By Ron Halbrook
The famous orator and infamous agnostic Robert Ingersoll (1833-99) lectured on “The Mistakes of Moses.” It seems that Moses was an ignoramus, the Bible a fraud, and Ingersoll capable of writing a better book than the Bible anytime. A book answering him was entitled, appropriately, The Mistakes of Ingersoll (Chicago: Rhodes and McClure Publ.-, 1889). Ingersoll wounded himself more than he wounded Moses. The Bible still stands as reliable historical evidence that Moses lived, led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage, received the Law, and wrote the Pentateuch. Moses will not be remembered for mistakes falsely attributed to him, but will always be remembered for his faithful decisions in serving God. Ingersoll the agnostic is fading from view, while Moses the faithful child of God is still an inspiration to godly people.
Hebrews 11:23-29 focuses on crucial decisions in the life of Moses. Each decision was made by faith, that is, by confidence in God and in the promises of His Word. Each decision was made because of “things hoped for” but “not seen” at the time of decision (Heb. 11: 1). “By faith” does not mean by fanciful wishing or by a blind leap in the dark. “By faith” means by assurance that God will continue to keep His Word as He has always done! Reliable testimony to God’s past deeds is the ground and evidence for faith that God will keep His present promises. That very faith becomes the ground upon which men proceed to do His will and persevere in doing it.
Moses Made Five Decisions By Faith
What decisions in the life of Moses were made by faith? The first one illustrates parental influences upon his life because it was a decision made by them on his behalf. His parents risked their own lives to disobey the king’s order to destroy newborn males (Ex. 1:22). They did this not only because of normal parental love, but also “by faith” (Heb. 11:23). They confidently “hoped for” the life of Moses to be spent in God’s service. They embraced the seed promise, knowing it could not be fulfilled if Hebrew male children were destroyed. Also, they may have received a direct promise that this child was to deliver the Jews from Egyptian bondage. Moses learned of this destiny before he was forty years old, from either his parents or a direct revelation (cf. Acts 7:25; Gen. 15:13-14). Moses’ mother was his nursemaid (Ex. 2:5-10). Thus, by providence, was laid the foundation for her to train Moses in the Word and promises of God.
The second decision was made by Moses when he was 44grown,” or forty years old (Ex. 2:11; Acts 7:23). This decision was his own, not his parents’. He was high in station among the Egyptians. What great learning, eloquence, and other accomplishments are sketched in the few words of Acts 7:22 – “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of’ the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds.” Some modern scholars think Moses was in line to sit on the throne of Egypt, to reign as Pharaoh! To say the least, he had in the palm of his hand every favor and advantage which the ruling class of Egypt could offer. Not only was every legitimate opportunity for success his own, but also the license of the elite “to enjoy the pleasures of sin.”
But Moses consciously identified himself as a child of God and a brother to every suffering Hebrew. “Seeing one of them suffer wrong,” he defended this his brother and slew the oppressive taskmaster (Ex. 2:11-12; Acts 7:24; Heb. 11: 24-26). Moses decided to suffer for the right at all costs and to strike a blow for the defense of God’s people. Moses was willing to share the burden and stigma of all who serve God in the face of evil. Moses shared that shame and reproach which all the righteous endure and which culminated in the sufferings of Christ, because Moses by faith looked for the Savior to come.
Thus, Moses refused his heritage in Egypt’s royal courts and chose rather to suffer with the people of God. This he did, emphatically by faith! He was looking away to the future, to “things hoped for,” to “things not seen,” to “the recompence of the reward” of God (Heb. 1: 1, 26). He fully embraced the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph (Heb. 11:8-22). God had promised a blessing to men of all nations through Abraham’s seed – through a prepared people in a prepared land (Gen. 12:1-3). Toward that end, God had promised that His people would suffer in Egypt only for a temporary time. Then they would go to possess Canaan so that the eternal purpose of man’s salvation might continue to unfold. Moses believed it!
The third decision was to flee Egypt (Heb. 11:27). Moses’ own people misunderstood his motive in killing the Egyptian. When Moses tried to settle a dispute between two Jews, the one in the wrong answered him with contempt as though he were an intruder into other men’s business and a usurper of power over men. “Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? wilt thou kill me, as thou didest the Egyptian yesterday?” (Acts 7:27-28; Ex. 2:13-14). The Pharaoh learned about the taskmaster , s death and sought to slay Moses.
