An Exposition of Hebrews
by A. W. Pink
The Faith of Moses
"The person here instanced as one that lived by faith, is Moses. And an eminent instance it is to his purpose, especially in his dealings with the Hebrews, and that on sundry accounts. 1. Of his person. None was ever in the old world more signalized by Providence in his birth, education, and actions, than he was. Hence his renown was both then, and in all ages after, very great in the world. The report and estimation of his acts and wisdom, were famous among all the nations of the earth. Yet this person lived and acted, and did all his works by faith. 2. Of his great work, which was the typical redemption of the church. A work it was great in itself; so God expresseth it to be, and such as was never wrought in the earth before (Deut. 4:32-34). Yet greater in the typical respect which it had to His eternal redemption of the Church by Jesus Christ. 3. On the account of his office. He was the lawgiver, whence it is manifest, that the law is not opposite to faith, seeing the lawgiver himself lived thereby" (John Owen).
Each example of faith supplied by the Holy Spirit in Hebrews 11 presents a distinctive feature or fruit of that spiritual grace. The faith which is here described is saving faith, without which no man is accepted by God (see verse 6). It is true that all Christians are not given the same measure of faith, nor do all of them manifest it in the same manner. All flowers are not of the same hue, nor are they equally fragrant; yet every variety differs radically from weeds! Not every saint is called upon to build an ark, offer up his son in sacrifice, or forsake a palace; nevertheless, there is that in the heart and life of every regenerate soul which plainly distinguishes him from those who are dead in trespasses and sins, and which clearly bears the mark of the supernatural--there is that in him which mere nature does not and cannot bring forth.
While it be true that very few Christians are called upon to leave a palace, yet every one who would become a Christian is required to forsake the world: not physically, but morally. God does not bid us become hermits, or enter a convent or monastery—that is only the Devil’s perversion of the truth of separation; but He does insist that the sinner must cast away the idols of the world, turn from its vain pleasures, cease walking in its evil ways, and set his affections upon things above. Scripture is unmistakably plain upon this point, declaring, "Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God" (James 4:4). That which was adumbrated by Moses in our present passage was, the heart’s renunciation of a vain and perishing world, and giving God His true place in the affections.
In our last article we saw how Moses voluntarily relinquished his position of a nobleman in Pharaoh’s court, and preferred to have fellowship with the despised and suffering people of God. In this he was a blessed type of Him who was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, who descended from the glory of Heaven, and was born in a manger; who laid aside His robes of majesty, and took upon Him the form of a servant. And my reader, His people are predestinated "to be conformed to" His image (Rom. 8:29). He has left them an example, and there is no other route to Heaven, but by "following His steps": see John 10:4! There is a real and practical oneness between the Head and the members of His mystical body, and that practical oneness consists in self-sacrifice. Unless the spirit of self-sacrifice rules my heart, I am no Christian!
The way to Heaven is a "narrow" one and the entrance to it is "strait," and few there be that find it (Matthew 7:13, 14). Because that way is "narrow," opposed to all the inclinations of flesh and blood, Christ bids us to "sit down and count the cost" (Luke 14:31) before we start out. The "cost" is far too high for all who have never had a miracle of grace wrought within them, for it includes the cutting off of a right hand and the plucking out of a right eye (Matthew 5:29, 30)--that is why 1 Peter 4:18 asks, "If the righteous scarcely be saved (or "with difficulty be saved") where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear"! Few indeed are, like Moses, willing to pay the "cost." Alas, the vast majority, even in Christendom, are like Esau (Heb. 12:16) or the Gadarenes (Mark 5:14, 15) —they prefer to indulge the flesh rather than deny it.
The difficulty of salvation, or the "straitness" of the gate and the "narrowness" of the way which leadeth into Life, was strikingly prefigured by the alluring temptations and carnal obstacles which had to be overcome by Moses. As we pointed out in our last article, his noble decision not only involved the leaving of Pharaoh’s palace, the apparent ingratitude toward his foster-mother, the ignoring of the precedent set up by Joseph; but, it also meant the throwing in his lot with a despised people, enduring all the discomforts and hardships of their wilderness wanderings, and the bringing down upon his head not only the contempt of his former associates, but having to endure the murmurings and criticisms of the Hebrews themselves. Ah, my reader, such a choice as Moses made was altogether contrary to flesh and blood, and can be accounted for only on the ground that a miracle of Divine grace had been wrought within him. As our Lord declared, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26).
