Neither Enticed nor Terrified Away from Christ (Hebrews Sermon 55 of 74)
February 05, 2012 | Andrew Davis
War Against the Flesh, Money and Possessions, Temptation
Heroes of the Scriptures: All Saved by Faith in Christ
So we come to a bit of a turning point in Hebrews 11. Hebrews 11, that great hall of faith, the faith chapter. And we come to Act 3 in this chapter. Act 1 was the faith displayed before the flood, with Abel and Enoch and Noah. And Act 2 the faith of the patriarchal era of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. We come here to Act 3, and that's the faith of Moses and the people of God during the time of the Exodus and beyond. The author's point through all of this has meant to show the unity of the work of God throughout all eras of redemptive history. That his people have always been saved the same way, in every era, in every generation, from the very beginning of history, from Abel onward, the people of God have been justified by faith alone, and it's the same faith.
Now, as we come to the story of Moses' parents and of Moses himself, in Egypt. As I was preparing this message as I was thinking about it, I realized that I had done what it's so easy to do, and that is somewhat to miss the point. So that's bad, I shouldn't tell you that, right. I mean when you're on a 747, you don't want to hear the pilot say that he kind of missed something in his preparations taking off, that's not a good feeling. But it's not a major thing, but I just want to tell you some of the dangers of Hebrews 11, there are two great dangers of this chapter. And one of the dangers is as we look at the faith of godly men and women, and celebrate their faith, we will forget Christ. And you get this moralistic imperative that we need to believe like they did, and become great hearers of faith, like they were. And forget that Christ is the greatest hero of faith that has ever lived, and to forget the focus on Christ as we celebrate Moses' parents and Moses himself. And that's a danger, and I don't want that to happen. I want you to focus your mind and your heart on Christ today. Christ is the lover of your soul. It's Christ that shed His blood for you, It's Christ that's going to take you to heaven. Not Moses.
And we already learned that in Hebrews chapter 3. Frankly one of the points here in these verses is the author is showing us that just as Moses was simply a servant in all God's house, so also Moses displayed justifying faith. And so Moses and Christ aren't in competition. That's one of the great dangers, that celebrating the faith of the heroes we'll forget to focus on Christ, the focus of our faith is Christ. The second danger is that, as we celebrate the faith of the heroes we'll forget that faith itself is a gift of God. And that you don't have to go and kind of scrape together some faith, some more faith, like you're at the store and you need $5.13 worth of faith, and all you have is $3.25, so you better go take the pillows off the couch and search the pockets of old jeans to try to find enough faith. As though it's somehow your thing, your work, you have to scrape it together. Friends, faith is a gift of the sovereign God. He gave it to each one of these heroes of faith and He'll give it to you too. And He gives you the faith needed for the circumstances you're facing in your life. And you will not face circumstances like Moses' parents faced, you won't. But the same God that gave them faith will give you faith to face whatever you're facing.
And you won't need to have the faith of Moses at the time of the Exodus, you won't face those same kinds of challenges but you'll face your own. And the same God that gave Moses the faith to believe Him, through all of that will give you that faith as well. Now, as we come to this Act 3, we come also to some new enemies of the faith. We come for the first time face-to-face with the issue of persecution, the issue of human persecutors of the faithful. And it's going to get more extreme as the chapter goes on. We come to the bitterness of anti-Christian government, and of tyrants who use their power to crush the people of God, so that they cannot obey the commands of God, to force them to pay for their with martyrs' blood. We also come to probably one of the key issues and decisions we ever make in our lives. Moses was at a fork in the road, and down one path he had worldly prosperity and comfort and ease and pleasure, and down the other road he had suffering and difficulty and trouble.