Moses fled to Midian, but not as a criminal in search of plunder nor as a coward who forsakes his divine mission in life. Moses did not know why he had been unable to effect the deliverance of God’s people, but he patiently endured this setback with confident assurance that God would somehow deliver His people. Moses fled not in humiliating terror of the king, but. “by faith” in God – even though he could not see God, nor as yet the things God promised. This is the same faith by which his parents had acted in sparing his life.
A fourth decision is described in Hebrews 11:28. When the Lord prepared the tenth plague, to destroy the firstborn in each Egyptian family, He told Moses to instruct the Jews to kill a lamb and to strike its blood around the door facing (Ex. 11-12). “By faith” Moses kept this appointment and thus the Lord protected the families of Israel. Moses could not see how God would destroy the firstborn; but based on God’s past faithfulness in keeping
His Word, Moses believed God would destroy them. Nor could Moses see how a lamb’s blood would protect Israel, but he put his hope in God’s promise. Moses decided by faith to keep the passover.
The fifth decision was to cross the Red Sea (Heb. 11:29). This crossing was made possible by a miracle which caused the waters to part and to stand as walls on either side of a dry pathway (Ex. 14). At God’s command, Moses lifted up his rod and the waters parted. Moses obeyed by faith. He with Israel crossed over on dry land, by faith. At the Lord’s bidding, Moses on the other side stretched out his hand again and the waters drowned the Pharaoh’s army which had attempted to follow. Moses acted in full assurance that Israel would escape Egypt’s army, though the way of escape was not immediately seen. Moses could not see the way, but he had God’s Word for it.
The chart below shows that each of the decisions in the life of Moses, summarized in Hebrews 11, was made “by faith.” “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Moses had faith, confidence, or assurance concerning God’s promises in spite of all contrary appearances. The decisions of Moses were based upon God’s promises of future blessings not as yet seen at the time of decision.
|DECISIONS OF MOSES IN HEBREWS 11|
|By Faith||Decisions Made||Things Promised, Hoped For|
|V. 23, By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.||To Save Moses’ Life||Moses’ Life of Service to God|
|Vv. 24-26. 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.||To Suffer for Right, Rather Than to Enjoy Sin||The Blessings Promised to God’s People and Handed Down Through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob|
|V. 27. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.||To Patiently Endure in the Face of Setbacks||Deliverance of God’s People From Egypt|
|V. 28. Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.||To Keep God’s Appointments in the Passover||Protect Children From Death|
|V. 29. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dray land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.||Crossed Red Sea Under Supernatural Circumstances||Escape Egyptian Army|
We Must Make Decisions Today
If we have the faith of Moses, we will make decisions in life upon the same basis as he did. We will look beyond appearances to the promises of God. We will live by faith -by firm assurance in God’s Word. We will stand upon the promises of God in taking our stand with His people, sharing with them the reproach of the world. We will fulfill the task God sets before us, in the face of every obstacle. The key is faith – faith in the invisible God and in the rewards not as yet seen but promised by God.
Suffer For Right Rather Than Enjoy Sin
Moses decided to count himself with the people of God, to share their suffering and their hope, rather than to share the wealth, the power, and the pleasures of sin offered to him in the royal courts of Egypt. Today, God is calling the sinner to forsake the temporary pleasures of sin, to stand for the right even in the face of suffering, and to share the blessings of His people. We must make decisions which are hard, even wrenching. To give up the advantages of the court may be like plucking out our right eye or cutting off our right hand, but better this than for the whole body to be “cast into hell” (Matt. 5:29-30). The decision can be made by faith!
By faith in the gospel, sinners can repent, confess Christ, and be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; Rom. 10:9-10). They will wear the stigma of belonging to “that narrow-minded little sect.” Doors of opportunity in business will close to them because they will not social drink, go to night clubs, laugh at filthy jokes, use profane language, make deals under the table, give kickbacks, or lie to promote a product. Educational doors will shut against some young people who do not want to attend prestigious Sodom and Gomorrah University, where there are no Christians with whom to associate. Other Christians will suffer the consequences of refusing to parrot evolutionary theories and other vain philosophies in the classroom, either as teacher or as student. At times children of God may turn down lucrative promotions rather than to take a position where ungodliness is demanded or to live in a place where their children cannot have the support of godly friends.
