Updated: Oct 8, 2019
Faith is choosing to “march to a different drummer” even when that choice costs everything valued by others.
“24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 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.” (Hebrews 11:24-26).
Jochebed, believing that God would somehow rescue her son left her daughter Miriam along the banks of the Nile to see how God would carry out that rescue.
“Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying and she felt sorry for him. ‘This is one of the Hebrew babies,’ she said. Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?’ ‘Yes, go,’ she answered. And the girl went and got the baby’s mother.” (Exodus 2:5-8)
Miriam’s quick thinking put Moses back in the care of his mother, Jochebed, until he was weaned. But for the bulk of his childhood and into adolescence and early manhood, he lived in Pharaoh’s household. In his own home he would have learned about the history and religion of the Hebrews—knowledge that he took with him into the palace.
The importance of early childhood education is a well-known fact.
The Scriptures tell us that lifelong habits and attitudes are formed even during the first seven years of a child’s life therefore it is important to take advantage of those early years. Deuteronomy 6:1-19 is a classic example of the instruction given by God to not only teach the ways of the Lord to our children but to live out those ways before them as a means of embedding their virtues in the next generation.
“These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
There is, as there always is, an evil side to instructing children from their earliest years. We look to the harm done to First Nation children torn away from their families and placed in residential schools for the purpose of turning them into something they were not. We look at the youth twisted into blind obedience to a despot and murderer—Hitler. We remember the Russian children removed from their homes and trained to betray members of their families by a Soviet government determined to stamp out any rebellion on the part of their parents. We shudder at the thoughts of children turned into child soldiers whose loyalty is tested by their participation in the rape and murder of their own relatives and friends. But we also need to be warned that our own education system damages our children by teaching them falsehoods about themselves, sexuality and gender being particularly the focus in these early years of the 21st century. Along with this abuse, the law threatens to remove children from their parents’ care if they try to correct what their children are being taught in school and through the perversions of society at large. Nothing has changed.
We applaud Miriam for thinking quickly and offering her mother’s services to raise the baby Moses and provide for him the balanced education which emphasized the right path of the God of the Hebrews over the wrong path to which Moses would surely be exposed in Pharaoh’s household. We recognize that Moses’ mother would have been running a huge risk to instill in the one who was now an Egyptian by adoption and son of a princess, anything other than the education that would have corresponded to a prince of Egypt.
Acts 7:22, 23 describes the moment when Moses was faced with the biggest decision of his life.
“Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites.”
Moses was no “callow youth” by this time, but a mature man. But there came a moment of decision, a choice had to be made, a “who am I?” question to be answered. Course corrections in life are not age-specific.
Exodus 2:11, 12 (compare Acts 7:24) describes the catalyst that forced Moses to make a critical choice.
“One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the ground.”
The “son of Pharaoh’s daughter” might have applauded the Egyptian’s method of disciple, but the son of Jochebed could not.
Barnes comments: “Refused to be a called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter — When saved from the ark in which he was placed in the Nile, he was brought up for the daughter of Pharaoh; Exodus 2:9. He seems to have been adopted by her, and trained to be her own son. What prospects this opened before him is not certainly known. There is no probability that he would be the heir to the crown of Egypt, as it often affirmed, for there is no proof that the crown descended in the line of daughters; nor if it did, is there any probability that it would descend on an adopted son of a daughter. But his situation could not but be regarded as highly honorable, and as attended with great advantages. It gave him the opportunity of receiving the best education which the times and country afforded—an opportunity of which he seems to have availed himself to the utmost; notes, Acts 7:22. It would doubtless be connected with important offices in the state. If furnished the opportunity of a life of ease and pleasure—such as they commonly delight who reside at courts. And it doubtless opened before him the prospect of wealth—for there is no improbability in supposing that he would be the heir of the daughter of a rich monarch. Yet all this, it is said, he ‘refused.’ There is indeed no express mention made of his formally and openly refusing it, but his leaving the court, and identifying himself with his oppressed countrymen, was in fact a refusal of these high honors, and of these brilliant prospects. It is not impossible that when he became acquainted with his real history, there was some open and decided refusal on his part, to be regarded as the son of the daughter of this pagan monarch.
This was an act of faith. What kind of temptation would this decision represent for Moses? Even if I acknowledge or identify myself as a Hebrew, would I not be better off, and my Hebrew kin as well, if I work for change from the inside rather than “burn my bridges” and align myself with people who are slaves and powerless to change their lot in life? Surely God would want me to take advantage of this education, this position, this power, of whatever nature it was, these connections, to help my people. I remember this being the argument of a friend who stayed within the United Church of Canada at a time when that denomination was bent on denying whatever wasn’t convenient or plausible in the Scriptures—like an ant moving an oak tree. But we often fool ourselves into thinking that we can hang on to the best of both worlds—the material and the spiritual and not make a decision at all!
