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 recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. Through faith lie kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them (Hebrews 11.24-28).
Most Bible readers, and probably many commentators, associate Moses with the law given on the mount, what we know as the ten commandments. Near common consent links him as an indispensable type of coded law written on tables of stone. Moses certainly was associated in a vital way with the law. That is freely acknowledged. For the purposes of this article, however, Moses will be traced out as a member of the tried and buffeted family of faith; a faith without which no man can see God. May it be the Lord's mercies to enable us to view His eternal handiwork in this chosen man, Moses, the servant of the Lord and child of faith.
Reading Hebrews 11 reveals the chapter as a fuller dissertation grounded in Paul's words closing chapter 10: "Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him (Hebrews 10.38)." Moses, justified by faith, as were all those just persons enumerated throughout chapter 11, lived, and died, by faith. There is a real sense in which Moses was also born by faith (Hebrews 11.10). To relegate Moses then to a station of law-giver only deprives the family of faith of one of their true figures of that faith which is the gift of God, the fruit of the Spirit. We add, his giant stature was not due in the least part to himself, but rather the eternal will of God. All the steps in the life of Moses (every one of them) were ordered and directed of the Lord before there was a world. As sure as God is true, the path of Moses was laid out long before he was born. If we are also children of faith, then so too are our steps ordered and directed.
As enabled, we hope to elucidate on the startling pattern of departure followed by Moses when he was come to years. It was a full departure, not just from some things, but a complete reversal of life. Moses was as dramatically turned from one mode of life to another as was Saul of Tarsus centuries later. (Interested readers may desire to compare the departure of Moses with the Bible doctrine of repentance.) Follow then, the account as given in Hebrews 11.
The turning point (departure), if we may call it that, in the life of Moses was "when he was come to years...." Surely this must mean more than Moses grew up or matured into manhood. This experience is the natural lot of all the sons of Adam with some general exceptions. Reaching adulthood has never turned a fallen creature to take the steps Moses took when he was come to years. No, something far more moving stirred the heart of Moses at this juncture in his life, when he was come to years. What then motivated Moses to the place where he "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter." Startling! This was indeed a dramatic departure from what would be expected. To disavow a secure posture in the family of Pharaoh, one so lofty as Moses occupied, is a sweeping move indeed. Refused, under the circumstances and way of life Moses was accustomed to, can only be admitted as a dramatic departure in the extreme.
The cause of this dramatic stirring in Moses is recorded in Acts 7. "And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds. And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel (Acts 7.22,23)." No one can believe for a moment that what came into Moses' heart was an impulse of the flesh. Otherwise it would not say it came into his heart. What Moses received at forty years of age came from without to within. Seeing too that in another forty years "there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sinai an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush (Acts 7.30)," and it becomes clear that Jehovah was the source of Moses; turning (departing) from the courts of Egypt to his newfound interest in his brethren.
Moses was in the fullness of strength, taught in all the learning and wisdom of Egypt, being mighty in word and deed, no doubt endowed with all the power and authority of the throne of Egypt, Pharaoh excepted. Dramatically, a turn in affections transforms Moses. Moses was the same man he was before, but all is changed. Every comfort, every convenience, every position and rank suddenly meant little, possibly nothing, to Moses.
Unexpectedly, this advantaged child of adoption by Pharaoh's daughter died to his rank and station, prominence and power. The world of grandeur and rank Moses knew and matured in abruptly withered into meaninglessness. New affections, totally unexpected, had developed in his heart. A new world, previously of little importance to Moses, an unknown kingdom he had given little thought to, drew his affections. At the same time, old things (his Egyptian existence) were passing away. Let all heaven-taught children ponder how it was when God suddenly killed them (as He did Moses) to the love of this present world and set their affections on their brethren.
If Moses gave this matter any prior deliberation, the Scriptures do not say, but it certainly seems to us doubtful. When the Lord awakens His sheep to follow the footsteps of the flock, to seek their rest by the shepherd's tent, they are so moved, so compelled, they cry, "Hinder me not ye much loved saints; for I must go with you."
It appears that at the instant Moses came to years (the time appointed by God from all eternity) he cast off his counterfeit mantle he had worn since he was delivered from the little ark in the Nile. Like blind Bartimaeus, "...he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus (Mark 10.50)." The gospel trumpet had blown. The reverberations of the Son of God thundered in the heart of Moses. Faith, the same justifying faith that is the gift to all the elect, had spoken to his soul and he was exercised. Moses thus was compelled to seek the company of his own brethren and so it was natural that his initial action was to refuse to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter.