From what has been said above, is it not unmistakably evident that as great a distance as that which separates heaven from earth divides Scriptural "Conversion" from that which goes under the name of "conversion" in the vast majority of the so-called "churches" today! A genuine and saving Conversion is a radical and revolutionary experience. It is vastly more than the taking up of a sound creed, believing what the Bible says about Christ, or joining some religious assembly. It is something which strikes down to the very roots of a man’s being, causing him to make an unreserved surrender of himself to the claims of God, henceforth seeking to please and glorify Him. This issues, necessarily, in a complete break from the world, and the former manner of life; in other words, "if any man be in Christ, he is new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new" (2 Cor. 5:17).
"By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter" (verse 24). It is the first two words of this verse which supply an adequate explanation of the noble conduct of Moses here. A God-given faith is occupied with something better than the things of sight and sense, and therefore does it discern clearly the utter vanity of worldly greatness and honor. Faith has to do with God, and when the mind be truly stayed upon Him, neither the riches nor the pleasures of earth can attract, still less enthrawl. Faith relies upon and is obedient unto a personal revelation from on High, for "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17). Moses had "heard," Moses "believed," Moses acted on what he had heard from God.
"Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season" (verse 25). Yes, each of us has to choose between life and death (Deut. 30:15), between sin and holiness, between the world and Christ, between fellowship with the children of God and friendship with the children of the Devil. When Moses took the part of an Israelite against an Egyptian (Ex. 2), he declared plainly that he preferred the former to the latter, that the promises of God meant far more to him than the fame or luxury of an earthly court. Yet at that time the seed of Abraham were in an exceedingly low state, nevertheless Moses knew that the promises which God had made unto the patriarchs could not fail.
That was faith indeed: to willingly forego the attractive prospects which lay before him in the land of the Nile, and deliberately prefer a path of hardship. What he had "heard" from God was to him so grand, so great, so glorious, that, after thoughtfully balancing the one over against the other, Moses rejected material aggrandisement for spiritual riches: he considered it to be a far higher honor to be a child of Abraham than to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He might have reasoned that "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," and have "made the most of his (present) opportunity,’’ rather than have set his heart on an unseen future; but the spirit triumphed over the flesh. O how we need to pray for grace to enable us to "approve things that are excellent," that we may be "sincere and without offence till the day of Christ" (Phil. 1:10).
It is to be duly noted that Moses elected to suffer affliction with the Hebrews not because they were his people, but because they were God’s people. "The object of his choice was God; the One who chose his fathers, who revealed to them His truth and grace, and commanded them to walk before Him without fear; the God who was not ashamed to be called their God, and to whom he had been dedicated in his infancy" (Adolph Saphir). Observe that fellowship with "the people of God" necessarily involves, in some form or other, "affliction." Yes, God has ordained that "we must through much tribulation enter into His kingdom" (Acts 14:22), and declares, "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12). But why should this be so? Why has not God appointed a smoother path and a pleasanter lot for His high favorites while they pass through this world? We subjoin one or two of the many answers which may be returned to this question.
God has decreed that the general state of His people on earth shall be one of hardship, opposition, persecution. First, to arouse them to spiritual diligence. He has told them in His Word "This is not your rest" (Mic. 2:10), nevertheless there is a tendency in us to settle down here. Again and again God bids us to watch and pray, to be sober and vigilant, alert and active; but only too often His exhortations fall on deaf ears. The "wise virgins" slumbered and slept as well as the "foolish" ones, and need awakening; because they will not heed such calls as are found in Romans 13:11, Ephesians 5:14 etc. He uses the Enemy to arouse us. Second, to wean us from the world: because there is that in us which still loves the world, God, in His mercy, often stirs them up to hate us. Third, to conform us more fully unto the image of Christ: the Head endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself, and His body is called to have "fellowship in His sufferings."
