The Heroes’ of Faith: Moses Part 1

‘By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.  By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God, than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward’

(Hebrews 11:23-26).

As a fan of Woody Allen films, I particularly like ‘Zellig,’ which is a mock documentary. The central character (Zellig) exhibits a peculiar phenomenon in that he takes on the physical characteristics and racial distinctions of whoever he is with.  It basically takes on, and sends up – to a great comical affect – the very human need to try and fit in, and to be loved.

In contrast, one of the key aspects that typify Moses’s life is that he does not conform, or take on the nature of what is around him! In the eyes of the Jewish Christians (to whom the letter was addressed) Moses was a monumental figure as the Law-giver. But, there is a lot more to Moses in the sense that, right from the start, he is a product of faith.  Moses’s parents exhibited faith when they kept him hidden as a baby.  The phrase: ‘because they saw the child was beautiful’ (v23) is probably best understood in the Greek as a term that can be used to describe: ‘elegance in clothing.’[1]  This denotes that his parents took the bold risk in preserving his life – despite Pharaoh’s order – because there was something exceptional about him as a child.[2]   In that sense they were also heroes of faith!  Moses, however, far from being a mere product of his parents’ faith, he exhibits his own, active and strong faith when, he chooses to throws his lot in with the mistreated people of God whilst he was still growing up among the finery and privilege of the Egyptian royal family.

Now, if we read Exodus chapters 2-3 we know there is a bit more to it than that. Moses is hesitant; he makes excuses, even when the Lord has shown that he will help him with the incredible miracles that he is given to perform, and which will give great authority to his message!  When he runs out of excuses he is still trying to weasel his way out of it with a final plea to the Lord to send someone else!  Hardly, we might think, a hero of faith!  However (just like the other heroes of faith), he is dealt with by God, with a great deal of grace and finally rises to the task.  Verse 26 raises a question, what exactly is meant by: ‘the reproach of Christ’?  I think the simplest answer is that Christ is found in all the Scriptures, and that means we can see pointers, or a signpost to his redemptive work in events like the exodus which Jesus himself noted (John 5:45-46).  But there is also another way of looking at it, as Paul Ellingworth notes that: ‘The author of Hebrews sees a positive analogy between the sufferings of Moses and those of Christ.’[3]  But again, we shall see in the second part, he only saw God’s promise partially fulfilled.  Quite simply, he was looking to the Lord’s reward, rather than what was no doubt, sensual and materialistic lifestyle, typical of members of the Royal family in Egypt.

Want to listen to a sermon on this passage? What’s so Special about Someone who gave up the Easy Life?

[1] Donald Guthrie, The Letter to the Hebrews, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, (Leicester, Inter-Varsity Press, 1983),  238-9

[2]  Stephen uses the same phase in Acts 7:20 when he witnesses to the Jewish Council before his martyrdom.

[3] Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1993), 614.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *