Faith Deciding (Hebrews 11:23)

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“The course and the quality of our lives are determined much more by our decisions than by our circumstances.” So writes John MacArthur. Think about that. Let that sink in. Circumstances no doubt influence and impact our lives, either for good or bad. But ultimately our decision concerning how we respond to these circumstances is the shaping, the determining factor. Our author’s reference to the life of Moses is a powerful example of this truth.

Having progressed from the faithful history of the antediluvians through accounts of the faithfulness of Israel’s patriarchs, the writer now chronologically picks up with the next great example of faith: Moses.

Moses ranks alongside the greatest people in the history of the Jewish nation. Many identify him as the greatest of the Old Testament figures. Without entering that debate, suffice it to say that Moses was the great leader of the nation of Israel. He was a prophet, the Lawgiver and, on more than one occasion, priest on behalf of God’s chosen people. In light of this, it should not surprise us that the writer of Hebrews incudes him in the list of examples of people of faith.

Four times in these seven verses we read the now-familiar words “by faith” with reference to Moses. The first instance actually refers to the faith of his parents. No doubt, their display of faith was a means behind their son’s future demonstrations of faith. In fact, the decision that they made to trust God, to fear God rather than Pharaoh, formed a template for some future decisions that Moses would also need to make “by faith.” Lane is correct when he says of this passage, “The emphasis in these verses is placed on the element of moral choice.” Hence, we can say that its theme is “faith deciding.”

The exercise of faith requires the exercise of the mind. Faithful living is actually the most rationally demanding kind of life. Critics speak of Christianity as nothing but a mindless “leap in the dark.” They could not be more wrong. Faith requires applying the whole of our being—that is, heart, will and mind—in response to God’s Word. It requires making rational, informed decisions. The life of Moses, including his days as an infant, irrefutably prove this.

Moses, by faith, decided to be identified with God’s chosen people rather than with the idolatrous culture of Egypt. By faith, he made the decision to turn away from worldly, sinful passions and pursuits as he decided to follow Christ. By faith, he decided to leave a comfortable and very tangible existence for that which would be dangerous and intangible: the kingdom of God. By faith, he decided to turn away from self-deception and self-effort as he made the decision to trust God’s Passover lamb. By faith, he made the decision to walk through a dry sea bed that had less than 24 hours earlier been a tumultuous sea. By faith, he made the decision to trust God to keep back the waters of destruction and to lead two million people to do the same. He decided to do all of this simply because he decided that God’s Word was trustworthy.

And this life of “faith deciding” began with his parents who, by faith, decided to preserve his life. Their “prolife” choice, fuelled by their “pro-Lord” decision, resulted in the preservation of a life that would also make several right choices. Moses would be characterised by faith deciding to do what God commanded him to do. Not perfectly, mind you, yet persistently. And it was this kind of faith to which the recipients of this epistle were being called. In fact, it is the same kind of faith to which you and I are called.

Contrary to much popular evangelical “theology,” when someone is confronted with the choice to believe or not believe the gospel of Christ, there are often fears that must be overcome. Fears which we must decide to ignore.

For example, we must overcome the fear of relatives who will mock if not even ostracise us. We must choose to ignore the fear of losing friendships and other relationships—and, in some cases, losing income. In some parts of the world, the decision to follow the Lord Jesus Christ confronts one with the very real fear of losing one’s life.

And so the question that we must consider is this: What is it that enables one to overcome such fears? Simply, by faith, we must decide for obedience over fearfulness. The life of Moses wonderfully demonstrates this truth.

In this study, we will consider the subject of faith deciding. And faith deciding requires faith discerning.

Faith Discerns what is Precious—a Child

Because it is so discerning, faith decides for life. “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command” (v. 23).

Moses’ parents were people of faith. We don’t know anything about them except that they were of the tribe of Levi and their names were Amram and Jochebed (Exodus 6:20). They had two sons: Aaron and Moses. Aaron was the older brother. God’s choosing of the younger became something of a pattern in Israel’s history (Abel, Jacob, Ephraim).

The text tells us that, when Moses was born, his parents saw that “he was a beautiful child.” Therefore, by faith, they preserved his life.

