Sermon preached on Hebrews 11:23-29 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 12/2/2018 in Novato, CA.
“He Looked to the Reward”
Today we have more examples of faith, entering into the next era of redemptive history. We finished up last time looking at the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Now, we come to the Mosaic era during the time when God’s people were in bondage in Egypt and in the Exodus from Egypt that followed. And we continue to see faith that live in antithesis to the ways of the world. We see exemplified here faith that feared God over Man. We also see exemplified here faith that put the enjoyment of God and his future rewards over the passing pleasures of a life of sin right now. And we also see again faith exemplified that willingly suffers affliction for the sake of Jesus Christ. Let us the continue to explore our pilgrim life in the Christian faith as we consider the faith found in the Mosaic era of the Old Testament.
Let’s begin then by thinking of faith exemplified in the fear of God over fearing man. To clarify, when I talk about fearing God and fearing man, I’m talking about in the sense that respects and honors, and therefore submits, to someone in a place of authority or power. In this sense, it’s not normally wrong to “fear” man; for example, Romans 13 talks about showing such fear toward the civil government and Ephesians 6:5 says that we should show such “fear” to our earthly masters. This if the fear that shows the proper reverence toward the various authorities in our lives. And so, in terms of God, the believer rightly recognizes that God is God and we are not. The believer recognizes that God is the ultimate sovereign of the universe who commends righteousness and punishes wickedness. Of course, as believers in Christ we don’t have to fear an eternal punishment for our sin – Jesus has paid for that (1 John 4:18). Nonetheless, we should have reverence for God as the final authority over everything. In today’s examples of faith, we see a right fear of God expressed by their faith. Yet, let me acknowledge right away that our passage doesn’t explicitly use the phrase “the fear of God.” So then, how do we see here in this passage a commendable fear of God? There are several examples.
First, we see it in verse 23 with Moses’ parents. There it mentions that by faith they hid Moses for 3 months when he was first born. Part of the explanation that is given is that they didn’t fear the king’s command. You might recall that in Exodus 1:22, the Pharaoh of Egypt had ordered all newborn Hebrew males to be thrown into the river to die. That’s because he was concerned that the Israelites were getting too numerous and thought might turn against Egypt. But, it says here in verse 23 that Moses’ parents wouldn’t do that. We know they eventually put him in a basket on the Nile where the Pharaoh’s daughter finds him and adopts him. But first, for the first three months of Moses’ life, the parents hid him. They hid him until they couldn’t hide him any longer. And so, realize that when it says they disobeyed the king because they didn’t fear the king’s command, it means that they were fearing God instead. They knew that when God’s Word is not compatible with man’s word, even the command of a king, you must obey God over man. In fact, we see in Exodus, in the passage right before this, that the Hebrew midwives also disobeyed the Pharaoh’s command to kill the newborn males. The reason Exodus 1 gives for the Hebrew midwives disobey the king is because they feared God. The same thing is going on here with Moses’ parents.
On a possible related note, the other reason that is given here in verse 23 for the parents hiding Moses is that they saw that he was a beautiful child, which is a reference to Exodus 2:2. There is longstanding tradition that this references divine revelation they received that told them Moses was destined to be a deliverer of his people. Even the historian Josephus records this when writing on the history of Israel. So then, the reference of Moses being a beautiful child might not reference his physical beauty but that the parents recognized the plan God had for Moses and he was therefore particularly special in their eyes. If this history is true, then that would further point to them fearing God and God’s plans over the king and the king’s plans. But I would not be dogmatic about that point.
We see a second instance of fearing God over man in verse 27. There it speaks of how Moses forsook Egypt and says that his reason for doing so was about his faith that saw the invisible God and not because he was afraid in the wrath of the king. This verse is generally understood to be commenting on how Moses fled Egypt after killing the Egyptian taskmaster that was beating an Israelite. In Exodus, it mentions Moses having some initial fear when he discovered that his murder of the Egyptian had become known. Pharaoh then heard about it and sought to kill Moses. That’s when Moses decided to flee to the land of Midian. I’m sure that was a scary time for Moses. But Hebrews seems to be giving inspired interpretation here to say that ultimately when Moses decided to leave Egypt it wasn’t because he feared the Pharaoh’s wrath, but rather in some way had his eyes of faith upon God. That’s why he left Egypt for Midian until the invisible God would ultimately call him into service to fulfill his destiny of being a deliverer for Israel. And so, Moses here was also ultimately putting fear of God over fear of man. But I think there is a good application here that putting your fear in God over man doesn’t mean that there isn’t a struggle with fearing man. Moses knew that struggle but chose to trust God in faith.