And by faith, he made the correct choice. And we are placed at the same fork in the road every single day. And as I was meditating on these various themes thinking about them, I realized that as we face our culture, we face our gluttonous age on perhaps the single most gluttonous day of the year. No comments, just moving right on. I don't know what you're planning on eating later today, that's between you and God. But as we face the allurements and the temptations of the world, and we have so often failed to make the correct choice. Haven't we? Let's be honest, time and time again, we have preferred the flesh over faith. And we cry out against ourselves and we wonder who can deliver us, who can rescue us from this body of death, as we day after day after day stand at the same fork in the road. And we've got pleasure and comfort and easy on one side and you've got what God wants you to do on the other. And it's so hard to make that choice, the flesh is screaming against what God wants you to do. And it's so very difficult to make that choice. Isn't it?
Moses made it rightly, but I've already said how it was he made it rightly. God enabled him to make that choice rightly. But again, I say to you, our savior is not Moses and how he chose to leave Pharaoh's palace and choose suffering with the people of God. We are being called on to make similar sacrifices for Jesus.
Now, the real hero is Jesus Himself, because it says in the next chapter, after all of this, in Hebrews 12, we are to fix our eyes on Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning at shame and sat down at the right hand of God. His choice, not Moses', saves your soul. And frankly His choice and not yours, saves your soul. And Jesus having chosen in Gethsemane and beyond to die for you, frees you from all of your guilts and condemnation. And then He sends you of His Spirit so you can make the same choice too. And you can say as he did in Gethsemane, "not my will but yours be done." And He will strengthen you because you are His child.
You are being conformed to the image of Christ. There, that's the whole Sermon in a nutshell. You may wonder why I don't just stop here, but I want to talk about Moses' parents, and I want to talk about Moses. Because at a lesser level, we do need these heroes. We do need examples, we do need role models, and so we have given us these role models.
I. The Faith of Moses’ Parents (vs. 23)
And so we have the faith of Moses' parents. "By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born because they saw that He was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict." We have a long gap in Hebrews 11, from verse 22 to verse 23. A gap of hundreds of years in which the author doesn't pick up anything. Now you should not think that because of that gap that there were no faith-filled believers in Egypt during that time. Remember how Elijah thought he was the only one and God spoke to him, and said, "Not so. I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal." And so, in every generation, there is a remnant chosen by grace.
But during that period of time, we know what happened, it says "they were not afraid of the king's edict." Things had turned after the death of Joseph. And Exodus 1 tells us another king came up who knew nothing about Joseph. Didn't give the Jews any preferential treatment. And if anything, the Egyptians, in general, became increasingly afraid of the, I think, supernatural multiplication of the Jews in Egypt. They were astonishingly fruitful. And the Egyptians became alarmed, they were afraid of the population growth, they were afraid that they might join their enemies. And they didn't know anything about Joseph, and they began to enact a very bitter policy against the Jews. They wanted to eradicate them to some degree. And so the first strategy was to make their lives bitter with hard labor, making bricks, using the bricks to make cities.
The Bitter Slavery and the Promise of "In the Fourth Generation…"
And so a life of slavery, they were enslaved, the Jews were enslaved in Egypt, enslaved the ambitions of Pharaoh but also the bitter policy to try to keep the population under control. But it didn't work. The more they oppressed the Jews, the more they multiplied. And so they had to go to level two. And so, Pharaoh commanded the Hebrew midwives, that they should kill the boy babies as soon as they're born. This is a wicked, evil, tyrannical policy of murder. Nothing short of murder. But the Hebrew midwives feared God. And they would not do it. Gave an excuse to Pharaoh and they would not kill these boy baby. So they went to level three, and the command went out to all of the nation, the Egyptians, that if they saw any Israelite boy baby, they should throw him in the Nile River. And it was into this context that Moses was born.