We know that, when Moses was born, life was difficult for the nation of Israel. They had been in bondage in Egypt for nearly four hundred years under harsh task masters. God, however, was doing what He always does: being faithful.

As God had promised Abraham, the nation of Israel was being fruitful and multiplying, and its numbers were growing exponentially—much to the displeasure of Pharaoh. He saw them, rightly, as a threat to his empire. In fact, to a Christ-rejecting kingdom, the growth of the church is always a problem.

Pharaoh’s final solution was murder—infanticide. All Jewish male babies were to be put to death upon birth. It would appear that there was no problem with the birth of female babies, who could simply be added to the workforce. Further, the Egyptians no doubt viewed the Jewish daughters as possible wives or concubines.

One can only imagine “Rachel weeping for her children” when a mother found that she had given birth to a son. Yet God provided God-fearing midwives who saved these children (see Exodus 1:15–20).

But, like Pharaoh’s modern-day counterparts (Planned Parenthood and other child killers), he came up with more legislation to attack the indefensible. Any newborn male child was to be drowned in the Nile. But, thank God, there were parents who feared the Lord more than cultural idols. Moses’ faithful parents were among these.

When Moses was born, the serpent was thwarted from inflicting his murderous venom on him because, “by faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents.” We can see that Moses was born into a family faith—a true “faith family.”

As Moses was raised at the knees of his mother (by an amazing providence, see Exodus 2) he would have heard of the faith of his parents. This would have contributed to the reason for the following verses. That is, by faith, Moses made righteous decisions. Moses was blessed to have a heritage of believing parents. As Richard Phillips points out, “like all of us, [Moses’] faith was the product of other’s influence on him.”

But what is meant by the phrase, “because they saw that he was a beautiful child”? After all, this is given as a major reason why they decided to spare his life by hiding him for three months.

Some think that this means that he was a healthy child and therefore his parents spared his life. In other words, had he been an unhealthy child, perhaps they would have exercised euthanasia. I doubt it. I think we must consider v. 23 (and Exodus 2:2) with Acts 7:20. Stephen tells us in Acts 7 that, when “Moses was born,” he was “well-pleasing to the Lord.” When Moses was born, his parents discerned that he was a gift from God. This was true in at least two ways.

First, they had what is a normal, godly view of children: that they are people made by God in His image. But second, the phrase seems to indicate that they saw that he was no “ordinary” child. They detected a unique purpose from God (Acts 7:20). In fact, some see the phrase “beautiful child” as the phrase repeated time and again in Genesis 1: “it was good.” In other words, when Moses was born his parents saw something in him that affirmed God’s promised new creation. In some way, God confirmed to them that their son would be used in God’s purposes of establishing a “new creation” (a repeating motif in Exodus). Evidently, they passed this understanding to him, because he seemed to have understood before his Jewish brothers and sisters that he was God’s chosen vessel to deliver Israel (Acts 7:23–25).

We need to understand that the nation of Israel had been in idolatrous Egypt for some four hundred years. This pagan nation was plagued with idol worship, including the worship of Pharaoh; the worship of the State, if you will. We know from what follows in Exodus through Deuteronomy that the children of Israel were not all “children of Abraham” in the sense of sharing his faith. In fact, it is quite clear that they had warped views of Yahweh and that idolatry was a constant temptation. It is probably true that idolatry was the default for the majority of them (see Exodus 32).

In such a culture, child sacrifice would perhaps have been a fairly common worldview, as would the practice of what is now called euthanasia: the putting to death of someone whose life is deemed to lack “quality.” It is perhaps for this reason that we read of the commended faith of Amram and Jochebed. By faith, they defied their culture. They looked at their son and knew that he was God’s gift to them. And no doubt they had some idea that God was going to use Moses in a marvellous way to bring His promises to pass.

But regardless of the cultural pressures they did or did not face, the record informs us that they decided to do something that required faith: to ignore the king’s command and to spare the life of their “beautiful” son. They would not let the State determine their family life. There are some lessons here for us.

A couple of weeks ago, I read a very disturbing story on News24. The story was titled, “Mom seeks justice in ‘wrongful life’ claim.” The case in question was that of a pregnant woman (named simply as “Ms H”) who went for a scan at the Kingsbury Foetal Assessment Centre

to assess the possible risk of the child being born with certain congenital conditions.

