The Faith of Moses
Hebrews, Moses, Faith, Civil Disobedience
Columbia researcher Sheena Iyengar has concluded that the average individual makes about seventy conscious decisions every day. That’s 25,550 a year and in the course of seventy years that would be around 1,788,500 decisions (Ortberg “All the Places to Go” p. 7) It is in these daily decisions that we find the development of faith.
This morning we are going to look at a man who made mostly good decisions: Moses. He was a remarkable man. In Numbers 12:6-8 It was God who said,
“If there were prophets among you,
I, the Lord, would reveal myself in visions.
I would speak to them in dreams.
7 But not with my servant Moses.
Of all my house, he is the one I trust.
8 I speak to him face to face,
clearly, and not in riddles!
He sees the Lord as he is.
So why were you not afraid
to criticize my servant Moses?”
As a postscript to his life at the end of Deuteronomy Moses was called the most humble man on earth. Moses became a great servant of God because of a series of events and decisions in his life. We are going to look at some of those today in Hebrews 11:23-29.
There are five different choices that are spotlighted in this text. They begin with the words “It was by faith . . . “ From these choices we can derive some principles.
Faith Means Choosing to Do What is Right Even if the Law Says its Wrong
23 It was by faith that Moses’ parents hid him for three months when he was born. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s command.
If you look back to the beginning of the book of Exodus, the second book in the Bible, you can read the story. The descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ended up in Egypt because of Joseph, Jacob’s son. Over the course of the next many years the Hebrews (or the Jews, as we know them today) grew to be a significant part of the population in Egypt. So much so, Pharaoh was concerned they might take over the country.
To defend against this he made the Hebrews their slaves. When that didn’t slow down the birth rate Pharaoh instructed all the midwives to kill any boy babies of the Hebrews (they wouldn’t do it). Next he gave the order to throw all the male babies into the river to drown.
It was during this time that Moses was born. We are told his parents, “saw God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the King’s command.” The phrase “unusual child” or “no ordinary child” (let’s face it, who feels their child is ordinary?) also means gifted and unusually promising. The Jewish historian Josephus suggested that the parents of Moses received a revelation from God concerning their son’s destiny, which is why they chose to break the law.
They hid their baby for three months (which could not have been an easy task). When they could hide him no longer they made a bold move. Moses’ mom put her child in a basket sealed from water and placed it in the Nile near the place where the daughter of Pharaoh bathed. (We don’t know who came up with this plan).
Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses, fell in love with him, and hired Moses’ mom to care for the child until he was of age and then he was taken as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. And that is how Moses ended up in Pharaoh’s household and how the Lord arranged for him to receive the finest education (which he put to use, among other things, in writing the first five books of the Bible).
The parents of Moses (and the midwives) acted in faith. They did what was right even though it involved what we would call civil disobedience (or deliberately and knowingly refusing to obey a law or command as a form of protest of that law). An example of civil disobedience would be the civil rights movement in the 1950’s and 60’s. Civil disobedience is not the same as blatant criminal activity that shows disdain for the law. It is a respectful refusal to obey.
People who engage in civil disobedience know there may be consequences for their actions. (You may go to jail, be fired from your job, lose some friendship, or even be killed).They risk (or endure) the consequences in order to be faithful to their conscience or, in our case, to the Law of God.
Let me give you some examples of when we might engage civil disobedience.
- Refusing to participate in an abortion procedure
- Refusing to obey a government rule that says the church cannot meet or has to engage in a practice it believes is wrong or immoral (for example that they have to perform same sex wedding or lose their tax-exempt status).
- Refusing to be part of a cover-up of criminal activity at the place you work
- Refusing to be part of a policy which discriminates against the poor or needy
Civil disobedience is standing on principle. It is choosing to stand with the Lord when we must choose between what God or what the law says.
Don’t miss this. Moses would not even have been alive if it had not been for the faith of this couple to risk obeying God. It is a reminder that the choices parents make will directly impact the future of their children. If WE are willing to compromise God’s commands our children will naturally follow suit. At the same time, if WE show ultimate respect for God’s law and position, our children are more likely to do the same.
Kent Hughes wrote
“Israel’s deliverance began with an obscure couple believing God in the midst of darkness. Think what a faith like that could accomplish today!” (Hebrews Vol. 2 p.118)
Faith Chooses to Stand with the Lord Rather than the Clamoring Culture
24 It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.
40 years have passed when we see Moses again. Now he is part of the royalty of Egypt. He is in the line of power and by all appearances has the world at his fingertips. One day he was walking around and saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. Moses could have turned away. He could have taken the safe route and argued, “What do you expect me to do?” But instead, he chose to step in and defend the slave. Moses chose to be identified with the people God even if it meant giving up the path of power.
The author of Hebrews points out that Moses chose to “suffer for the sake of Christ . . . because he was looking ahead to his great reward.” Moses understood that serving the Lord was more important than any material advancement.
People of faith still have to make this decision
- We choose to honor the Lord on Sunday rather than be pressed into the mold of secular disregard for the Lord’s Day. And we risk getting fired.
- We choose to identify with hurting people even though it means we are less popular.
- We chose to share our faith even though others may call us “freaks”, “ridicule us” or tell us we “can’t” share our faith.
- It means holding to the Word of God (as to business ethics, morality, or even related to sharing your faith) even if it means losing a job or a promotion in the academic or business setting.
- It means choosing to go (or stay) where God seems to be leading rather than jump at the opportunity to make more money.
- It means living more simply so we can give more rather than having the fancy stuff of the “in crowd”.
