Moses and His Parents: Fearing God Rather Than Man

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Hebrews 11:23,27-28

INTRODUCTION: We are looking at various Old Testament persons of faith, and this week’s message as well as next week’s focus on Moses and his faith. We are going to look at verse 23 today and then skip ahead to verses 27 and 28. We’ll come back next week and fill in the gap with verses 24-26.

Last week we spoke about Joseph, and there is a four-hundred-year gap between Joseph in verse 22 and Moses in verse 23. The Old Testament doesn’t tell us much about what happened during those 400 years between Joseph and Moses. We simply know that during this time the Israelites increased greatly in number, and that a new Pharaoh, who did not know Joseph, put slave masters over the Israelites and subjected them to forced labor.

This was a bitter time in Israel’s history. The Egyptians treated them ruthlessly, and the entire nation was held captive as slaves. God had told Abraham that this would happen and even told him how long their captivity would last – four hundred years. Now the end of the four hundred years was nearing, and God raised up a deliverer for his people as promised. And that deliverer’s name was Moses. (Read Hebrews 11:23,27-28 and pray)

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Fear is a powerful motivator. Fear can cause us to do things we don’t want to do, or fear can stop us from doing things that we should do. Fear can drive us to action or paralyze us and stop us right in our tracks.

One fear that we all seem to experience to one degree or another is the fear of other people. We fear what other people can do. We fear how other people might react. We fear what other people think. However, God does not want us to be bound by the fear of man. Rather, he wants us to fear him first and foremost.

The Bible tells us: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 1:7) When the Bible talks about fearing God, it does not mean being afraid of God in the sense of being scared to death of him. That’s not the type of relationship God wants with us. God loves us as a father loves his child, and he want us to love him as our heavenly Father.

However, God also wants us to recognize his holiness and his awesome power and might. God wants us to take his instructions seriously. God wants us to treat him with the utmost reverence and respect. And when we truly fear God in this way, we will find that the fear of man is no longer the same problem for us that it once was.

Last week we saw that you cannot worry about the future and have faith in God at the same time. Worry and faith are mutually exclusive. In the same way, fear and faith are mutually exclusive. You cannot fear man and trust God at the same time. Proverbs 29:25 says that “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” (Proverbs 29:25) God wants us to be bold as Christians, to fear nothing but God himself, to stand strong in our Christian testimony and to stand up for the truth of God’s word and what is right.

And so, this is one of the lessons of faith that we learn from the life of Moses: faith means fearing God rather than man. We see this first in Moses’ parents at the time of his birth, and then also later on in his life as an adult. Fearing God rather than man takes faith because you can’t see God, but you can definitely see man. That’s why we often give in to the fear of man. Both Moses and his parents feared God rather than man.

I. Do not obey commands that go against God (23)
   – Exodus 1:17; Daniel 6:10; Acts 5:29

Let’s look at Moses’ parents first. The chronologies in the Bible identify Moses’ parents as Amram and Jochebed. (Amram was the father, and Jochebed the mother.) From Amram and Jochebed we learn that fearing God rather than man means, first of all, that you should not obey commands that go against God. Look at Hebrews 11:23 with me now: “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.” (Hebrews 11:23)

Fearing God rather than man means that you should not obey commands that go against God. That’s a pretty simple concept and an important principle from Scripture. God is the ultimate authority in life, and so when somebody commands us to do something that goes against God, we should clearly put God first.

So, why is this one so hard to put into practice? Because of the fear of man. We fear the power or authority or influence that someone else can have in our lives, and so we give in and go against God.

Now the Bible tells us in a number of places that we should submit to those in authority over us. God is the one who has established authority in government, at work, in the church and at home. And God requires us as Christians to submit to those who are in positions of authority. So, wives should submit to their husbands, children should honor and obey their parents, workers should obey their bosses, church members should obey their leaders, and citizens should obey the laws that govern their society.

However, there is one clear exception to this biblical principle of submitting to authority, and that is when someone commands us to do something that goes against God. We find a number of examples of this in the Bible.

For example, when King Darius of the Persians commanded that no one should pray to any god or man except himself, we read that Daniel “went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” (Daniel 6:10)

In the book of Acts when the Jewish court commanded the disciples to stop teaching in the name of Jesus, they responded: “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29)

When Pharaoh in Egypt commanded the Hebrew midwives to kill all the Hebrew boys at the time of delivery, we read that “the midwives . . . feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.” (Exodus 1:17) They obeyed God rather than man.

   A. Moses’ parents hid Moses because they saw that he was no ordinary child
      – Exodus 2:1-4

This was the case with Moses’ parents as well. At the time Moses was born, Pharaoh had a standing order that every male child born to Hebrew parents was to be thrown into the Nile River and drowned. But Moses’ parents chose not to obey Pharaoh’s command. Instead they hid Moses for three months after he was born. (Exodus 2:1-4)

Hebrews 11:23 gives us two reasons why they did this. The first reason is this: “They saw he was no ordinary child.” Now, different Bible versions translate this verse variously as “They saw Moses was a beautiful child, a fine child, a proper child, or an unusual child.” The Greek word here actually means “elegant, proper, well-pleasing.” If you go back to the book of Exodus, it says that his mother “saw that he was a fine child,” and the Hebrew there is a word that means “good or excellent.”

Josephus, who was a Jewish historian around the time of Jesus, records in his “Antiquities of the Jews” that Moses was a beautiful child and an exceptionally large child. He writes that when Pharaoh’s daughter first saw the baby: “she was greatly in love with it, on account of its largeness and beauty.” Josephus continues: “God did also give him that tallness, when he was but three years old, as was wonderful; and for his beauty . . . it happened frequently, that those that met him as he was carried along the road, were obliged to turn again upon seeing the child, that they left what they were about, and stood still a great while to look on him; for the beauty of the child was so remarkable and natural to him on many accounts, that it detained the spectators, and made them stay longer to look upon him.” So according to Josephus, Moses was a real head-turner. He was a big baby and had beautiful features. He was a striking child.

Josephus also records several prophecies that supposedly took place before Moses’ birth. He records that one of the wise men in Pharaoh’s court predicted that a Hebrew male child would grow up to deliver the Israelites from Egypt. He records that God spoke to Moses’ father about Moses in a dream, saying: “This child of yours . . .shall be concealed from those who watch to destroy him: and when he is brought up in a surprising way, he shall deliver the Hebrew nation from the distress they are under from the Egyptians. His memory shall be famous while the world lasts; and this not only among the Hebrews, but foreigners also.” And then, according to Jewish tradition Moses’ older sister Miriam also prophesied before his birth: “My parents shall have another son, who shall deliver Israel out of the hands of the Egyptians.”

So, what are we to make of all this? What was it about Moses that caused his parents to hide him for three months? Was it just because he was a large and beautiful child, or was there something more? After all, doesn’t every parent think their child is beautiful? And what about all these prophecies and predictions that Josephus wrote about? Did they really happen? The Bible doesn’t record them, so we don’t know. Or what about Miriam? We do know that Miriam was a prophetess. The Bible tells us that in Exodus 15:20. But did she prophesy about Moses before his birth? It’s possible, but once again, the Bible doesn’t say, so we don’t know for sure.

What we do know is that Moses’ parents recognized something special about him. “They saw he was no ordinary child.” That word “saw” in verse 23 can also be translated “to know or to discern.” They discerned that there was something special about Moses, and they hid him in direct defiance of the king’s command.

   B. Moses’ parents were not afraid of the king’s edict

Verse 23 goes on to say that “they were not afraid of the king’s edict.” Josephus tells us that the king’s edict did more than just command the death of the Hebrew boys. The full edict of Pharaoh pronounced: “that if any parents should disobey him, and venture to save their male children alive, they and their families should be destroyed.” So, in keeping Moses alive, Amram and Jochebed were taking a real risk here. If their baby was discovered alive, not only would the baby be killed. The whole family would be killed along with him!

But Hebrews 11 tells us they were not afraid. They had discerned something special about Moses from God, whether through the prophecies or through some general sense of spiritual discernment, and they feared God rather than man. They chose at great risk not to obey a command that would go against God.

