Text: Hebrews 11:23–28 — By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.
The Life of Moses
Incident #1 — By faith, Moses’ parents hid him and ignored Pharaoh’s decree
Hebrews 11:23 — By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
Incident #2 — By faith, Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter
Hebrews 11:24-26 — By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.
Incident #3 — By faith, Moses left Egypt, not being afraid of Pharaoh’s anger
Hebrews 11:27 — By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.
Incident #4 — By faith, Moses kept the Passover and avoided Pharaoh’s judgment
Hebrews 11:28 — By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.
- When you fear God you recognize the sanctity of life.
- When you fear God you reject the temporary pleasures of sin.
- When you fear God you refuse to be intimidated by man.
- When you fear God you receive the blood of the Lamb.
Opening: On the afternoon of December 1, 1955, a 42-year-old African American woman named Rosa Parks was returning home from her job as an assistant tailor at a Montgomery, Alabama, department store, when she boarded bus 2857 on the Cleveland Avenue line. Following a brief confrontation with the bus driver in which she refused to give up her seat to a white man, Rosa soon became a national symbol for the civil rights movement that sought equal rights for all American citizens, regardless of their skin color. In his book, Chase the Lion, Mark Batterson gives us some of the history behind Rosa’s stand. He writes, “Shortly after being installed as the twentieth pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a sermon in November of 1954 titled “Transformed Nonconformist.” He said, “The Christian is called upon not to be like a thermometer conforming to the temperature of his society … but he must be like a thermostat serving to transform the temperature of his society.” Dr. King continued, “I have seen many white people who sincerely oppose segregation and [discrimination], but they never took a [real] stand against it because of fear of standing alone.” Then he asked his congregation, “Are you willing not just to stand but to stand alone?” A little over a year later, a transformed nonconformist boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus just five blocks from the pulpit where King delivered that sermon. When the white section filled up with passengers and the bus driver ordered Rosa Parks to give up her seat in the colored section, she politely refused. She took a moral stand by remaining seated. “Our mistreatment was not right,” Rosa said. “I was just tired of it. It wasn’t a physical tiredness; it was a moral tiredness. The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” Rosa Park’s refusal to accept racial segregation started a ripple effect. It led to a court battle, which led to a citywide boycott, which led to the Supreme Court ruling segregation unconstitutional” (Mark Batterson, Chase the Lion, Multnomah, 2016, pages 121-122). And all because a middle-aged black woman living in the south decided that it was more important to fear God and do what was right than fear man and conform to his wishes.
This morning I want to talk to you about fearing God. Now before we get into our message, let me take a moment or two and explain what it means. The Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10). The word for “fear” in this context refers to a deep reverence and respect for God. When a person fears God, he doesn’t just give him lip service, but he consistently puts Him first in his life and finds the wisdom to make the right choices as a result. That’s what King Jehoshaphat was talking about when he said to his people in 2 Chronicles 19:7 — Let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Judge carefully, for with the Lord our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery. He understood that the fear of the Lord in his subjects would result in good decisions. Today, we seem to see an increasing shortage of people (like King Jehoshaphat or Rosa Parks) who fear the consequences of not obeying God more than they fear failing to comply with outside pressures.
In this our eighth message in the preaching series, Unstoppable Faith, we come to a few verses in Hebrews 11 about the life of Moses, who was a truly great leader of God’s people. If you read his story in the book of Exodus in the Old Testament, you’ll quickly discover that the source of his greatness lay in the fact that he trusted God like few others. It wasn’t his self-confidence, but confidence in God that made him the man and leader he was. Now I invite you to join me as we look at four incidents in the life of Moses that necessitated some difficult choices either to obey God or man. Turn in your Bibles to Hebrews 11:23-28 and let’s begin with verse twenty-three.
Incident #1 — By faith, Moses’ parents hid him and ignored Pharaoh’s decree (Hebrews 11:23 — By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict). This story, like so many borrowed from the Old Testament (Exodus 2) by the author of Hebrews is a familiar one. When Joseph helped his father, brothers and their families move from the land of the Canaanites to Egypt there were only about seventy people. But God blessed them and they multiplied in number. When another new king took over the country, he did not know that they had been invited to settle there by a former king. He became concerned that there were too many Hebrew foreigners living within his borders and that given the right opportunity, they might side with an invading army and cause great harm. So he enslaved them and gave the Israelites heavy burdens to bear. In spite of their harsh treatment, however, they continued to multiply. That’s when the king ordered that every male child born to a Hebrew woman must be killed. When Moses was born to his parents, Amram and Jochebed, they refused to follow his decree, because, according to our passage in Hebrews, they saw that Moses was beautiful (a general term for approval not really based so much on his appearance– perhaps they saw God’s favor resting on their son) and because they did not fear the king. Why not? Did they think he was just bluffing and full of hot air? No! If anyone disobeyed his orders, they were sure to suffer bad things. But because Moses’ parents feared God, they chose instead to hide the boy for three months until it was no longer possible to conceal him. Then they made the decision to place him in a basket made to float and set it among the reeds by the riverbank with the faith to believe that God would protect their child. I suspect that later in his life when his mother told Moses this story, he determined to follow their example and revere and respect God above all others just as they had done.
