Looking Ahead To His Reward
Key Verse 11:26
“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.”
There is faith and then there is faith. There is the faith by which you conduct yourself as you live by faith and rely on faith in all your circumstances, and you do so in order to honor and glorify God. For example, the word of God tell you to “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) whereby your faith compels you to put God and his interests first above you’re your own interests, believing that God would provide you with all that you need, as you engage yourself in his own interests first. Or there’s the faith to forgive your brother who wronged you simply because you yourself know that you’re forgiven by God. All this may be behavioral faith. Then there’s another kind of faith— the faith that looks forward to the kingdom of God where your reward is for entrusting God with your life and future. You never doubt that your life here is but a pilgrimage towards the other, and you live by faith in that truth. And because of that you also have faith to endure suffering and hardship and persecution. You live as if your life isn’t in this world but somewhere else kept safely for you in God. This faith may well be called inheritance faith because it’s “being sure of what [you] hope for and certain of what [you] do not see” or have (11:1) And that’s what the author of Hebrews hoped to convey to his Hebrew Christians. When he talks about Abraham or Joseph, although they lived by faith in every way, the author focuses on the faith which relates them to the Kingdom of God. I say this because while Joseph’s and Moses’ lives had been mostly lives of faith, the author emphasizes their faith in relation to the future Kingdom. Remember what he said about them earlier: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country— a heavenly one.” (13-16) And that’s the faith the author wanted to convey to his readers. So this will be our focus today as we review their lives.
Let’s start with the faith of Joseph. Read verse 22. “By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.” What the author is talking about here began some 200 years ago when God visited Abraham one day to give him this prophesy. “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions… In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” (Genesis 15:13-16) What an amazing prophesy! God told Abraham exactly what would happen to his descendants in the future. They would be enslaved, and mistreated, after which time God himself would rescue them and bring them back here to the Promised Land. Some time later, Joseph— Jacob’s son and Abraham’s grandson— sent for his father Jacob and all his family to come to him in Egypt because of the severe famine in the Canaan. And the prophesy which God had given Abraham began to take shape. It would not come to its fulfillment until that time when Moses rescues the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt and brings back to the Promised Land. But the story of how Joseph ended up in Egypt is also very interesting. His jealous brothers had sold him into slavery to Egypt and had left him for dead. But God elevated Joseph from a slave to become Pharaoh’s right hand. During that whole period of time when Joseph was sold into slavery and was left for dead, until he became the savior of Egypt, this boy lived in God’s sovereignty.
Joseph had remarkable faith. After the way he was treated by his wicked brothers who sold him into slavery, you would think Joseph would have all together given up the faith. But remarkably, his faith got stronger. Not only that but even the un-godly influence of Egypt didn’t weaken his trust in God’s sovereignty. Anyone in his situation would have blamed his family situation, his lowly job, or his miserable circumstances for unbelief. But he made no excuses for abandoning the faith. Rather Joseph never lost sight of God. First of all, he knew exactly what he believed; Look at verse 22 again. Joseph believed that God would surely deliver his people from slavery in Egypt. Second, Joseph also knew where he really belonged; He knew he belonged in Canaan and not in Egypt— so he made the Israelites promise to carry his bones out of Egypt at the exodus. We’ll shortly see what that means. But for now, we know that they did just that! (Exodus 13:19; Joshua 24:32) You cannot but admire Joseph’s faith. He had no Bible as we do today, yet his faith was strong and solid enough to hand down God’s promise from one generation to the other. Although he had no Bible, he was sensitive to God’s will. He didn’t follow his own will or make his own plans or give in to his own desires. He didn’t jump at every opportunity or convenience this world gave him, and there were many such as those in his life. Rather he followed God’s will. In that way he bore witness to God, as God Himself also bore witness to Joseph. On the other hand you and I have a complete Bible. So how much more faith do you think you and I should have!
Look at verse 22 again. “By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.” The author gets this from Genesis 50:24-25 which says: “Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, ‘God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.’”