How about you? Do you ever experience this conflict between human commands and God’s commands? For example, are you ever asked to lie at work? To misrepresent a product? To do something unethical or dishonest? Who do you obey in such circumstances – God or man?

I remember the first time I was asked to lie at work. I was twenty-two years old, fresh out of college and had my first job as a recording engineer in a sound studio out in Los Angeles, when my boss asked me to lie to a client. And you know what? I blew it. I lied. I gave in to the pressure, and I did the wrong thing. And I felt lousy inside. But afterwards I met with my boss in his office and talked to him about it. I told him I would not lie for him the next time, and I asked him please never to put me in that situation again. I was really scared. I was certain I was going to lose my job. Instead, I gained my employer’s trust. He realized that if I would not lie for him, that I was not going to lie to him either. And God blessed my decision to take a stand that day.

Fearing God rather than man means that you do not obey commands that go against God. Moses’ parents chose to obey God rather than man because they saw that Moses was no ordinary child and because they did not fear the king’s edict.

II. Do not fear the reaction of others when you seek God (27)

Now, the next verses, verses 24-26, which we are going to look at next week, move us forward in time from Moses’ birth into Moses’ life as an adult. They deal with a different aspect of faith, so we are going to skip over them for right now to verses 27-28. Verses 27-28 give us two more examples of how we may apply the faith principle of fearing God rather than man.

The example we find in verse 27 is this. Fearing God rather than man means that you do not fear the reaction of others when you seek God. Look at verse 27 with me now: “By faith [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11:27)

   A. Moses left Egypt not fearing the king’s anger
      – Exodus 12:31-42

Moses left Egypt without fearing the negative reaction from Pharaoh that was bound to happen. He left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger.
One question that sometimes comes up about this verse has to do with which time Moses left Egypt. Because Moses actually left Egypt two times. He left Egypt the first time when he killed the Egyptian slave driver who was abusing a fellow Israelite. At that time, he went to Midian and stayed there for forty years until God met him at the burning bush and sent him back to Egypt to deliver his people. Then he left Egypt the second time when he led the people of Israel out of Egypt at the Exodus. So which time does verse 27 refer to: the first time or the second time?

Well, it’s probably not the first time because of what we read about this incident in Exodus 2. The day after Moses killed the Egyptian, he tried to separate two Hebrews who were fighting. One of them mentioned what Moses had done the day before. We read this in Exodus 2:14: “Moses was afraid and thought, ‘What I did must have become known.’” Verse 15 continues: “When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian.” (Exodus 2:14-15)

It seems pretty clear that when Moses left Egypt the first time, he fled specifically because he was afraid of Pharaoh. So, verse 27 is most likely talking about the second time Moses left Egypt at the time of the Exodus. (Exodus 12:31-42) And it probably includes everything leading up to the Exodus, including the ten plagues and Pharaoh’s anger against Moses during this time.

   B. Moses persevered because he saw Him who is invisible

Verse 27 goes on to say that Moses persevered during this time. The word “persevere” here carries the idea of “having the strength to endure.” So, what was it that gave Moses the strength to persevere and endure despite Pharaoh’s extreme anger and wrath?

Verse 27 tells us that Moses “persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” That’s kind of a strange sentence at first. How do you see someone who is invisible? Some people think this refers to Moses “seeing” God at the burning bush. And that could be part of what verse 27 is getting at here.

But I think it speaks more naturally of Moses’ faith. Remember, faith is being sure of what you hope for, and certain of what you do not see. Moses persevered because he saw the invisible God through the eyes of faith. By faith he focused on God who was invisible rather than on Pharaoh who was right before his eyes. Moses was seeking God by faith, and therefore he did not fear Pharaoh’s reaction.

How about you once again? Do you let your fear of other people’s reactions keep you from seeking God? When someone asks you on a Monday, “What did you do this weekend?”, do you tell them that you went to church or what you learned? Or are you afraid of their reaction? When somebody comments on some item in the news, and you know what the Bible says about it, do you share God’s truth on the matter? Or are you afraid of their reaction? When God answers prayer in your life, or you are just filled with joy in God through the Holy Spirit, do you share that with others? Do you give verbal testimony to your faith? Or are you afraid of people’s reaction? From Moses’ dealings with Pharaoh we learn this important lesson of faith. Do not fear the reaction of others when you seek God.