In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Paul reminds us of the Christian attitude of faith:
16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
It is not easy to look past the culture because we all naturally want to fit in. It’s easier to fit in than swim against the stream. However, if we are going to live the life of faith we must choose the way of God over the way of the culture around us and we must do it again and again.
Faith Draws Strength from the Lord Rather than being Paralyzed by Circumstances
I believe the next three examples all teach this same principle
27 It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.
There is some question as to what this verse is referring to. It might seem that it was referring to the time when Moses went to Midian after he killed the Egyptian as a way of escaping punishment. However, that does not seem much like an example of faith.
It is more likely that this refers to all the confrontations Moses had with Pharaoh that resulted in the ultimate Exodus. This was an example of faith. God called Moses (at the age of 80!) to go back to Egypt, confront Pharaoh (likely one of Moses’ “brothers” growing up) and demand that the Hebrews be set free.
This was not a popular request and Pharaoh did his best to discourage and intimidate Moses. Moses was able to remain bold because he kept His eyes on the Lord rather than the circumstances. He remembered the power of God rather than being intimidated by Pharaoh. As a result, Moses stood toe to toe with Pharaoh through the series of ten plagues.
It was by faith that Moses commanded the people of Israel to keep the Passover and to sprinkle blood on the doorposts so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons. (v 28)
This was the final plague of the ten plagues brought on Egypt. The final plague, the one that broke the heart and will of Pharaoh was the plague of the death of the firstborn. On this night the firstborn son of everyone in Egypt was killed. The firstborn male of all the animals died as well.
Moses told the Israelites to butcher a lamb and put the blood of that lamb on the doorposts of their home as a sign of faith and obedience to the Lord. This act would cause the angel of death to “pass over” (thus the name Passover) their home and spare the firstborn son.
One commentator points out that the phrase “by faith he kept the Passover” actually means that he instituted the Passover (perfect tense). Moses established it as a “lasting ordinance” to be done year after year. In other words, Moses never doubted in the least that the people would be released from Egypt! (Hughes p. 120)
Moses was not intimidated by the overwhelming power of Egypt. Instead he kept his eyes on the superior power and majesty of the Lord.
The third example is in verse 29,
29 It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned.
This sounds like the focus has moved to the faith of Israel. However, this is still an example of the faith of Moses.
When the firstborn sons died, Pharaoh, filled with grief, told the Hebrews to leave. He not only gave permission for them to leave; he ordered them to leave! I am sure that as the Hebrews were marching away from Egypt they celebrated the sterling leadership of Moses. However, a few days later Pharaoh’s grief turned to anger and he wanted to destroy the Hebrews, who he believed, caused all Egypt’s pain (and I suspect “public enemy #1” was Moses).
The people could see the Egyptians pursuing them (the dust of the chariots was a giveaway). They were backed into a corner. The Egyptians were behind them and the Red Sea was ahead of them.
It would be nice if the Hebrews said, “God will provide” and moved forward in faith, but the book of Exodus tells us they panicked. Moses went from being the hero to being the focus of blame. The Hebrews bemoaned what they were sure was their doom. In Exodus 14:13,14 we read what Moses did,
13 But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. 14 The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”
Even when circumstances looked grim, Moses still kept his focus on the Lord. Like Abraham, he knew that “the impossible” was possible for the Lord. Nothing is too hard for God. This one man’s faith inspired the entire nation. God told Moses to raise his staff and divide the Sea, and that is what he did. The sea parted and we are told that all of Israel crossed the sea on DRY GROUND. When the Egyptians tried to follow, Moses raised his staff again and the army was drowned! Faith triumphed once again.
What are we to make of all of this? What are we supposed to learn about faith?
First, as I said to start the message, we learn from Moses that faith is about the daily decisions we make. Faith grows every time we choose the Lord over the world around us. We choose His values even over those things we desire because we trust His wisdom over our own. Faith is deciding to trust Him even when all we see is the water before us, and an army of conflict pursuing us. Faith is built one decision at a time. Are you facing one of those decisions today?
Second, we learn that faith is about where we choose to focus our thinking. The difference between Moses and his parents in contrast with the Hebrews as a whole, is that the Hebrews focused on the barriers (the strength of Egypt; the Red Sea), while Moses kept his focus on the power and sufficiency of the Lord.
Isn’t that a problem we all have? We zero in on the anticipated problem instead of looking at the Lord. We focus on our weakness rather than His strength. Here is a little discipline that would be good for all of us. Every time you begin to feel anxious ask yourself this question: “Where am I focusing my attention?” Most likely, you are zeroed in on the problem rather than resting in the Lord. Don’t dwell on the problem; focus on the problem-solver.
Third, genuine faith is infectious. The faith of one set of parents not only changed the life of their children but also saved the nation of Israel. The faith of this one man, Moses, inspired a nation to gain their freedom and to build a new relationship with the Lord.
Dwight Moody was inspired by this statement: “the world has yet to see what God can do through one man who is totally sold out to Him.” I wonder what God could and would do if you or I served Him wholeheartedly (rather than half-heartedly when it was convenient). I wonder what God would do through us as a church if we were whole-hearted in our devotion to Him.
What stands between you and a whole-hearted devotion to the Lord today? Are you distracted by circumstances when you should be looking at the Lord?
What would happen if we truly trusted Him? Would He light the fire of revival in this community? Would it change the course of our nation? If we were to walk in faith in spite of the law, the culture, or even the powerful forces against us, we certainly would see many more people come to faith in Christ. The aggressive rise of false religions, the forces of anti-supernaturalism, and the pleasure-seeking culture do not stand a chance against the power of God.
So, here’s the question that haunts me: “What are we waiting for?”