David Jeremiah - Moses: The Persuasion of Faith
There is no greater hero for the Jewish people than the man Moses, and for good reason. I mean, think how Moses demonstrated his faith. He confronted the pharaoh of Egypt. He believed God would divide the Red Sea. He led the slaves through the wilderness and brought them to the edge of the Promised Land. No, Moses wasn't perfect, but his faith was strong enough to defeat Egypt and redeem Israel. Hello, I'm David Jeremiah welcoming you to our series from the book of Hebrews called "Ordinary People, Extraordinary Faith". We are building our own potential for faith by studying the lives of ordinary people who trusted God in bold ways. Today's message, "Moses: The Persuasion of Faith," highlights a man who had to believe God for more practical help than anyone in Israel's history. We'll see how he did it on today's edition of "Turning Point".
Moses occupies more attention than any other in this list of men and women of faith here in the 11th chapter; and he is a significant character in the book of Hebrews, being mentioned in this book alone some ten different times. We begin reading the text and understanding it with the testimony of Moses's life and his relationship, first of all, with God. The Bible tells us a lot about Moses. First of all, the Bible tells us that Moses was a man of God.
Deuteronomy 33:1 says it this way: "Now this was the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death". Ezra says it this way: "And as it is written in the Law of Moses, the man of God". Now, that phrase appears again in the New Testament in the Thessalonian and Titus epistles, but what a credit to anybody to be called a man of God. What a testimony, what a name we should covet for ourselves. "There goes so and so. He's a man of God". And Moses was, first of all, in his relationship with the Almighty, he was a man of God. But if you study the Old Testament, you discover also that he was a servant of God. He was not only a man of God; he was a servant of God.
Once again Deuteronomy 34 and verse 5 says, "So Moses the servant of the Lord died in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor, but no one knows his grave till this day". And Hebrews 3:5 says, "Moses indeed was faithful in all his house as a servant". So what we've learned so far about Moses was he was a man of God, he was a servant of God. And here's the most unusual thing of all of them. He was a friend of God. It says in Exodus 33:11, "So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend". He was God's friend. John 15:15 says, in the New Testament, "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from my Father I have made known to you".
Jesus says we are friends. And I'm so delighted to know that Jesus Christ is my Savior, I'm happy to know that he's my Lord, and he's my soon-coming king; but every week I need to have him as my friend, especially these days. So that's his relationship with God simply put, outlined carefully. He was a man of God. He was a servant of God. He was a friend of God. But notice the record of his achievements. There is evidence to believe that he may have been one of the greatest man who ever lived, apart from the Lord Jesus Christ and maybe the Apostle Paul. In Deuteronomy 34, we have just a few statements about him and his life that are quite amazing when you put them in context with the entire Word of God.
Notice what the Scripture says. "Moses was 120 years old when he died". Now, that's a pretty good statement right there no matter where you are in life. Moses lived to be 120. And the Bible says, "His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished. And since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, in all signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt before Pharaoh, before all his servants and in all his land, and by all that mighty power and all that great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel".
Now, that's quite a paragraph about Moses. Now notice, secondly, the time periods of Moses' life. The Old Testament coverage of Moses begins in Exodus chapter 2 and it continues all the way through Deuteronomy chapter 34. Four of the five books of the Pentateuch are required to make known all the acts of this man of God. He had three periods of time in his life. All of them were 40 years long. He lived 120 years, divided into three 40-year periods of time. He spent 40 years in Pharaoh's court, he spent 40 years in the desert of Midian, and he spent 40 years in the wilderness with the Israelites. Each of these three periods began with a crisis, which was met by faith and which in turn resulted in a strategic choice.
Watch carefully. The first period of preparation: 40 years. We read about this here in Hebrews 11, verse 23. "By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden 3 months by his parents because they saw he was a beautiful child and they were not afraid of the king's command". "Pharaoh commanded the people, saying," Exodus 1:22, "every son who is born you shall cast into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive". During this awful time in Egypt Moses was born, and the Bible tells us that Moses's parents had courage in that time. We read about the courage of his parents. According to Exodus chapter 2, Moses's parents were Levites, and it is evident that they had a great faith in God. And Hebrews says that it was by faith in God that they hid their son.
Years earlier, God had told Abraham that in the fourth generation after his death the Israelites would be delivered from Egypt, and Moses would have been a member of that fourth generation. I'd like to suggest to you three things about Moses'c parents that are encouraging. First of all, they had the faith to see the potential in Moses. They had the faith to see the potential in Moses. Hebrews 11:23 says, "By faith they saw that he was a beautiful child". Exodus 2:2 says, "She saw he was a beautiful child". Acts 7:20 says, "At this time Moses was born, and he was well pleasing to God".
