January 6, 2019
We are going to start with a little math this morning. I know it’s Sunday, but don’t worry – it’s simple math. I will simply give you an equation – actually, an inequality – and you determine which is greater. Here’s a little example:
3 _ 2. 3 > 2, right? Pretty simple, so here we go:
pleasures _ mistreatment – greater than, less than? Greater than. pleasures > mistreatment – obviously. Who in their right mind would say mistreatment is better than pleasure? In fact, who in their right mind would choose mistreatment over pleasure? How about this one:
reproach _ treasures – greater than or less than? Obviously, reproach treasures. You’re doing great. And these are word problems! Which remind me of this bit of math humor. Who would choose reproach over treasures?
Isn’t that what we’ve been taught our whole lives? To pursue pleasure and treasure. But then, along comes Christianity, and the values of life, the prices tags of life, if you will, are switched. They’re turned upside down. Less than becomes greater than. What do I mean? Well, let’s go back to those inequalities you so ably answered, and add something to each side:
pleasures of sin _ mistreatment with God’s people? That’s a little harder, but the answer is, pleasures of sin are less than, of less value than, mistreatment with God’s people. At least it should be, but is it? How about the next one:
reproach of Christ _ treasures of Egypt? Well, that should be a little easier, at least mentally, to answer. The reproach of Christ is greater than all the treasures of Egypt. That may seem like new math, but it’s true. And we may know it’s true here, but do we believe it’s true, live as if it is true, here? I am suggesting this morning that if you add Christ to the any side of any equation, He tips the scale, infinitely so. But here’s the question – do we live like it? Do we live like the treasure of Christ is better than, greater than anything this world has to offer? Would we suffer mistreatment and reproach, as followers of Christ, recognizing that having Christ always tips the scale, even if it costs us?
I’m thinking about writing a book on Christian math. You see, because somewhere along the way, we’ve lost our way. Along comes American Christianity and the so-called prosperity Gospel, and they’ve changed the equations. They write it like this:
pleasure + treasure + Christ mistreatment and reproach. And of course it is, but that’s not how it goes. They promise if you follow Christ, you’ll have pleasure and treasure. No mistreatment or reproach. No sorrow. No pain. No suffering. No sickness. And they sell a brand of Christianity that says, you can have it all – all that Christ offers, and all that Egypt offers. I watched a video on FaceBook this week where the guy up front was promising that if praise goes up, blessing – material prosperity – will come down. Do you see the equation they promise? A little praise in, a little prosperity out. But is that what the Scripture teaches?
Now I know if you attend church here, you likely know by now there is no place in the church for the prosperity gospel. But has that thinking infiltrated our minds – without us even knowing it? I was talking to someone recently – who used to gather with us. He disappeared, and I asked him – what’s going on? He basically said, he was struggling. Lots of bad things had happened that year, and he was having trouble trusting God. You mean, the God of the universe against whom we’ve rebelled, and who loved us anyway, and sent His Son to die for our rebellion – that God? Does God promise if we become His followers, no bad things, no challenging things will happen? Is that what we subconsciously expect?
We’ve switched the equation around. It’s much more palatable now. Christ and pleasure and treasure is greater than trial and struggle and pain. Who wouldn’t believe that, want that? But what if the equation is actually, Christ and mistreatment and reproach is greater than pleasure and treasure of this world? Who would believe that? Who wants that?
We are studying the book of Hebrews. The letter was written to a group of Jewish believers who were facing severe opposition because of their faith in Jesus. Martyrdom seemed to be right around the corner. It was costing them to be Christians, and they were wondering if was worth it. Should we just quit and return to Judaism? So the author writes to warn them – don’t go back – there remains no sacrifice for sin there. And now, he’s encouraging them. He gets to chapter 11, the Hall of Faith, and lists many OT characters who lived by faith. Consider:
- Abel lived by faith, and offered a worship of faith – and it cost him his life.
- Enoch lived by faith, demonstrating a walk of faith. And his life on earth ended.
- Noah lived by faith, and built a boat in which he lived for a year, with his family and a lot of animals.
- Abraham and Sarah lived by faith, and received a son. But they never received the rest of the promises – not a great nation, not a foot of the land of promise.
- Their descendents – Isaac, Jacob, Joseph – lived…and died by faith – even though they, too, never received the promises.
