************ Sermon on Hebrews 11:23 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 26, 2017
"The Faith of Moses' Parents"
This is now the 12th message on the Heroes of Faith written about in Hebrews 11. As someone who knows the Old Testament, I have not been surprised by the people selected. I suspect the original audience of Hebrews was the same way as me. No surprises as the heroes are mentioned: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses' parents ...
Hold it, what were the last names? Moses' parents? Now that is surprising. As someone who knows the Old Testament, I was expecting the name of Moses next. Yet, Hebrews lists Moses' parents. How surprising is this? I dare say most of us don't even know their names. Even the book of Exodus doesn't tell us their names until four chapters after the birth of Moses. What I am saying is that Hebrews catches us off guard when it lists Amram and Jochebed as heroes of faith.
Let me remind you that faith is our response to God's revelation. Biblical faith, righteous faith, is a faith that responds to the Word of God. So what we want to ask this evening is how did Moses' parents respond to the Word of God? How did Amram and Jochebed respond to the revelation of God?
I The Setting for their Faith
A We need to start by looking at the setting. Last time we looked at Hebrews we saw the children of Israel, all 70 of them, settle into the best part of the land of Egypt. In Goshen the people thrived and prospered and grew and increased so that by the time of the Exodus there were over 2 million of them.
Scripture tells us the Egyptians feared the number of Israelites and worried that in a time of war the Israelites might join with the enemy, fight against them, and leave the country (cf Ex 1:9-10).
I often look at the works of Josephus when I do messages on Old Testament stories. What Josephus writes is not part of the inspired Word of God, but it does give us insight into how the Old Testament stories were understood by the people of Jesus' day. Josephus tells us the Egyptians became jealous of how the Israelites prospered and flourished and believed it happened at their expense. And, Josephus tells us another dynasty ruled Egypt, one that forgot what Joseph did for them. So, says Josephus, the Egyptians became abusive to Israel.
B We all know what happened next. Here is plan one to control the Israelites: Slave masters were put over the Israelites to oppress them with forced labor. They made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields. This plan backfired because the more they were oppressed the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites (cf Ex 1:11-14).
Here is plan two to control the Israelites: The Hebrew midwives were told to kill any baby boys at birth and to let the girls live. This plan also did not work because the midwives feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt told them to do. The net result is that the people increased and became even more numerous (cf Ex 1:15-21).
Here is plan three to control the Israelites: Pharaoh ordered that the Hebrew boys be thrown into the Nile to be eaten by the crocodiles. This was a job for Pharaoh's soldiers. To accomplish this they did a house-to-house search taking every Hebrew baby boy. They would take note of the pregnant women and would follow up with a visit.
C I always wondered why Pharaoh picked on the Hebrews boys. Why not the girls too? Josephus tells us that an Egyptian scribe foretold the birth of a baby boy to the Israelites who would "bring the Egyptian dominion low, and would raise the Israelites; that he would excel all men in virtue, and obtain a glory that would be remembered through all ages." Students of Scripture recognize the story of Moses here. As we all know, Moses was rescued by Pharaoh's daughter, raised in Pharaoh's house, educated in Pharaoh's schools, and trained in Pharaoh's court.
D We discover, again, that the wickedness of men can never frustrate the plans of God. Do you remember the five things God revealed to Abraham about the story in front of us today? First, Israel will be in Egypt. Second, Israel will be mistreated for 400 years. Third, God will punish Egypt. Fourth, Israel will come out of Egypt with great possessions. Fifth, the people of Israel will end up back in Canaan (cf Gen 15). No matter what Pharaoh does, this plan of God will be realized. To realize this plan, to punish Pharaoh and rescue His people, God uses Amram and Jochebed.
II Faith's Choice
A Scripture teaches us that God's people submit to authority. I think of how the Catechism explains the fifth commandment:
That I honor, love, and be loyal toWhat happens, however, when the decrees of man run counter to the decrees of God?
my father and mother
and all those in authority over me;
that I obey and submit to them, as is proper,
when they correct and punish me;
and also that I be patient with their failings--
for through them God chooses to rule us.
When Christians are put into this kind of situation they must always obey God rather than man. Daniel's three friends were this way. When everyone bowed in worship and prayer before the statue Nebuchadnezzar had made, they remained standing. Even when faced with the fiery furnace they refused to bow down (cf Daniel 3). Daniel was this way as well. When everyone in Babylon was commanded to pray to King Darius, Daniel continued to pray to God even though disobedience to the king's edict meant being thrown into the lions' den (cf Daniel 6). Peter and John were this way. They were told to stop speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus or else they would face prison. They preached anyway; they chose to obey God rather than man (cf Acts 4).
B The decree of Pharaoh was clear: Moses was to be thrown into the Nile as crocodile food. Amram and Jochebed had to make a choice when Moses was born. Would they obey the authority of heaven or would they obey the authority of earth?
By faith, acting on the basis of faith, "Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born" (Heb 11:23). Amram and Jochebed chose to disobey Pharaoh. Theirs was an act of deliberate, willful disobedience to the established earthly authority. Do you know the punishment if they were caught? If they were caught every member of the family would be put to death. But like Daniel's friends, Daniel, and Peter and John, Moses' parents chose to obey God rather than man.
Let me emphasize what Scripture tells us: what Moses parents did was an act of faith. They didn't do this out of parental love. They didn't do this because a normal mother and father always protect their young. Rather, it was an expression of faith. "By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born" (Heb 11:23).