For Moses to cut all those ties was a leap of faith, proving that he not only identified himself as a Hebrew, but believed in the God of the Hebrews and trusted in the promises made to the ancients to be returned to the Promised Land. That his actions were rash and perhaps ill-advised does not change the nature of the decision that Moses made here.
Perhaps it isn’t a good example, or even a fair one, but I think about those who are seeking to escape religious persecution. Certainly there are plenty of Biblical examples of persecution, including what is described for us in Acts during the early days of the church. Up until Acts 8, the believers stayed in Jerusalem to proclaim the Gospel, even after the arrest of several of the disciples and the death of Stephen. They stood up for their faith until Saul appeared with official documents calling for their arrest and prosecution.
“On that day [the day of Stephen’s death] a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria…But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”
I find this interesting. How do you know when to go? How do you know when to stay? Jesus had told the 120 that after the coming of the Holy Spirit they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
But many believers never left Jerusalem. And it appears that though many left because of the persecution, other stayed, including the leadership of the church. After his conversion Saul returned to witness in Jerusalem. Those who went out from Jerusalem reported back to the leadership as is recorded throughout Acts. Paul chose to go back to Jerusalem knowing that he could easily meet his death there.
I have no right to question or criticize but Moses’ actions and those of the followers of Jesus who chose the difficult rather than run from it, beg that the question be placed before those today who face persecution based on their choice to follow God: Should they stay or should they go? Should we encourage them to leave or provide the resources, both material and spiritual, so that they can stay and stand up for Jesus?
The decision to follow Christ, “forsaking all others” is also an act of faith.
For most of us the consequences of standing up for Jesus are not as grave as they were for Moses. Though the day may come when we risk similar results if we choose to make Him our first priority above all else, today is not yet that day, though somewhere in the world it is! But it is “baby steps” for us, taking those little steps to stand for Christ. But once again the question begs to be asked: If I can’t take those little steps now, what will happen when bigger steps are asked of me?
A split second of time changed the course of one man’s history. In Acts 7:25 Stephen tells us what Moses was thinking when he killed the Egyptian. Moses expected his brother Hebrews to understand the meaning behind his killing of their oppressor.
“Moses thought that his own people would realize God was using him to rescue them, but they did not.”
Stephen gave Moses the benefit of the doubt, basically saying that this act of rescuing his Hebrew brother from the tyranny of an oppressor was not necessarily a bad one. But it was the wrong place and the wrong time. Neither Moses, nor the Hebrews, nor the Pharaoh, nor the Egyptians were ready yet. The Hebrews were not prepared to trust a recent “prince of Egypt” as their rescuer any more than the leaders of the early church were prepared to trust a recently converted Saul until they both had proven themselves. Moses had to learn humility, the Hebrews had to be desperate enough, and the sins of the Pharaoh and the Egyptians had not reached such a state that God’s judgment on them was inevitable.
When God made His promise to Abraham to make of his descendants a great nation and to give them the land upon which Abraham had pitched his tent, God also gave him this assurance:
“As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the Lord said to him, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, or the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”
We tend to forget that just because the Hebrews were to be set apart and formed into God’s chosen people, He was still working among those who weren’t. Moses would later remind the Israelites of this as they were preparing to enter the promised land:
“But be assured today that the Lord your God is the one who goes ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as the Lord has promised you. After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, so not say to yourself, ‘The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.’ No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.”
The time was not right.
How often do we run ahead of God, trying to make things happen, when it isn’t time for them to happen in God’s divine design?
One Egyptian does not a rescue make! While it was necessary for Moses to decide who he was, there is a principle in Scripture that might prevent us from, like Moses, reacting at the wrong time, in the wrong place, using the wrong method.
Psalm 27:11 — “Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.”
Psalm 32:8 — “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.”
Psalm 37:5, 6 — “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”
Psalm 37:34 — “Wait for the Lord and keep his way. He will exalt you to possess the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.”
Psalm 143:8-10 — “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your spirit lead me on level ground.”
Proverbs 4:11-13 — “I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.”
Proverbs 12:15 — “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.”
Proverbs 22:24, 25 — “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.”
Perhaps the principle is that of maintaining “cool heads.”
We have no sense that Moses ever got a call from God to do what he did. That would come later via a burning bush in the desert. Humility needed to be learned as did how to lead people whose “sheep-like” obstinacy would become notorious.
Hebrews uses the term, “refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” The writer to the Hebrews appears to concur with the remarks of an historian of the time by the name of Josephus, who recorded that Moses was to be formally adopted as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter but actually refused:“…he might possibly have succeeded at last to the throne of Egypt. Thermutis, Pharaoh's daughter, according to the tradition…adopted him, as Josephus says, with the consent of the king. Josephus states that when a child, he threw on the ground the diadem put on him in jest, a presage of his subsequent formal rejection of Thermutis' adoption of him. Faith made him to prefer the adoption of the King of kings, unseen, and so to choose (Heb 11:25, 26) things, the very last which flesh and blood relish.”
