Paul W Burton

Hebrews 11: 23-28

         As you will see from the scripture read, I wish to speak a little about Moses’ experience.  There are three things that I want particularly to speak about in relation to this scripture: he refused, he chose and he esteemed.  I would like you to think about those three deliberate actions of Moses.  

         Just before I do that, I want to speak briefly about the first verse that we read; the first recorded act in faith in the history of Moses.  We speak, indeed Scripture speaks, about the three periods of forty years of the life of Moses.  There were forty years in Pharaoh’s household, the forty years as a shepherd tending the sheep in Midian, and the forty years when he led the children of Israel through the wilderness.  These are three periods of great instruction but, during the first period of forty years, there was another period that we must not overlook.  The first years of the life of Moses were perhaps the most important years in the whole one hundred and twenty years of his life.  If those years had not happened as they did, beginning with the first three months of his life that are recorded here, then perhaps Scripture would have had very little to say about the rest of the years of the life of Moses.  “By faith Moses, being born, was hid three months by his parents”.  These three months leading up to him being put in that ark in the river, and then the subsequent period of him being nursed by his mother, were a vital period in the development of Moses.  I do not know how old he was when he was brought to Pharaoh’s daughter - the scripture says, “when the child was grown” (Exod 2: 10) - but during that time he was in an environment in which he was hidden, cared for, treasured, and held in relation to the claims of God.  It says, “they saw the child beautiful”, or, as Stephen says, “exceedingly lovely”, Acts 7: 20, or ’fair to God’ in the note.  Is that not a big exercise for those of us who have families - how do we hold our children?   Do we hide them?  Do we hide them from the world, hide them from the influences that are all around us, preserve them in relation to their preciousness and value to God?  I do not think Moses would have been the man he was had he not been so cared for by his parents. 

         We baptise our children, and it is right that we do.  I do not know why only the three months are spoken of here.  The act of putting him in that ark in the bank of the river is not explicitly referred to in Hebrews, although it would appear that it would follow that, these three months.  It is typical of baptism.  We baptise our children, and to do so goes against every instinct of nature.  Which mother would willingly and with any natural consideration allow a small babe to be put under the water?  From a natural perspective, which mother here has not had a slight concern when the time of baptism comes, and the little babe is committed into the hands of a brother and is going to go under the water?  What we do is not according to nature at all; it goes right against any natural inclination.  Here is a little babe in whom is the potential of life and, I suppose to any mother, the most beautiful babe that has ever been, being committed to the waters of baptism.  What are you saying?  You are acknowledging that if you only hold this child in regard to life here there is nothing for it but death.  No matter how beautiful, precious and attractive that babe is, no matter that it has never yet done a wilful act, as born of Adam’s race its future is death as far as this world is concerned.  Now that is a solemn, solemn thing but it is not the only thing.  You also hold what that child potentially is for God; what is precious, beautiful and fair to God.  It is not fair to this world but fair to God, and you would recognise in faith that this world would spoil and destroy that which is fair to God.  You commit a little one to the waters of baptism to take it out of sight of this world, to accept that death is upon everything here, but you take it out of the water in relation to the claims of God and in view of another world and life according to God in relation to that world.  It says later on in this chapter, “of whom the world was not worthy” (v 38), and that is what you say of this child: the world is not worthy of it; it belongs to God.  What is there in potential you hold in faith for God and hide it from the world.  Baptism is not something we just do once and then forget about.  We do it in faith and then we have to be consistent to the act of faith and what we have committed to God.  As you grow up as a baptised person there comes a time when you face the claims of God and, as a responsible person, you have to answer and be true to what has been done in faith for you.  You make a committal not to live in relation to this world and its claims but in relation to the world that your parents in faith preserved and hid you for - in relation to Christ in another world.  It is not something that happens once in your life and then it is past; our baptism is something that should affect us every day of our lives.  Moses’s parents acted like that.  They hid and preserved him, they nurtured him in the household in an environment that was hidden from the ways of Egypt and its opposition and destruction of that which was ’fair to God’.  May our households be such that would hide what is precious to God from the influences and effect of this world. 