Incident #2 — By faith, Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter (Hebrews 11:24-26 — By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ (the title means God’s anointed) greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward). If you continue reading about Moses in Exodus 2, you discover that Pharaoh’s daughter found the baby boy floating in a basket among the reeds and adopted him as her own. In a real twist of irony, she paid Jochebed, Moses’ mother, to nurse her son until he was weaned. Then Pharaoh’s daughter took him to the palace to raise as her own. When we was fully grown, Moses made the tough choice to reject the fleeting pleasures of sin and privilege afforded him as a grandchild of the king. Instead, he opted to identify himself with the Jews (the people of God) even though it meant that he would suffer the same harsh treatment and oppression and postpone any personal benefit until God chose to reward him. This choice placed him squarely in the position of declaring himself a follower of the God of the Jews, and, according to the writer of Hebrews, one who foreshadowed the suffering of Christ who also endured terrible mistreatment in the place of joy (Hebrews 12:2 –…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him (in front of him), endured the cross, despising the shame). Not an easy choice, but clearly the right one. Fearing and obeying God always pays off in the end, though it might lead to hardship and suffering in the short-term. (So far we’ve mentioned two incidents that forced a choice in the life of Moses about who was to be feared and followed … God or man. First — Moses’ parents chose to hide him, ignoring Pharaoh’s decree to kill every male child among the Hebrews. Second — Moses refused to be called the Son of Pharaoh’s daughter but elected to suffer the same mistreatment.)
Incident #3 — By faith, Moses left Egypt, not being afraid of Pharaoh’s anger (Hebrews 11:27 — By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible). Having identified with the Jews, Moses decided to assert himself as their protector and deliverer. One day, when he witnessed an Egyptian beating one of his people, he killed the man. I’m sure he was shocked when other slaves didn’t praise Moses for defending their brother. “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” At that point, Moses became afraid and thought “Surely the thing is known.” And it turned out he was right. That’s when Pharaoh sought to kill him causing Moses to flee. This is the story as it is given in Exodus chapter two. This does create a little tension with what is written in Hebrews chapter eleven where we’re led to believe that Moses was unafraid of the king because he fixed his eyes on the God who is unseen. So which is it? Was he afraid of Pharaoh or not? Some Old Testament scholars seek to answer this by saying that the writer of Hebrews was thinking of the exodus from Egypt that occurred later following the 10 plagues. At no point in that story are we told that Moses was afraid. In fact, Pharaoh begged him to leave with his people. But that interpretation takes us out of sequence in the story of Moses’ life, something that hasn’t happened so far. It makes more sense to see his fear unrelated to his quick exit. Sure he was concerned for what could happen to him, but it seems that, according to the New Testament, he left because of his faith, not his fear. It is likely that for the first time, Moses recognized that leading a slaves revolt was not the way God intended to deliver them. So he left and waited on the Lord until He revealed His plan for their deliverance, which by the way, happened when He spoke to Moses forty years later from a burning bush.
Incident #4 — By faith, Moses kept the Passover and avoided Pharaoh’s judgment (Hebrews 11:28 — By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them). It was the last of the ten plagues, the death of the firstborn, that required a blood sacrifice if anyone hoped to avoid it. God instructed His people to sacrifice a Passover Lamb and place its blood above their doors and on its sides so that the angel of death would ‘pass over‘ their homes and only bring death to those who did not believe His word. At midnight, the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt and there was a great cry as there was not an Egyptian home where someone was not dead. This was the last judgment of God to fall upon Pharaoh and his people. Crushed by their grief, they gave some of their treasures to the people of Israel and begged them to leave taking everything with them. And it became clear to everyone, that Moses, though anointed by God to lead Israel, didn’t save them. God did that by the blood of the lamb.
Applications: Let’s review one more time how we can see the fear of God in this passage: By faith, Moses’ parents hid him and ignored Pharaoh’s decree to murder every male Hebrew baby; By faith, Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, but chose to stand with his people and suffer mistreatment; By faith, Moses left Egypt, not out of fear of Pharaoh’s wrath, but looking to the unseen God for His plan to rescue Israel; And by faith, Moses kept the Passover and along with the Jews avoided the judgment that Pharaoh and all of Egypt suffered for their unbelief. Now let me give you some for ways to apply these verses to your life this week.