A third expression of fear of God is seen in verse 28. Moses kept that first Passover with the spreading of the blood over the doorposts of his house. Why did he keep that? Because of a right fear of the LORD! Because God had said that he was going to pass through Egypt that night and kill the firstborn of whomever did not have the Passover blood on their doorposts. And so, we see that the fear of God is rightly put. Because whomever didn’t fear God in that instance would find the Lord’s sword of death that very night. Moses was right that he didn’t need to fear Pharaoh’s wrath. But everyone needed to fear God’s wrath that night of the first Passover. So then, we too remember that a right fear of God is a good thing, and that such a fear must also understand the wrath of God. When there is a conflict between the word of human authorities and God’s authority, we should recognize that ultimately God always wins. We must exercise faith to put our fear in God over man each and every time!
Let’s turn now in our second point to see the example here of faith that put the enjoyment of God and his future rewards over the passing pleasures of a life of sin right now. Here I especially have in mind verses 24-25. Hebrews notes that when Moses came of age he chose to give up the life of privilege he had as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter. When verse 24 says he became of age it’s likely a reference to Exodus 2:11 that describes that when Moses had grown up he went out to his fellow Israelites and saw their afflictions. That’s when he chose to kill that abusive Egyptian taskmaster. In that action, he chooses to place his identity with his own Hebrew people and not with the royal family of Pharaoh. Notice the contrast described here. If he had stayed identifying with Pharaoh’s family, surely he would have had every privilege. He would have lacked nothing. He would have everything at the royal family’s disposal for his enjoyment. Some scholars have even suggested that he might have been in line for the throne – though I’m not sure we have enough evidence to assert that. But the point is that he was giving up so much from an earthly standpoint to identify with his true family which were but slaves in Egypt.
Yet, that’s behind why he did give it all up. Verse 25 says that he was giving up the pleasures of sin. It doesn’t go into detail of what it has in mind, but surely a major part of this is that the Pharaoh’s treasures were gained in a large part due to the sinful, evil enslavement of the Hebrews – Exodus 1:11 speaks of the treasure cities that the Pharoah had the Hebrew slave labor build. And so, to enjoy such treasures would have been to have pleasures at the expense of the Hebrews. Thus, these could be described as the pleasures of sin. It would be sin for Moses to enjoy such pleasures at his brethren’s expense.
So, Moses wouldn’t choose that. But look at what he did choose. Verse 26 says that when Moses gave up those earthly treasures he did it looking to a better, future reward. Such future reward would be greater treasures than what they had in Egypt. As an interesting side note, we are reminded that God’s treasures that he has in store are better than any people could build themselves. The Israelites in their slavery made treasures for Egypt, but Moses rightly knew that the treasures God yet had in store for his people would be far better. But I digress. The point here is that Moses not only forsook the fleeting, sinful pleasures of Egypt. He simultaneously was putting his heart’s desire on the Lord and the reward that the Lord held out in promise to his chosen people. We see the language in verse 26 of Moses “esteeming”. That’s language of valuing. He ultimately valued the Lord and the reward of the Lord over anything the world could offer him.
Given that Moses was giving up so much in the here and now for something in the distant future, it shows that this required faith. By faith, Moses chose to find his enjoyment and delight in the LORD and not in this world with its fleeting treasures. Again, we find application to our faith to do the same. May we also look in faith to the greater reward that God has promised to his people. May we also be willing to sacrifice any earthly treasure if it stands in contradiction to who we are and what we have as the people of God’s promise.