Now, before we move on from the intervening period, the hundreds of years, keep in mind that that remnant chosen by grace were sinners too. And they had a bitter difficult life of slavery. Their father was a slave, their son would be a slave they would live their whole life, one of those middle generations, their whole lives in slavery in Egypt, with no exodus, whole life. How then, could they die as slaves and go to heaven despite their sin? The same way as you and I. Justification by faith and faith comes from hearing the promises of God, the Word of God. And so the word was passed down from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, the patriarchal leaders, of the promises that God had made to Abraham, specifically this one in particular, Genesis 15, in which God had said these words. "Know for certain, your descendants will be strangers in a country, not their own, where they will be enslaved and mistreated for 400 years, but I will punish the nation they serve as slaves and afterward they'll come out with great possessions. You however, will go to your fathers in an old age." And so those intervening years there were Jews that all they had, as their lives were made bitter with brick, all they had were those words, and the remnant believed them. And they lived their whole lives in slavery and they died in slavery and they went to heaven, because they believed the promise of God.
But along with that came a sense of God raising up a deliverer, that God would raise up someone to lead them out of bondage. And into that Moses was born. Who were Moses' parents? Well, we have names given in Exodus 6, a mini genealogy. Levi was one of the 12 patriarchal leaders of Israel. Levi had a son named Kohath. Kohath a son named Amram. Amram was Moses' father. Thus you have fulfilled the words, "in the fourth generation your descendants will come back here." God spoke those words to Abraham. "In the fourth generation." And so it was fulfilled in Moses' genealogy. Amram married his father's sister, Jochebed, who bore him Aaron and Moses, and we also know Miriam as well. Amram lived 137 years, Exodus 6:20. So they were living a life of slavery in Egypt.
Defying the King in Faith
Now, Aaron was three years older than Moses, Miriam older too. But focusing on Aaron, apparently there was no threat to Aaron's life, nothing's ever mentioned. He didn't have to be hidden for three months. So it seems that this edict from the king, this wicked tyrannical edict, was new in between when Aaron was born and Moses was born. And so Moses was born under the time of this edict, all the boy babies to be thrown in the Nile. And so by faith Moses' parents hid Moses for three months after he was born. By faith they defied the king. Now, scripture does not uphold anarchy, not at all. Scripture upholds God-ordained authority. And we are told in many places that we must submit ourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority, institute among men. We know that. There is no authority that exists except that which is established by God, Romans 13.
So we must submit. And people who defy that authority are defying God. Well, we know that that's true generally. However, there are clear examples, again and again in scripture, when godly people must defy a lawfully ordained authority, because the command itself is wicked and contrary to God's will. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would not bow down and worship Nebuchadnezzar's statue, and they were right to defy. In general, they were obedient, but they had to disobey that. We have obviously the example of the apostles with the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin commanded the apostles "not speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus." Yes, but Jesus earlier had said, " Therefore go and make disciples of all nations." And so they said very plainly and very rightly, "We must obey God rather than men."
And so Moses' parents defied the edict of the king, and they hid their baby for three months. Now, think of how difficult that must have been. How do you hide a pregnancy? You do you hide the time has come? Whatever happened to the baby, Jochebed? I mean, what did they do, what did they say, how did they hide the baby, how did they hide that it was a boy? How did they hide it from the neighbors who would have acted in sinful self-interest? Well, the scripture says right here, they did it by faith. They did it by faith, and by faith they took means to hide him. We must understand that faith is not contrary to taking means. There's certain things we do to fulfill God's plans.
Plain example of this, of course, is Joseph and Mary with the birth of Jesus. And the edict went out, the wicked edict, to kill all the boy babies in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, according to the wicked command of the king. And Joseph took Mary and the baby Jesus in the middle of the night and ran for their lives. Now, if there's any baby that's ever going to be protected by the sovereign power of God, it's Jesus. But faith and means work together. And God used Joseph and the dream that he warned him with and him getting up in the middle of the night and running for their lives. He used that to protect Jesus. And so also He uses these means that Moses' parents used to hide him. And notice also that their faith conquered their carnal fear, they were not afraid of the king's edict. They were not thinking what might happen to them.
