Preached by Dr. Gene Scott on October 3, 1976
PLEASE TURN TO HEBREWS 11, starting at verse 23. The name Moses means “drawn out.” His name speaks of a miracle. Every person who has gone to Sunday school has heard the story of Moses. Pharaoh, fearing the promise of a deliverer, decreed that all the Hebrew male children below a certain age were to be slain and thrown into the Nile. The mother of Moses hid him for a time, and then placed him in a basket on the river, where Pharaoh’s daughter would discover him. Pharaoh’s daughter “drew him out of the water.” God spared Moses’ life using that very river that was to be the means of his death. We read the story of Moses’ beginnings in Exodus 2.
In that day, everyone who heard Moses’ name would be reminded that he was a miracle child. He is one of those catalogued in Hebrews 11 of whom God is “not ashamed to be called their God.” The Bible is about God, but that chapter is the only one in the Bible that eulogizes men of faith of whom God says, “The world was not worthy.”
With the name that recalls miracles and with that eulogy from God, you will probably find it easy to think of Moses in the traditional way, as a superman. He was the man who God used to write the first five books of the Bible. He was the man who God could distinguish from the people he led by saying, “the people saw God’s actions; Moses came to know God’s ways” (Psalm 103:7). He was the man God hid in a cleft of a rock on top of the mountain and let catch a glimpse of Him as He went by (Exodus 33:22). He was the one Gold talked to “face to face.” He was the man who would come down from God’s presence and not realize that his face was shining, although the people looking at him would see the difference (Exodus 34:29). He was the deliverer of God’s people out of bondage in Egypt. And like so many heroes of faith, when you admire their great deeds, there is the danger that you will elevate them above the ordinary stuff of life. If you leave them in that place, there is no relationship between their lives and the mundane everyday relationships of ours.
I want you to see that Moses can relate to you and me. Hebrews 1:1 is an exemplary description of lives that are referred to in the following chapter as the “pacesetters” who have gone before us. We ought to walk our paths seeing them and looking to Jesus. So let’s put some flesh and blood on this man Moses. It is said that Michelangelo, when he had made his famous statue of Moses, was so impressed with its life-likeness that he stepped back, looked at the statue, and said, “Speak!” I am going to select certain words that Moses does speak to us, and have you circle them in your Bibles, and I pray that it will make him more human to you.
The section on Moses in Hebrews starts with the phrase “By faith Moses . . .” (Hebrews 11:24) Faith is not just mental assent or emotional confidence, it is a literal hanging of the body on what the mind has agreed to and the heart has responded to. Before God sent His people through that terrible period of bondage in Egypt, he had given a promise that it would come to an end. God’s Word put a time limit on their bondage, and that time was almost up. That is what made Pharaoh so frightened that he wanted to kill all the Israelite male children. His own interpreters could tell him that a deliverer had been promised, and the time had come.
Moses, as God’s deliverer, hung his body on what God had said rather than what he saw. What he saw was Pharaoh’s kingdom, and as the heir, he stood to inherit the throne, but “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” Moses was schooled in all the learning of Egypt. He was a great military leader, and he led the armies of Egypt in a major victory. He had the choice in the flesh and blood world to assume all the power and all the benefits accruing to the greatest throne in the world in that day, but “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused . . .” Circle that word refused, the first word Moses is going to say to us.
Like Elijah, like Jacob and like Joseph, my prayer is that you will see that Moses’ starting point was as ordinary as yours is today. True, he would part the Red Sea in later years as God’s instrument; true, he would strike a flinty rock and water would come out; true, he would stand on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus, but that is not where he started. He started in a flesh and blood seen world that offered him everything, and he said, “No!” That refusal was his no to the claims of this life.
What is repentance? Repentance is not an emotional experience. It has been caricatured that way, causing some who give their lives to God to begin to doubt that they have had a genuine “salvation experience,” because they can’t feel something special. I was raised in the church and have seen how second and third generations learned, by imitation, to give testimonies of grand, felt, experiential happenings that are just not necessarily true.