         I think the time that Moses spent in his mother’s house, young formative years, were the most important of his life in relation to forming him and preparing him for the decisions and reckoning that he came to later - decisions that also went quite against any natural reckoning or estimation.  He refused, he chose and he esteemed; and I think he was able to do that because of what had been formed during those early years. It says he “refused”.  I struggled with this; I do not know how others get on but sometimes you have a real struggle with the Lord as to the message that you have.  I wanted to speak of the choosing first, of the positive side, but I feel constrained to speak of these things in the order in which the scripture gives them.  The first thing it speaks of is he “refused”.  I do not know if I have understood Mr Darby’s note correctly, but I think it suggests that these three decisions were made at the same time, so while we might speak of them sequentially, they really were one exercise.  Moses reached these decisions in his soul as he went through exercise before God.  I want you to think about this for a minute, perhaps especially the younger ones.  These were not things that Moses just drifted into.  No matter how precious, positive, helpful and formative the years in his parents’ house were, it was not his parents that brought him to this.  It was not something he just came into as following the normal course of life.  This was a point that Moses reached when he very deliberately thought about his life, where it was leading, what was of value, what was important and what the true claims upon his life were.  If he had drifted along, I suppose he would just have carried on in Pharaoh’s house being called son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  That is where, in the providence of God, he had been placed those forty years.  Had he not had exercise he would have just carried on there.  In the providence of God you have been placed somewhere.  Many of us have been brought up in a Christian household; that is a great blessing and a great advantage and we should value it; but do not just rely on that as though that in itself is all you need to do.  If you are to be here truly for the Lord there has to come a time when you make a very definite committal in regard to what your life really is to be and to whom it belongs.  Moses came to this point when he said, ’I am going to refuse certain things’; and there comes a point when there are things, and I trust I say this feelingly and not in a hard or legal way, that we have to refuse in a very definite way.  It is not just, ’Well, maybe I will not do that or go on that way so much, and try and come to a few more meetings’ or whatever it might be; but a very definite committal before the Lord and in relation to His claims and a refusal of things that are detrimental or hinder your walk with the Lord and your ability to love and to serve Him.  Do not allow these things to get in the way of the claims of the Lord Jesus.  Let the claims of the One who has given His all for you go deep into your heart and soul.  Accept that He has bought you, that you belong to Him, and refuse with a purpose of heart anything that steps in the way of those claims or that would divert you away from the Lord Jesus and from His people.  There are things we have to refuse.  Moses did it though he had every advantage as far as the world was concerned.  I suppose there would have been many that would have given anything to swap places with Moses and “be called son of Pharaoh’s daughter”.  He had every privilege, every opening in this world, every opportunity in the most powerful and wealthiest kingdom of the earth at that time and he said, ’No’.  There was a greater claim on Moses, and there is a greater claim on us.  There is a claim before God that our parents acknowledged when we did not even know about it, but that now you are going to honour and answer to by the refusal of this world and all that it is in it.  Moses set himself, he “refused”, he was definite; he purposed, as it were, in his heart, like Daniel.  “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not pollute himself with the king’s delicate food”, Dan 1: 8.  When he was carried away out of Israel and into the captivity, Daniel set himself, as a very definite action, not to do something that would pollute him, that would defile him, that would draw him away.  He made a definite stand right at the beginning.  Many of the young people will have just gone back to school; maybe you have started a new class or perhaps you have changed schools; perhaps you have just started work.  It is difficult to go into a new environment where people do not know you perhaps, and you want to fit in and make friends, yet there are influences, temptations and activities that are incompatible with your committal to the Lord Jesus.  I would say to you, with all feeling and compassion: seek to stand straight away in that new environment for what you know to be right, like Daniel did.  It will become far harder if you go part way down the road of seeking to fit in than if you stand true to the Lord Jesus at the beginning.  Seek the help of the Lord Jesus and the help of the Spirit to stand true to what you know and to whom you belong.  It does not mean you have to say much, and you may not feel equal to it, but pray about it before you go out to school in the morning; just ask the Lord Jesus to help you to be true to Him.  Yes, you will be different and to some extent stand out; no, you might not have so many friends as others have, but you will have the Lord with you.  You will know what it is to walk with Him; He will not let you down, nor leave you.  You will prove His love in a way perhaps you have never experienced it before; know His tenderness and compassions, for He knows how difficult it might be for you.  Then it says of Moses, “choosing rather to suffer affliction along with the people of God”; he refused in order that he might choose something.  He could not have both worlds or both ways.  If I want to enjoy things among the people of God then I have to refuse this world - you cannot have a foot in both worlds.  So he refused and he chose.  What did he choose? - “choosing rather to suffer affliction along with the people of God”.  You might say, ’Is that all you have got to offer; do you know how much it has cost me to refuse?’.  Maybe it has cost you a career, maybe it has cost you promotion, maybe it has cost you education, maybe it has cost you a link in marriage, to be true to Christ and His people.  And is all the compensation for that to suffer affliction with the people of God?  Are you really asking me to refuse and choose that?  It is not me that makes the appeal, or the brethren - it is Christ, the One who gave His life for you, that makes the appeal.  It is the One who by the compassions of God asks you to present your body as a living sacrifice to God (Rom 12: 1) - the feelings and the heart of God lie behind it.  You feel His great love for you, His tender feelings for you.  He says, ’I want you for myself, for my service, I want you for my world and, by my compassions, I am going to ask you to give everything’.  It is not me; it is not the brethren: it is Christ.  The brethren will pray for you, will long to see such a committal, will encourage you; but the only One that could make such a demand is the Lord Jesus Himself.  So Moses chose, “choosing rather to suffer affliction along with the people of God”.  Have you ever really thought about what Moses refused and what he chose?  Naturally speaking, how could he do it?   Are you prepared to be a fool for Christ’s sake?   It is what Paul speaks about, “We are fools for Christ’s sake”, 1 Cor 4: 10.  This world would say you are a fool, giving up that career, refusing a path that will get you on in this world; giving it up for what?  Well, it is in love for the Lord and faithfulness to those who love the Lord, that I may be identified in my walk with those that love the Lord Jesus and in a way that pleases the Lord.  Do you love the people of God?  They are the most dignified and precious people on earth, the people that belong to God; that are owned of God.  Everything else is passing.  All man’s world, its commerce, its finance, its material things, its education, its science and technology is all passing; it is all under judgment.  Even the physical earth is going to pass away.   What is going through on the earth at the present time is the people of God, and it is the most precious and wonderful company to find yourself amongst.  To find those who love Christ, those who enjoy the things that Christ enjoys, to find an environment where heavenly things are known and a sphere touched that is beyond death.  Have you sat in a meeting and felt something touch your heart, an experience that is unlike anything that you have ever known in this world before?  Maybe it is through the singing of a hymn; maybe it is through an expression of thanksgiving to God; maybe it is just in the quietness of your soul and yet in the environment of hearts that are burning for Christ, where Christ is being honoured, where every heart is yielding to Christ what is due to Him.  The brethren’s faces are shining from the enjoyment of the precious things of God, enjoying what it is to take up their place in sonship before the Father, enjoying the greatest and most wonderful privileges that can be known while yet here on earth.  You feel something of it, something touches your heart that you have never known before, something that is so different in character from everything else around us in this world; and you begin to realise that there is another world and it is real and precious and glorious and it brings a joy that nothing else can touch.  Then, I trust, you begin to realise that choosing affliction along with the people of God is actually very well worthwhile.  It is affliction.  I do not think anyone comes into fellowship to advance or make their pathway easier here; being in fellowship is not going to enhance anyone’s ‘CV’.  You are not there for any natural advantage, rather there may well be affliction, but there is the recompense of joy.  It says at the end of this passage, “he had respect to the recompense”.  I do not exactly know what Moses’ recompense was but, let me tell you, there is a recompense to the affliction and being part of a poor, despised people.  I find the description at the end of this chapter so affecting when it speaks about these people of faith being “destitute, afflicted, evil treated”, v 37.  It speaks elsewhere of being “the offscouring of the world”, 1 Cor 4: 13.  The offscouring of the world - just rubbish.  That is the way men think of believers: just nothing, worthless.  But in God’s estimation, “of whom the world was not worthy”, v 38.  In the coming day we will see the glory and the preciousness of what God has wrought in this very scene where Christ is rejected.  The glory and beauty of His work will be displayed.  And we see expressions of it now that touch your heart, something of true wealth and real value. 

