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Pentecost 5, “The Right Choice”

Pastor Gary Wong July 12, 2020

Hebrews 11:24-26

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.

Have you ever heard the expression, “He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth?” This figure of speech describes someone who is born into a wealthy family. But even if a person is not born with earthly riches, he can work hard and earn worldly wealth. Whether a person is born with a lot of money or works for it, that individual would probably like to enjoy and hold on to his wealth. Most people would not give up all they have and go from plenty to poverty. In today’s lesson, we meet an individual who gladly gave up a glorious life of wealth and prestige to one of poverty and scorn. Who made this choice? It was Moses.

Many of you are familiar with his story. Moses was born a Hebrew, the son of a devout Levite father and mother. Unfortunately, this was not a good time to be born a Hebrew in Egypt, especially if you were a boy. While the pharaoh of Joseph’s time had been favorably inclined toward the Hebrews, the current pharaoh was not. Afraid that the growing population of Hebrews might rebel, he enslaved the descendants of Jacob. When the pharaoh heard that a deliverer was to be born, he ordered that all Hebrew baby boys be drowned in the Nile River. Moses’ parents, however, defied the pharaoh’s decree. But after three months, they could no longer hide him. So they placed their baby boy in a basket which they floated in the Nile. Now, the pharaoh had intended that the river be the instrument by which Hebrew baby boys would die; but God used the Nile to deliver Moses from death. Ironically, the individual who rescued Moses was none other than the pharaoh’s own daughter! She was the one who discovered baby Moses floating in a basket. She also immediately recognized that this circumcised baby was a Hebrew. Yet the Lord moved Pharaoh’s daughter to raise Moses as her adopted son.

Moses would lack for nothing in Pharaoh’s household. Yet, there was one thing that Pharaoh’s daughter could not provide; Moses had not yet been weaned. Moses’ sister, Miriam, who was right there when Pharaoh’s daughter had discovered her brother, suggested that she find a Hebrew woman who could nurse the baby. That nurse was none other than Moses’ own mother, Jochebed! Not only did Jochbed provide physical nourishment for Moses’ body from her milk, she provided spiritual nourishment for his soul. Jochebed taught her son about the one true God and about God’s promise of a Savior. Moses enjoyed all of the advantages of his status as a son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He had wealth, prestige, servants and slaves who would cater to his every whim. In the Book of Acts, we are told that Moses was “educated in all of the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22). God blessed Moses with many gifts, including a keen sense of justice.

Even though Moses was raised in everything Egyptian, he never forgot his roots. When he was forty years old, God set into motion a chain of events that would force Moses to choose between living as an Egyptian or live as a Hebrew. One day, Moses went out to where the Hebrews were working. There he saw an Egyptian unjustly beating a Hebrew. After checking to see if anyone else was there but seeing no one, Moses killed the Egyptian. The next day, Moses saw two Hebrews fighting. When Moses confronted the instigator, his fellow Hebrew said, “Are you going to kill me like you killed the Egyptian?” This rebuke from the Hebrew slave made Moses realize that word of his actions must have leaked out. What could he do? He might have been tempted to go back and resume his life as an Egyptian; but he was afraid that the pharaoh might find out. His fears were justified. When the pharaoh found out that Moss had killed an Egyptian, the Pharaoh tried to kill Moses. So Moses fled.

If we only had the account from the Book of Exodus about Moses killing the Egyptian and his subsequent flight, we might conclude that Moses didn’t voluntarily give up his Egyptian lifestyle; rather, it seems that he chose to run away because he was afraid that he might be killed if he had remained. Fortunately, we have the testimony of the New Testament to shed light on the truth. Our text reveals what was in Moses’ heart. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that “Moses refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time” (Heb. 11:24, 25). In so many words, the divinely inspired writer tell us that not only did Moses acknowledge that he was a Hebrew, he embraced his heritage and wholeheartedly believed in the one true God. The longer he lived in an environment steeped in idolatry and behavior that was completely contrary to God’s will, the more Moses was bothered by it. Every day he struggled against the calls to indulge his sinful nature. Moses was also concerned about how these unhealthy influences were negatively affecting his relationship with God. Moses came to the conclusion that he could no longer live as an Egyptian.

