************ Sermon on Hebrews 11:27 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 9, 2017
"Moses' Faith (2)"
The letter of Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians who were ready to give up their faith and return to the Jewish faith because of persecution. Sad isn't it, that the Christian faith was persecuted in the Roman Empire whereas the Jewish faith wasn't? I've thought about this often as I have been working on my Hebrews' series. Why did the Christian faith arouse opposition while the Jewish faith did not?
Here is the reason: the Christian faith dared to address the sins and idolatries of culture; the Christian faith dared to address the governing authorities; the Christian faith dared to declare that King Jesus was over Caesar; the Christian faith dared to call all men to repentance and faith; the Christian faith dared to make exclusive claims that Jesus was the only way. As such, the Christian faith posed a danger to the Roman Empire.
In Hebrews 11 the author holds up the Old Testament heroes of faith as an example and source of encouragement to persecuted Hebrew Christians. Each of the Old Testament saints also faced persecution. Each of them also made sacrifices. Noah built an ark in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. Abraham left home and country and was willing to sacrifice his son, his only son, on the altar. Moses gave up the treasures of Egypt and was mistreated along with the people of God. Each of them did this, each of them endured this, by faith. By faith, on account of faith, they were willing to give up everything to live for God. Don't forget, faith responds to the Word and promises of God.
Our Bible reading identifies three characteristics of Moses' faith. First, we learned last week from verses 24-26 that Moses' faith focused on God's people and God's reward. Today, we learn that Moses' faith focused on God. Next time, we learn that Moses' faith focused on the sprinkling of blood.
Moses teaches us tonight that faith always focuses on God. Faith, true faith, is preoccupied with God: His being, character, nature, acts, plans, will. The size and strength of your faith is dependent upon your knowledge of Who God is and what He does. Your capacity to live by faith is totally dependent upon your focus on God. Moses, I would have you know, was utterly consumed with the being of God.
I Moses did not Fear the King's Anger
A Listen to what Hebrews says about Moses: "By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger" (Heb 11:27-28).
Moses left Egypt twice: the first time when he was forty; the second time when he was eighty. So what time is Hebrews talking about?
Hebrews cannot be talking about the first time. Moses killed an Egyptian taskmaster who had been beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Moses looked both ways before he did this and thought no one had seen him do this. But the Hebrews knew. The Egyptians knew. Even Pharaoh knew of this and tried to kill Moses (Ex 2:14-15). Then Moses was afraid and fled from Pharaoh. Moses acted on his own, without direction from God, and ended up fleeing for his life.
Moses fled to Midian where he got married, had a family, and tended sheep. He had a lot of time to think, reflect, ponder, and learn from his mistakes.
After forty years of this Moses met God in the burning bush. God repeated the promises He first gave Abraham: that the children of Israel would leave Egypt with great possessions and possess the land of Canaan. At that time God revealed His name to Moses: YHWH, "I AM." God also instructed Moses to go to Pharaoh and say, "Let my people go."
In the Exodus Moses leaves Egypt a second time. This second time, Moses does not flee. This second time, Moses is not fearing for his life. This second time, Moses does not leave empty handed. This second time, Moses is a conqueror. This second time Moses leaves at the request of Pharaoh. This second time, Moses plunders Egypt. It is this second time Hebrews has in mind when it says, "By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger" (Heb 11:27-28).
One comment: Moses' faith and courage was enormous.
B Now, I want you to imagine the scene with me. Moses is eighty. He walks into the palace of Pharaoh with staff in hand. He walks into the palace, bold as can be. He walks into the palace of the most powerful man on earth. And he says, "this is what the LORD, the God of Israel says: 'Let my people go ...'" (Ex 5:1).
Think about this. Moses is asking Pharaoh to let two million people go. Who will bake the bricks and make the mortar? Who will build the Egyptian store cities? Who will work the land? Who will clean the houses? Who will do the labor no self-respecting Egyptian will do (cf Ex 1:14)? The entire Egyptian economy was going to go belly up if the Hebrews left!
"Let my people go." Do you think Pharaoh laughed about this? Do you think Pharaoh thought this was a bad joke?
"Moses, make me! Moses, you and your well-trained army make me. Moses, you and your horses and chariots make me. Moses, you and all your swords and spears make me."Trouble was, Moses had none of this. But Moses did not fear the king's anger.
Then, by the power of God, Moses turned the water of the Nile into blood. The Nile River was the lifeline of Egypt. Thanks to Moses the river stank. The fish died. The Egyptians could not drink its water.
Moses walked into the throne room a second time. Again he says, "God says, 'Let my people go.'" Was Pharaoh still laughing?
What about the third time after the plague of frogs. "God says, 'Let my people go.'"
