Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"Moses, Part 1" Sermon: Hebrews 11:23


“Moses, Part 1”

[Hebrews 11:23]

October 27, 2013 Second Reformed Church

            Again, as we consider the example of faith that the author of Hebrews gives us in the eleventh chapter of his book, let us remember that faith is not something we have or believe, but faith is the way we received God’s Word as true.  This ability is given to us by God as a gift so we can read and hear God’s Word and know that everything that is recorded happened and will happen, and all the people and beings described in the Scripture are real.

            After Joseph died, a new Pharaoh came to power who didn’t know Joseph, and this Pharaoh was afraid of the power the Hebrews had in Egypt because there were so many of them.  So, he enslaved them to keep them under control, but when that seemed to not be enough to keep them under control, the Pharaoh ordered that all male children of the Hebrews be put to death as they were born.

            However, the midwives who attended the Hebrew women were afraid of the Hebrew God and wouldn’t kill the children, and so we read the rather comic exchange, “Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, ‘When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.’ But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this, and let the male children live?’ The midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.’ So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, ‘Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live’” (Exodus 1:15-22, ESV).

            Since the midwifes found it impossible to kill the male children of the Hebrews – because they were born so quickly – the Pharaoh ordered that all male Hebrews children be rounded up and thrown into the Nile River to drown.  In a generation, then, with no males left, the Hebrew race would be gone.  But, at least one couple did not obey Pharaoh, and hid their son – and we’re told they did so for two reasons:  their baby, Moses, was beautiful, and, they did not fear Pharaoh.  As we read:

            “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” (Hebrews 11:23, ESV).

“Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him. Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, ‘This is one of the Hebrews' children.’ Then his sister said to Pharaoh's daughter, ‘Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?’ And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, ‘Go.’ So the girl went and called the child's mother. And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, ‘Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.’ So the woman took the child and nursed him. When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, ‘Because,’ she said, ‘I drew him out of the water’” (Exodus 2:1-10, ESV).

After hiding Moses for three months, his parents thought it wasn’t safe anymore, so they made a basket, waterproofed it, and sent it down the Nile.  Moses’ mother told her daughter, Miriam, to follow Moses down the Nile to see what became of him.

In the Providence of God, Pharaoh’s daughter came down to bathe in the Nile just as Moses was sailing by, and she caught the basket, and looked inside.  She recognized it was a Hebrew boy, and Miriam jumped up and asked, “Shall I find a wet nurse for him?”  Pharaoh’s daughter said, “yes,” and Moses’ mother was brought to wean him, and then he was given to Pharaoh’s daughter to be raised, and she prophetically named him, “Moses,” which means ”one who was drawn out” or “one who draws out” – as in, the one who draws the people of Israel out of Egypt.

            The promise of deliverance would have been on every Hebrew parent’s mind as they gave birth – “is he the one?” – as they remembered the promise of God:  In the book of Genesis, Abraham was given a look into the future and a promise from God:  “As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Then the LORD said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions’” (Genesis 15:12-14, ESV).

            And, similarly, as we read last week, “By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites…” (Hebrews 11:22a, ESV).

            And so we have the birth and salvation of Moses from Pharaoh.

            In our text this morning, we are given two reasons why Moses’ parents saved him:  because he was beautiful, and because they were not afraid of Pharaoh’s command.

            Here we find two doctrines for us:

            First, spiritual growth – becoming like Jesus – is lasting beauty.

            Second, if we are doing what is right in God’s eyes, we don’t ever have to fear the government.

“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.”

As we consider this first reason that they saved him – because he was beautiful – in a way we might not be surprised.  I know that my experience has been that every parent is struck by the fact that their child is beautiful.   I’m sure that when the Hastey’s child is born, they will be impressed with how beautiful he is.

But – is that all we are to understand – that the child, Moses, was physically beautiful?  He may well have been, actually, an extraordinarily beautiful baby – but does something in the back of your mind say that physical beauty can’t be the whole story?

If we remember, Israel did not originally have a king except for God, but the day came when the people came to the prophet, Samuel, and demanded that they have a king – just like all of the nations, and after Samuel consulted with God and warned the people of what a disaster it would be to have a human king, he acquiesced.  And the people chose a king:

            “There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth. And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people” (1 Samuel 9:1-2, ESV).

            And when the people saw Saul, they said, “Look how tall he is!  Look how handsome he is!  He would obviously make a good king.”

            The people of Israel wanted a king that would look good on People magazine.  And we do that today, do we not?  Did we not even in the last presidential election talk about the appearance of the candidates at least as much as the reasons not to elect one or the other?   Surely, one of the main reasons we elect our candidates is on physical appurtenance.

            God was not impressed with what Israel had done and told Samuel, “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart’” (1 Samuel 16:7, ESV).

            The Lord God is not impressed with physical appearance; He is impressed with the holiness of a person.  We will not be judged based on how good we look on the last day, but whether we – or Someone in our place for us – has kept the commandments.

Paul explains what will last – what will be beautiful in the sight of the Lord – on that day:  “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:10-15, ESV).

Was Moses a physically beautiful baby?  He may have been – we have no authorized photographs.  However, based on God’s rejection of the handsome Saul – saying that He looks at the heart and not the physical appearance, and looking at what will last on the last day, combined with the faith expressed in seeking the promise of the one who would deliver the people of Israel out of Egypt – he was a type or foreshadowing of the Savior, Jesus, Who would come – something else is in mind when we are told that the baby, Moses, was saved because he was beautiful.