The "pleasures of sin" in verse 25 has immediate reference to the riches and dignities of Pharaoh’s court, which Moses could no longer enjoy without being unfaithful to God and His people. To have gone on living in the palace, would be despising Jehovah and His covenant with Abraham’s seed. It would have been preferring his own advancement and ease rather than the deliverance of his people; he would have been conducting himself as a worldling, rather than as a stranger and pilgrim in this scene; and worse, he would have been conniving at Pharaoh’s cruel treatment of the Hebrews. Moreover, to have resisted the impulse of the Spirit on his heart would have been sin. This shows us that things which are not sinful in themselves, become so when used or enjoyed at the wrong time. Every thing is beautiful in its season: "There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh" (Ecclesiastes 3:4).
The principle we have just enunciated above is of great practical importance. Material things become snares if employed intemperately. God has granted us permission to "use" the things of this world, but has forbidden the "abuse" of them (1 Cor. 7:31). Temporal blessings become a curse if they are allowed to hinder us from the discharge of duty. All associations must be severed which deter us from having fellowship with the saints. Personal ease and comfort is to be set aside when our brethren are "suffering afflictions" and need a helping hand. Alas, only God knows how many professing Christians have continued to enjoy the luxuries of life, while thousands were without some of the bare necessities of life.
Everything which is severed from true Godliness is included in this expression "the pleasures of sin." Temporal mercies are to be enjoyed with thankfulness to God, but only so far and so long as they help to promise a true following of the example which Christ has left us. Alas, how many are seeking their happiness in the things of the flesh, rather than in the things of the Spirit. Scripture says, "Better is little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure and trouble therewith" (Prov. 15:16)—but how few believe it! Mark it well, dear reader, the "pleasures of sin" are only for "a season," and a solemnly brief season at that: they must end either in speedy repentance or speedy ruin. How blessed is the contrast presented in Psalm 16:11, "At Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore"! Is my heart set upon them? If so, I am making it my chief concern, every day, to walk along the only path which leads to them.
"Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt" (verse 26). Here the Holy Spirit mentions a third instance of Moses’ contempt of the world: first, of its honors (verse 24), then of its pleasures (verse 25), now, of its wealth. Note the emphatic graduation in the decision of Moses as intimated in the three verbs: first, he "refused" to be any longer acknowledged as the adopted son of Egypt’s princess. Second, he "chose" or deliberately elected to become identified with and throw in his lot among the despised and suffering people of God. Third, he "esteemed" the reproach this involved, as high above that which he relinquished and renounced. The same Greek word is rendered "judged" in verse 11, showing that it was no rash conclusion which he jumped to hastily, but that it was the mature consideration of his mind and heart. Another has compared the three verbs here with Mark 4:28: "First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear."
This 26th verse is an amplification of what is found in the 24th and 25th, and announces both the intelligence of Moses’ choice and the fervor of spiritual affection which prompted it. The decision that he made was not a reluctant and forced one, but ready and joyous. It was not merely he perceived that identifying himself with the Hebrews was a bounden duty, and therefore he must "make the best of a bad job" and put up with the hardships such a course entailed, but that he gladly preferred the same—Christ meaning infinitely more to him than everything which was to be found in Egypt. Reader, is the denying of self and taking up of the cross something which you grudgingly perform, or does the "love of Christ constrain" (2 Cor. 5:14) you thereto? Can you, in your measure, say with the apostle, "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake"
(2 Cor. 12:10)?
What is meant here by "the reproach of Christ"? The Savior was not born till many centuries later; true, but those whom the Father gave to Him before the foundation of the world, were, from Abel onwards, well acquainted with Him: see John 8:56. Christ had a being before He was born of the virgin: we read of Israel "tempting Christ" in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:9). From the beginning, Christ was Head of the Church, and in His own person led His own people, and was present in their midst, under the name of "the Angel of the Covenant." Let the interested reader carefully ponder the terms of Exodus 23:20-22, and it should be plain that no created "angel" is there in view. Thus, whatever that people suffered, it was the reproach "of Christ," who had taken them under His protection. There was a communion between Christ and His people, as real and as intimate as that union and communion which exists between Him and His people now: weigh well Isaiah 63:9, Zechariah 2:8, and compare with Acts 9:4, Matthew 25:34 and clear proof of this will be obtained.