What about after the plague of gnats, the plague of flies, the plague on livestock, the plague of boils, the plague of hail, the plague of locusts, the plague of darkness, the plague on the firstborn? Ten times Moses comes into Pharaoh's throne. Nine times he has the same message: "God says, 'Let my people go.'"
How much faith did this take? How much courage did this take? To look Pharaoh in the eye as the land and wealth of Egypt is being destroyed and to say, "God says, 'Let my people go.'"
C A question I have often wondered about: Why didn't Pharaoh have Moses killed? Anyone else who dared to do what Moses did would have been killed immediately, on the spot, the first time already. Moses had no means of defense, no army, no sword, no spear, no soldiers guarding his back. From Pharaoh's point-of-view, Moses was nothing more than a crotchety eighty year old man with a shepherd's staff in his hand. Pharaoh's inaction leads us to conclude that Pharaoh was afraid of Moses rather than Moses was afraid of Pharaoh.
Why? Pharaoh saw something in Moses he was not accustomed to seeing. He saw fearlessness. By faith Moses did not fear "the king's anger" (Heb 11:27-28).
We see this same fearlessness when the people of Israel are caught between the Red Sea on the one side and the Egyptian army on the other side.
(Ex 14:10-14) As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. (11) They said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? (12) Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!"This is what Hebrews has in mind when it says, "By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger" (Heb 11:27-28). Acting on the basis of faith. Believing God's promises. Filled with courage and fearlessness.
NOW NOTICE WHAT MOSES SAYS:
(13) Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. (14) The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still."
Was the Egyptian army still there? Yes. Were the Egyptians stronger and better equipped and better trained than Israel? Yes. But Moses did not fear. Because faith expelled fear. Because where faith rules fear loses.
II Because his Focus was God
A This brings us to the second clause of our text. Notice why Moses, by faith, was not afraid: "he persevered because he saw him who is invisible." Moses persevered in the faith, he endured, he was not filled with fear and trembling, because he saw God.
Moses saw God. Is Hebrews talking about the burning bush when Moses talked with God? Or, Moses and God meeting at the top of Mount Sinai? Or, Moses going into the Tent of Meeting to meet with God? None of this is what is in view here. In mind here is not an extraordinary, supernatural experience.
Moses saw God. In mind here is continual action. In mind here is action in process. In mind here is something ongoing. Moses saw God. Not with physical eyes but with the eyes of faith. Moses was preoccupied with God. Moses was focused on God. God was the center of his life. His heart was fixed on God.
Moses was not focused on life's circumstances. Moses was not focused on things -- like Pharaoh and his army -- that could cause fear. Rather, he was focused on the character of the God Who made promises. In this case, Moses did not fear because his focus was on God's omnipotence and God's faithfulness. Moses paid more attention to the King of kings than to the King of Egypt. This calls to mind the words of the psalmists and of Hebrews 13:
(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? (cf vs 11)
(Ps 118:6) The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
(Heb 13:6) So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"
B Moses was like Jesus. How come Christ could face attack, threat, hatred, and enmity without being nervous, afraid, fearful, and anxious? Because Christ's focus was not on the things that can cause fear but on God. He lived for God. He prayed to God. He thought about God. He talked about God. God was His preoccupation. God was His focus. God's will is what He wanted to do.
C "By faith [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible" (Heb 11:27). What message do you think was being given to the Hebrew Christians? Some of them were afraid. They were afraid of insult and persecution, prison, confiscation of property, suffering. They were afraid of Nero and the Roman authorities. Hebrews is telling them:
"What faith did for Moses faith can also do for you. All you need do is fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith. Fix your eyes on Jesus and not on Nero. Fix your eyes on Jesus and not on prison. Because the more your focus is Jesus, the greater is your faith."
D "By faith [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible" (Heb 11:27). What is being stressed here should be the common everyday experience of every Christian.
Are you filled with worry and fear and anxiety? I dare say the problem is you are focusing on life's circumstances and NOT on God. I dare say another problem is that you are not growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Like Moses, focus on God, His being, His character, His nature, His acts, His plans, His will. Because the size and strength of your faith is dependent upon your knowledge of Who God is and what He does. Because your capacity to live by faith is totally dependent upon your focus on God.
Let me break this down for you. Why do we stress theology in this church? Why do we preach and teach the Catechism? Why do we have Sunday School? Why do we encourage Bible study and personal devotions? Why is our worship God-centered rather than man-centered? Why do sermons dig so deeply into Scripture? Why is God the focus of all our programs and ministries? Because your ability to live by faith is dependent upon what you know to be true about God. Because your capacity to believe is enhanced or hobbled by your knowledge of God and His character.
"By faith [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible" (Heb 11:27). Does this describe your faith? Do you follow Jesus regardless of Pharaoh, Nero, or any other power? Or, is your life filled with fear?
My prayer is that we all live by faith. My prayer is that we all live by a faith whose focus is not on life's circumstances but on God and on Christ.
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