This faith in God, the God of the Bible – doesn’t seem to be working out, does it? Not if you do the world’s math. Again, we have many in the American church trying to change the math, the seeming inequalities – but it doesn’t work. It doesn’t fit the Bible. (Liv – Post) So how did these Biblical characters do it? How do we do it – this living by faith? Well, certainly we look back to the fulfillment of the promise. Hebrews began with these words:
1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways,
2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son,
They looked forward to the coming of a Savior – the Christ – we look back to its fulfillment. But we are not yet living in the fullness of the kingdom. Further, like these early Jewish Christians, there is a cost to being a follower of Christ. The world does not like our Christ nor His Gospel. So how do we do it? We train our hearts to know what our heads believe, despite the challenges, and seeming inequities. We remember the best is yet to come. We look forward to a country of our own, a city whose architect and builder is God.
We look to the examples of Hebrews 11, and like them, we live by faith, enduring suffering for the joy set before us – the ultimate fulfillment of the promises. So let’s look at our next example – the next in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 – none other than Moses. Read it with me, Hebrews 11:23-29.
Five times in those verses, it says of Moses, or those around him, that they lived by faith. And we see such faith cost him. He gave up royalty, pleasures and treasures. Was it worth it? We’ll only get through verse 26 today, where I want us to learn some spiritual math – how following Jesus costs us, but it’s worth it. While it may not seem like it, we are definitely on the greater than side of the inequality. And we don’t need to add the pleasures of sin or the treasures of this world to be there. Let’s look at the following two things which demonstrate a life of faith, that cost him:
- Faithful Choices at Birth (23)
- Faithful Choices in Adulthood (24-26)
Now, the first point is actually highlighting the faith of his parents. We learn in Exodus 6 their names were Amram and Jochebed. They actually had three children – Aaron, Miriam and Moses – they were from the tribe of Levi. Like the rest of the Hebrews, they were slaves in Egypt. You’ll remember from last week Jacob led his family of 70 to Egypt during a time of famine. His son, Joseph, had become Prime Minister of Egypt, and the family was well-cared for. But many years later, after Jacob and Joseph’s deaths, a new Pharaoh came to power who did not remember Joseph, nor how God had used him to save Egypt from the famine.
By this time, the Hebrews were multiplying – the promise was coming to pass, they were becoming a great nation – stars and sand. But this new Pharaoh didn’t like their growing numbers. He was fearful they would side with foreign invaders, should they come. So, to stop the spread of these slaves, he gave instructions for the Hebrew midwives to kill any male baby. But they refused.
So, he gave the further instructions that all male Hebrew infants be thrown into the Nile River. It’s here we pick up the story of Moses in Hebrews 11 – you can read the account in Exodus 2:
1 Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi.
2 The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months.
3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a wicker basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile.
4 His sister stood at a distance to find out what would happen to him.
5 The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, with her maidens walking alongside the Nile; and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid, and she brought it to her.
6 When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.”
7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women that she may nurse the child for you?”
8 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go ahead.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother.
9 Then Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him.
10 The child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. And she named him Moses, and said, “Because I drew him out of the water.”
I love that story – Pharaoh’s daughter actually paid Jochebed, Moses’ mother, to nurse and raise him. Hebrews 11 says, “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents [Exodus says it was his mother – but she couldn’t very well hide him without Amram’s participation. His parents hid him] because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.” Several things to note about that:
First, it was by faith the parents took the action and hid him. That’s an interesting statement. We don’t know how many infant boys were thrown into the Nile – we can assume it was some. But by faith – that is, trusting God and doing what was right – the parents of Moses hid him. We don’t know what the penalty would have been had they been discovered, but we can suppose it would have been severe. But they hid him for three months anyway.
Why? That leads to the second thing I want you to notice. They hid him rather than killed him because he was beautiful. That’s interesting – both Exodus and Hebrews say that. What does it mean? I haven’t met too many parents who don’t think their child is beautiful – of course they are. I haven’t ever seen an ugly baby – they all look beautiful to me – especially mine. So what does it mean when they looked at their obviously beautiful baby boy and decided to hide him?
Lots of guesses. Josephus records an angel appeared to them and told them their son to be born would be a deliverer of his people. Which is interesting – in Stephen’s speech, he says that when Moses grew up and killed an Egyptian, he thought the Israelites would understand he had been sent to deliver them. Where did that thought come from? Perhaps his parents.
Others have suggested Moses had some mark – something that clearly identified him as a special child. I don’t know if it was a birthmark in the shape of a D (for deliverer) or what. In the end, we don’t know – but there was something that caused mom and dad to hide little Moses.
Which leads to the last thing to notice about this verse – his parents hid him because they were not afraid of the king’s edict – that is, the one that said, kill your baby boys. Well, that seems rather obvious that you wouldn’t obey that decree. And yet, to not do so would likely bring deadly consequences. But they did not fear doing what was right. By faith, they hid Moses – they chose to do what was right even if it cost them. And it could have cost them – it could caused them their own lives. Yet, to obey a God they could not see was more important, more necessary than obeying a king they could see. I would say they lived by faith.