C Our text tells us something I have never thought about before this past week. Our text tells us that Moses' parents "saw he was no ordinary child." The Bible program on my computer automatically compares translations. Two English translations use the word "beautiful" instead of the word "ordinary" (ESV & NASB): "They saw that the child was beautiful." It seems to me every parent and grandparent believes this about their child. We all believe our children are beautiful. We all believe our children are advanced. We all believe our children are not ordinary. So we need to understand this as being something other than the bragging of parents and grandparents. The intent of the original language is to tell us baby Moses was approved, accepted, and pleasing in the sight of God.
Remember what faith is? Faith is our response to God's revelation. Biblical faith, righteous faith, is a faith that responds to the Word of God. What does this mean when it comes to Amram and Jochebed? It means they knew something from God about their baby. It means they had a revelation from God about Moses. And, by faith, they responded to this revelation.
Scripture doesn't tell us very much. We are left with lots of unanswered questions. We do know that Amram and Jochebed were aware of God's promises to Abraham. If they did the math, they knew the 400 years of slavery were about to end. Again, this is not part of the inspired Word of God, but Josephus tells us Amram was told in a dream that Moses would be the deliverer of the people of Israel. This may be true, we don't know. But somehow, in someway, these two godly parents knew from God that their boy had been appointed by God to play a role in the plan of redemption.
Think of everything that was at stake. The future of the nation of Israel rested upon this child being hid from the Egyptians. Humanly speaking, without Moses there is no deliverance and no Exodus. Without Moses there is no Ten Commandments and no tabernacle and no sacrifice. Without Moses there is no Promised Land. Without Moses there is no Joshua, no Rahab, no Samuel, no Ruth, no Jesse, no David. Even the baby born in Bethlehem is tied to Moses. So much was at stake.
"By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child" (Heb 11:23).
III Faith's Action
A "By faith," says our text. Acting on the basis of faith. In response to God's Word. Look at what they did: they "hid him for three months."
Now that Ruth and I have babies in our home again I am somewhat amazed at this statement. How do you hide a baby? How do you hide a baby from soldiers looking for a baby? Have you ever tried to hide a baby?
First of all the pregnancy. How does Jochebed hide her pregnancy? Does she spend 6 months indoors? Does she always wear loose clothing? Does Amram do all the grocery shopping? How does he explain his wife's absence at worship services and get-togethers?
After he was born, how do you hide a baby's wail, his piercing cry? Every whimper, every cry, every wail, must have sent a bolt of fear through the entire family. How do you keep a baby quiet? "Quick, give him a bottle. Check his diaper. Give him his pacifier. Shut the door. Don't ever open the window."
What about the smell? How do you explain the diapers? Do you prepare the baby food in secret?
Do you allow visitors into the home? What do you do when there is an unexpected knock on the door?
What about the other kids in the home? What do you say to Miriam and Aaron? How do you keep them from spilling the beans on the playground or when you go shopping at the market? I remember the time Christopher told his Sunday School class that there was a baby in mommy's tummy -- before we had told anyone the news.
"By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born"(Heb 11:23). This may not sound like a long time, but in light of the danger and the threat of death it was probably the longest three months of their life. How much sleep do you think they got during those three months? Think of the constant knot in the stomach. Think of the nightmares they must have had.
B Think of the message being given to the Hebrew Christians. They, too, were under the threat of persecution and the sword. Would they obey God or would they obey man? Would they submit to heavenly authority or would they submit to earthly authority?
Amram and Jochebed must have been a source of great encouragement to the Hebrew Christians to live by faith -- regardless of the world's threats.
And isn't this message meant for us as well? We, too, live in a godless world that hates Christ and the Gospel. We, too, are being called upon to live by faith. We, too, are being called upon to submit to heavenly authority rather than earthly authority.
IV Faith's Confidence
A Notice how our text ends: "they were not afraid of the king's edict." On the basis of faith, by faith, they hid Moses for three months in response to God's Word "and they were not afraid of the king's edict."
Let's make sure we understand this correctly. Our text is talking about their eternal security in Christ. Our text is talking about their confidence in God and His promises. The body may be killed, but they knew they were eternally safe in the arms of God.
This does not mean they felt no anxiety. This does not mean they were not under stress. This does not mean they didn't get the upset stomach and ulcers we would get. What it does mean is they did not allow their fears to determine their behavior. What it does mean is they did not allow their fears to control them. Rather, what controls them is their faith. Rather, what controls them is their confidence in the promises of God. Rather, what controls them is a believing response to God's Word. They are like David who said:
(Ps 56:4) In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?
B Does the story of Amram and Jochebed remind you of another godly couple? This couple, too, faced unbelievable fear. I am talking about Joseph and Mary. The life of their baby -- the Lord Jesus Christ -- was also threatened by a king who tried to kill all the baby boys. They, too, were told their baby had a special place in God's redemption plan: "give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" (Mt 1:21). By faith, acting on the basis of faith, they also protected their baby from the soldiers of the king.
Joseph and Mary were like Amram and Jochebed. They responded to God's Word. They saved and protected the One Who fulfilled everything Moses foreshadowed. They saved and protected the One Who is greater than Moses -- the One Who is the Savior of the world.
We've been talking about the parents of Moses. We've been talking about the parents of Jesus. But now let me ask about you. Does our text describe you? Do you have the kind of faith that submits to heavenly authority when it conflicts with earthly authority?
Before this can happen you need to fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. You need to believe He alone is your deliverer from sin and slavery and death. You need to bow before Him as the supreme authority in life and in death. When this happens you are ready to be heroes of faith like Amram and Jochebed.
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