III. You will not suffer the same consequences as those who refuse God (28)

We are talking about the faith principle of fearing God rather than man. And we have looked at two applications of this principle so far. 1) Do not obey commands that go against God. 2) Do not fear the reaction of others when you seek God. That brings us to the third application of our faith principle this morning: know that when you fear God rather than man, you will not suffer the same consequences as those who refuse God. Look at verse 28 with me now: “By faith he [Moses] kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.” (Hebrews 11:28)

   A. Moses kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood
      – Exodus 12:21-28

This third application really serves more as a motivation or a reason why we should fear God rather than man. When you fear God rather than man, know that you will not suffer the same consequences as those who refuse God.

Hebrews 11:28 tells us that Moses kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood. The sprinkling of blood refers back to the tenth and final plague on Egypt, which took place on the night of the first Passover when God told Moses that he would send a destroying angel to take the lives of every firstborn son in Egypt.

God gave Moses very specific instructions on what he and the rest of the Israelites should do in order to preserve the lives of their own firstborn. Each household was to slaughter a Passover lamb. They were to take some hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. No one was to go out the door of his house until morning. When the LORD went through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he would see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe, and he would pass over that doorway, that is, he would not permit the destroyer to enter the house and strike down the firstborn. (Exodus 12:21-28)

Hebrews 11:28 also tells us that Moses kept the Passover. The word translated “kept” in this verse does not just mean that Moses kept the Passover himself. It refers to Moses instituting the Passover for all of Israel. Moses directed all of Israel to do what God said and told them to follow God’s instructions as a lasting ordinance for themselves and their descendants.

What was Moses doing when he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood? He was fearing God. He was recognizing God’s holiness, power, and might. He was taking God’s instructions seriously. He was treating God with the utmost reverence and respect.

   B. Moses preserved the firstborn of Israel from the destroyer
      – Exodus 12:29-30; Psalm 1:6

And as a result, Moses preserved the firstborn of Israel from the destroyer. At midnight that night the Lord struck down all the firstborn sons of Egypt, but the destroying angel “passed over” the homes of the Israelites, who had sacrificed the lambs and applied the blood to their doorframes in obedience to God’s instructions. Their sons were spared. The destroyer did not even touch them. Moses and the Israelites feared God rather than man, and as a result they did not suffer the same consequences as the Egyptians did with their firstborn sons. (Exodus 12:29-30)

This principle is just as true for us as believers today. When you fear God rather than man, you also will not suffer the same consequences as those who refuse God. Psalm 1:6 puts it very simply and clearly: “For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Psalm 1:6) In New Testament terms the righteous those who have put their faith in Christ, those who are trusting Jesus to be their Savior. “For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Psalm 1:6)

Of course, that still takes faith to believe. You have to believe that God truly does punish the wicked, and he truly does reward those who trust in him. You have to take God seriously. You have to treat God with reverence and respect. What is a primary motivation or reason for fearing God rather than man? You will not suffer the same consequences as those who refuse God.

CONCLUSION: Our faith lesson for today is this: One of the ways we demonstrate true biblical faith is by fearing God rather than man. And then from Moses and his parents we have learned three applications of this principle: 1) Do not obey commands that go against God. 2) Do not fear the reactions of others when you seek God. 3) You will not suffer the same consequences as those who refuse God.

We read earlier in Proverbs 29 that the “fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” (Proverbs 29:25) The fear of man is a snare. The fear of man can keep you from being and doing all that God wants for you. Like Moses you and I need to find strength through faith. Moses persevered. He found strength to endure because he saw him who was invisible. He saw God through the eyes of faith.

When I was baptized at the age of twelve, I was asked to choose a verse to share with the congregation. I still remember the verse I shared. It was Psalm 118:6, which says this: “The Lord is on my side. I will not fear. What can man do unto me?” (Psalm 118:6) You know, that verse seems just as appropriate today as it did then.

The fear of man is a snare. Don’t be trapped by it! Fear God, not man! That takes faith!

© Ray Fowler

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