She claimed that the centre failed to interpret the scan correctly and negligently failed to warn her of the very high risk of her child being born with Down’s syndrome.

Ms H said had she been made aware of the high risk she would have terminated the pregnancy….

She contended that her claim was aimed at recovering damages to support the life now being lived, one which involved total dependence and continuous care.

She claims that “the focus on children’s rights enshrined in the Constitution and Children’s Act” is the basis for her argument. In other words, since she failed to kill her unborn child in the womb, the State should now make sure that the clinic provides for the life of the child.

Think about the perverseness of this argument: The same Constitution that empowers a mother to kill her unborn child is now being appealed to for the purpose of the protecting the child that she would have been legally protected to kill. Since she could not carry out, in her view, a “rightful death,” others should care for what is in her view a “wrongful life.” Romans 1 is especially relevant in our day.

Ms H’s argument is what is known in many parts of the world as a “wrongful life” claim. That phrase is hauntingly Orwellian. Until this court case, South African law did not have such a wicked, horrific and dehumanising legal category. Sadly, the door is now open for this legal category as, last week, the Constitutional Court ruled that Ms H does have the right to make this legal case. So she is going back to the Western Cape High Court to make her “wrongful life” case. Whether she wins or not is anyone’s guess. But that she has the legal protection and encouragement to even make the case is tragic.

Ms H, who is so full of regret for not killing her baby in her womb, needs a major overhaul of her value system—as does our judicial system and our society, generally speaking. I do not doubt that Ms H will face many challenges in the years ahead as she cares for her special needs child. No doubt, she has many fears concerning the future. And I would even venture the strong assumption that she loves her child. But, unfortunately, she has no fear of God (Psalm 36:1). For her to argue that she missed the opportunity to kill her unborn child because of some medical negligence indicates a very warped value system; it indicates a very twisted worldview. It indicates a mind that is quite literally twisted (see Romans 3:18 and the overall context from Romans 1:18). She is clearly not a woman of faith. And her decisions are therefore not pleasing to God. Her decisions, in fact, reveal that she is in no condition to meet her Maker, the one who made both her and her child.

Ms H, along with the Constitutional Court, could learn a thing or two from the parents of Moses. They should look at this child in the same way that Jochebed looked at her son and then make the only legitimate, because righteous, value judgement; that is, that her baby is “a beautiful child.” Jochebed and Amram saw their child as a gift from God, a person made in His image. This child was alive. He was a living human being who therefore had value and whose life should be spared. And so they sought to do it in the face of a wicked State.

Those who have confidence in God’s character have their worldview shaped by His character as revealed in His Word.

Lessons Learned

We can learn from this faithful couple that living under the lordship of Christ will transform your value system, and one of the results will be a proper appreciation for the sanctity of life. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the wise see the value of a child—every child.

Acts 7:20 records that Moses was “well pleasing to God.” “Lovely to God” may be the best translation. Again, Moses’ parents viewed their son as the result of how God viewed him. This is always the driving worldview of biblical sanctify of life (Psalm 139).

Reprobate Reasoning

Though atheists like Sam Harris deny this, it is completely illogical, completely irrational and completely nonsensical to argue for any kind of cohesive social morality if you refuse to recognise the existence of God; and particularly if you refuse to acknowledge the God of Scripture, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But second, though faith empowers us to appreciate the inestimable value of children (which explains why Christians generally have larger families than unbelievers), at the same time parents need to appreciate their responsibility to raise them by faith in the faith.

Now, I am not saying that non-Christian parents do not love their children. Of course, most do. What I am saying is that if you do not raising them in a home where the God of the universe, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, is being honoured, then you are behaving foolishly and in the end fruitlessly.

It would appear that Moses maintained his connection with his Jewish clan and therefore with his family even while he was raised in Pharaoh’s court. And no doubt he came to learn of the circumstances surrounding his name: “drawn out of the water.” One can only imagine the impact this self-awareness would have had for much good. And this is because, fundamentally, it would have been a means for much Godawareness.

Perhaps this is a major reason, in spite of some failings, that the life of Moses was generally one of great success in the things that really matter—such as his relationship with God. Moses lived well and died well, and perhaps much of this was because of parents who believed well.