Now, God can relate to us that way. He knocked Paul off of an animal, blinded him, and spoke to him out of Heaven. That would make a believer out of me in a hurry! God sometimes speaks through prophets. But I would like first to hear what He has already said to me through His Word. I believe that God created a very organized universe, yet some people think that to be spiritual, you must be disorganized. You could not sit up in your seat if God had not organized you. Despite our desire for miraculous things, God does things in the most ordinary way.
The first test of any personal prophecy is that it must not contradict God’s Word. If an angel comes preaching in a brilliant light, and contradicts God’s Word, the angel does not get an audience. Second, the ultimate test of a prophet is whether or not what has been prophesied comes true. So all you have to do is wait and trust God. God does speak. In times past, He spoke by visions and prophets, but in these last days He has spoken by His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2).
I am troubled when I hear people say, “God told me,” when what they are describing is really a rather natural process. God does tell us, but that phrase suggests that an angel materialized, until some are misled into trying to hear some voice. Let me bring it down to where we live. Ninety percent of the time when Christians say “God told me,” they mean their life is in God’s hands and their situation worked out a certain way. If you belong to the Lord, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD” (Psalm 37:23). If you commit your life to Him, then whatever happens, He is guiding you. Sometimes what we ought to say is, “God didn’t speak. He didn’t send an angel. It just worked out this way and I took it from the Lord.”
You do not have to come to an altar and have a mystical experience for you to become a Moses. Repentance is a cognate of a Latin word used by Jerome when he translated the New Testament into the Latin Vulgate. We have continued to use the word repentance, and that is why you find so much emphasis on an emotional response and on a sorrowful act. The original word in the Greek was a simple, logical expression that did not put the emphasis on emotions at all. It put emphasis on the will and it simply meant “to turn from . . . to.” Sitting right there, you can repent without any special feelings, without anything happening to you except your making the decision: “I am going to turn from that which has claimed my life, and turn to the Lord as my Master. At this moment, I repent.” Nothing more or less than that comprises repentance; it is a refusal.
Now, if anyone ever had something offered to him, Moses had it. And the test of time has not changed the terms of the Christian refusal. To be a Christian literally means “follower of Christ.” In the New Testament, salvation was synonymous with Lordship and for that you don’t have to have a drastic emotional experience. You just have to make a decision, the same decision Moses made: am I going to hang my body on God’s Word of promise or am I going to hang my body on what I see? Moses looked around him and saw the power of Egypt at his disposal. He could heap it all upon himself in full authority, but God’s Word said those humble slaves making bricks out of mud and straw were going to be delivered by God’s power. Moses made the decision to refuse to go with Pharaoh and to go with God. That is all there is to it.
You have to decide. Will you cling to temporal things, or will you, like Moses, refuse them? This is why I quarrel with the humanism of the modern church world that says, “Come to God because of what He is going to do for you. Come to God because He will make you rich, make things easy for you,” or some other such argument. Coming to God involves a refusal of that which is the seen, the world’s offering, and a refusal to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. But it is not just a negative refusal; it is a positive acceptance.
Circle the next word: choosing. Some people think being good is simply not being bad, and some people think coming to God is only comprised of giving something up. But that leaves you with nothing. You have not made the full turn until you turn not only from, but to. Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He said no, but what did he say yes to? He did not say yes to a “get rich quick” scheme or a “blessing pact:” “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.”
There is a mythology circulating in Christianity. It is not what the so-called higher critics in theology, who try to make the miracles of the New Testament myths, have called mythology. The mythology that is going around today is the appeal to come to God because He will make it easy for you. Then, when you get knocked flat by the world that opposes you, you blame God. God never said that. His examples lay it in front of you. You have to refuse “the pleasures of sin for a season.”
The other myth is that there is no pleasure in sin. Yes, there is! Might as well face it. The Bible says it. There is no sense in telling someone that there is no pleasure in sin, but it is only for a season. Jesus said, “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:37, Matthew 16:26) “I have set before you two ways, the way of life and the way of death” (Deuteronomy 30:15).
Whatever you think you have given up, it can’t even stand in the arena with what Moses gave up. There was no Red Sea parting in front of him when he made that choice. There was no water spilling from a rock, there was no God passing by, and there was no Mount of Transfiguration experience. Moses was standing as a young man with everything in this world at his disposal and nothing but suffering to be his lot if he made that choice, but he refused Pharaoh and he chose to suffer. Why?