         It makes you realise that what this world has is worthless, and so Moses esteemed “the reproach of the Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt”.  He esteemed, he weighed things, he valued things.  We have to learn to esteem what the true value of things is.  Moses esteemed the reproach of the Christ as greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.  Now, have you done that?  You may say, ’I have refused; I know this world is detrimental to my spiritual prosperity, and I want to choose what honours God’.  Now weigh it and see if you are a gainer or a loser.  Have you lost more than you gained?  No, the riches of Egypt - and you could give every minute of the day to this world and never have much of the riches of Egypt anyway - are worthless in the light of these riches of the Christ.  Do you still not see the reproach of the Christ as riches?  Reproach is all this world offered Christ: would you expect anything different?  They valued Him and their valuation was to “set him at nought”, Luke 23: 11.  A brother referred to that a little while ago and it is most affecting.  They set Him at nought.  They did not just casually cast Him off; they did not just say we cannot be bothered with Him.  They looked at Christ, they evaluated Him, they weighed Him, and they said He was valueless.  That was the world’s estimation, nothing.  Can you expect anything different?  You too will bear “the reproach of the Christ” - He is still the rejected Man here, but, oh, what riches!  You think of the way God has esteemed Christ.  He has granted Him a Name which is above every name, granted Him a place which is above every place, He has granted Him the highest glory and honour.  He exalted Him; He is Lord of all.  He has given Him every honour and glory.  In Him are “the unsearchable riches of the Christ”, Eph 3: 8.  You will not be the loser.  You will gain infinitely, in your soul, in the things of Christ.  You will find riches that you never realised existed and a valuation of the precious things of God that will really begin to lay hold of your soul, and spur you on.  That was what Paul came to in his reckoning in Philippians chapter 3. 