Faith Discerns what is Promised—the Child

Faith discerns God’s purpose. Remembering that this chapter has everything to do with those who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ long before the incarnation, long before Christmas, we are on solid ground to conclude that Amram and Jochebed believed the promise given in Genesis 3:15 concerning the eventual birth of Messiah. Perhaps they even thought that Moses was the fulfilment. Regardless, they are included here because they not only believed God concerning the value of their child but because they believed that God was up to something. Since they were people of faith, they were also people of “the book.” In some way, they were persuaded that the deliverance of their child had something to do with God’s deliverance of His promise. Their child in some way was connected to the Child. “Their readiness to risk their own lives to preserve the life of their son was the response of faith to a sense of vocation.” (Lane) Of course, as later history would prove, they were correct. As MacArthur puts it, “It was for God’s sake, as well as for Moses’ and their sakes, that the baby was protected.”

Moses was God’s choice as the human liberator of God’s chosen nation. When Julius Malema and other opportunistic leaders try to hijack the Exodus event for political purposes, we should be deeply offended. We should be outraged by such blasphemous usurpation of the glory of God.

God’s call to Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt had nothing to do with economics (though a better economic system was later revealed), nor did it primarily have to do with deliverance from political mistreatment (though later revelation would give us the blueprint for social justice). Rather, this deliverance primarily had everything to do with the deliverance of the entire world from its slavery to sin and to Satan and to self. This deliverance by the hand of God, through the hands of Moses, had everything ultimately to do with God’s promise to Adam and Eve and then reaffirmed through the Abrahamic covenant. God promised to send a Child to crush the serpent’s head, thereby securing the redemption of the world (John 3:17; 2 Corinthians 5:18­–21; etc.). Somehow, Amram and Jochebed saw and believed God’s promised and revealed purpose. And this helped them to overcome any temporal fear of Pharaoh. By faith in the God of the promise, they choose to do all they could to save their son. They hoped for Moses’ deliverance because they hoped in God’s Deliverer.

And the Story Continues

We should not miss the historical reality, staring us in the face, that God’s promise to send His Son has always been under assault by the evil one. The evil one has always sought to murder the children. He has sought to put to death God’s Deliverer. And our decision to follow Christ must take this into consideration. God’s promises and purposes will be assaulted, but, by faith, we must decide to persevere. The culture of death has everything to do with the gospel of God.

Satan secured the first murder when Cain slew the head of what would have been the godly line arising from Abel. But God would not be detoured. He gave to Adam and Eve Seth, who became the head of the godly, gospel promise-bearing line. Satan then sought to destroy this godly line by intermarriage between the ungodly and the godly. In response, God brought His just wrath to bear upon the resultant godless world. Yet God also graciously saved and spared Noah. When that family and subsequent generations seemed to be snuffed out, God saved a Gentile idol worshipper by the name of Abraham. From him came the nation of Israel, through whom the promised Messiah would come. Interestingly, Levi along with Simeon, were nearly cut out of the covenant promise after their murderous treachery at Shechem (Genesis 34), and yet it was through the tribe of Levi that Moses entered history. On and on the battle continued. The Seed-carrying nation was assaulted time and again as Satan sought to thwart God’s promised purpose, until an angel named Gabriel (“the strength of God”) visited a teenaged young lady named Mary and announced that she would bear and give birth to this promised Messiah. She and Joseph named Him Jesus, for He would save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

Apparently, Satan was also paying attention to this announcement, for shortly after Jesus was born, King Herod sought to put Jesus to death. No, Herod did not believe the promise of Genesis 3:15, but he was paranoid about losing his kingdom with all of its prestige, power and perversion. Though the apparent cause behind this murderous decree was personal and political, the ultimate cause was the serpent’s desire to crush Messiah. But alas, the Lord protected His Son and so Satan sought other means. For 33 years, Satan tried to kill the Deliverer. And he failed.

When at the cross the evil one was finally and irrevocably defeated (John 19:30; Colossians 2:13–15), Satan then turned his roaring threats against the church (1 Peter 5:8). In 70 AD Satan sought to wipe out the church, yet God wiped out what was then the biggest threat to Christianity: Judaism.

