Bible Studies on the Real Heroes of the Faith Hebrews 11
Part 10: Moses’ 20/20 Spiritual Vision

By I Gordon

If you’ve got a good memory, you’ll remember that the last study in the Heroes of the Faith series was on Joseph. If you have a great memory you will remember that we examined that small but hugely important phrase ‘but God’. If you have an exceptional memory you will vividly recall that when Joseph’s brothers finally came to him seeking forgiveness, he spoke what is one of the best verses in the book of Genesis, saying:

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)

We looked at how the phrase ‘but God’ makes all the difference. If you have no memory, and you did read or hear that message, don’t fear. I’ve always like the story of the man who went to his Pastor saying ‘Pastor, it’s no use! No matter how much I read the Bible, no matter how hard I concentrate during a sermon, I just don’t retain anything of it. I’m like a sieve!’ The wise old pastor replied ‘Well, if you hold a sieve under a running tap, it’s probably not going to retain much of the water either. But at least you’ll have a clean sieve!’ And that is so true. So even if your memory is poor, the word of God is still active, it still cleans, and we’ll see if we can have a wash in the water of the word today! We are onto the next ‘hero’ in Hebrews 11 today. He is a man that, along with Abraham, is considered the greatest in the Jewish faith. Hebrews 11 records more about this man than any other. Who is it?

A quick overview of Moses’ characteristics and titles

First, let’s just review a few characteristics and titles for Moses. What was he known for?

Characteristic / Title

Scripture

Comment

Humility / Meekness

‘Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. (Num12:3)

Who wrote this? Argh, that would be Moses! This shows that either he was the proudest man on planet earth OR this statement was inspired by the Holy Spirit and is true. Hmmm... I’ll go with the last option.

The man of God

‘This is the blessing that Moses the man of God pronounced on the Israelites before his death...’ (Deut 33:1)

The last chapters of Deuteronomy that speak about Moses’ death were written by Joshua. At the end of Moses’ life he is still called ‘the man of God’.

The prophet of God

‘Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face.’ (Deut 34:10)

Moses was a unique prophet who stood as a type of the promised coming prophet – the Lord Jesus (Deut 18:18)

The friend of God

‘The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.’ (Ex 33:11)

Here is the key to everything that Moses was. He was the friend of God. He spoke to the Lord face to face. His close personal relationship with the Lord was the source of His strength.

What about how the life of Moses can be divided? Let’s do a few questions. How old was Moses when he was born? Yes, I’ll give you the first one... 0. [1] How old was Moses when he was placed in the basket as a baby, in the reeds of the Nile River? How old was Moses when he fled Egypt after murdering the Egyptian? How old was Moses when God called him to lead Israel in the exodus? How old was Moses when he died? [2] (Deut 34:7). We see that Moses’ life was split into 3 lots of 40. D.L Moody, the great evangelist and Bible teacher wrote ‘Moses spent 40 years thinking he was a somebody, 40 years learning that he was a nobody and 40 years seeing what God can do with a nobody!’ So Moses’ real purpose in life didn’t start till he was 80. You are never too old to be used by the Lord! Thankfully he didn’t go into an early retirement at age 80 else we would never have heard of him. But it took that first 80 years of preparation, half of it in isolation, to be the man that God could use in the last 40. So what is 40 the number of in the Bible? It speaks of testing and trials. So we could say that Moses was one well tested, man of God. 40 years of testing with all the wealth, power and prosperity of Egypt. Then 40 years of testing in isolation, as a shepherd down in Midian (a greater contrast with Egypt you couldn’t find!) This was finally followed by 40 years of testing in the wilderness leading an often bickering and grumbling Jewish nation. So there’s the quick overview. The writer of Hebrews looks at the first 40 years and Moses’ last 40 years. In this study we’ll look at Hebrews 11:23-26 which focuses on the first 40 years of Moses’ life.

The faith of Moses’ parents (but please stop crying!)

Hebrews 11:23 By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict.

So the passage starts not with the faith of Moses himself (we’ll let him off, he was less than three months old!) but with the faith of his parents. I won’t say too much about this but it is no small step of faith. You will remember that the Pharaoh of the day ordered that all male Hebrew children born should be put to death... all of them! Of course the parents of a child could chose to disobey that decree, but they did so at risk of their own life. Some choice they had… let your child die and save your own life or try to save your child and risk both of your lives!