We see so many inspiring things here about Joseph’s faith. Especially his faith that trusts in God’s will. With God’s gracious intervention, Joseph single handedly rescued Egypt from destruction. Egypt was about to perish in one of the most severe famines in human history. But Joseph helped them remain alive during seven years of ravaging famine. Joseph knew the prophesy God had delivered to Abraham regarding how it will soon end for the Israelites in Egypt. He knew that the day would come when Egypt would forget Joseph’s and God’s favor to them, and enslave them ruthlessly for more than 400 years. Imagine knowing that after you have served someone in love and rescued them from disaster or destruction, he or she would forget or ignore what you’ve done, and would betray you and turn on you! How would you still view them while you are serving them in love? How would you treat them? What measures would you take to prevent such a tragedy from happening to you and to those you love? The truth is that Joseph knew all this! But Joseph didn’t try to do anything to prevent it. He didn’t try to change the will of God to make it not happen. He didn’t even question the fairness or the reasonableness of it. But I will tell you what Joseph did do. Look at verse 22 again. He made provisions for faith. He simply made provisions for when it does happen that his bones be carried to the Promised Land. It is faith to trust God’s will and provision. It is faith to believe that God’s way is good and wise. It is faith to live by faith even with such terrible knowledge of what is to come. So many people try to avoid their God given situation. They want to change it. But faith is when we accept the will of God and trust him regardless of how hard it may be. And faith is keeping the lamp of faith burning in the hearts of God’s people as Joseph did in giving them instructions to take his bones with them when God comes to their rescue.
Joseph simply reminded them of God’s word to Abraham. He reminded them of their suffering and deliverance. It takes great faith to speak of such things especially if we have to preach the gospel to others, without sugar coating the truth. The truth is the gospel is a gospel of resurrection, but it is also a gospel of suffering and death. Jesus always taught us that suffering comes, but also deliverance. Paul and other apostles also spoke of suffering and deliverance; they spoke of repentance and the kingdom. That is the truth we must preach to others just as Joseph spoke to his people of what must happen. How greatly that speaks of the strength of Joseph’s faith. There was no hesitancy or doubt in what he spoke to the people. He was fully assured they would suffer at the hands of the Egyptians. Yet he was also fully assured that God who does not lie, would, “surely come to their aid”. We too should have this kind of faith to believe and to pass it on to others. God, who sent his Son to save us, will surely send him again to bring us home to his Kingdom. Until then, although we may suffer all kinds of hardship, he is with us to the very end of the age, just as he said he would.
There’s another side to Joseph’s faith. At his death time, Joseph did not so much remember what God had done for him as much as what God had promised to do for him and his people— which is deliverance. But more than that, Joseph’s hope was to be buried in the Promised Land, because his heart was not in Egypt but with God in his Promised Land. It was not so much Canaan that Joseph cherished as much as what it symbolizes— the promise of God and his Kingdom. His faith was having his heart set on God’s promise. Amazingly he didn’t dwell so much on all that happened to him in the past, whether his long suffering, or the dizzy heights of glory that he rose to later. He didn’t dwell so much on the past as much as he looked to the future. That was his faith! Why is this so significant? Many Christians are more concerned with what they had accomplished or not accomplished, with what they had suffered or not suffered, some even regretful for what they had done or not done, or what they are leaving behind— much more than what is ahead. Yet by faith Joseph looked ahead. He reminds us of Paul who said: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead”. (Philippians 3:13) That was his faith, and the faith which he passed on to his suffering descendants. Which brings us to another aspect of Joseph’s great faith.
Joseph was the second man in the Egyptian empire. It’s hard to imagine the glory of being second to Pharaoh himself. It is hard to imagine the power and authority he enjoyed. It’s even harder to imagine the wealth he had as well, not to mention the honor he enjoyed among the Egyptians. He was like a god to them. He and his household, his children and great grand children would be destined for royal favor, for privileges and prestige. After what his brothers had done to him in selling him as a slave, Joseph should want nothing to do with them. Even after he brought them to Egypt to escape the famine, Joseph should have separated himself from them because they were nothing but lowly sheep herders. Joseph had no reason to contemplate what would happen 400 years later. Yet, think about Joseph’s faith! Joseph didn’t identify with the Egyptians, but he rather did with his own lowly people. His own immediate family could have been lost in Egypt and lost to Egypt as well. But Joseph knew exactly who he was. He was God’s servant first and foremost. He did not borrow his identity from Egypt nor from the Egyptians. Rather he identified with God and his people, because they were God’s chosen people. When God comes to their aid, Joseph wanted to be sure that he went with them. He belonged to God and with God’s people. So he clearly identified with God and with them. How often do some forget who they are, and secretly wish to belong to the world, and to make a name for themselves in the world! How often do privileged Christians forget the Lord, and his benefits and his promises— to identify and belong to the world! Joseph had every opportunity to do so! But he would rather identify himself with God and lived as a lamp of faith for his people.