Their desire to serve God concerning this boy baby, concerning this little baby, was greater than their fear. And so they conquered their fear. I think, as I was reading this story and meditating it, thinking about Corrie ten Boom and her family in the great story hiding place during World War II, and occupied Holland as they hid Jews in a secret place in their house, and you've probably seen the movie. And the amount of terror that would go through their minds as the secret police, the German secret police, were searching house-to-house. By faith, they did what God called them to do. It was by faith, by trusting in God that they were not afraid of the king's edict. Isn't it beautiful how faith can overcome our fear, how God can command you to do something, even very difficult and you're afraid and fear rises inside you, and by faith, you can conquer it and do what God wills you to do.
Stories abound in church history of this, I think of Raymond Lull, a 13th century missionary to the Muslims, during the time of the crusades. When most of Christendom just wanted to kill the Muslims, this man wanted to reach them for Christ. And so he got all of his possessions and went down to Genoa, Italy. All of his family and friends there to wave him goodbye as he was sailing to Tunis to go die for Jesus at the hands of the Muslims. And as he was on that ship he became overcome with fear, and disembarked, and got all his stuff and got off. One of the low moments of church history. I love how church history tells the truth. Isn't it great? These heroes, heroes of the faith. And so we move on from Raymond Lull. No, no, no, that would be terrible. Is that the end of Raymond Lull's story? No. He was on the next ship to Tunis. He got all of his stuff. By faith, he overcame his fear. He went on the ship and he sailed down there and he didn't die, not for many, many years, but he witnessed again and again and again. A trailblazer, true trailblazer in ministry to the Muslims.
I think about brother Andrew, who was part of the Dutch resistance, and then after World War II ended, a man of tremendous faith, whose ministry was to smuggle Bibles behind the Iron Curtain. One of the first times he did it, he was in line in a checkpoint in a car, to go into Romania. And his car was filled with Bibles. And every car ahead of him, they were stopping in for 45-50 minutes, they were taking hubcaps off, they were taking seats out of the car. And he's looking, and his fear is rising. "The car is filled with Bibles, what am I going to do?" Five cars ahead, four cars ahead, three cars ahead, two cars ahead, every one of them searched, scoured for contraband. Finally, he had covered over the Bibles with a coat, he was like, "What is the point?" So he took the coat off, stacked them up next to him in the car, and he prayed. There's no hiding these Bibles, not by carnal means will this happen, but he trusted God. And so he's about to get out as all the other passengers and drivers have been commanded to get out, and the guard wouldn't let him get out. Without looking at him he said, "Go on your way." He's like, "Yes sir." And he just starts to accelerate slowly, expecting at any minute to be commanded to stop, looks in the rearview mirror, and they're just working on the next car. And they're taking the seats out of the next car, they're taking the hubcaps off the next car, but not his. It's an awesome story, and by faith, he overcame his fear and did what God called him to do. What's God calling you to do? Our church is deficient in evangelism, friends. I'm not trying to say it to hurt you, we just need to be bolder, we need to be courageous, we need to take steps of faith, do something bold this week, trust God to do what He commanded you to do, share the Gospel with someone this week, invite them to church, be courageous, write your own brother Andrew or Raymond Lull’s story, or Moses' parents story. They conquered their fear.
"No Ordinary Child"
And one more thing the text says, "Because they saw that he was no ordinary child." Now, this is a bit mysterious. Now, you could say, "Well, of course they did, everyone loves their own little baby." isn't he sweet? Isn't he beautiful? Don't you think he's the most beautiful baby you've ever seen in your life? Now, I don't know about you, I don't know how you are, if we could get all of the infant pictures that have been in our church in the last 10 years and spread them out, how many of you would be able to identify which one is which?
I bet you, some of the ladies could though. I bet you, that's so and so, that's so and so. I couldn't do it, but that's not what's going on here. It's a matter of fact, the language is somewhat unusual. There was a sense of nobility, is the Greek word, or a sense of something that has marked Moses apart as a unique baby. There's a mark that strengthens their faith, or in some way, connects with their faith, where I think perhaps, in Calvin, and other commentators think, that perhaps there was some visible sign that he was to be the deliverer who would lead the people out of Egypt. Like Stephen's face in Acts 6:15, "They saw that his face was like the face of an angel." What does that mean? I don't know. Later in Moses' life, his face was radiant when he was in the presence of God, I don't know. All of it just conjecture, but they saw something unusual in this baby, and they risked their lives for him. And by faith then, Moses was allowed to grow up, and then lead the people through the Red Sea into the promised land, and the story eventually ends at the cross and the empty tomb, and our salvation. And so by faith, that's what happened.