When Moses was born the parents saw that he was ‘beautiful’. When Stephen is reciting Israel’s history shortly before they stoned him to death in Acts 7, he says ‘It was at this time that Moses was born; and he was lovely in the sight of God’ (vs 20). So there was something different about Moses right from birth that indicated God’s hand upon him. Now it is likely to have been more than just his looks as well. The Jewish historian Josephus records that God gave Moses’ father a dream telling him not to despair but that just as He had aided his forefathers Abraham and Jacob, so would he enable this child to deliver the Israelites from the Egyptian bondage. This is not recorded in the Bible so we take it as a possibility but clearly God had his hand on Moses right from birth and one way or another, his parents knew it. So facing their own death if caught, in faith they defied the king and hid the child. No small feat. You can imagine their thoughts every time baby Moses cried. ‘Please be quiet, please be quiet… for the sake of you own existence, and ours, PLEASE stop crying!’

But there came a time when they could hide Moses no longer. Most Christian parents experience the time when they have to hand their child over to God and let them go. Not an easy time in some cases. This often happens somewhere round the late teens or early twenties. For Moses’ parents this happened a little earlier… when Moses had turned a whopping three months old. If that isn’t great faith, as they committed Moses into the hand of God and pushed the basket out into the reeds of the Nile River, I don’t know what is. As they watched on from a distance they no doubt were saying in their heart ‘we have done what we can. Now O God, You must do what only You can!’

The unseen hand of God

Hebrews 11:24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter,

As mentioned earlier, for the first 40 years of his life, Moses grew up in Egypt, the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Acts 7:22 says ‘Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds. ’ Moses was the real-deal. He was a powerful man. All he had known in his first 40 years was gold statues and marble floors. His life was one of servants and lavish banquets. He had not known hunger or lack of any kind. He was educated in all the wisdom of Egypt and trained as the possible king one day. He had everything that he could ever desire or dream of. And yet, by the age of 40, he was having a one-third life crisis. Something strange was happening within him. The unseen hand of God was drawing him away [3] from this life, the only life he had ever known, to associate with those strange slaves doing hard labour outside – the Israelites. Acts 7:23 says ‘But when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel.’ We could say he was beginning to have an identity crisis. ‘Am I an Egyptian, or an Israelite?’ ‘Is my ultimate allegiance to Pharaoh, or to God?’ ‘Is my purpose in this life to live to be successful in Egypt, or is there a higher calling and purpose in life?’ Moses was being drawn away, by an unseen hand, to associate with a different family... his true family and to find the purpose for which he had been created. I’m sure no one that knew Moses really understood it. ‘Why would Moses want to leave all the glory of Egypt for the sake of those slaves?’ ‘Has he gone mad? He could have been king… Why is he throwing all his future away?’ Well, the Bible answers why as we’ll see. Let’s carry on.

Power, pleasure and prosperity. Fame, fortune and... never mind.

Hebrews 11:25-26 ‘…choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, (26) considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.

We see here that Moses had a lot of temptations to overcome to break free from the attraction of Egypt. Egypt threw all the biggies at him! Some Bible teachers and preachers like to divide passages such as this into single words so that the overall theme can be remembered. If we were to try that we could say from verses 24-26 that Moses faced the threefold temptations of ‘power, pleasure and prosperity.’ [4] Those three things alone are enough to break a man. In fact, a large part of the world is spending most of their efforts trying to obtain one, two or all three of these things – Power, pleasure and prosperity. Moses faced all three temptations... and still won.

Power & Position - ‘W hen he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter...’

Moses had power for he was royalty within the leading nation on Earth at the time. Mankind has been striving for power and position right from the fall of mankind. You also see it in the animal kingdom where there is an alpha male in the group who rules from the top... the top dog. Often there will be a complete hierarchy from top to bottom with every little chicken knowing it place in the pecking order. You see it in the business world, in a large corporate environment where people jostle for positions with some getting trodden on and others ascending to the top. Brooke Fraser has a song where she uses the line ‘w e are Hosea's wife, we are squandering this life, using people like ladders and words like knives...’ You can see the lust for power and position in the corporate business world (using people like ladders to climb up and get ahead of them) but even within the Christian world. Power and position can be an intoxifying proposition. Moses faced this temptation.

Pleasure - ‘ choosing to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin’

Most sin is pleasurable. If it wasn’t there would be no temptation. But it is also shallow and fleeting, never bringing what it promised but only, eventually, discontentment, separation and death. That’s why earlier on in Hebrews it says to encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.’ (Hebrews 3:13) Sin deceives. It promises one thing and delivers something totally different. It is deceitful.