The "reproach of Christ," then, signifies first, Christ personally as identified with His people. Second, it has reference to Christ mystically, His redeemed as one with Him in humiliation and persecution. "Christ and the church were considered from the beginning, as one mystical body; so as that what the one underwent, the other is esteemed to undergo the same" (John Owen). In marriage the wife takes the name and status of her husband, because they have become "one flesh": in like manner, the Church is called "Christ" in 1 Corinthians 12:12, Galatians 3:16 because of its union and communion with Him, because of the likeness and sympathy between them. Nor was this blessed mystery kept concealed—as modem "dispensationalists" wrongly declare—from the O.T. saints, as a careful comparison of Jeremiah 23:6 with Jeremiah 33:16 makes very evident. Moses had "heard" from God that the Hebrews were His people, and the remnant among them "according to the election of grace" were ordained to be "joint heirs with Christ," and believing what he heard, he voluntarily and gladly decided to throw in his lot with them.
That the mystical body of Christ, the Church, is in view here in Hebrews 11:26—for the Head and His members can never be separated, though they may be viewed distinctly—is abundantly clear by a careful comparison of the preceding clauses. Verses 25 and 26 are obviously parallel, and explain one another. In the former we are told that, Moses "chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." Thus, there is a threefold parallelism: the "reproach of verse 26 agrees with and is interpreted by the "suffering affliction" of verse 25, "the Christ" of verse 26 corresponds with and is defined by "the people of God" in verse 25; and the "treasures of Egypt" balances with and explains the "pleasures of sin for a season."
"For he had respect unto the recompense of the reward." This was what strengthened and supported the faith of Moses. He had never forsaken the honors and comforts of the palace unless his heart had been fixed upon the eternal recompense. Faith realizes that peace of conscience is better than a big bank-balance, that communion with God is infinitely to be preferred above the favors of an earthly court. Moses knew that he would be no loser by such a choice: faith sees that nothing is lost which is quitted for Christ’s sake—though the name of Moses was removed from Egypt’s records, it has been accorded a prominent place upon the imperishable pages of Holy Writ. See here the vast difference between worldlings and saints; the former estimate things by sight, the latter by faith; the former through the colored glass of corrupt reason and carnal sense, the latter by the light of God’s Word. Thus they wonder at each other: the worldling thinks the real Christian is crazy, the Christian knows the poor worldling is spiritually insane.
The heart of Moses was set upon something more blessed than the perishing things he was relinquishing. The "he had respect" is a compound in the Greek, and properly signifies to look from one thing to another: he looked from the things of time to those of eternity, for "faith is the substance of those things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen": cf. 2 Corinthians 4:17. This is one of the great properties of faith: to frequently and trustfully ponder the promise of Eternal Life, which we are to dwell in forever after this scene of sin is left behind. Faith perceives that the way to "save" is to "lose" (Matthew 16:25), that present self-denial will yet be honored by enrichment, knowing that if now we suffer with Christ we shall be "also glorified together" (Rom. 8:17). How this condemns the practice of many who spend their lives in the greedy pursuit of the world, with no regard to God or their eternal interests, but think that if they call on Him for mercy with their last gasp, all will be well. Such people terribly deceive themselves by failing to see that Eternal Life is a "reward"—see Luke 1:74, 75: we must labor in the works of godliness in this life.
That which Moses had "respect unto" is here called "the recompense of the reward." This is the all-sufficient presence of God with His people now (Gen. 15:1), and the great and final reward of Eternal Glory which is given by God, and received by His people as a compensation for all their sufferings. This is one of the N.T. passages which proves the O.T. saints had a much clearer understanding of the future state of the redeemed than is now commonly supposed. For the reward of good works, see Hebrews 6:9, of patience, Hebrews 6:12, of suffering, Hebrews 10:34. The calling of Heaven a "reward" in nowise imports any desert on man’s part, but abundant kindness in God, who will not suffer anything to be done or endured for Christ’s sake without recompense. It is called a "reward" to encourage obedience (Ps. 19:11) and allure our hearts (Matthew 5:12). That a gift may. be a "reward" is clear from Colossians 3:24. It is also called a "reward" because it is God’s owning of the Spirit’s work in and through His people. Since eternal glory is a "reward" let us be patient under present suffering: Romans 8:18. It is legitimate to view the reward of Heaven while serving here—not that this is to be the chief or only motive (for that would be a religion of selfishness), but as faith’s anticipation: cf. Philippians 3:8-14. The reward is "gratuitous that God hath annexed to faith and obedience, not merited or deserved by them, but infallibly annexed unto them in a way of sovereign bounty" (John Owen).