We have no reason to believe Moses acted in any fashion disrespectful to his adoptive mother. Nor would he have become surly to any others attending the courts of Egypt. His course was a simple matter of refusal. Moses could no longer be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He refused! His departure was at hand.
Never mind how the priests of all Ashdod languages contend refusals and acceptances are in the realm of the free will of man. Moses refused when he came to years for the best of all reasons; he could not do otherwise. Will, free will, or the will in bondage, had nothing to do with Moses' refusal. How so, it may be asked? Simply, Moses could not be called the son of this fair daughter of Egypt's finest for he was not her son! He never was her son! Despite years of appearance to the contrary, Moses was always (even from eternity) a child of Israel. His adoption was certainly contrary to the rigid rules of Egypt and the love and devotion Pharaoh's daughter may have shown Moses would never make him what he was not. He now refused to be thought of as what he was not.
It came to Moses to visit his brethren.
Who were these brethren of Moses? Certainly not the gentry of Pharaoh's court, nor any others of the masses comprising that dreadful land called Egypt. The brethren of Moses: who were they? They were those despised brick makers who, at the moment of Moses' refusal, were being lashed, whipped, maligned and otherwise abused by the Egyptian authorities who controlled their every breath and movement. These lowly slaves, long removed from the land of promise, were the wretches whom Moses preferred (by faith) to be identified with rather than the aristocrats of Pharaoh's court. But we run ahead of the story.
"Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." Had the text simply read, "Choosing to suffer affliction...," the combined tribes of Arminianism would vehemently urge the cause of free will, pointing to the choosing of Moses. (It takes little to set them ablaze in their zeal for choice.)
Blessedly, the language is "choosing rather." Moses made no spurious or naked choice from assorted options at his disposal. The choice was already made when he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter. The rejection of the one necessitated the choice of the other. When Moses, by faith, refused, he was, in effect, choosing another path, one in complete harmony with the faith of God's elect now lodged in his breast. Moses was turned away from the regal majesty of Egypt's courts when it came into his heart to visit his brethren, his real, true brethren. Thus his refusal of the one was identical with his choosing rather. We do not suggest that these matters were turning over in the mind of Moses in some analytical fashion so he might sort them out as best he could. Not so! Those things that transpired within Moses resulting in a choice were the outworking of the inwrought faith of God's elect. Moses chose rather as a natural effect of God leading him to refuse the distinction, "son of Pharaoh's daughter." According to inspiration all this was "by faith."
But there was a choice.
God's children choose every day in a multitude of ways. Why think it strange? Why dread the stigma of Arminianism by admitting we choose in countless ways? None of this makes void the purpose and will of God that leads us in every path of life, from birth to our last breath. Does not God make us willing (to choose) in the day of His power? Certainly so! Is it not God that works in us "both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2.13)"? Moses made a choice. Nor did he apologize for it. It, the choice, was anchored in the purpose of God and faith stirring in Moses to visit his brethren. Thus, he refused, and consequently he chose rather. This is the full word of God on the subject. May we be humbled if blessed by faith to believe it.
"Choosing rather to suffer affliction." "Moses. what kind of a fool choice is that?" A decided. deliberate choice in favor of suffering, and not just suffering but suffering affliction, stretches the thread of common sense to the breaking point. On the one hand Moses has turned his back on everything that could be held precious and valuable in Egypt: his family, fame, fortune, future; all of it. Now Moses is steaming toward what appears to be a suicide course. "Normal folks just don't go around choosing to suffer affliction" must have been somewhat the opinion circulating about the new behavior of Moses. "What derailed Moses and hurled him apace toward so self-destructive a course?" It is a fair question.
A word of explanation is needful here. Moses was derailed only in the eyes of those blinded to the glories of God's kingdom. Moses was hurtling toward destruction only in the unrenewed minds of the children of flesh. What appeared to derail Moses? Faith. The faith of God's elect. The one faith apart from which no man can see or please God. The faith without which all is sin. Imparted faith; the faith of Jesus Christ implanted within the new man. This was the faith Paul said "...is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11.1)." No wonder then most could not at that time, nor today, understand the actions of Moses. Moses saw what the naked eye could not see. It had substance. It was things hoped for, not things he and the household of Pharaoh could see with the bare eye. Moses had the evidence of things hoped for. Hope maketh not ashamed. We, including Moses, are saved by hope. All this sprang from faith, and that faith was the gift of God. To deny this is to consent to the damnation of the soul forevermore.