Read verse 23. “By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.” Pharaoh of Egypt decreed that all new born Israelite boys must be drowned in the river. It was his way of population control. But Moses’ parents didn’t do as the King decreed. Rather they hid him for 3 months until God intervened and Moses was taken to the palace to be cared for by Pharaoh’s own daughter. How did they manage to hide their baby boy for three months and escape his imminent death? The author tells us, it was their faith. They saw he was special, and trusted that God had a purpose for his life, and they believed that God would protect him. And that’s what happened. But it was their faith that saved Moses. We cannot deny that Moses was really blessed to have believing parents. So many kids despise the fact that their parents are believers, because they think that they had missed out on the world. Others think that having believing parents limits their freedom and a chance at having a normal life. But the truth is that having believing parents is God’s blessing, especially if the parents live by faith. Although believing parents cannot pass their faith on to their children as they do with genetic traits, at least they create a home atmosphere of faith and set examples of faith to their children. The home should be the first school of faith for any child. For Amram and Jochebed (Exodus 6:20) hiding their son baby Moses from the authorities was certainly an act of faith. When your parents apply strict rules and Christian values on you, it is also an act of faith. It’s like hiding you from the devil and his world, until God Himself intervenes and takes over your life.
Now we come to the story of Moses and his faith. Read verses 24-28. “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, 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. 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. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.” [Here’s a beautiful story of a true hero. We have the idea that when God intervenes and saves us from misery, from weakness, from obscurity as he did with boy Moses, he does so to promote us and to exalt us. I think that this idea comes from the all too common hero stories we see a lot of in books and movies these days. But we must remember that when God delivered Moses, he did so that Moses could serve God and God’s kingdom. On the other hand, the heroes in books and movies rise to make a name for them selves and to become idolized by the masses. That wasn’t the case with Moses. He was indeed a hero. But his deliverance was for the glory of God. We do not see any thing in his latter days when he began his service to God that points to self or exalts the self. Rather we see one of the most beautiful and glorious traits of a man of faith. His faith is remarkable, and inspiring.]
He was miraculously rescued and given the best privileges of any living person. He grew up in the palace as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He had everything any man would ever want, from fame and fortune, to position and prestige, to glory and honor. He was as privileged as Joseph had been among the Egyptians. A man in his circumstances doesn’t think twice about who he is and what he wants. But even before the Lord spoke to him personally in the bush and called him to service, the author gives us a glimpse of his remarkable faith. He says that “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, 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.” This is amazing. It was his faith that rejected Egypt and everything that Egypt stands for. What he rejected was what the author terms as “the pleasures of sin”— which is Egyptian lifestyle. The words “pleasures of sin” does not refer only to such things as lust and other blatant sins. Rather it describes a way of life that we today would call “successful”, a good position of prestige and power and of wealth as well as freedom from common problems that plague ordinary people. And he did so by faith. What does that mean? It means that he could have led a long easy going and comfortable life in the palace and enjoyed everything Egypt could offer. But his faith moved him to refuse that kind of life and lifestyle. He rejected the life and pleasures of sin for something better— something noble— something godly. Furthermore, he also refused to identify himself as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and chose to identify with God’s suffering people. Now that’s faith! True faith brings a true believer to this point in his life, where he or she, given choices, reject the life of sin and choose instead the right values and they makes the right decisions. Faith is first making a choice to reject the world and its pleasures. Moses chose another way of life— by faith. His faith was young, and he still had a long way to go. But as the Lord says: even a faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains. (Matthew 17:20) And he certainly moved a mountain of pride and human desires within his own heart when he chose to reject the pleasures of sin.
There was a good reason why Moses refused the world and all that it stands for. Look at verse 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”. Now here’s a man who knows the value of suffering for Christ’s sake, and for the kingdom of God. Here’s a man who knows the futility of all the treasures of the world, in comparison with what’s better— with what’s of real value. We commend those who go out of their way here and there, now and then, to serve Christ’s cause. It takes courage and sacrifice to do so. But serving the cause of Christ once in a while, then returning to one’s own ease and comfort is not commendable. Actually it borders on hypocrisy. We have to admire Moses, however. He left the palace and never went back to the old life! He identified with the Jewish slaves! It was a disgrace for him to do so. But he did it by faith for the sake of Christ. What does that mean? It means he loved Christ more than anything else. It means he loved Christ more than he loved himself. And it also means that he fully understood what it takes to love and to serve Christ’ cause. It takes a life commitment. And it also means that it won’t be easy because it is considered disgrace and shame to be identified with Christ and his people. Moses understood that full well.
