Hebrews 11:23-29, “The Worst Part of Christ”

[23]By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command.
[24]By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, [25]choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, [26]esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.
[27]By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.  [28]By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them.
[29]By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians attempting to do so, were drowned. (NKJV)

These verses tell of three phases of Moses’ life:
1. His parents, v. 23.
2. His persuasion, vs. 24-27.
3. His passage, vs. 28-29.

1. His parents in Egypt, v. 23.
The situation in Egypt was dire for the Israelites at the time of Moses’ birth.  They had been welcomed to Egypt as a result of Joseph’s role in the delivering Egypt from severe famine.  They’d even been given the best of the land in Egypt, Genesis 47:6.  That hadn’t lasted very long.  They had been both prosperous and prolific, Exodus 1:7, but then there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph, v.8.  Likely this didn’t happen right after Joseph’s death.  Time passed and what Joseph did was forgotten.

Now, it’s believed that this king arose from a group of invaders called the Hyksos.  Even though they were powerful, they were still an ethnic minority and the king feared this growing power of the Israelites as a threat to him and his own people.  So he enslaved them.  When this didn’t work, and Israel continued to multiply, he ordered that all male babies were to be killed, Exodus 1:11-22.

This is the background of Moses.  His parents were under orders to kill him, but they didn’t.  The story is in Exodus 2:1-8.  Ultimately and in the providence of God, he came to live in the palace or at least the family of the very Pharaoh who had ordered his death.

2. His persuasion concerning Egypt, vs. 24-27.
The writer skips over the early life of Moses and brings him to the point of what we might call emancipation, that is, when children become independent of the family and go out on their own.  We’re not told what happened, but only that Moses made a choice – not to be identified as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  He turned away from a very rich and respected heritage.

It’s here that the title of the post comes into play.  The text says that he esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.

Think about this –

“The reproach of Christ” –

(what a Puritan writer called, “the worst part of Him”) –

greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.”

Even after 3500 years, we’re amazed at the “treasures in Egypt”.  Archaeology has shown us probably just a tiny part of them.  What must they have been like to Moses?!  To walk among, nay, to live in and be part of, those “treasures.”  To walk around and live in the splendor and luxury of Pharaoh’s palace.  To see the pyramids as new.  He could have told us how they were built, which is still a topic of discussion.

He rejected all that.

Why?

He knew of a far greater treasure –

the reproach of Christ.

I wonder how a “modern” Moses might have handled this.  Just think of the opportunity, the power, he could have had!  Why, he might even become Pharaoh!  He could have helped his people be free of their bondage.  He could have provided for them.  He could have given them all kinds of advantages.  He could have given them political power, as it were, and made them a force to be reckoned with.

He didn’t do any of that.  Egypt wasn’t their home.  He chose to identify with his natural people, not their oppressors.  Granted, when he first tried to intervene, it didn’t go well and he was forced to flee for his life, Exodus 2:11-15.

Enough about Moses here.  What do we “treasure” about Christ?

Here in the US, we still have a measure of freedom and prosperity.  But there are countries in which even to be suspected of being a Christian is to invite persecution, even death.  Unbelievable atrocities are committed against these people, and in other countries where Christianity is forbidden or frowned upon, and there is no outcry about it.

But here we meet in air-conditioned or heated buildings with comfortable pews or chairs, good lighting, and plenty of electronic aids for “worship.”  We get in our comfortable cars and drive home to our comfortable houses.  We have electricity and hot and cold running water, and turn on the big flat-screen TV for entertainment.  We’re able to have clean clothes, and some have closets full of them.  We have plenty to eat.  Granted, there are some who don’t have all these things, but, for the most part, we do have them.

And we’re told that prosperity and plenty are the natural result of “faith,” that if we’re sick or in need, all we need is “faith”.  If we’re not healthy and happy, something’s wrong.  We don’t have enough “faith”.

But, what does all this have to do with “the worst part of Christ”?

Moses had more than we can possibly imagine, even if he didn’t have the internet, but he gave that all up for something he thought worth immeasurably more – reproach and persecution with God’s people.

Our Lord had something to say about all this.  As He finished giving “The Beatitudes,” He gave a final one that we don’t pay nearly as much attention to as we do to the first eight: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil things against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven,” Matthew 5:11, 12, emphasis added.  But even the eighth one says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” v. 10.

Another time, He said, “The time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service,” John 16:2.  Though we can trace such killing through much of church history, beginning in Acts, we see it in what’s happening in the Middle East today with ISIS.  They believe in killing Christians that they are serving God.

I believe that’s coming even here.  How will we fare?

What will we choose?

