This is the thirteenth post in a series from Hebrews 11. You’ll find all the posts done so far in this series listed here.
After writing of the faith of Moses’ parents, the author of Hebrews turns his focus to the faith of Moses himself. Skipping right over the rest of the story of Moses as a baby—how he was put in the basket by his mother, only to be found by Pharoah’s daughter, who raised him as her son—starts his commentary on Moses’ faith with Moses as a grown man.
By faith, when he grew up, Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be ill-treated with the people of God than to enjoy sin’s fleeting pleasure. He regarded abuse suffered for Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for his eyes were fixed on the reward. By faith he left Egypt without fearing the king’s anger, for he persevered as though he could see the one who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that the one who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them. (Hebrews 11:24-28 NET)
When Moses was grown, he “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” As Pharoah’s daughter’s son, Moses had everything that most people want and more. Egypt was a super power, and as a member of the royal family, he would have both wealth and position guaranteed to him. But he gave it all up in order to “be ill-treated with the people of God.” Like Joseph before him, he identified himself with God’s people, and for Moses that meant giving up much.
Our text calls what he gave up “sin’s fleeting pleasure.” This doesn’t mean that Moses was particularly debauched while he was in Pharoah’s family, but rather, that had he continued to identify with the royal family instead of the people of Israel, it would have been disobedient to what God asked of him. He would have continued living a life of wealth and power, two pleasures that are temporal rather than eternal. But Moses looked beyond temporal pleasures to things of eternal value, and chose to place himself with the people of God rather than the royal family of Egypt.
Moses considered “abuse suffered for Christ” to be of more value than “the treasures of Egypt”. There are a couple of explanations for what it might mean that Moses suffered abuse for Christ. Christ had not been born yet, so in what way could Moses have suffered abuse for him? Some people think it simply means that Moses suffered the same sort of abuse that Christ suffered. Others point out that Moses suffered for God’s people, and any suffering for God’s people is suffering for Christ, who has always been united with God’s people. One of the purposes of book of Hebrews is to call believers to remain standing with Christ and with God’s people in the face of suffering and persecution, and Moses, then, would serve as an example of someone who has persevered in that.
Moses knew what the treasures of Egypt were, because they had been his, but he gave them up for the reward from God that goes to his people. Literally, the text says that “he was looking away to” the reward. He understood the true value of God’s reward, so he understood that it was worth more than any material wealth or any status in the earthly realm, and this reward from God was what he focused on instead of the things he’d had in Egypt.
Then the text tells us that “by faith he left Egypt.” Some may disagree, but I would take this leaving Egypt to be Moses’s first exit when he went to stay in Midian, since the writer seems to put this leaving chronologically before the Passover. There ia a small problem in that the text says that Moses left Egypt “without fearing the king’s anger,” while we are told in the Exodus account of Moses’ life that “Moses was afraid (Exodus 2:14).” This fear, however, was not the motivating factor behind his leaving Egypt according our author. Rather, Moses “persevered as though he could see the one who is invisible.” His stay in Midian, then, was one of faithful waiting for God’s intervention on behalf of his own people.
Next, the text moves to the Passover as an example of Moses’s faith. Thus far, none of the plagues had worked to cause Pharoah to let the Israelites go, but Moses remained faithful. He urged the people to keep the Passover, and sprinkle blood on their doorposts so that their firstborn sons would be spared this last plague. And his perseverance in faith was not in vain, for this time Pharoah let the Israelite people leave Egypt.
Moses was one of the people of old who was sure of the invisible. He trusted in the invisible workings of an invisible God, so he was commended by God, and the author of Hebrews includes him in his list of people of faith.