"Choosing rather to suffer affliction." Suffering affliction did not begin with Moses and it certainly did not end with him. It is the common lot of the household of faith. Look back to the previous chapter in Hebrews: "But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used (Hebrews 1O.32,33ff)." Several items here perfectly parallel the experience of Moses and it could have been written of him as well as any member of the kingdom of faith. First, it was after these were illuminated that the fight of afflictions took place. Even so, when Moses had been illuminated when he came to years, did he begin the endurance of this fight of afflictions. Second, they endured. It will be seen when we come to verse 27 in Hebrews 11 that this is the exact language describing Moses; he endured. Third, it was a fight of afflictions. Little did Moses know just what he must endure by way of afflictions, but, whatever it was, it would be vastly preferable to the hypocrisy of Pharaoh's court. (How we can love hypocrisy one day and despise it the next is a portion of "Amazing Grace.") Fourth, they, like Moses, became companions of them that were so used. With Moses it was his brethren, the Israelites that he would become companion with.
The reader would be well repaid to explore the whole context we have just partially examined.
"I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord (Zephaniah 3.12)." When Moses chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God he was choosing to be among the poor of the world. Not a poverty such as beggars or princes understand but rather the poverty of soul that brings true riches. Did not Christ become poor that we through His poverty might be made rich? This is the poverty that assures eternal wealth. Surely the same spirit that moved Moses to choose to suffer affliction with the people of God was the one which stirred David to say, "Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word (Psalm 119.67)." And again, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes (Psalm 119.71)." What but the faith of God's elect can stir men of like passions to choose a path of afflictions? Blessed faith. One thought more: "That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto (I Thessalonians 3.3)." If afflictions come by appointment (divine appointment), then was it not absolutely necessary that Moses suffer those afflictions with the people of God he had chosen? Certainly so, and praise God that it is so!
Before passing from the thought of afflictions, view the sacred prophesy of our Lord's afflictions: "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted (Isaiah 53.4)." Before David, Moses or any saint today find themselves aggravated and harassed by. afflictions, be it remembered that Jesus has likewise suffered, conquered, and gained the victory in our behalf. "In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them...(Isaiah 63.9)."
"Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God." Here now is the proving ground for Moses. He developed no sudden martyr complex, nor had his reasoning gone askew. Moses had just undergone a major heart adjustment from the hand of God. He went from prince to penitent in an instant. The courts of Egypt were now his curse. His Egyptian mother now stood between him and his true family, the people of God, these afflicted Israelite brick makers and slaves of Moses' adopted grandfather, the Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Moses was not blind to circumstances. He, learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, knowing no equal, could see the consequence of his decision to cast his lot with the despised horde of Jacob's tribe. It could only mean that Moses would have to go down to them; he could not at the time bring them up to him. But that was the affection God had put in his heart and follow it he must.
How could Moses do otherwise? Who among us, when called by grace, stirred to seek out those of like precious faith, considered the outward circumstances of those we sought to walk with? What were we looking for? A brotherhood, a tie that binds, a union with the family of God. Anything short of that could not possibly do. Did not many of the tried saints of God have to leave more comfortable situations and stations to unite with the lowly ones called the Old School? But - has it been regretted? Never! Never! To a person, those God has visited with the love of Christ, with the faith of His elect in their hearts, would never turn back; not for ten million worlds. This is heaven here on earth and if there must be afflictions, if that must be the lot of the pilgrim, then may all join with Paul saying "For our light affliction which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (II Corinthians 4.17)." Yes, brethren, the light afflictions are but for a moment, when compared to the eternal weight of glory before us. Oh, yes, Moses, we see now plainly why you were compelled to choose such a course. So must we, if we too are children of faith.
"With the people of God." Moses sought no new course to chart. He had no plan to venture out as Moses the great. Heaven forbid! Moses looked to his true family, maybe for the first time in his life, and by faith sought to be one with them despite their hard and lowly circumstances.
Here, we believe, is where faith leads the redeemed of the Lord. The redeemed seek communion with the people of the Lord for they too have been given a hope they are numbered with them; that they are the people of God and brethren.
It was when Moses was "full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel (Acts 7.23)." God's purposes for Moses seemed to have ripened. He no doubt thought this was the time. These new affections came into his heart. He would then act upon these impulses and join with his brethren for surely they would be well pleased to embrace him at once. But, as said Joseph Hart, "How strange is the course that a Christian must steer." Moses had been shown things by this new revelation of which his brethren were not yet aware. "For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not (Acts 7.25)." They understood not! The great Moses was ready for his brethren, but, lo! His brethren were not ready for him. Moses supposed! Moses was wrong respecting the time.
With these thoughts we leave the subject for another article. Moses would indeed suffer affliction with the people of God, but not at that time. He did prefer the afflictions of Israel to the pleasures of sin for a season, but there was much more in the purpose of God to be accomplished yet.
Elder James F Poole
Volume 13, No. 2 - March-April, 1999