II. By Faith Moses Refused Egypt’s Alluring Sins (vs. 24-25)
By faith also, Moses refused Egypt's alluring sins. By faith, Moses when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter, he chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.
So here we focus on Moses' faith. When he had grown up, we know the story, that after he was hidden, his parents couldn't hide Moses any longer, he was put in a basket covered with pitch, and was set free in the reeds, and he was discovered by Pharaoh's daughter, and she wanted to raise him, she knew he was one of the Hebrew children. Miriam following at a distance, connects the baby back through her own mother, "Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?" "Yes, go." And so she gets her boy back. Meanwhile, Pharaoh's daughter sets her affection on him, and Moses in that way, gets I think a double education, Jochebed and Amram, perhaps, training Moses up in the promises of God, in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and his heritage. And meanwhile, as Stephen tells us, "Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action." That's what Moses was according to Stephen. He was trained and brought up, and he had all of these privileges and all of these advantages, as in effect, an adopted son of Pharaoh. But at the right time, when the time came, God forced him to make a choice.
Exodus 2:11 and 12, tells the story, "One day when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people, and looked on their burdens and saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people." You see how twice in that account, he calls them his people. I think that's pointing back to Moses, his own mind, Moses wrote those words. And his solidarity with his own people was already established by then, I think that's why he went out to look on their sufferings. And so he had already made his choice, and his choice was a conscious one, there is a willfulness to this, he refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated. It's a conscious choice.
Now, what is at the root of the will? What makes us choose? Is it not the embracing of pleasure and the turning away from pain, isn't that what it? Isn't that what the will is designed to do? To choose what pleases you, and to turn away from what displeases you. Is that not what God is calling on each one of us to do? And that's what the will is. And yet, here he did exactly the opposite of what we would think. Here's a life of pleasure, a life of ease, a life of comfort in Pharaoh's household, and he turns his back on it and chooses instead, a life of suffering and pain. How do you do that? Well, the Scripture says, "By faith," what does that mean? Well, by faith, God shows you something greater, an infinitely greater pleasure and an infinitely greater pain. And based on the eternity that's in front of you, you make a choice to turn away from earthly pleasure and embrace earthly pain, because they're just temporary.
And so it says, "He chose to be mistreated with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting or temporary pleasures of sin." Do you struggle with that? Is that not where you are? Is that not where you live? The fleeting pleasures of sin, the world with its enticements, all the time, alluring us toward our carnal appetites. And this text is telling you how to defeat it. This text is telling you, by faith, God give me a vision of the world to come, give me a vision and the glory of the heavenly world to come, help me yearn for Jesus at that key moment of temptation. Oh, God, help me yearn to please him, and to see beyond it, and to make choices that are difficult for me to make, so I can glorify you in the end. Oh, this world is so temporary, it's so brief.
And what are the fleeting pleasures of sin that he faced? What was it? I don't know. Lounging on cushions and eating grapes, I guess. Less more than that. When you're willing to compromise and enslave people so you can be at ease, when you're willing to do that, you're willing to do anything. And so the morality gets corrupt, and you get bored with a few grapes, so you start looking to other sensual pleasures and it starts to get more and more corrupt, and more and more wicked and gross. And Moses said, "Probably, already seen that." And he could not go out and look on his own people getting beaten, and go back and lay on a velvet cushion and eat some more grapes. They would have been like poison in his mouth. Why? Because God showed him what was really going on. Those grapes were spiritual poison, he couldn't eat them anymore. He couldn't go for a life of ease and comfort and luxury in Egypt, he had to turn his back on it.