The Bible tells us Moses firmly renounced his life as an Egyptian and instead chose to identify himself as a Hebrew. The only thing left was for him to act on what was in his heart. God gave him the opportunity to do just that. Now, you know that there are no such things as coincidences. Everything happens according to God’s plan, on his time, and in his way. It was also no coincidence that Moses was there to see the Egyptian mistreat his fellow Hebrew. Moses’ sense of justice moved him to come to the defense of this Hebrew slave and kill the Egyptian, which would lead Moses to flee. Yet, Moses had already made up his mind to leave his adopted family and join the family of God’s people. He was willing to give up a life of luxury and take on a life filled with hardships. Why did Moses make this choice? The answer is found in the beginning of our text. It says that Moses acted “by faith” (Heb. 11:24a). Moses’ faith in the one true God and God’s promises moved him to shun sinful pleasures that last only a short time and choose to live as a child of God. He was well aware of the consequences of his choice. His fellow Hebrews were slaves. They were being horribly mistreated. And even though God had promised that he would deliver his people from slavery, God had not given any indication that that would happen anytime soon. By faith, Moses could see the bigger picture. So, Moses deliberately chose a life of hardship.

If you had been in Moses’ situation, would you have made the same choice? For most of us, that would be a hypothetical question. Most of us would not be mistaken for being rich or famous. We are not numbered among the socially elite. We might think, “I don’t have a lot to give up in the first place; it wouldn’t be that hard.” If we are honest, we have to admit that it really isn’t as easy as we might think. We live in a materialistic society that puts a high value on what we have. Society says that the more you have, the happier you will be. Our sinful natures buy into that false narrative. By nature, we are selfish and greedy. We like our stuff and we want to hold onto it. If someone were to suggest that we give away all we have, we would say that they were crazy. Please understand. Wealth, money and possessions are not evil in and of themselves. They are blessings from God. The things we have become a problem when we love them more than we love God. The choice Moses faced and each of us faces is not between being rich or poor; it’s a choice between putting God first in our lives or placing worldly goods and relationships ahead of God. It’s a choice between enjoying temporary pleasures and losing eternal life in heaven.

Moses was able to make the right choice because of his faith. We are able to make the right choices because of God’s grace. We are able to shun sinful pleasures and even rejoice in suffering because we have been given the gift of faith. Without faith we would never listen to God or obey his Word. Our sinful natures are totally corrupt. Our Old Adam will always listen to the devil and fall for his lies and temptations. Yet, by God’s grace, we have been given the gift of faith at our baptisms. By faith, we know that God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to save us from the consequences of our sins. Out of his love for us, Jesus left his glorious home in heaven to live in our sin-filled world. As the Son of God, Jesus has all power, honor, and glory. Yet, Jesus willingly gave that up. He submitted to God’s law and kept it perfectly. Even though he never sinned, he willingly suffered the punishment we so richly deserve. Jesus has redeemed us from sin, death, and the devil, not with gold or silver, but with his holy precious blood that he shed on the cross. Because of Jesus’ perfect life and sacrificial suffering and death, our sins have been washed away. By grace, we are now children of God and heirs of eternal life. By faith, we can live as children of God. The gospel empowers us to say “No” to the devil, his lies and the temptations of this sinful world and say “Yes” to Jesus. The gospel keeps us grounded and helps us keep our priorities straight. We thank God for the undeserved blessings he pours out on us, and we use our gifts to serve him and our fellow human beings.

God does not promise us a comfortable, carefree life. To the contrary, God tells us that we will go through many hardships before we enter the kingdom of heaven. Remember, if Jesus, who was perfect, was mistreated, why should we expected to be treated differently? Yet, we don’t have to be discouraged or lose hope. Rather, we can rejoice in our sufferings for Jesus’ sake. It doesn’t matter if we weren’t born with a silver spoon in our mouths. All of us were reborn into the kingdom of God with something more valuable than a silver spoon. We have a heavenly inheritance that will never spoil, fade or be taken away from us. By faith, we look forward to our heavenly reward. By faith, we can make the right choices. Amen.

“For Christian Homes, O Lord, We Pray” (CW 500)

Richard S. Armstrong, b.1924, st.1,3-5, abr.,alt. Mark A. Jeske, b.1952, st.2, alt.

For Christian homes, O Lord, we pray,

That you might dwell with us each day.

Make ours a place where you are Lord,

Where all is governed by your Word.

We are the children of your grace,

Our homes are now your dwelling place.

In you we trust and daily live;

Teach us to serve and to forgive.

Protect us and our loved ones dear

From pain and sorrow, want and fear;

Yet when we must our burdens bear,

Your will be done: shall be our prayer.

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