         I would say again to the younger ones, ’Read Philippians’.  If you want help to do what Moses did, read Philippians.  Read Philippians 2 about the Man that went down and then was highly exalted, and then read Philippians 3.  You read of a man, of like passions to ourselves, who had a great advantage as far as this world was concerned; religiously, politically, and even in regard to his citizenship.  He was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, he had a great education, he was a Roman citizen - he had it all: “but what things were gain to me these I counted, on account of Christ, loss.  But surely I count also all things to be loss on account of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, on account of whom I have suffered the loss of all, and count them to be filth, that I may gain Christ”, v 7, 8.  Here was a man that had reckoned all that he was according to this world’s estimation and counted it to be loss, and not only loss, but filth - of a worthless character.  The only thing that mattered to Paul was to gain Christ.  That was what drew him on in his soul and, as he says a little later on, “to know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings”, v 10.  What was Paul’s ambition here?  It was to know Christ, and he never wavered from it.  I expect each one of us would have to say he knew Christ a lot better than I do, but Paul did not stop there; he wanted to know Him more.  He was so touched in his heart by the Man who had met him on the Damascus road, that Christ was his life and he longed to know more of that One. 

         You will find that if you set yourself in relation to the things of Christ and, in the simplicity of your own heart, you make a committal to the Lord, He will draw you on.  He will show you the riches, the unsearchable riches, the unfathomable riches that are in Himself and that are in the heart of God for you.  Moses refused, he chose, and he esteemed.  I would lay it upon you gently to follow these exercises, and not just the young ones either, each one of us.  Moses was forty years old when he came to this.  I would address my own generation.  We often speak to the younger generation, and we speak thankfully of the older generation, but what about my generation?  Have you been maintained and kept in your committal?  I say that to myself as much as anyone else here.  Maybe you can look back and say there was a time when you made this definite choice, you set yourself for the Lord, He put a claim in, and you answered to it.  Maybe it was when you committed yourself in fellowship, or whenever it was, you set yourself for the Lord and His people.  Have you been maintained in it?  I do not say that accusingly; I say it to stimulate exercise.  Things come along in our lives: marriage, houses, children, career - or, at least, making ends meet.  With these things come pressure, difficulties, busyness and hectic lives - are you kept in your committal, or has it got a bit submerged?  Sometimes it does good to go back to your committal.  Is it as bright as it was?  Is Christ still what He was to me, when I first stepped out on a committed path, or have things become a little dull?  It is not because you have given up but because, through the pressures of life, the enemy brings things that just cloud the real fervency and desire, and perhaps things just drift a little.  Well, what example are we to the younger ones?  They see and know what is real.  I would say to my own generation: how real are our committals now?  Let us be fervent and in the light of the Lord’s coming let there be a reality in our hearts regarding the claims of Christ that will be an example to the younger generation.  Let our hearts breathe a little more deeply, like the apostle’s, to know Him, and the power of His resurrection.  May it be so for His Name’s sake. 


25th August 2012