Living by Faith in the Greater Wealth of Christ
It was by faith that Moses made a critical decision: he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter (Heb. 11:24). Continue reading . . .
It was by faith that Moses made a critical decision: he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter (Heb. 11:24). Let me say just a brief word about who this woman may have been, because it sheds considerable light on the nature of Moses’ choice.
Many argue that this woman was probably just one of the many daughters of Pharaoh whom he fathered through one of his several concubines. But there is good reason to believe that the Pharaoh or “king” mentioned here was Thutmose I. If so, his “daughter” may well have been the famous Hatshepsut who herself ruled as Pharaoh at a later time. If this is the case, Moses would have been a direct heir to the throne of Egypt! Needless to say, his decision to renounce his relationship to Pharaoh’s daughter was the turning of his back on immeasurable and unspeakable power and glory.
Consider what was involved in remaining the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and perhaps even ascending to the throne of Egypt itself. In v. 26 he is described as having turned his back on “the treasures of Egypt.” We can only vaguely imagine what this entailed: money without limit, authority over tens of thousands of men and women, fame, military power, access to the best of food and drink, sexual pleasures beyond anything we can envision, everyone bowing in his presence and quick to obey his every word and wish. Egypt was the most powerful and wealthy nation in the world at that time and it was all in Moses’ hand for the taking. And he turned it down. He threw it away.
Notice how the author of Hebrews describes what happened. Moses looked at "the fleeting (passing, temporary) pleasures of sin" and chose instead "to be mistreated with the people of God (v. 25). This incredible decision didn't occur in a vacuum. Moses didn’t just wake up one morning and say to himself: “Egypt stinks. Money is worthless. Sex is boring. Power is dumb. Fame is overblown.” No, something happened that recast Moses' vision and altered his evaluation of worldly pleasures and treasures.
The key is stated in Hebrews 11:26 where we read that he considered "the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward."
What exactly happened to Moses? It would appear that Moses took a long, hard, honest look at all that life in Egypt as Pharaoh's daughter offered him. He was neither naïve nor ignorant. He knew exactly what lay ahead for him, were he to want it. Again, we can only guess at what this involved. Try to imagine the life that is available to Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch and Mark Zuckerberg and President Obama and Vladimir Putin and put them all in a bundle. Collectively, cumulatively, that is something along the lines of what Moses had within his reach. As noted, it is called, in v. 26, the "treasures" of Egypt. Yet Moses said “No!” Wow! He chose the path of pain and sacrifice and endurance and reproach instead. How did he do it? How can we do it?
Before I answer that question, we need to determine what is meant by the phrase, “the reproach of Christ” (v. 26). There are three possible ways of interpreting this.
(1) The word here translated “Christ” (which means “anointed one”) was also applied in the OT to the people of God collectively or corporately (see Ps. 89:50-51; 105:15; Hab. 3:13). Thus the reproach of “Christ” may mean the “suffering endured by God’s people, Israel.”
(2) Others would translate this phrase, “a Christ-like reproach.” In other words, it refers to reproach of like nature to that which Jesus would himself endure when he came to this earth. Thus we might render it: “he considered ‘Christ-like’ reproach” greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt.
(3) But it may also be that Moses knew of the coming Messiah, at least in some measure. He knew that God would send a deliverer who would take away the sins of the people. He knew that the sacrificial lamb of the Passover was a foreshadowing of the true sacrificial Lamb of God who by his shedding of blood would finally and forever take away sin. How much he knew, we can’t be sure. How clearly he saw it, we don’t know. We do know that years later when he wrote of this coming one, he said in Deuteronomy 18:15 – “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers – it is to him you shall listen.”
We return now to the question of how Moses was able to make this kind of momentous decision. Quite simply, Moses didn't simply look at the "treasures" of Egypt and suddenly find them repelling and repulsive. There was no magical alteration in their appeal. Indeed, according to v. 25 there was great "pleasure" to be found in all they offered. So how did the pleasures and treasures of Egypt lose their grip on Moses' heart? I could as readily ask: “How will the pleasures and treasures of sinful self-indulgence in our society lose their grip on your heart?” It's really simpler than you might think.
Moses looked at the reproach, i.e., the suffering and stigma, that comes with identifying with God’s people and considered it "greater wealth" than anything Egypt could produce. He looked at the glitter, the grandeur, the thrill of all that Egypt had to offer (and it was a lot!) and in view of what he saw in the promised reward (and that's the key), he said: "Are you kidding me? Is that the best you can do? You're going to have to make a better offer than that. What do you think I am: stupid or something?" It was from his desire for a greater pleasure that he said No to a lesser pleasure.
He didn't disregard his desires or repent of them or deny they existed. He made a careful, spiritually informed evaluation of what Egypt offered versus what God offered and came to the conclusion that the latter would prove eminently and eternally more satisfying to his soul. "Why would I want pleasures that are fleeting," he must have said, "when I can have pleasures that last forever” (Ps. 16:11)! He set his sight and his faith on the promised reward of God’s future blessing and grace and found the power to say “No” to the allure of Egypt and its treasures.
Be certain that you understand what this means for you today. Moses felt the magnetic appeal of the pleasures of sin that Egypt offered to him. He was keenly aware of the pull, the tug, the draw that exerted itself on his soul. He could feel himself being drawn into the web of Egyptian life and its sinful pleasures. It felt good. It made promises to him of fleshly and sensual satisfaction. In his own way Moses faced the same pressures and power of temptation that you and I face today. And he looked it all squarely in the face and said, “No, I’m going with God. I prefer the riches of the spiritual reward that awaits all who walk in the path of holiness.”
Let me tell you something about your soul, your heart, your spirit, yes and even your body. You weren’t created for the passing pleasures of this world. You were created and designed by God to enjoy to the max a happiness and joy and deep soul satisfaction that is more enduring and more delightful and more exciting than anything this world’s passing pleasures can give you. If you don’t believe that, you’ve been deceived. The world is lying to you, just as it lied to Moses. But he fought back against that destructive deception by putting his faith in the promises of all that God would be for him in Jesus.
This world, as you know, has one distinct advantage. It promises to provide you with pleasure and satisfaction right now and it has seemingly limitless goods and services and gadgets and commodities ready and available for you to seize at any moment. Whether it’s pornography at the click of a mouse or that promotion at work that can only come at the expense of truth and purity or a quick and secretive affair or the buzz of drugs and alcohol, it’s all there for the taking. But know this: the passing pleasures of this world will not satisfy you; they will steal from you. They will not thrill you; they will kill you.
But don’t misunderstand the alternative that Christianity offers to you. When you read in Psalm 16:11 that there is “fullness of joy” in God’s presence and “pleasures forevermore” at his right hand, don’t think that what is being offered is merely a spiritual counterpart to the material goods the world offers. When you read in Hebrews 11 about the “greater wealth” in Christ and the promised “reward”, don’t think that this is simply about changing your bad habits or making you appear socially acceptable. This is all about experiencing now and forevermore the most glorious, most beautiful and most thrilling satisfaction that the human soul can ever hope to find.
If you sincerely desire to find the power to say No to the passing pleasures of sin in your world, immerse your heart and soul and mind and spirit in the surpassing, eternal, always satisfying pleasures of knowing Christ and loving Christ and following Christ. The power to resist the allure of a lesser pleasure comes from the joy of having tasted a greater one. Set your sights on the reward of “fullness of joy” and “pleasures evermore” that are found only in his presence and you will be empowered and energized to resist the allure of the “treasures of Egypt” and to say No to the “fleeting pleasures of sin”!