The Bible says when Moses was born, he was a strikingly handsome child. He was beautiful. This wasn't the kind of faith that Moses' parents had to express, this was the kind of faith that looked into the face of this little one and knew according to the nuances of the Old Testament that Almighty God had something special for this child to do. In other words, to Moses' parents, Moses was more than a new baby, more than what others saw. This was somebody important to God. I don't know how you feel about this, but let me just go off course for a little bit here for a moment.
I was listening to a radio program this week that I listen to on occasion. When I'm driving to work, this program happens to be on XM. It's another Bible teacher. If I told you his name, you would know it. And I'm not picking on him, I'm just going to tell you what he said. He's telling a story about his son. He was preaching a sermon on how extraordinary God is and how ordinary we are. And he told about his son, and he said that his son was a really good basketball player when he was in junior high. And then when he got to high school, he was sort of not as great as he was in junior high. And then when he got out of high school and tried to go to college, he said, "One of the great things we had to teach this boy was how ordinary he was".
And I almost ran off the road because I don't believe that's what God has called us to do at all. I think we should try to teach our children how extraordinary they are. Now, it may not have anything to do with basketball, but you know that God has a plan for every baby that's born. And especially children born into Christian families, God has a plan for them. And we ought to constantly be telling them that God has a plan for their life and that God's going to do something special in their lives, and that's what the Bible says about Moses. His parents saw the potential in him, more than just his good looks, but they knew in their heart that God had something special for him to do. Their faith had to see the potential in Moses, but their faith had to seek protection for Moses.
Hebrews 11:23 says by faith they hid him for 3 months. Just having faith that God has a purpose for this child was not enough. They had to act on the basis of their faith, and the Bible says they hid Moses for 3 months because they were not afraid of the king's commandments. So they had faith to see Moses's potential. They had faith to seek protection for him. And then number three, they had faith to sacrifice their personal ambitions for Moses. Acts 7:21 says, "But when he was set out, Pharaoh's daughter took him away and brought him up as her own son".
The only way Moses could survive the holocaust of the children of his day was for his parents to give him over to the daughter of Pharaoh, and she took him to Egypt and she raised Moses apart from his natural family. The Bible says that his parents allowed this to happen. What was the key to it? By faith. Whoa. Now, that puts faith down where the rubber meets the road, doesn't it? That puts faith down where, I mean, you say, "I don't know if I could do that, pastor". Well, they couldn't do it either except by faith. So that was the courage of Moses's parents.
Notice the course of Moses's preparation. When Moses left home, he went with Pharaoh's daughter and he went into the whole palace regime of Egypt. Acts chapter 7 and verse 22 says, "And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in words and in deeds". And I've written down in my notes: Moses went to Egypt and three things happened to him.
First of all, he became a student. The Bible says he was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptian. He took courses in Egyptian history and Egyptian philosophy and Egyptian practice. He became a learned Egyptian. He was a student.
Secondly, he was a statesman. The Bible says that Moses became mighty in words. He was able to state his own case. He was able to make a case for himself. He was endowed with unique oratorical powers.
And thirdly, he was a soldier. The Bible says he was mighty in deeds. And if you read the secular history of that time, tradition records the great victories for the Egyptian armies that were gained under Moses's leadership. During his tenure in Egypt, Moses would have been learned in military training and discipline and patience and quick decision-making, and he would have met many classmates from many countries and no doubt traveled to many different parts of the world.
What was God up to in all of this? God sent him to the enemy so that he could get trained to do what God was going to put him in task to do. And by faith his parents gave him up, and by faith he went to Egypt. And notice not only the courage of his parents and the course of his preparation, but notice the conviction of his heart. Hebrews 11:24 and 26 says this: "By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked for a reward".
Now, watch what happened here. This moment in Moses's life has been called the psychology of a great refusal. He looked at Israel and he saw poverty, but there are four verbs in Hebrews 11 that tell us how he made the decision. I want you to underline these verbs in your Bibles. First of all, verse 24, refusing. Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He had learned his courage from his parents, and it was a great lesson that they had passed on to him. He said, "I could, but I will not. It's possible for me to do it, but I'm not going to do it". And he refused.
The first verb is the word refusing. But then in verse 25, he went from refusing to choosing. Moses chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. Surely, he had to have been tempted by the pleasures of sin, but he deliberately sided with God's people. The pleasures of sin are only for a season, but the people of God have eternal pleasures. Psalm 16:11 says, "You will show me the path of life. In your presence is the fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore". So he began by refusing, he continued by choosing, and he went on by esteeming.
Notice verse 11:26. "Moses esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt". This word esteeming means accounting. In the language of the Old Testament, it means balancing this against that. And he esteemed it and he accounted it and he calculated it out, and he put it down on a sheet of paper, and he drew a line down the middle, and he put all the blessings of God over here and all the pleasures of Egypt over here, and then in that light he made a very strong, calculating decision. He esteemed, the Bible says, the reproach of Christ greater than the riches of the treasures of Egypt.
