Moses: Identifying with Christ and His People

Click here for more messages from the book of Hebrews.
Click here for more messages from the Growing in Faith series.
Click here to return to the Sermons page.

Hebrews 11:24-26

INTRODUCTION: Our message series is called, “Growing in Faith.” Last week we looked at the faith of Moses and his parents in the context of fearing God rather than man. Today we are going to look at a second aspect of Moses’ faith: that of identifying with Christ and his people. (Read Hebrews 11:24-26 and pray)

——————————————

Any Miami Dolphins fans here today? Okay, I thought as much. Any New England Patriots fans? I know, this is how you start a church split. They warned me not to do this in seminary.

Question: If you are a Dolphins or a Patriots fan, do other people know? And if so, how do they know? How do they know which team you support? Well, they might know it from talking to you. A true fan loves talking about their team with anyone who will listen. Or you might wear a t-shirt or a ball cap with your team’s logo on it. Your car might sport a Dolphins or Patriots bumper sticker. You might have a team pennant hanging in your room or strapped to the antenna of your car.

What do all of these things have in common? In all these cases you are identifying with one team over another. As a true fan you intentionally find ways of identifying with your team. You choose to identify publicly with the team you support so that others will know where you stand. That’s part of the fun and the economics of sports.

Now, are there any Christians here today? I’m really glad to hear that! Question: If you are a Christian, do other people know that you’re a Christian? Do you publicly identify with Christ and his people, or are you a little more secretive, a little more private about your faith? If you tend more to the private side, then today’s message is a great opportunity for you to grow in your faith as a Christian, because part of true biblical faith is identifying with Christ and his people.
This morning we are going to look at Moses and how he identified with Christ and his people, and then see how that applies to us today. (outline)

I. Faith refuses to identify with the world no matter what the world offers

And the first faith principle we want to look at this morning is this. Faith refuses to identify with the world no matter what the world offers. We find this in verse 24 which says: “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” (Hebrews 11:24) Faith refuses to identify with the world no matter what the world offers.

And what does the world offer? There are three primary temptations the world offers you. They are the temptations of power, pleasure and wealth. True biblical faith refuses to identify with the world, even when the world offers you power, pleasure and wealth. Let’s look at all three of these in turn.

   A. Faith refuses the temptation of worldly power and influence (24)
      – Exodus 2:10; Acts 7:22

First, there is the temptation of power. True biblical faith refuses the temptation of worldly power and influence.

Moses grew up in Egypt as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Most of you know the story. Pharaoh had ordered the Israelites to kill all their newborn sons, but Moses’ parents instead hid their baby for three months, and then set him in a papyrus basket and floated it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile River. When Pharaoh’s daughter came down to the river, she saw the basket, discovered the baby boy and felt sorry for him.

God worked the circumstances so that Pharaoh’s daughter actually paid Moses’ own mother to nurse him for her, and then we read in Exodus 2:10: “When the child grew older, [his mother] took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, ‘I drew him out of the water.’” (Exodus 2:10)

The name “Moses” is an Egyptian name which means “one who is born”, but it also sounds like the Hebrew word for “draw out.” So, Pharaoh’s daughter was actually paying tribute to Moses’ Hebrew roots when she named him Moses. It was also a royal name and shows up as the second part in several of the Pharaohs’ names, for example the Pharaohs Ahmose, Thutmose, and even Rameses. Thus “Moses” was a very appropriate name for someone raised in Pharaoh’s family.

And so, Moses was raised by Pharaoh’s daughter in the court of Egypt with all the privileges of power and rank that such a position would afford him. For example, we know Moses was extremely well-educated. Acts 7:22 tells us that “Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” As such Moses would have been educated in science, mathematics, literature, government, law and economics. He would have been multilingual. He would have known Hebrew from his childhood (remember he was initially raised by his own mother). He would have learned Egyptian and then also Aramaic as the general language of business and commerce.

There is a great divine irony at work here. God so arranged things that Pharaoh’s family actually raised and educated the very one who would deliver the Israelites from out of their midst. God’s plan was for Moses to give Israel the law and to write down her early history, and so he provided Moses in advance with the education he would need for this task.