Alright, let’s turn now in our third and final point to see faith here exemplified that willingly suffers affliction for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amazingly, this is mentioned specifically for Moses in verse 26. It says that not only did Moses choose to identify with Israel because he believed he’d receive a better, future reward. It also says because he esteemed the reproach of Christ as greater than the treasures of Israel. It’s hard to know in what sense and in what detail Moses could have done what he did with a conscious understanding that he was bearing the reproach of the Christ. Since we can’t delve now into Moses’ mind to know what he was thinking, let’s take the statement at its face value and do what we can do right now with a statement like this. We can consider how Moses served as a type of Christ in specifically the sense of bearing reproach in a way akin to how Christ would bear reproach in this world.
So then, in terms of such reproach, we think of what Moses did that looked forward to what Jesus did. Think about this. Moses gave up his royal pleasures and privileges while at the same time humbling himself to identify with his people. In doing this, he takes upon the people’s reproach. He leaves his freedom and exalted status to identify and become a slave. Moses falls into their circumstances. But he identifies like this with his people in order to deliver them; to save them! Moses, as a type of Christ suffers in an estate of humiliation in order to be the delivered of his people.
So then, this is what Jesus Christ has done for us. Christ left his place of royal luxury in the heights of heaven and in that state of glory that he had with the Father since before the foundations of the world. He left that to enter into the estate of humiliation needed to deliver us. He humbled himself in the incarnation, taking on human flesh in a sin-cursed world full of misery. He made himself under the law. He then lived a life full of various miseries. Miseries that were common to all mankind. Miseries at the hand of the world who hated him for preaching the truth. And the miseries of the cross where he offered himself. He willingly gave up all that he had in glory to come to a place of reproach, where he would be despised and rejected by men. But he did it as well looking to the reward; that he would purchase a people for himself by his shed blood. Christ bore all these reproaches and more to be our deliverer! So then, in advance of the reproach Jesus Christ would face, Moses can rightly be described as experiencing such. He typologically experienced the reproach of Christ as a type of the Christ to come.
Verse 29 then gives us the bigger picture for Moses’ day that should also remind us of the ultimate bigger picture. In faith, Moses had to choose to look beyond the world, and the here and now, to God and the future. Though Moses didn’t receive the full of God’s promises in his own life, verse 29 shows us that he did receive a picture of the end. What happened at the Red Sea was more typology. For there, the world as represented by the Egyptians was destroyed by God, and God’s people were vindicated before the world as they walked across the sea as if on dry land. Moses begins to bring them into the reward, as they exit Egypt and start on their journey to the Promised Land. There, with the events at the Red Sea, they began to taste of victory and vindication. Likewise, Christ has suffered with us, but our faith is being encouraged again today to look ahead to victory and vindication in Christ.
In closing, brothers and sisters, I give us a final point of application from this testimony concerning Moses and his enduring the reproach of Christ. When we look at the record of Moses giving up so much to identify with their people and their suffering, at first, Moses actions didn’t immediately bring relief to the people. As Moses gave up so much and bore such reproaches himself, the people also shared in those reproaches. For example, we remember when Moses first went to Pharaoh to ask that the people be let go, it initially resulted in Pharaoh deciding to stop giving the people straw. He still demanded the same amount of bricks to be made by them, but they would have to find and gather the straw themselves. And so, as Moses identified with the people and began to take on the people’s reproach and tried to deliver them, at first they had to take on extra reproach from Pharaoh. Sadly, many Israelites complained about that and pointed the finger of blame at Moses. Too often the Israelites met Moses’ mercy toward them with resistance and complaint and accusation. That was not the right response, of course.
And yet it is a picture that has a lesson for us. Let us be reminded that in Christ coming into this world, and sharing in our reproach and shame and sufferings, that we are now called to share in turn in the sufferings of Christ. We now, like Moses, begin to experience the reproach the Christ. As the watching world hates on Christ, they in turn hate on us who have been identified with Christ. Yet as we remember Moses’ faith today, may we remember to keep the faith when we experience the reproach of Christ. May we not be like those ungrateful Israelites who lamented in sharing in Moses’ sufferings. Let us instead be like those apostles in Acts who rejoiced to be counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ (5:41).
Should we do so, it will only be by faith, and that faith by the grace of God. Faith that waits for that final victory and vindication. Praise the Lord that not only will we experience the reward of glory but also have full vindication before the world who has afflicted us for our hope. Amen.
Copyright © 2018 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
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