Hebrews 11:23–29 (NKJV)
After a discussion of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph), the writer of Hebrews moves to a discussion of Moses, the great prophet and leader of Israel, and his faith. He was unique among Israelites of his day in that he was reared in Pharaoh’s palace, and then walked among the Israelites to lead them out of slavery and captivity. He eventually led them to the border of the Promised Land, Canaan, but did not enter himself.
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.Hebrews 11:23-26
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.
Moses was born during a period when Israel was being oppressed by the Pharaoh and his regime. The Israelites had been so blessed in Egypt that they had grown exponentially to become a great nation themselves, living within the borders of Egypt’s Goshen territory. This passage does not aim to give an exhaustive history of Moses’ life, but rather lifts up the points that demonstrate his family’s faith and Moses’ faith. At the time of Moses’ birth, Pharaoh had become somewhat paranoid upon observing the rapid growth of the Jewish population within Egypt. He feared that they would possibly rise up and rebel against Pharaoh and overtake the government. In order to weaken the threat, he instructed all the Egyptian midwives to kill any male children born to Israelite women so that they would not have as powerful an army. The author lifts up Moses’ parents’ faith in hiding him from the Egyptians upon his birth. They hid him for three months in a tiny ark in the bullrushes of the Nile River. He was a beautiful child, with a special future and destiny, so they hid him by faith. When the daughter of Pharaoh saw him in the River while she was bathing, his sister (watching him from a distance) asked if she would like an Israelite woman to nurse him for her, and Moses’ mother reared him until he was weaned. Then he lived in the palace of Pharaoh with Pharaoh’s daughter until he was an adult.
After seeing the plight of his fellow Israelites, Moses intervened in a beating of one of his fellow Jews, killing the master who was giving the beating and burying him in the sand. By faith, Moses chose to stand with his Israelite brothers and sisters rather than being called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He knew what was right and stood for right instead of enjoying the riches of Pharaoh. The well-known phrase, “choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,” is a mantra for Christians everywhere to live for Christ instead of chasing wealth. By faith he looked to the reward. Although he eventually fled for fear of retribution, Moses’ faith was in full view as he stood with the Israelites against the slavery of the Egyptians taskmasters.
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.Hebrews 11:27-29
29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned.
After a season of exile in Midian, Moses saw the burning bush and accepted the call of God to lead God’s people out of the captivity in Egypt. He forsook Egypt and his upbringing in Pharaoh’s palace and returned fearlessly to confront Pharaoh over the slavery thrust upon Israel in Goshen. He saw the Lord in the burning bush and endured with that vision as a touchstone of his calling. He interceded with Pharaoh for Israel, eventually instituting the Passover and taking Israel out of Egypt toward the Promised Land. The Passover became an annual celebration of God’s mercy on the firstborn of Israel (during the final plague against Egypt) and their deliverance from bondage. By faith, Moses led Israel through the Red Sea on dry land, and then they saw God drown the Egyptian army in that same sea. Moses, like all of us, had some initial fear concerning the task to which God was calling him, but his faith arose and he answered the call with courage and bravery. His faith delivered a nation. Our faith can deliver a nation as well. We must pray and believe for God’s will to be done and answer the call when it comes from above. Be like Moses and step up when the burning bush speaks!