A little boy was busy at the kitchen table drawing with his crayons. Dad walked by and looked over his shoulder and asked, “What are you drawing?” The reply came back, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” “You can’t do that honey, nobody knows what God looks like.” The little boy, undeterred, continued to draw and said, “They will when I’m done!”
Our passage this morning draws us a picture of faith. You don’t know what faith looks like? You will after you read what the Hebrews writer tells us about Moses.
And he begins by telling us about his parents: “They saw he was no ordinary child” (vs. 23) Isn’t that every parent’s (and grandparent’s) claim? What made him so extraordinary? I think it starts with what they believed about their son – not only that he was a gift from God, but that God had something very special in store for his life.
We try to give our children everything we didn’t have as children. We want to give them things that will make them successful in life – good health, education, talents (music, athletics, art…), people skills, a good reputation, an inheritance. The most valuable inheritance we can bequeath to our children is faith.
Our writer says something about Moses’ parents that I hope sinks deep into our hearts: “They were not afraid” It is so easy to fall in step with the world and let the world raise our children. To let them go where the other kids go, talk like the other kids talk, adopt the same priorities as everyone else. It takes courage to raise our children “by faith.”
And then the writer shows us the result of the parents’ faith:
The faith of Moses
“When he had grown up…” (vs. 24) (It says literally, “had become great.”)
He was raised in the palace of Pharaoh – Pharaoh’s daughter had rescued him from the river and adopted him as her own – could he have been in line to the throne? He possessed nearly every luxury one could imagine. A pampered lifestyle, a secure future. Egypt was the most powerful empire of its day, and Moses was the adopted grandson of its ruler.
But Moses made three risky decisions “by faith”
He refused to enjoy the natural (vss. 24-26)
If you were raised in such an environment, what would be the natural thing to do? Enjoy it all! Benefit from the privileges of wealth and power, enjoy the indulgences of luxury. You couldn’t help being put in this situation, so how could you be expected to live any differently?
But somewhere in his childhood, Moses was instilled with the realization that he was different, he wasn’t one of them. While they worshiped Isis and Osiris and deified cats, there was another people living in Egypt that worshiped the one true God, and Moses was one of them. But that meant he was a … slave? And you couldn’t be a slave and royalty.
He had a choice to make – and what a choice to be faced with. To squelch the conscience and live in luxury, or to let the call of God so convict you that you walk away from all of that and place yourself in the line of abuse and mistreatment.
I’ll tell you what the natural choice would be – no, I won’t – you already know it. We could rationalize and tell ourselves, “think of all the good I could do,” “God needs Christians in government, too.”
How do we usually choose? The path of least resistance, whatever the majority says is right, wherever our instincts lead us (if it feels good).
But the day of decision came, and Moses saw an injustice taking place and he had a choice to make – ignore it or act. He acted, and in that action, he burned his bridges. Here’s what the Hebrews writer says, “By faith Moses refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” (vss. 24-25).
He didn’t claim royal privilege, he didn’t exempt himself from making the difficult choice, and when he chose he threw his lot in with an oppressed and persecuted people and made himself one of them.
No human strategy could explain that choice. Humans never make choices like that. (Solomon would write centuries later, “There is a way that seems right to a man…” – that’s the way we usually choose.)
But not Moses. Verse 26 says, “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.”
“For the sake of Christ”? It will be fifteen hundred years before Christ comes to earth. He’s centuries ahead of his time. Now, he may not have known the details or understood God’s plan, but Moses looked ahead through the perspective of God’s eternal plan for his people. And here’s how Moses looked at it: earthly pleasure is short-lived, God’s pleasure is eternal. Moses weighed the two and the choice most people would have shunned, Moses embraced. And unless we are led by a God greater than us, and a standard stronger and truer than our natural instincts, and a perspective longer than our lifetime, we are not going to be people of faith – we will be people of this world. Moses risked a lot by standing up for what was right – for putting it all on the line for God.
He determined to leave the familiar (vs. 27)
Listen to verse 27: By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.
Moses could have kept it all and enjoyed a comfortable life. But beyond belief, Moses chooses to leave the familiar, the comfortable and to go to the harsh, brutal desert. There is nothing as comfortable as a rut. Life just kind of runs itself and you can put your brain and your faith on auto pilot.