And we remember these Jewish Christians – the original readers – were facing persecution – opposition because of their faith. Soon, that opposition would come from governing authorities – the Roman Emperor and the like – declaring Christianity to be religio illicita – an illegal religion. What will they do? Many early Christians did not fear the king’s edict and died in state run persecutions. We have it easy. Our opposition is not governmental. It is not to the point of arrest or blood as in many places of the world. But what would we do, if and when, it comes? We must obey a God – the King – we cannot see over the threats of those we can.
Bringing us to Moses’ Faithful Choices in Adulthood. Have you ever wondered, if he was three months old when found by Pharaoh’s daughter, how Moses knew he was a Hebrew? Because, he was raised from infancy at Jochebed’s knees. Who do you think told Moses who he was, and perhaps what he was there to do? So when Moses grew up, we see him doing three things by faith:
First, when he had grown up – actually, when he was about 40 years old – he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Now, there’s no evidence Moses would have been the next Pharaoh. Perhaps Pharaoh had a son, perhaps another grandson. The point is, Moses was royalty, and lived in opulent splendor. This was one of the richest nations in the world, and he was in Pharaoh’s household. Yet when he grew up, Moses refused to be called Pharaoh’s grandson – the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. How did he refuse? Very likely, the author is talking about the next event which happened in Exodus 2:
11 Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren.
12 So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
It’s clear from this passage Moses was identifying himself with the Israelites. As he hid the Egyptian in the sand, Moses had drawn a line in the sand. Again, in Acts 7, as Stephen is giving his OT survey speech, he said:
20 “It was at this time that Moses was born; and he was lovely in the sight of God, and he was nurtured three months in his father’s home.
21 “And after he had been set outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him away and nurtured him as her own son.22 “Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds.
23 “But when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel.
24 “And when he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian.
25 “And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand.”
This could very well be what the author of Hebrews is talking about. When faced with a choice – the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, or his own mistreated people, he chose them. Now, we could debate all day whether or not Moses should have killed the Egyptian – but he was mistreating the Hebrew slave, and later, God will kill the firstborn of every Egyptian, and the entire army of Pharaoh in the Red Sea. God’s time of judgment had come, but perhaps Moses was premature.
Second, in verse 25 of our text, we read by refusing to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses was choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God – the Israelites – than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. Right, because mistreatment with God’s people is greater than the pleasures of sin. What does that mean? How is staying in Egypt choosing sin?
Well, surely life in pagan Egypt, in Pharaoh’s household, was filled with sinful delights – sinful pleasures. Which is interesting – it may be said that sin can bring pleasure – sin can be fun, but it is nonetheless sin, and rebellion against God – and has disastrous, eternal consequences. And don’t miss that they are passing pleasures – temporary. Sin may bring pleasure for the time, but there are always consequences – ultimately, death.
It could also be referring to the fact that if Moses chose the people of Egypt rather than the people of God, the Israelites, he would be choosing their gods over the true and the living God. He would be committing the sin of idolatry and apostasy. Which certainly would have been the easy course, right? Continue living in luxury in Pharaoh’s household, bowing to false gods – to include Pharaoh himself – and without mistreatment? No brainer.
I’ll take mistreatment for 500 Alex. Who does that? Moses did, because he considered – that’s an accounting term – a math term – he did the calculations and considered the reproach of Christ greater than the treasures of Egypt. Christ plus reproach is greater than all the treasures of Egypt. That’s crazy math. No, that is spiritual math – buy my book. We remember the words of Paul to the Romans, “18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Now, what does the author mean Moses considered the reproach of Christ? Lots of discussion about that. It could be the entire Bible is the story of Jesus, the Christ, and so any part of it is referring to Jesus – the Savior to come. He considered reproach with the people of God, who served the true and living God – trusting His as yet unfilled promises regarding this descendent of Abraham through whom all the nations of the world would be blessed – Moses considered that reproach greater than the idolatry and wealth and riches of Egypt. In some way, living for and loving God, the true God, includes His Son, the Christ.
Don’t miss the last phrase – for he was looking to the reward. There it is again. These people looked by faith toward that which was to come, and endured great pain. And so the author is saying, can you, Hebrew readers, not do the same? Can you look back and see Jesus, and look forward, and hold on to, what’s to come? Can you, American Christian, not do the same? Will you only follow Jesus if the math is Jesus plus pleasure plus treasure is greater? Will you follow if it’s actually Jesus plus mistreatment and reproach is greater? Because Jesus always tips the scale.