             What we see in being told that Moses was beautiful – whether he was physically beautiful or not – was that he was one who would seek to obey God’s Will.  He was one who would grow spiritually into the Image of Jesus.  He was spiritually beautiful.

            Consider the Lord Jesus:

            We have little in the way of physical description of Jesus, but Isaiah says this:

            “For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2, ESV).

            Isaiah tells us that Jesus, at best, was absolutely common.  He did not stand out in the crowd.  He was Joe average.  No one would every look at Him and desire to look like Him because nothing stood out about Him physically that the world would call beautiful.

            And yet, Paul tells us this about Jesus, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4, ESV).  The word that is translated “glory” – doxa – can also be translated as “radiance,” “splendor,” “beauty” – the Gospel of the radiance of Christ, the Gospel of the splendor of Christ, the Gospel of the beauty of Christ.  Because, insofar as we are considering obedience to God – insofar as we are considering reflecting the Image of God – Jesus does so perfectly – He is beautiful.

            Likewise, as we grow spiritually – as we reflect the Image of God – as we become more like Jesus – we are beautiful – and that is a beauty that will last.  No matter what we look like now, our body will only get less beautiful – according to the standards of the world – but as we continue to strive after holiness – after becoming more like Jesus, we will increase in lasting – true – beauty.

            Was Moses physically beautiful?  We don’t know.  What we do know is that his parents were allowed to glimpse in Moses a man who would be spiritually beautiful – a man who would seek after God’s Will – a man who would reflect the Image of God.

            And so we conclude, first, this morning, spiritual growth – becoming like Jesus – is lasting beauty.

            Second, if we are doing what is right in God’s eyes, we don’t ever have to fear the government.

            Scripturally, God has given us the government to protect her citizens and to punish those who do evil.  So, if we do not do evil, we have no reason to fear the government.  Also, we are told that every person that holds a position of authority – in whatever form of leadership – was put there by God – as we read:

            “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:1-7, ESV).

            And so we need to ask the question – after Paul tells us that we are to be subject to the authorities, because God put them in power for our good – is there ever a time when it is right for us to disobey the authorities?

            And the answer is, “yes.”  If the government – if any authority requires us to sin, we must disobey the government.  Because, as Paul explains, the government is God’s servant – God’s Law is above the rule of the government – if the person whom God has put in authority commands us to do something that is clearly against what God has taught, then we must – also being servants of God – we must disobey the authority. 

How this plays out takes wisdom in some cases – when we consider war – God has told us not to murder, does that mean we cannot participate in the military? Quickly, I would say we can participate in the military, but this is a discussion which takes time to think through – and we are not going to deal with it here – but it is an example of how this idea of disobeying the government if it commands we sin is not always obvious.

For Moses’ parents, the answer was obvious – genocide is a sin.  More generally, killing babies is a sin.  They could not obey the Pharaoh because he was commanding them to sin by handing over their baby to be put to death.

And, we learn from them that when the government – any leader – commands us to sin, they are no longer acting as God’s servants, but God’s enemies and must be opposed.  We must show our allegiance to God and not obey any leader who commands us to sin.

For example:

If the government commands us to kill babies – as they were doing in Moses’ day – we must refuse, because it is sin.

If the government commands us to stop worshiping Jesus Christ, we must refuse because it is sin.

If the government commands us not to pray in the Name of Jesus, we must refuse, because it is sin.

If the government commands us to stop proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we must refuse, because it is sin.

And so forth.

Now, refusing to obey the government may mean that we will have to suffer consequences.  Yet, no matter what the consequences, we ought not to be afraid because we have obeyed God rather than men.

                John wrote to the Christians suffering at the hands of Rome, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10, ESV).

            And, yes, disobeying the government may get us killed.  In the United States, we are not put to death for faith in Jesus Christ, but people in other countries around the world – today – are put to death for confessing Jesus Christ as Savior.  There are people who would rather die that sin against God by denying that salvation is only through Jesus Christ Alone.

            Are you willing to die for your faith, if the government commands you to sin?

            How beautiful are you?

            We need to understand, the worst any human can do is kill us, but God can throw us in Hell – and God can raise us from the dead.  The government can reward or punish us, but no one can reward or punish us like God.

            Jesus said, “So have no fear of them [those who persecute us for our belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ], for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:26-33, ESV).

            Moses’ parents hid him because he was beautiful and because they did not fear Pharaoh and what he would do to them for following God’s Will and disobeying his.

            Let us seek to grow spiritually by obeying God, learning His Word, believing and proclaiming the Gospel, that we would become more like Jesus, and we would have lasting beauty.

            And let us not be afraid of the government, but do what is right in the eyes of God and trust Him for our life and death.

            Let us pray:

            Almighty God, we thank You for the example of the faith of Moses’ parents who saw in him the spiritual growth that You would bring to pass in him, making him beautiful in Your sight, a foreshadowing of our Savior, Jesus.  Cause the Holy Spirit to urge us on and help us to strive after You in all obedience that we would be beautiful in Your sight, even if that should mean that we should disobey leaders who command us to sin.  Cause our Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to stand strong with us against all those who would call on us to sin against You, and grow us into the Image of Your Son, that we would not sin.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

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