- When you fear God you recognize the sanctity of life. The God of Jews and Christians has always been pro-life. The Bible tells us that “sons are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalm 127:3). When Pharaoh ordered the murder of the male babies to decrease the Hebrew population, it wasn’t just Jochebed and Amram (Moses’ parents) who refused to submit to his decree, but it was also the Hebrews midwives who delivered the children (Exodus 1:15-17). Any Israelite that feared God would have taken the same stand because of what Scripture teaches about every human being — (1) life begins in the womb (Psalm 139:13b — you knit me together in my mother’s womb); and (2) every life has value because we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). That’s why it was considered murder for a person to kill a baby while still in its mother’s womb (Exodus 21:22-25). It was the destruction of the image of God in a person (Genesis 9:6). Listen, as those created by God to bear His image, we exist for a holy and sacred purpose and no man has the right to end a life except in those cases where justice is being meted out by God-ordained governmental authorities. This is what the Jews believed and because as Christians, we believe both Testaments, we agree with them. And so we defend unborn children. Now before I move on, I want to say to any woman here who has previously had an abortion … you have not committed the unpardonable sin. God still loves you. That’s why He sent Jesus to die on the cross for your sins. The Bible doesn’t say that some of us are good and others are bad. It says that there is none who is good, not even one. Every human being born into this world is a sinner in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. Through faith in Christ’s sacrifice, your conscience can be cleansed (Hebrews 10:22) and you can be set free of any guilt regarding past choices. In fact, that’s our prayer for everyone here at River Ridge Church.
- When you fear God you reject the temporary pleasures of sin. This may seem like a no-brainer, but the truth is that it takes a lot of character to say “no” to sinful pleasures and “yes” to mistreatment from those who lack self-control. But that’s what every believer does when he rejects the attractions that so many others covet. Jesus spoke to this in John 15:18-19 — “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” Reverence the world and embrace its values and it will love you back. But if you so “no” to its offers, you will most likely suffer. In fact, Jesus said you can count on it.
- When you fear God you refuse to be intimidated by man. Have you ever asked yourself why people get angry? Sure, it’s a normal part of the human condition. In fact, it’s possible to be angry and refrain from sin at the same time (Ephesians 4:26). Most often, however, anger is a destructive emotion that we unconsciously and sometimes consciously use to get what we want. It’s a way of attempting to control others. Think about it for a second and see if you agree. When a person throws a temper tantrum it is almost always to create an experience so painful for those who suffer this wrath, that they would rather just give up and give in. Imagine what would happen if we just didn’t allow others to manipulate us with their anger. Suppose that we chose to reverence and obey God and do the right thing instead. That’s what Moses did and the result was that Pharaoh did not get his way. Are you tired of being intimidated by other people’s anger? Fear God, walk according to His will and you won’t find yourself giving in to the controlling anger of someone else.
- When you fear God you receive the blood of the Lamb. Only those living in Egypt who were covered by the blood of lamb were protected from the angel of death by God as He stood guard outside their doors. The same is true for us today. Jesus is our Passover Lamb. When He poured out His blood on the cross of Calvary, it was to cover/atone for our sin. Through faith in Him, we can escape God’s wrath and judgment and find life, abundant and eternal. I’ve occasionally wondered what would have happened if any Egyptian had believed God’s Word and placed the blood of the sacrificial lamb above and on the sides of the door to his home. It stands to reason that his house would have been skipped over by the angel of death too. You see, God loves us all and provides the same path to life for everyone of us. The question is, “Which will we choose … life or death?”
Conclusion: Moses and his parents chose to fear and obey God despite a lot of external pressures to do otherwise. In the end, they believed that putting their trust and faith in Him was the wisest course of action. Think about this the next time you feel the pressure to please someone or a group of people rather than choosing to fear and please God. Perhaps it will help to picture yourself later having the following conversation with God: God: “So, why didn’t you take the opportunity I offered you?” You: “I really wanted to and I knew it was your will for my life, but you know how upset my friend would have gotten if I did. It would have been awful.” God: “You are right, he would have gone through the roof and would have been upset with you. And, I have a meeting with your friend later … in exactly three years, two months, six days, seven hours, and thirty-three minutes. At that time, I’ll be talking to him about his tendency to get mad at people when they do not please him. I will take care of that issue. But that is your friend’s life, not yours. You are responsible for your own choices. You are responsible for your own decisions and he is responsible for how he responded to you … That will be his problem. But, the fact that you chose to give in to your friend is your problem, and now I want to show you the life that you gave up by living the life that other people wanted. Watch that screen over there … .” Then God allows you to see what could have been if only you had not tried to live your life to fear and please others instead of first fearing and pleasing Him (Adapted from Dr. Henry Cloud, Never Go Back (Howard Books, 2014), pp. 78-80).