It is precisely for this reason that the writer tells these early Hebrew Christians the story of Moses. They need not fear. The Lord will prevail! As Lane notes concerning Moses’ parents, “their confidence in God’s power to accomplish his sovereign purposes more than outweighed their fear of reprisals because they had defied the royal decree” and so the writer “found in the conduct of Moses’s parents a paradigm for the capacity of faith to overcome fear, and this was of immediate pastoral significance to the community he addressed.”

Satan would soon unleash his fury during the Jewish War, yet the church would continue (Revelation 12).

Throughout history, this scenario has continued to play out time and again. Satan’s attacks to abort what God is doing in this world have continued, but he always loses. He always will. You see, thanks to Jesus Christ, Satan is a loser. And so are all who pledge him allegiance as they defy the God of glory. The church is more than conqueror!

Reason to Celebrate

Let us be encouraged as we remember and celebrate the incarnation. The Child who was born in Bethlehem was the promised Seed, and the result is that the world has been irrevocably changed. And one day it will be undeniably changed. But a part of this process is the line of the faithful: faithful saints like Amram and Jochebed, people who believe God for the promise.

Christian, though things look dismal on the surface, and even more dismal sometimes below the surface, be encouraged to look upward to the sovereign Lord, whose promises never fail. Parent like you believe this. Persevere like you believe this. Labour for the Lord and pray and proclaim like you believe this! Make your decisions like you believe this.

Faith Discerns what is Possible—a Miracle

“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months.” And then what? I think we can safely fill in the blanks: “By faith they then sent him down the river in a makeshift ark.” Perhaps they were thinking of Noah. After all, if God could save an entire family from the waters of death, certainly He could save their baby from the same outcome.

The Bible is silent concerning why Moses’ parents did this. We might speculate that he was too noisy and they could no longer hide him. Regardless, it is clear that they made this decision motivated by faith. If God could spare their baby’s life as he was hidden, then certainly the Lord could spare his life when he was being exposed. And, of course, their faith was rewarded. His life was spared.

Let Go

In the life of faith, sometimes we simply have to “let go.” MacArthur helpfully comments, “From a human perspective, his parents had no way of knowing even that his life would be spared, much less that, for all purposes, he would be given back to them. Yet they willingly let him go, entrusting him to God.”

Like Amram and Jochebed, we need to wrap up our dreams and place them in the hands of God. But what a great place for them, and for us, to be!

Clearly, they knew enough of the character of God that they entrusted the care of their son into His providential care. We are called to do the same with whatever Moses God has placed in our hands.

As a family, we have opened our home in recent years as a place of safety for babies awaiting adoption. This has been a wonderful means of God teaching us this lesson. We have had to make the decision to continue to do what we believe is right for us as a family and to trust God for His providential care for these children.

For you, the precise circumstances will be different. God may teach you this in the area of childrearing and then “child-releasing.” Or He may do so in the matter of deciding to let go of more of your money and things as you invest them in God’s kingdom. Or perhaps he will do so by your decision to remain Spirit-filled and faithfully love a difficult wife or husband.

Regardless of the specifics, be encouraged by the knowledge of God’s character that He really does care and really is in control. Read God’s revealed will in His Word and trust Him for the wonderful possibilities. God delights in doing what with man is impossible. Make the decision to believe this. Such decisions will be informed by the conviction revealed in our next (and last) point.

Faith Discerns who is Powerful—Yahweh

By faith, Moses became the great liberator of the children of Israel from Egypt. By faith, Moses was used of God to further God’s redemptive purpose initially revealed in Genesis 3:15.

In the Hall of Faith, more wall space is used for the portraits of Abraham and Moses than any other person. But again, as with Abraham, Moses is not the one on display as much as is the God who is faithful. That is, Moses believed God because God is believable. Moses was faithful because God is dependable. Moses obeyed because God is faithful. And so it was with his parents.

The reason they “were not afraid of the king’s command” was because they feared another King far more. Yahweh’s edict was far more authoritative than Pharaoh’s could ever hope to be. They of course knew what Pharaoh could do. But more importantly they knew what God would do. He would fulfil His promise. With such conviction, with such confidence, how could they ever be intimidated by a mere human edict?