But Moses was ready to be shamed and disgraced for Christ’s sake. Why? Because of his value system. Nothing in this world was as precious to him as Christ and his cause, even when Christ’s cause brought suffering and shame on the person. Men and women of faith often have to bear the disgrace of Christ and suffer for him. If they don’t, then they’re not really committing themselves to Christ and his cause. They don’t have the attitude to lay down everything in their lives for Christ’s sake. Moses suffered for his faith. The apostles suffered for theirs. How many suffer when they reject the world and its ways and what it has to offer, in order to take on the cause of Christ. How could they endure? Like Moses, they are looking to God for their reward. They value eternal life and the Kingdom of God more than what this world can give them. And for that, they are humbled, humiliated, and disgraced because the world does not tolerate faith. If disgrace is an evidence of true faith, we wonder how much true faith there is in our churches today!
When Moses rejected Egypt and all that it stands for, he also fully left Egypt. That truth is evident throughout the Bible for all of us to witness. One cannot serve Christ’s cause and still remain in Egypt— in the world. John the Baptist declared: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” We cannot bear fruit unless we repent and leave the world and our sin lifestyle behind. Then when Moses came back to Egypt he didn’t come back because he missed Egypt, but rather he came back with God’s purpose. He was a different man. He was a new man because God had called him to face off with Pharaoh, his Goliath. We all have Goliath to face. Moses needed to face Goliath and bring him to his knees for Christ’s cause. And now, he was no longer afraid of Pharaoh the king. But how could Moses face off with the powerful and scary Pharaoh? Imagine what it’s like for you stand up to a powerful authority like that. How can you possibly believe that you could do anything to change his mind, to have him break down under the pressure of your request? You couldn’t do a thing before him. But faith tells you that God can bend this man’s will to do as the Lord commands. That’s faith! Faith is standing up before the mountain and believing that you can’t move it, but that God can! In our daily life this scenario happens all the time. We’re not standing up to Pharaoh, but everything in the world looms large to small people like us. Actually everything seems like a giant, a Goliath— from people to problems and decisions. They’re constantly looming above us like an immovable mountain. Imagine if you had Moses’ faith to believe that God will tear down the mountain, instead of you walking away from it defeated. So many Christians are defeated too soon, too quickly, when they stand before Pharaoh. But imagine if you had faith to remain immovably in Christ. What would happen? Imagine the victory you would secure the first time and the next and then the next.
Moses experienced victory before Pharaoh. But Moses also gave up the world first; he rejected its pleasures first. You can’t expect God to do anything in you and through you if you’re still holding on to Egypt— to the world— if you still won’t give up your plans, ideas, comforts, pleasures— if you still won’t surrender fully to him. You can’t expect God to help you stand up to Goliath or any such mountain in your life— if you don’t have the faith to first let go of the world. God only rewards faith. The truth is that neither the Pharaoh nor the mountain are the problem. It’s our faith that’s the problem. Faith can take you anywhere, anytime, to do anything for the glory of God. But you’ve got to give up the world— you’ve got to commit to the new life God called you to. Then you can stand up to Pharaoh by faith. God always rewards true faith— if not immediately, at least in the long run. Standing up to Pharaoh was part of Moses’ reward of faith.
Moses’ faith was rewarded with deliverance for him and for his people. Read verse 28. “By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.” We may consider this such as salvation faith. God’s final judgment— death— was coming on the Egyptians for all that they had done to the Israelites, and for not obeying the word of God. At the time God showed Moses the way of salvation was through the sprinkling of the blood on their doorposts. God revealed to him that his death judgment would not touch any home that has the mark of the blood on it. And that is exactly what Moses did by faith. He didn’t have to understand why God gave those instructions, but he needed to obey. And when he did, God saved him and the Israelites from his judgment. Moses simply applied the blood. He actually applied the blood. What does this tell us? It tells us that Moses knew that we are all sinners in need of God’s grace and mercy. He knew that only the blood could save him and his people. How important is this truth in our own lives. Many people think that because God is love, he would save them. But that’s not faith. Faith applies the blood because God has instructed us that unless the blood of Christ is applied to our hearts, we cannot and will not escape God’s judgment. Everyone who wants God’s salvation must like Moses apply the blood of the lamb who was slain. This is a good time to consider if the blood of the Lord Jesus has been applied to your heart. It’s a good time to consider the faith which reject the world for the sake of Christ— even if it means disgrace. It is time to also give thanks to God who has equipped us with faith to stand up to the Pharaohs in our lives. Read our key verse 26 again. “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”.