The writer wants us not to make the mistake of thinking that Moses ran away because he was afraid of what would happen to him, but that he left Egypt because he knew the one who led him into the wilderness of Midian and trusted him completely. Moses risked it all by leaving the comforts and privileges of his life in Egypt to follow God.
He was willing to do the unusual (vs. 28-29)
By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
Forty years have passed. The Lord speaks to Moses in the burning bush and sends Moses back to Egypt – not to return to luxury and comfort, but with a mission and a message – a message to Pharaoh: “Let my people go.”
Miracles and wonders fail. Nine plagues, and still Pharaoh refuses to release his slave force of 1½ million Hebrews. Then God speaks to Moses and tells him to do the unbelievable: Take an unblemished, one-year old lamb, and kill it on the 14th day of the month. Take the blood and paint it on the doorframes of your houses, and eat a meal of the roasted lamb and unleavened bread. Every Hebrew family who did that would be spared. Every Egyptian home, the Lord would go through and kill every firstborn.
It’s a familiar story. So familiar that we almost lose the sense of utter horror there must have been – not among the Egyptians, but the Hebrews. Neither Moses, nor any Hebrew ever thought of such a thing. The very thought of such an action was beyond belief.
And yet, that is exactly what they did – believe. By verse 29, it is no longer “he” but “they.” The verse begins, “By faith Moses…” and ends, “By faith the people…” – faith is contagious. As with Noah, as with Abraham, there was no hesitation when God told Moses to obey. Moses and the people believed the unbelievable and obeyed the unusual.
It was risky standing up to Pharaoh, making promises that only God could fulfill. They risked not only their freedom but their very lives.
That’s what faith looks like.
Remember, our writer is painting a picture of faith for us. He defined it in the first verse of the chapter, but now he is giving us image after image, example upon example of what faith looks like in the life of someone who belongs to God. What do God’s people look like today – how do they live “faith-full” lives?
They refuse to enjoy the natural.
It would be easy to just follow the world, and let it determine our values and our morals and our lifestyles. But that’s not what faith does. Faith goes against the flow. It chooses the more difficult, the less popular, the more costly.
I’m sure you’ve faced decisions like that – or you may even be struggling with one right now.
Some relationship, where the natural thing, the worldly advice is to be involved sexually before or apart from marriage.
Some financial or business situation, where it would be easy to justify slippery ethics, because that’s just the way business gets done these days.
Or to fudge on your income taxes and rationalize that it’s no big deal, and you’ll probably never get caught.
The natural thing is almost never the godly thing. God doesn’t call us to be natural, but supernatural. It’s a risky decision – to go against the flow, to stand up for what is right.
They determine to leave the familiar.
The familiar is the wasteland of spiritual death. It’s where vibrant faith is boiled dry and stretched thin into dead ritual. The familiar lulls us into a sense of false security and easy answers.
Think of a time when God was really shouting for you to get excited about doing something by faith, but you said, “not now… a little later… I couldn’t do that”. You turned the volume down and filled your life with less risky ventures and now you can barely hear that voice calling at all. It is a risky venture – we like our ruts, we fear the unknown. There’s no telling where God would send us or how he would use us if we were to follow wherever he leads us.
They are willing to do the unusual.
Has God ever called you to do something that scared you to death – something you’d never done before and never imagined you could do? Like teach a children’s Bible class, or go on a mission trip, or share your faith with a co-worker? Do you want to get involved in something that will change lives? Talk to Wade about getting involved as a volunteer for Celebrate Recovery. That is a ministry that will change you forever.
Where are you being used by God that he is stretching your faith? If you aren’t involved in ministry in some way – serving someone in the name of God – your faith is dead.
That’s not my opinion – James says it, the Hebrews writer affirms it, Paul and Peter and every other Biblical writer testify to it. True faith is demonstrated in the things we are doing for God. Not that we are saved by our works, but if we are saved, we cannot help but work for God – it is the reason we were created. There is no such thing as a non-serving Christian.
It’s risky to write God a blank check with our life and say “Spend it wherever you need it.” We’re not sure exactly what God has in mind.
For Moses – living “by faith” meant trading a life of power and privilege to be a slave. It meant fleeing into the wilderness to rely completely on God’s grace. It meant leaving the comfortable obscurity of a shepherd’s life in the wilderness and returning to the place where God had a job for him to do – leading his people out of slavery. And he did it all by faith.
What does faith call you to do, how does faith call you to live?