The decisions they made were motivated by the fear of the Lord, not by the pathetic fear of pathetic man.

We can learn from this that we overcome lesser and controlling fears by a greater fear. You may fear needles, but the fear of tetanus will probably help you overcome your fear of needles. You may fear surgery and medical treatment, but the fear of dread disease may well help you to overcome it. In the case before us, the fear of man was overcome by the fear of God.

The follower of Jesus Christ is called to reevaluate his fears and to esteem his greatest fear to be the fear of the Lord. When our greatest fear object is Creator God, then faith marches forward with its wonderful fruit: we please the one we fear.

Ben Freeth is a white Zimbabwean farmer who tells the story of how his land was “reclaimed” by Robert Mugabe’s land reform program. Freeth took the matter to court. He was first defeated in the Zimbabwe Constitutional Court before taking it to the SADC Tribunal in South Africa.

What is remarkable about the story is that, despite of losing everything materially, Freeth and his family actually lost nothing of real value. He has high hopes for what is still possible under God in Zimbabwe and throughout Africa. We need this kind of faith. But to have this kind of faith means that we need to deepen our knowledge of God. As Daniel 12:32 exhorts us, “the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.”

Christian, it is vital to believe that the gospel is the power of God to salvation. If we truly believed this then we, like Amram and Jochebed, will by faith do what God requires of us, not fearing the king’s command. We will do what is right in spite of the dangers and risks. We will continue to proclaim and to preach the gospel, trusting God to save even the most hardened.

In a wonderful story titled God’s Samurai, the power of the gospel is displayed in the salvation of a man by the name of Mitsuo Fuchida. You probably are not familiar with the name but you may be familiar with 7 December 1941. If you are American, you most likely are. It is known in the United States as Pearl Harbour Day. On that day, 73 years ago, a 39-year-old pilot by the name of Mitsuo Fuchida became an instant hero in Japan and an instant enemy and the most hated man in America. He led the raid that destroyed several battleships, hundreds of planes and, most infamously, took thousands of lives on Oahu, Hawaii.

But what perhaps most do not know is that, several years after this infamous act, Fuchida became a Christian and spent the rest of his life as an evangelist. To God be the glory!

Who knows but that some of the ISIS terrorists will not day come to faith in Christ. In fact, there are reports of some who are turning to Christ. Who knows what God will yet do in Nigeria and Morocco and Egypt and Libya and South Africa? Who knows what God, through His gospel, may yet do in your family? Who knows what God may yet do in your own life?

Conclusion

When, by faith, we have a proper vision of God, we will find ourselves empowered to overcome lesser, though often very serious, fears. We will be empowered to decide for Christ. And if Moses and his parents could do so 1,500 years before the birth of Christ, how much more should we be willing to do so living two thousand years after Christ’s resurrection and ascension!

You have heard God’s Word. And that is serious, for it makes you accountable before God. You will give an account one day as to what you do with this Word. The decision lies before you.

Will you repent and believe the gospel or will you decide to repudiate it or to delay it? To do the latter is to do the former. And it may be to your eternal detriment.

Do not reject God’s gracious offer of repentance. God is eternal but His grace is not. Today is the day of salvation. So decide for Christ today. Now in this accepted time.

Christian, in many ways you are my main concern. What challenge is staring you in the face threatening you? Fear not, for I bring good tidings of great joy to all kinds of people! God has sent His Son into this world to deliver it from sin—to save you from your sin.

God, in Christ, has been opposed in every way and He has more than conquered in every way. Jesus Christ’s consistent decisions to do righteously earned God’s favour on your account. He died in your place, the righteous for the unrighteous. He then rose from the dead for your justification, for your righteous vindication and therefore for your righteous acceptance before God. And the one who is infinitely greater than Moses daily intercedes for you. He has decided, He has chosen to do so forever! This is what and why we glory in the gospel of God!

The good news is that, because of Jesus’ person and work, we can face our pharaohs knowing that God is with us. The one who was with Amram and Jochebed, and with their son Moses, is with us as well. His name is Emmanuel. When that sinks in then faith deciding to follow becomes a no-brainer. In fact, it really is the only reasonable thing to do.