Moses had it all. He had the best education money could buy. He had power, influence, money and connections. He was the rich kid on the block. According to Jewish tradition Pharaoh had appointed Moses to be his heir, and so it is possible that Moses was next in line for the throne.

And yet Hebrews 11:24 tells us that when Moses grew up, he refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. The word “refused” here implies that something was offered to Moses – perhaps the throne or some other prominent position in Egypt – and Moses turned it all down.

Now there is nothing wrong with power in and of itself, but we should understand that with power and influence come many temptations. Not everyone handles power well. The Bible tells us that any power you do have should be used to serve others, and that you should never compromise your Christian faith in order to gain influence or power.

And so, this was Moses’ dilemma. Would he identify with Egypt or with Israel? Humanly speaking, Egypt had all the power. Israel had no power. They were powerless. They were slaves to the Egyptians. It would have been easy for Moses to justify identifying with Egypt: “If I side with Egypt just for now, then I may have the power or influence to help my people later on.” But that would mean compromise.

Besides, Moses knew where the real power was. Moses knew that God was on the side of Israel, and so he refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Faith refuses the temptation of worldly power and influence.

   B. Faith recognizes that the pleasures of sin are only for a season (25)
      – Psalm 16:11; 1 Timothy 6:17

And then, secondly, faith recognizes that the pleasures of sin are only for a season. We see this in verse 25 which says this about Moses: “He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” (Hebrews 11:25)

For Moses, the main sin here would have been the sin of choosing to identify with the people of Egypt rather than the people of Israel. And it must have been very tempting. The Israelites were the underdogs here. Who would choose to identify with the slaves instead of the masters? Besides, as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses had easy access to a life filled with pleasure, comfort and luxury. And yet Moses “chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.”

This is such an important lesson for us as Christians today. Sin often presents itself to us as pleasure. That is part of the temptation of sin. If there were no promised pleasure attached to sin, we would not be tempted.

We need to learn to think like Moses. Moses did not deny that Egypt offered him pleasure. But he recognized that the pleasures of sin are temporary. Even if Moses had become ruler over all of Egypt, it would only have lasted so long. Moses would have enjoyed a season of comfort and privilege and power, but then it would have been all over, and he would have ended up some mummy in an Egyptian tomb, instead of a father in Israel.

Just as with power, there is nothing wrong with pleasure in and of itself. God created pleasure. In fact, you find the same word translated “pleasure” here in Hebrews 11:25 over in 1 Timothy 6 which tells us about “God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” or “pleasure.” (1 Timothy 6:17) And so, it’s not pleasure that’s the problem. Rather, it is sinful pleasure that is the problem.

We need to remember that the pleasures of sin are fleeting. They are temporary, only for the moment, whereas God’s pleasures are everlasting. As King David tells God in Psalm 16:11: “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11)
The world takes the attitude: “You only live once, so go for all the gusto you can!” But it’s not true. You only live twice, and the Bible says your first life here is but a breath compared to eternity. Faith recognizes that the pleasures of sin are only for a season.

   C. Faith is not distracted by worldly riches or wealth (26)
      – 1 Timothy 6:9-10

And then, thirdly, faith is not distracted by worldly riches or wealth. We see this in verse 26. Speaking about Moses, verse 26 says this: “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” (Hebrews 11:26)

The temptation for Moses here was “the treasures of Egypt.” Archeology has confirmed that Egypt indeed had great treasures during this time. The Pharaoh who ruled during Moses’ time was part of Egypt’s Eighteenth Dynasty. This was a dynasty well-renowned for its incredible riches and wealth. Perhaps you have seen the fabulous treasures that were discovered when they excavated the tomb of King Tutankhamen (hand dance), also known as King Tut. King Tut was part of this same Eighteenth Dynasty, although he ruled later in Egypt.

And you ask yourself, why would Moses turn down such fabulous treasures and riches? Verse 26 tells us “because he was looking ahead to his reward.” The Greek word behind this phrase “looking ahead” is a word that means “to turn your eyes away from one thing in order to fix your attention on something else,” for example, when an artist fixes his attention on the subject or model he is painting. The artist blocks out everything else and focuses exclusively on the subject before him.