But pleasure in general, even if not sinful, can be a temptation and is a big issue for our Western culture. The Apostle Paul wrote ‘But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.’ (2 Timothy 3:1,4) People will be lovers of pleasure instead of lovers of God. Now it is not that God is a kill-joy! The Apostle Paul also wrote in 1 Timothy 6:17 that ‘God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment’. For me, there is nothing better after sitting in front of a computer all week than to get out into the forest and the sun and enjoy some mountain biking. But you have to be careful that you don’t become a slave to the things that give you pleasure. I have to be careful. I’m mindful of that verse that says in the last day people will just go after pleasure and not God.

Prosperity considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.’

Prosperity and getting ahead is a massive part of the Western world. The ‘prosperity gospel’ is rife in sections of the Christian church. In the last 40 years especially covetous men have made this into a doctrine to not only be believed, but to be greatly desired. ‘God wants you rich... If you are the King’s kid you should be rich like He is!’ It’s become a familiar catch-cry. Moses ‘considered the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.’ He was willing to give up the throne and all the prosperity to be identified with slaves. He was willing to exchange wealth for the wilderness and follow God’s call. Moses would have identified with this verse:

Psalms 84:10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

How Moses overcame these temptations – Moses’ 20/20 Vision!

So how did Moses overcome this threefold temptation? Four verbs came into play. You could underline them but working backwards through the passage is the key. We see that he looked, he reckoned, he choose and he refused. But it all started with where Moses was looking. The Bible saying that he was able to do what he did ‘because he was looking ahead to the reward.’ He had his eye on eternity. We read at the end of Deuteronomy that when Moses died ‘his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.’ So at the end of his life, Moses still had 20/20 vision. Many today are near or short-sighted. If you are near-sighted you see things that are close well enough but objects in the distance appear blurry and out of focus. By that definition, most people in this world, and even many Christians in the Western world, are seriously near-sighted... spiritually speaking. They can’t see the things of eternity in any type of focus. Moses’ physical eyes were still perfect when he died but more importantly his spiritual eyes were spot on as well. He was looking, with clarity, at the things that take place after this life. And it made a difference!

So he looked. Then he reckoned. Different translations use other words here like ‘considered, esteemed, and regarded’. The word actually has an accounting thought attached to it... it means to weigh up the pros and cons. So with 20/20 spiritual vision, being able to see far into the future and past this earthly life, Moses was able to weigh up what was the most important for the here and now. It led to only one conclusion - He considered ‘the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.’ Having looked at eternity and having weighed up what he should do, he made a choice. He chose to ‘endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin’. In short, he chose God, and by extension, God’s people. God had really chosen him from before his birth, but there still came a time when Moses had to weigh up what was most important in his life and choose God. This in turn led to the 4th verb in this passage - He refused. It led to a definite action then and there. He refused to be part of Pharaoh’s line, and Egypt’s system, anymore. Not an easy choice. But oh so important!

The Believer’s Bible Commentary sums it up well – ‘He was the adopted son of Pharaoh's daughter and therefore assured of a place in the social elite, perhaps even as Pharaoh's successor. But he had been born of better blood—a member of God's chosen earthly people... In his adult years he made his choice; he would not hide his true nationality to win a few short years of earthly fame. The result? Instead of occupying a line or two of hieroglyphics on some obscure tomb, he is memorialized in God's eternal Book. Instead of being found in a museum as an Egyptian mummy, he is famous as a man of God.’

So... how’s your eyesight?

So how is your spiritual eyesight? Have you learned to see beyond what the world tells you is important? You can be sure that the world’s values revolve around power, position, pleasure and prosperity. And because we live in this world, every day there is an attempt made to mould us into that likeness. Moses faced it all but was able to choose God instead because He was looking ahead to His reward. In other words, he knew that yes, there was temporal pleasure in many of the things Egypt had to offer, but that is exactly what it is... temporal. The rewards God give are eternal. One of the last things that Jesus said comes in the last chapter of the book of Revelation:

Revelation 22:12 "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.

How would you feel if the Lord returned this week and you had to stand before him to have your life examined? Some people think that being motivated by the thought of eternal rewards is wrong. I guess they think it is selfish. Maybe they think that love for God should be our motivation. There is no doubt that love for God, flowing out of His love for us, should be the primary motivating factor in our pursuit of God. But don’t discount or lessen the motivation that comes from knowing that each and every one of us will one day stand before God to have our life accessed in regards to eternal rewards. Hebrews 11 is God’s assessment of the great saints of old and why they were able to do what they did. And clearly God is happy to show how they were motivated by what happens in the days of eternity. Apart from what we have read about Moses, it also says in Hebrews 11:35 about other saints ‘Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.’ There is such a thing as obtaining a better resurrection.

