying to do, Moses recognized his calling. Just as God had used Joseph to bless His people, God was going to use Moses. In fact, Moses was now in a position similar to Joseph’s, but Joseph used Egypt’s power for the good of God’s chosen people. Moses would have to oppose Egypt’s power for the same purpose.  He had a choice to make.

b. Treasure (v. 26) – “the treasures of Egypt” ” is an expression that points to the boundless wealth that Moses could have enjoyed.  Even by today’s standards, the wealth of the Egyptian Pharaohs is quite impressive. (see today’s bulletin article – a small glimpse of Egypt’s glory can be seen in the archeological discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922. More gold in one room than anyone had ever seen. This boy-king, who lived at the end of Egypt’s glory days, had his organs placed in a gold box worth over a quarter of a million dollars.)  This great wealth stands in contrast to the pauper circumstances of the Hebrew slaves.  Who says no to the money?

c.   Can we relate to Moses’ choice? He possessed what every other person struggled to attain –  To be somebody, to be looked up to, to be secure and enjoy the pleasures of life; To be free and have the power to make your own choices;  He turned his back upon them. He refused them. He gave them up!  He was not refusing something he could not have, but something he already possessed!

  • He was not like the dying man who tells us “he craves nothing more in this world” because he is leaving the world and cannot keep it.
  • He was not like the poor person  who says, “he does not want riches”  because he cannot get them.
  • He was not like the old man who boasts that “he has laid aside worldly pleasures because he is worn out and cannot enjoy them.  He said not to that which he already possessed.  What have you given up to serve Christ?  What have you refused?

II. By Faith, He Chose: Faith not only demands that we say no, but also that we say yes. God requires us to make a positive choice in the form of a commitment to be obedient to His will. What did Moses choose “by faith”?

A.   “…choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God.” Somewhere along the way Moses had learned of his real identity as a Hebrew.  He could look out his window and see their plight.  He no doubt felt sorry for their affliction. But the text does not say he just felt sorry for them, or even that he shared in their theology or heritage.  It says he chose to suffer as one of them.

1.  choosing to suffer: God’s word makes a clear distinction between suffering and choosing to suffer for the sake of Christ. There is no inherent value in suffering. In fact, one may suffer as a result of sin. Peter says, “… let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. (1 Peter 4:15-16) Paul told the Philippians that it had been granted to them, not only to believe on Jesus,” but also to suffer for His sake.” (Phil 1:29)

a.  choosing rather… The affliction that Moses freely chose to suffer is in contrast to the pleasures he could have chosen.  Moses chose to suffer because he recognizes that it was the only way he could be obedient to God’s will. He could not save them without sharing in their affliction.  (as Christ shared in flesh and blood to save us)

b. “esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches…” The word translated esteeming (considering) means to give careful thought. Moses though through his decision and clearly considered the reproach he would suffer.

  • How is Moses’ anticipated suffering called the reproach of Christ since Christ had not yet come.
    • Christ is the Greek form of Messiah, the Anointed One. Many of God’s special people in the Old Testament are spoken of as being anointed, or chosen. It is possible, therefore, that Moses was thinking of himself as a type of messiah, a deliverer. If so, verse 26 could read, “considering the reproach of his own messiahship as God’s deliverer.”
    • It seems best to understand that Moses was indeed going to suffer the reproach of Christ because he identified with Messiah’s people and purpose long before Christ came to earth.  John MacArthur writes… “Every believer since Adam’s fall has been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, no matter in what age he has lived. It is also true, therefore, that any believer at any time who has suffered for God’s sake has suffered for Christ’s sake.
    • From the other side of the cross Paul said, “I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus” (Gal 6:17).  All Christians should willingly bear the same reproach. “Hence, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach” (Heb 13:13).  After being flogged by the Sanhedrin, the apostles “went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).
  • The reproach was greater riches than Egypt had to offer.  Moses believed what Peter believed…  “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:14).

B.  This was an assessment that could only be made by faith. There was nothing that Moses could see that would lead him to this conclusion. But his faith was the evidence of things not seen.   Vs. 27 tells us that he saw Him who is unseen.  What did Moses believe that made this choice possible?

  • He believed that God would keep His promises—that he would keep the covenant.
  • He believed that with God nothing was impossible. Human reason said there was no way Moses could get the job done. But faith told Moses that God was all–sufficient.
  • He believed that God was all wise. Human reason told him he was being foolish. Why throw away useful influence by breaking with Pharaoh’s daughter. But faith told Moses that God knew what was best.
  • He believed that God would reward his choice. Vs. 26for he looked to the reward. Faith was a telescope to Moses. It made him see the goodly land afar off—rest, peace and victory that was ahead.
    • Faith also told him that there was a reward in heaven for the person who made the choice to obey God. This reward was far superior to anything that could be enjoyed here.
    • 2 Cor 4:16-18 – 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Conclusion: God calls you to make a choice.  It is not unlike Moses’ choice. If you will serve God you must refuse the pleasure and treasure that this world offers, and you must chose to suffer as a Christian, for His sake. Choosing Christ is not an unreasonable choice. But it can only be successfully made by faith. Do you believe what God says?  Will you rest your confidence and live your life according to His words?

Mark 16:16 –  16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

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