In the same way Moses, by faith, blocked out everything else and focused his attention completely on his reward to come. This is another great example of faith being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

The word translated “reward” here in verse 26 is a word that means “compensation or payment of wages due.” God doesn’t really owe us anything, but because God has promised us rewards for faithfulness, those rewards now become our wages due, not on the basis of merit, but on the basis of God’s promise and grace. God is not unjust. He will pay you back for the good you have done for others, even if he is the one who helped you do it!

Moses focused on the reward to come, and so he was not distracted by worldly riches or wealth. Now just as with power and pleasire, there is nothing wrong with money in and of itself. But the love of money is the root of all evil, and money can become a trap and a snare when we are tempted to serve money rather than God. (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

And so, these three verses together tell us the three main areas of temptation the world offered to Moses: power, pleasure and wealth. And you know what? They are the exact same three main temptations the world offers to us today. Whenever we go against God in order to gain in one of these areas, we are identifying with the world instead of with Christ, and we sin in the process.

So, that’s the first theme running through verses 24-26. Faith refuses to identify with the world, no matter what the world offers.

II. Faith chooses to identify with Christ and his people no matter what the consequences

But there is a second theme in these verses as well, and that is this: Faith chooses to identify with Christ and his people no matter what the consequences. As Christians we do not merely refuse identification with the world, but we also choose identification with Christ.

That’s actually what the word Christian means: “a Christ one,” one who follows after or identifies with Christ. The Christian recognizes that saying “yes” to Christ entails saying “no” to the world. You can’t have it both ways. You cannot identify with the world and Christ at the same time.

In the same way Moses knew that he could not identify with both Egypt and Israel. He had to make a choice. He could not straddle the fence. He could not put one foot in Egypt and one foot in Israel. He had to plant both feet firmly with God’s people or not at all.

Identifying with Christ and his people required him to refuse identification with Egypt. He had to make a choice, and he made the right choice. He chose to be known as a descendant of Abraham rather than the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.

   A. Faith willingly suffers persecution along with the people of God (25)
      – John 15:19

Moses chose to identify with God’s people no matter what the consequences, and one of those consequences was persecution. Look at verse 25 again: “He [Moses] chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” (Hebrews 11:25) And so, this teaches us another faith principle, another way we put our faith into action. True biblical faith willingly suffers persecution along with the people of God. Moses was willing to suffer persecution for his faith.

The descriptive phrases in this verse are very important. Moses did not simply choose mistreatment rather than pleasure. That would be masochism. No, he chose “mistreatment along with the people of God” rather than “the pleasures of sin.” He refused the pleasures not because they were pleasures, but because they were sinful pleasures. And he chose mistreatment not because he liked mistreatment, but because the mistreatment was an unavoidable consequence of identifying with God’s people. One commentator puts it this way: “He chose holy afflictions over sinful pleasures.” And that is not masochism; that is faith.

Notice how Hebrews 11 tells us Moses chose mistreatment “along with the people of God,” not “along with the people of Israel.” That’s important. Moses was not just identifying with Israel because of nationality or race. He was identifying with Israel because they were the people of God. This was not national identification on Moses’ part, but spiritual identification. Blood is thicker than water, but spirit is thicker than blood. Moses identified with the Israelites not just because they were his people, but because they were God’s people, and Moses’ faith was in God.

When we choose to identify with Christ and his people instead of with the world, we also should be prepared to suffer persecution as Christians. Jesus told his disciples in John 15:19: “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:19) The world does not take kindly to those who choose to stand apart from it.

Everyone prefers pleasure to suffering, but with Moses we will do well to choose mistreatment along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Faith willingly suffers persecution along with the people of God.

   B. Faith regards disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than worldly riches (26)
      – Matthew 5:11-12; Acts 9:4-5

And then, faith also regards disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than worldly riches. Look at verse 26 again: “He [Moses] regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” (Hebrews 11:26)

Now Moses lived about 1400 years before Christ. So, you might wonder, how did Moses suffer disgrace for the sake of Christ when Jesus hadn’t even been born yet? Well, Jesus may not have been born yet, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t alive. Jesus, the eternal Son of God, has always been alive. The people of Israel were God’s people, which means they were also Christ’s people. And when you suffer disgrace for the sake of Christ’s people, you also suffer disgrace for the sake of Christ.