Now, carnal wisdom comes in here, the voice of carnal wisdom, "Oh, you want to help your people, don't leave, don't turn your back on it. Stay a son of Pharaoh, and just like Joseph, remember how he used his position to rescue the people from the famine, just stay as of one of Pharaoh's counselors. Live the life, but speak as an advocate for your people." That's what carnal wisdom would say, how smooth is that speech? How alluring, how enticing? God said, "No. From the outside you will come, and you will point a finger at Pharaoh and you will say as an outsider, Let my people go." Not as one of his adopted sons who's really been complicit in all of the tyranny, all those many years, you will become corrupted by it. There's a vast difference between what was going on in Joseph's day with the famine and what was going on in Moses' day with the tyranny and the persecution, he would have been defiled by it, there'd be no way, he had to turn his back.
III. By Faith Moses Chose Suffering (vs. 25)
And so he turned his back on carnal reason, he made a choice because of the infinite greater pleasure and fear of the infinite greater pain. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.
Two Satanic Traps: Allurements and Persecution
And do you not see the satanic two-step here? The allurements of the pleasures, and if you won't do that, then they will crush you. That's what the world does. If it can't entice you away from Christ it will try to persecute you away from Christ. It's what happened to Jesus, isn't it? Jesus was led by the devil, out in the desert, led by the devil up to a very high mountain and Satan showed Him in an instant, all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor, all their glory, "All of this I will give you," he said, "If you'll just bow down and worship me." Three years later, one of those empires, the Roman Empire put Jesus to death, crucified Him. So you can have Rome as a little play thing, and enjoy its pleasures or Rome will kill you. And so it was actually after Pentecost, in an early church history, Rome frequently try to entice Christian Roman noble men and women with higher positions of power, higher influences, etcetera, if they would just forsake Christ, but they wouldn't do it, and so then it would kill them.
And so the world is trying to entice us away from Christ, or crush us away from Christ. And Moses would have neither, and neither would his parents. Next week, we're going to talk about, by faith Moses looking ahead to Christ, and by faith Moses looking ahead to his reward.
What application can we take from these verses? First, I already gave it to you at the beginning, look to Christ, don't look to yourself, don't look to Moses or his parents, don't even look to faith, look to Christ, and as you do it, by faith you're doing that. See Him, see Him on the cross, having shed his blood for you. See Him say, "It is finished." He died for you, for your sins. See Him raise from the dead on the third day, in a glorious resurrection body. Hear His promise, that, "Because I live, you also will live." Find in that finished work of Jesus, everything you need.
And then say, "God give me an ever expanding faith. I want to see all those things, and heaven and hell, and Judgement Day, and all of the realities as you see them. Give me a clearer and clearer vision of it. God when I'm brought to the fork in the road, and I have to decide whether to go with sinful pleasure or faith-filled suffering, God give me grace, give me faith to make the correct choice. The sinful luster waging war against my soul. Help me to stand firm in this time, O Lord." Ask for the faith of Moses' parents, ask for the faith of Moses. Turn your back on Egypt at that moment.
After the service is over, we're going to have a luncheon. Those of you that are RSVP we'll have to have you. If you couldn't make it to the luncheon, still be praying about our adoption ministry. I think one of the key verses on adoption is in James Chapter 1, the religion that our God and Father accepts as pure and faultless is this, "to look after orphans and widows in their distress…" That's not all the verse says. It's not all the verse says. "And to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." In order to obey that command, you must have the faith of Moses who turned his back on Egypt. And it's not "or," it's like, "Do the orphans or do the freedom from solution." No, it's not enough, though we take in a hundred orphans if we are corrupted by sinful lust, it's not religion that our God and Father accepts as pure and faultless. And neither is it enough to just fight the battle of sanctification and care nothing for those that are poor and needy in the world. It's an "and" brothers and sisters. But that's a key moment, isn't it? When your flesh is being assaulted by temptation, say "God increase my faith, give me the eyesight of faith, that I may stand firm in this day of testing for your glory." Close with me in prayer.