Titus Flavius Josephus (/dʒoʊˈsiːfəs/; 37 – c. 100), born Joseph ben Matityahu (Hebrew: יוסף בן מתתיהו, Yosef ben Matityahu), was a first-century Romano-Jewish scholar, historian and hagiographer, who was born in Jerusalem—then part of Roman Judea—to a father of priestly descent and a mother who claimed royal ancestry.
As we compare the events of Exodus 2:13-15 with Stephen’s sermon in Acts 7:26-29 we conclude that Moses would have expected a different reaction from his fellows Israelites when he intervened in their argument. But why should they trust him?
Here is this easily-identifiable “Egyptian” setting them up. Moses had no track record, no authority to back up his actions. There was no wisdom in his anger or in the actions provoked by that anger and that was recognizable. Hanging around an angry person is not a good place to be when your enemy has the upper hand.
When the response was not as he hoped—no backup to his planned coup, Moses ran!
When Moses returned to Egypt 40 years later, he returned under new authority. Exodus 3:11-16, 4:1-5,4:29-31 describes the encounter that made the difference between Moses’ flight in fear from Egypt and his courageous return.
In the desert, looking after his father-in-law’s sheep, Moses has an encounter with God who speaks to him out of a burning bush. This is a different Moses, a humble man who now, instead of seeing himself as the savior of his people, sees himself as incapable of doing anything to help. Now he is ready to let God do the work through him rather than in spite of him. His courage does not now come from a place of privilege as the son of the king’s daughter, but comes from the privilege of being called by the King of kings.
Hebrews 11:26 states: “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.” The underlined phrase has caused some debate among scholars. Vincent in his word studies writes: “The phrase is applied to Moses as enduring at the hands of the Egyptians and of the rebellious Israelites the reproach which any faithful servant of God will endure, and which was endured in a notable way by Christ.”
Ellicott writes: “The words are almost exactly a quotation from one of the chief of the Messianic Psalms [Psalm 89:50-51]—‘Remember, Lord, the reproach of Thy servants; how I do bear in my bosom the reproach of many peoples: wherewith Thine enemies have reproached, O Lord; wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of Thine anointed.’ Here the writer in effect speaks of himself as bearing ‘the reproach of the Anointed’ of the Lord; pleading in his name and identifying himself with his cause. ‘The Anointed’ is the king who (see the Note on Hebrews 1:5) was the type of the promised Christ. Throughout the whole of their history the people of Israel were the people of the Christ. Their national existence originated in the promise to Abraham, which was a promise of the Christ; and till the fullness of time should come their mission was to prepare the way for Him. The reproach which Moses accepted by joining the people of the promise was, therefore, ‘the reproach of Christ,’ the type of that ‘reproach’ which in later days His people will share with Him (Hebrews 13:13).”
Vincent’s Word Studies: “Esteeming the reproach of Christ (ἡγησάμενος τὸν ὀνειδισμὸν τοῦ Χριστοῦ) The participle gives the reason for his choice of affliction instead of sin: since he esteemed. "The reproach of Christ" is the reproach peculiar to Christ; such as he endured. The writer uses it as a current form of expression, coloring the story of Moses with a Christian tinge. Comp. Romans 15:3; Hebrews 13:13; 2 Corinthians 1:5; Colossians 1:24; Philippians 3:14; 1 Peter 4:14. The phrase is applied to Moses as enduring at the hands of the Egyptians and of the rebellious Israelites the reproach which any faithful servant of God will endure, and which was endured in a notable way by Christ.”
Hebrews 11:26 says that Moses made his choice to act in faith and abandoned whatever advantages being an Egyptian might have brought him “because he was looking forward to his reward.” Jesus makes a significant statement in Mark 10:28-30 that reminds us that what was true for Moses is also true for us.
“Peter said to him, ‘We have left everything to follow you!’ ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus replied, ‘no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.’”
CONSIDERATIONS AND CONVERSATIONS
1. If you have children or grandchildren, nieces or nephews, or input into the lives of the children of others, what can you do to enhance their spiritual journeys?
2. Acting in the heat of the moment is common to most of us. Describe a time when you have “acted in haste and repented at leisure.” What conclusions would you draw from your experience, that of Moses, and what the Scripture say about where God fits in our decision-making?
3. What was your “watershed” moment in life when you had to decide to follow Christ or not to follow Him?
4. Moses went from prince of Egypt to shepherd in the wilderness. How critical is having faith when you feel that you have lost everything that gave you significance in life?
5. Report on how you are doing in strengthening your relationship with God as a vital part of your faith journey.
 Acts 8:1-4
 Acts 1:8
 Acts 26-29
 Acts 11:2ff; 12:25; 15:2
 Acts 21:12-14
 Acts 9:26-30
 Genesis 15:12-16
 Deuteronomy 9:3-6