Light from some graves???...

As I was doing this study I started thinking of what we can learn from those that are nearing death as they reflect on a life now over. And this led to seeing what words of wisdom were written on different gravestones – especially of well known Christians. Sounds a little morbid but let me just state a few:

One epitaph on a tombstone stated: “What I spent, I lost. What I saved, I left. What I gave, I have.” There is someone that knows something about eternal rewards. In contrast is the following gravestone in a small English village which reads "Here lies a miser who lived for himself, And cared for nothing but gathering wealth. Now where he is or how he now fares, Nobody knows and nobody cares." Gulp...That’s really sad! None of us want to get to the end of our life and have that as a life story! The godly evangelist George Whitefield, who God used wonderfully, said the only epitaph he wants engraved on his tombstone is "Here lies George Whitefield; what sort of man he was the great day will discover." There is sobering truth there! C.S. Lewis wrote about a gravestone that read, “Here lies an atheist—all dressed up and no place to go.” You definitely don’t want to get to the end of your life not even knowing why it began! Expressing the thought of what happens at death is this one that tickles me, (which I’ve mentioned before), from Alabama! ‘ Here lies Solomon Peas, under the daisies and under the trees. But Peas is not here, only the pod, Peas shelled out and went to God.’ John Newton who wrote the immortal hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ has the following on his gravestone: "John Newton, Clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy." Now that’s a testimony of a changed life! In a Uniontown, Pennsylvania cemetery, one grave simply says: “Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake. Stepped on the gas Instead of the brake.” Ok... even though that was just put in for a laugh, in this life where it is very easy for people to be incredibly busy doing very little of consequence, we can probably learn something from Jonathon Blake! Sometimes we just need to step on the brake, slow it on down, take time to commune with God again and get back to the things that matter. Another gravestone is that of the great evangelist and teacher D. L Moody. His has one line under his name: ‘He that doeth the will of God abideth forever.’ That was his message, in life and death. Buried next to him is Moody’s wife, Emma, whose stone has the inscription ‘His servants shall serve him: ...and they shall reign for ever and ever.’ Again we see the eternal focus.

So Moses looked ahead to his reward. He thought of eternity and that made the difference. That, as we see in Hebrews, led to a series of actions – He looked at what was ahead, leading him to consider what was important, leading him to make a choice of which way he would go, leading him to refuse the attractions of Egypt and to follow God. That is why he is in Hebrews 11. That is why, as Big Blue says, ‘ Instead of occupying a line or two of hieroglyphics on some obscure tomb, he is memorialized in God's eternal Book. Instead of being found in a museum as an Egyptian mummy, he is famous as a man of God.’ And these things are written as examples for us. We face the same temptations and the same choices. We want to be found on that great day as someone who loved God and wanted to make Him known.

But as we close, also remember what we said at the start as well – Moses was a friend of God. The Bible says God spoke with him face to face as a man speaks with his friend. He was a man of God, a servant of God, but best of all, the friend of God. That was the ongoing source of his strength.



[1]  A small warning here...the questions may get a little harder!

[2]  Answers: Moses was three months old when placed in the basket in the Nile River. 40 years old when he left Egypt initially. 80 years old when God called him back to free his people. And he died at 120 years of age.

[3]  It is a strange thing this unseen hand of God that works silently within the hearts of men and women. Over the New Year break I went mountain biking with my nephew Mitchell. On the way home he asked me how I came to believe in Jesus. I gave him my testimony and explained how, in the midst of living a normal University student’s life, God came and reached out to me through reading His word, the Bible. I tried to explain how God can convict and draw the heart to such an extent that a person is willing to give up their current life and follow where God wants them to go. Now it isn’t easy trying to describe to someone who hasn’t yet experienced this, how an unseen God can so draw and convict the heart, that you are willing to do a 180 degree turn in life. But that is what the Holy Spirit is in the business of doing… unseen, but ever working. And that is what he was doing in Moses’ life!

[4]  Or ‘Fame, fun and fortune’... or ‘Glory, gratification and gold’ or ‘Leisure, pleasure and treasure.’ Alright I’m getting worse. Let’s go with the first one – Power, pleasure and prosperity.