And then one last thing... refusing and choosing and esteeming. The last one is the word looking. It says Moses looked to the reward. There's the last verb. He refused, he chose, he esteemed, and he looked. Verse 26, Moses looked to the reward. Somebody has written that the reason many of us give up and give into temptation is not that we want too much, but that we settle for too little. Moses wanted more than the pleasures of Egypt could give him. He wanted something that would last forever. He wanted eternal pleasures, and this is the reason or rationale of Moses's faith. It is the reason he endured and he was faithful. Moses was filled with conviction that God was promising him greater wealth and the treasures of Egypt.
Hebrews 12:2 and 3 says about our Lord; that for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame. In many respects, that's what Moses was doing. He was looking forward. He was living forward; realizing that he could get the pleasures of life for a season but they would soon be over, or he could choose the things that last for eternity. And isn't that the choice we're constantly making as God's people? I mean, that doesn't mean that we can't have some of the blessings of this world. God provides all good things for us to enjoy, but sooner or later along the way we have to make a choice, like Moses made, in more than one area of our life, and he had the faith to do it.
So that's the period of preparation, 40 years. Moses is getting ready, first of all, for a short time in his parents' house, and then for the rest of the 40 years living under Pharaoh in Pharaoh's house as the surrogate son of Pharaoh's daughter. We come to the second period of his life. This is what we might call the period of isolation. Again, it was 40 years. And let me read to you from the book of Acts, verses 23 through 29. "Now when Moses was 40 years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended and avenged him who was oppressed, and struck down the Egyptian. For he supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand".
Moses thought that they're going to think, you know, "God sent him here to help us", but they didn't get it. "And the next day, he appeared to two of them as they were fighting, and he tried to reconcile them saying, 'Men, you are brethren. Why are you fighting each other? Why do you do wrong one to another?' But he who did his neighbor wrong pushed him away, saying, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you did that Egyptian yesterday?' At this saying, Moses fled and he went to the wilderness and became a dweller in the land of Midian, where he had two sons". And when 40 years had passed, he came back. Are you getting this?
There were some things that Moses could not learn in prosperity, some things that he had to learn in adversity. Moses went from 40 years in the palace of Egypt to 40 years on the backside of the Midian desert taking care of a bunch of filthy sheep that belonged to his father-in-law. And you can just imagine over and over again Moses saying, "What am I doing here"? But the Bible says God was ministering to his life, and it was on the backside of the desert where he had that incredible experience, that crisis experience at the burning bush. The period of preparation, 40 years; the period of isolation, 40 years; and finally the period of validation, 40 years.
Once again, read with me Hebrews 11:27. "By faith Moses forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king, but he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians attempting to do so were drowned". Moses's 40 years of preparation were over and his 40 years of probation were accomplished, and it was time for him to lead his people. Beginning at the age of 80, Moses began his great work for God as he led the Israelites out of Egypt and through the wilderness toward the land of Canaan.
The last 40 years of Moses' life became the time where he became the leader of the Israelites, battled with Pharaoh, led the people out into the wilderness, wandered in the wilderness. And then after all that hard work, Moses at the age of 120 got mad one day and did something God told him not to do and God didn't allow him to go into the Promised Land. That's a reminder to all of us that you can get all the way to the end and still blow it big time if you're not careful. Moses was at the end of his life and God wouldn't let him go into the Promised Land.
You say, "That was kind of severe. I mean, after all God did in Moses's life and all that Moses did for God". But you know what I always like to think about? I like to think about the fact that he didn't get to go in there with the rest of the people. But when you come to the New Testament and the Mount of Transfiguration, you see Moses right alongside Jesus in the Promised Land. So God just put him on the shelf for a few years and let him see it later, and I've written this down. I don't know where I heard this or where I read it, but I think it speaks marvelous truth about Moses.
"Moses spent his first 40 years learning to be somebody, and then he spent his next 40 years learning that he was nobody, and then he spent the last 40 years learning that God can take a nobody and make him into a somebody". Isn't that the way God worked in his life? And that's the way he works in our lives, not in 40-year segments 'cause none of us here will live to be 120. But I think one of the things I've learned about this is that we should never despise the times of training and the quiet times. Maybe you're going through a time right now where you've been set aside for a reason.
I can think of many reasons why that would be true, and maybe you think, "God has forgotten me. God's put me on the shelf. God's not using me anymore". But God may be just giving you a little taste of Midian. He may be just letting you learn a little bit in the quiet side. Sometimes we get running so fast we can't hear what God is saying, and maybe God's allowing you in this period of time as you're hearing his voice maybe a little clearer now that things have gotten uncomplicated, and the only reason he's doing that is 'cause he's got some great work for you to do and he has his own way of preparing us. He does it in all of our lives just as he did in the life of Moses.