How was Moses able to choose?

a. His concern, v. 26, he looked to the reward.
Paul had made a similar choice.  Apparently he had been on the way to becoming a “superstar” in his culture.  He was on the way to the top!  But then, the Lord Jesus met him.  After this happened, in comparing his former life with his present outlook, Paul wrote, But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish…, Philippians 3:7, 8.

At the same time, it isn’t always about what we have to give up.

Sometimes it’s about what we have to endure.

Paul knew something of this, as well.  He wrote to the Corinthian church:  We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed, 2 Corinthians 4:8, 9.   What was his reaction to this?  Did he throw a pity party?  Did he give up?  Not at all.  He wrote, …we do not lose heart.  Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day,  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory….  For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed [that is, if we die], we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, .4:16, 17, 5:1.  He goes on to say that we long for this transformation, this final move to an eternal abode.  Then he wrote, Now He who prepared us for this very thing is God, v. 5, emphasis added.  You see, even in the OT, and certainly in the New, God never intended His people to be earth-bound, but to realize and understand that we’re destined for something far beyond what this impoverished world has to offer.  See also Romans 8:18-23.  It’s sad that so few in our day seem to look at it this way.

b. His consciousness, v. 27, he endured as seeing him who is invisible.
There’s some discussion about when the first part of v. 27 happened:  he didn’t fear the wrath of the king.  Some think this is when he fled to Midian after standing up the first time for his people, Exodus 2:11-15, but v. 14, 15 expressly says that he feared and that he fled.  It’s more likely this refers to the time just before the Exodus, when Moses had severe confrontation with Pharaoh – the plagues and such, Exodus 5-11.  He knew that One Who is inconceivably greater than any and all earthly power.

Daniel 11:32 says, the people who know their God shall be strong and do exploits. (KJV).  While this is a prophecy of a specific time and people, still the principle holds true that true strength comes only from knowing the true God.  The reason the church in America is so weak and the forces of evil are so strong is that we have almost completely lost the knowledge of that God.  We’ve taken a verse or two of Scripture and a couple of words here and there and formed our own god.  The people who first came to this country had a robust knowledge of God.  Today, we not only deny that God, but deny that they knew this God.  And the result is the corruption, violence and filth we see on every hand and folks who in earlier generations would have been scorned and rejected are elevated to high positions and honor.

3. His passage from Egypt, 11:28, 29.
Just a couple of things in closing.  First, who would have though of animal sacrifices as a means of deliverance from slavery?  Well, God did.  The animal substituted for the firstborn of the Israelites, who, without the blood put on the doors of their homes, would have died themselves.  This blood was the evidence of the faith of the people inside – that what God said and promised was worth believing, trusting and obeying.

There is one thing about the Passover.  We studied it in church and as I was reading through the account in Exodus, there was one thing – an omission – that struck me.  I had never noticed it before.  Nowhere in that account is it written that those Israelites, having done all that was required, would be forgiven.  Read through it for yourself to see if that isn’t true.  Now, it’s true that 1 Corinthians 5:7 refers to Christ our Passover, but even there it’s in the context of getting rid of leaven, which was the other thing the Israelites in Egypt were to do in preparation for the Passover, Exodus 12:14-20, especially v. 19.  The Passover and the blood on the doorposts and lintel were a rite of separation of Israel from Egypt.  Likewise, because of Christ, His people are to be separated from the sins of this world, 1 Corinthians 5:1-8 (which rebukes the Corinthians for not dealing with grievous sin in their midst).  We are to be a pure people.

Second, the writer mentions the crossing of the Red Sea.  Unbelief and skepticism ridicule this idea and claim that the water just very shallow, it was just muddy, or there wasn’t any water at all.  Some of the maps of the crossing attempt to show this last viewpoint.  However, the text tells us that the Egyptians were drowned in this “shallow water,” every last one of them, Exodus 14:26-31.  Yet Exodus and Hebrews both tell us that the people walked through the sea on dry land, Exodus 14:29; Hebrews 11:29.

There is no contradiction.  My own view, for which I will not be dogmatic because I may not be right, is that the force of wind, Exodus 14:21, required to divide a body of water sufficient to drown Pharaoh’s army would have frozen it, and also the ground that was uncovered.  The ground would, in effect, be dry. And v. 22 says that waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.  And something Moses said reinforces this idea.  In rejoicing over Israel’s deliverance and praising God for it, Moses said, “The floods stood upright like a heap; the depths congealed in the heart of the sea,” Exodus 15:8, emphasis added.  As for Pharaoh’s army:  “The sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters,” v. 10.  So much for “shallow water” or mud!

And it all began because, 40 years earlier, Moses made a choice,

for –

“the worst part of Christ.”

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