This is because Jesus Christ identifies so thoroughly with his people. You might remember in the book of Acts when Saul was persecuting the early church, Jesus appeared to him in a vision from heaven, and said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. (Acts 9:4-5) Saul was persecuting the church, and yet Jesus said that Saul was persecuting him. Why? Because Jesus identifies completely with his people. And so, when Moses threw in his lot with the people of God, he also suffered disgrace for Christ who identifies with his people.

This was a particularly important point for the original readers of the book of Hebrews. Remember, the letter of Hebrews was originally written to Jews who had become Christians, who were being persecuted for their Christian faith, and now were tempted to let go of Christ to go back to Moses, that is back to the Jewish law. They were tempted to go back to Judaism rather than suffer disgrace for the sake of Christ. But verse 26 tells us that Moses himself suffered disgrace for the sake of Christ. The point here is this: you cannot let go of Christ to go back to Moses, because Moses himself chose to identify with Christ.

Moses regarded disgrace for Christ as of greater value than all the treasures of Egypt, which we have already seen were quite considerable. Moses turned down the vast riches of Egypt because he had found something of far greater worth – disgrace for the sake of Christ. The descriptive phrases are so important here once again. Notice Moses did not simply choose disgrace over riches, but rather disgrace for the sake of Christ over the riches of Egypt.

Jesus said this in Matthew 5: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12)

Did you notice Jesus’ words “because of me” tucked away in there? Jesus did not pronounce a blessing on all who are persecuted for any reason, but on those who are persecuted because of him, for his sake, because they identified with Christ. Faith regards disgrace for Christ as of greater value than worldly riches.

CONCLUSION: And so, Moses had to make a choice. He could identify with the people of Egypt, or he could identify with the people of Israel. Identification with Egypt meant power, pleasure, and wealth. Identification with Israel meant persecution and disgrace. And yet Moses chose to identify with Christ and his people anyways. He must have seemed completely foolish to Pharaoh and the Egyptians, but Moses was looking ahead to his reward.

We too live in a world that is opposed to God. And like Moses you also have to make a choice. Will you choose to identify with Christ and his people, or will you choose to identify with the world?

As we close out our message this morning, let me say just a few words about identifying with Christ and his people. There are many ways you can identify with Christ. From sharing your faith with others, to posting on Facebook, to carrying your Bible with you, there are any number of ways that you may proudly declare, “I am a Christian.”

But the Bible speaks of two primary ways that we are to identify ourselves with Christ and his people – and those two ways are baptism and church membership.

Baptism is the primary way that you identify yourself with Christ. Baptism is such a strong identification with Christ, that in Muslim countries when a Muslim becomes a Christian and is baptized, that person is often cut off from their family. They suffer persecution and disgrace for the sake of Christ because they choose to identify with Christ through baptism.

Church membership is the primary way that you identify yourself with Christ’s people. Jesus commissioned his disciples to establish local churches through which people could identify with God’s people at large. When you commit to church membership, you identify with Christ’s people through a local body of believers.

And so, if you have never been baptized, or if you are not committed to membership in a local church, let me challenge you to reconsider both of these actions in the light of today’s message. True biblical faith means identifying with Christ and his people. In baptism you identify with Christ. In church membership you identify with Christ’s people.

And then for all of us, let me give this final word of application. Never be ashamed of belonging to Christ and his church. Gladly and proudly wear the name “Christian.” Faith refuses to identify with the world no matter what the world offers. Faith chooses to identify with Christ and his people no matter what the consequences.

© Ray Fowler

You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this message provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and that you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For any web postings, please link to the sermon directly at this website.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copies:
By Ray Fowler. © Ray Fowler. Website: http://www.rayfowler.org

Click here for more messages from the book of Hebrews.
Click here for more messages from the Growing in Faith series.
Click here to return to the Sermons page.