Circle this as the third word: “Esteeming the reproach of Christ” (Hebrews
11:26). Jesus Christ had not even come on the scene when Moses made this choice, so how could Moses esteem the reproach of Christ? Christ simply means “deliverer.” That is why we speak of Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the Deliverer. But Moses was also a deliverer. He had a choice to cast his lot with those slaves and be their deliverer, esteeming the reproach of being a deliverer in the name of God greater riches than all the heaped-up treasures in Egypt.
Do not expect this preacher to tell you to come to God because of what you are going to get right now. Rather, come to God for the ministry to the world that brought Jesus here. He cried for a people that would not accept Him. He had joy when the prodigal came back, when the widow found the lost coin, and when the lost sheep was found. He died for a world that was lost. He sent us as His witnesses and the word witness means “martyr.” He sent us as His martyrs into the world. We ought to be ready to die if necessary to be His testimony to carry the Word, the “good news’ of the gospel.
Christianity is not complicated; it is tough! “Moses refused . . . choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God,” because he “esteemed the reproach of a deliverer greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” You have to decide: is the church going to be your instrument to serve you, or are you going to be in the church because it is God’s instrument to serve Him? Why does any church exist? Why do you exist? If you are in the kingdom of Heaven, you have been bought with a price, you are not your own and you have the same choice Moses had.
“By faith he forsook . . . “ Circle that word. The terminology speaks of the refusal and the choice. You can’t keep both Pharaoh’s Egypt and the deliverer’s path; you have to forsake. You cannot keep Egypt and have the deliverer’s treasures also. We can comprehend from the New Testament picture preached by Paul of invisible, eternal things that we have to esteem and respect more than the things of time. By doing so, we can comprehend forsaking.
“For he endured . . .” Circle that word. I am not sure that we understand what God made Moses endure. God’s choice servant made mistakes. He failed. He endured a lonely stalemate for 40 years because of his mistakes, while God trained him on the backside of the desert. Let us face any mistakes; God is used to dealing with them. How long have you been enduring? Some of you know you made the value judgment of turning from your way to God’s way, but the devil is beating you over the head because you don’t see the results. You want your payday sooner. After 40 years, God spoke to Moses out of a burning bush. God told Moses to go back to Egypt to lead His people out.
Moses’ wife did not want to make the full commitment he made. Moses had a son, and God let him know that He expected total commitment, a dedication rite for his son that his wife opposed. Moses yielded to her. The Scripture says that God would have killed this faithful servant if he had not made the full dedication. He listened to God in ultimate commitment and paid the price. His wife screamed at him, “You are a bloody husband to me” and left him (Exodus 4:25). Moses left her there and went on to do God’s work. He was rejected by his own people. His brother and sister stood up against him and said, “Why is he something special before God?”
Finally when Moses stood on Mount Pisgah in the mountains in Nebo, he begged God to let him go over into the Promised Land. But, because earlier in Moses’ wrath at the people he had breached one of God’s symbolic types, God said, “Don’t you speak to Me about it anymore.” God denied him entrance into the Promised Land.* But 1300 years later, on the Mount of Transfiguration, God took him in. God keeps His Word!
God needs those in today’s world who will do what Moses did, who will make Moses’ choice: “turning from.” It is as simple as that! There is nothing mystical about it. The Word of God says it by example. You have to make a choice! Are you willing to turn from every other claim and choose Him? If you are, it will last only if you put your values in eternity.
Although Hebrews 11 says of those catalogued there that “the world was not worthy of them,” many of them died “not having obtained the promise” because God had us in mind. He wanted us to be on that team. If you don’t obtain a promise here and now, what difference does it make, if your eyes are on eternity? Paul said, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1st Corinthians 15:19). Our hope is eternal. God is still looking for men and women who will put their values “where moth and rust doth not corrupt . . . For where your treasures are, there your heart will be” (Matthew 6:20-21). Put your hope there. Esteem those riches, and be a deliverer. Remember Moses “endured, as seeing him who is invisible.”
****Reprinted with permission from Pastor Melissa Scott***
*Wingspread note: See Numbers, Chapter 20, for the full story of what Moses did that angered God.
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