Patiently Endure In Face of Setbacks
By faith Moses decided to fulfill the mission God had assigned him. Moses by faith left Egypt, not knowing how God would deliver Israel just as Abraham hoped against hope for a child (Rom. 4:18). Like Abraham, Moses endured every discouragement, obstacle, apparent failure, and challenge in order to serve God and to receive the promised blessing.
A major lesson in the book of Hebrews is the necessity of patient endurance or perseverance in serving the Lord. We are to “hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end” (3:14), “hold fast our profession” (4:14), “go on unto perfection” (6:1), “through faith and patience inherit the promise” (6:12), “believe to the saving of the soul” (10:39), and “run with patience the race that is set before us” (12:1). Moses left Egypt but not his faith, “for he endured as seeing him who is invisible” (11:27). He was steadfast, strong, devoted, unremitting, and constant in faith.
Besides bearing up under the king’s anger, he suffered the taunts of his own weak and erring brethren (Ex. 3:13-14; Acts 7:25-29). This latter trial he was to bear again and again while leading Israel in the wilderness. Moses’ conduct under this pressure gave rise to the following remark: “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3). This is to say, the faith of Moses included gentleness under provocation; by self-restraint, he put strength under control. Moses and Aaron broke down under the weight of this trial upon one important occasion and thereby forfeited the right to enter Canaan (Num. 20:7-13).
Today, men of endurance in God’s service are desperately needed! To serve God, we must go forward, growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ, never looking back. There will be trials, troubles, sorrows, and temptations, but we must keep on keeping on. Obstacles will arise, but we must overcome them by faith. The world around us is trying to seduce us away from spiritual interests with the desire for more and more material things. Some brethren are so deep in business, social, recreational, or political affairs that they have almost no time for prayer, personal Bible study, reading religious journals, soul winning, Bible classes, gospel meetings, or even the regular appointments for worship. Indifference abounds and the love of many is growing cold. We need to make some hard decisions about our priorities, put God first, give Him one hundred percent, and run with patience the race set before us.
Elders, deacons, Bible class teachers, evangelists, and other Christians are falling victim to immorality. Endurance in moral purity is needed so badly at this very hour! Some brethren who have fought battles for truth in the past are compromising the principles they once defended. They are apologizing to those in sinful error for what God has wrought in separating His people from the ranks of digression (1 Cor. 11:19). Others are retiring from the fight and stepping to the sidelines, tiring of the constant need to press forward in the heat of battle. The Lord is looking for those who will determine to be steadfast and constant – “strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Eph. 6:10).
As Moses was tried by the taunts of his own weak and erring people, we must resolve to endure murmuring, complaining, carping criticism, and backbiting among those who ought to encourage, strengthen, and comfort us. When this happens, it will not help to lick our wounds in self-pity, to trade boldness and plainness of speech for timidity in hope of relief from our critics. Jesus Himself suffered at the hands of His own people. But, he came to do the Father’s will and did not stop until it was done’ Jesus was consumed with zeal for God’s house and for God’s work Qn. 2:7; 4:32). Let us pray for the meekness of Moses and of Jesus Himself, “who did no sin, neither was ,guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Pet. 2:21-23).
If we can enjoy the encouragement of brethren we respect and love as we go forward, thank God for it. If we must suffer instead their taunts, let us count it all joy to suffer with Christ and go forward anyway! If we stumble like Moses under the provocation of taunting brethren, let us pray for pardon, pray for our weak brethren, and pray for strength to press forward yet again.
Look To The Lord and The Reward
The decisions of Moses were made by faith. Moses “had respect,” or literally, “was looking way,” unto the recompense of the reward. He fastened his eyes upon the promised blessing in making each decision. He “endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” His gaze was fastened not upon fallible men or earthly obstacles, but upon God Himself. That is the secret to making decisions by faith.
We must, like Moses, turn our eyes away from other things and fix them upon the Lord. Who will make the decisions and sacrifices which help to raise up a Moses? Who, today, will suffer for the right rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin? Who will patiently endure in the face of setbacks? Who will keep God’s appointments? Who will go forward by faith, taking the way of escape when the enemy of our soul pursues? The decision is mine! And yours!
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 17, pp. 513, 536-538
September 1, 1983