Bible Studies on the Real Heroes of the Faith Hebrews 11
Part 10: Moses' 20/20 Spiritual Vision
by I Gordon
If you've got a good memory, you'll remember that the last study in the
Heroes of the Faith series was on Joseph. If you have a great memory
you will remember that we examined that small but hugely important
phrase 'but God'. If you have an exceptional memory you will vividly
recall that when Joseph's brothers finally came to him seeking
forgiveness, he spoke what is one of the best verses in the book of
'You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish
what is now being done, the saving of many lives.' (Genesis 50:20)
We looked at how the phrase 'but God' makes all the difference. If you
have no memory, and you did read or hear that message, don't fear. I've
always like the story of the man who went to his Pastor saying
'Pastor, it's no use! No matter how much I read the Bible, no
matter how hard I concentrate during a sermon, I just don't retain
anything of it. I'm like a sieve!' The wise old pastor replied
'Well, if you hold a sieve under a running tap, it's probably not
going to retain much of the water either. But at least you'll have
a clean sieve!'
And that is so true. So even if your memory is poor, the word of God is
still active, it still cleans, and we'll see if we can have a wash in
the water of the word today! We are onto the next 'hero' in Hebrews 11
today. He is a man that, along with Abraham, is considered the greatest
in the Jewish faith. Hebrews 11 records more about this man than any
other. Who is it?
A quick overview of Moses' characteristics and titles
First, let's just review a few characteristics and titles for Moses.
What was he known for?
Characteristic / Title
Humility / Meekness
'Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than
anyone else on the face of the earth. (Num12:3)
Who wrote this? Argh, that would be Moses! This shows
that either he was the proudest man on planet earth OR
this statement was inspired by the Holy Spirit and is
true. Hmmm... I'll go with the last option.
The man of God
'This is the blessing that Moses the man of God
pronounced on the Israelites before his death...' (Deut
The last chapters of Deuteronomy that speak about
Moses' death were written by Joshua. At the end of
Moses' life he is still called 'the man of God'.
The prophet of God
'Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses,
whom the LORD knew face to face.' (Deut 34:10)
Moses was a unique prophet who stood as a type of the
promised coming prophet - the Lord Jesus (Deut 18:18)
The friend of God
'The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man
speaks with his friend.' (Ex 33:11)
Here is the key to everything that Moses was. He was
the friend of God. He spoke to the Lord face to face.
His close personal relationship with the Lord was the
source of His strength.
What about how the life of Moses can be divided? Let's do a few
questions. How old was Moses when he was born? Yes, I'll give you the
first one... 0.
How old was Moses when he was placed in the basket as a baby, in the
reeds of the Nile River? How old was Moses when he fled Egypt after
murdering the Egyptian? How old was Moses when God called him to lead
Israel in the exodus? How old was Moses when he died?
(Deut 34:7). We see that Moses' life was split into 3 lots of 40. D.L
Moody, the great evangelist and Bible teacher wrote
'Moses spent 40 years thinking he was a somebody, 40 years learning
that he was a nobody and 40 years seeing what God can do with a
So Moses' real purpose in life didn't start till he was 80. You are
never too old to be used by the Lord! Thankfully he didn't go into an
early retirement at age 80 else we would never have heard of him. But
it took that first 80 years of preparation, half of it in isolation, to
be the man that God could use in the last 40. So what is 40 the number
of in the Bible? It speaks of testing and trials. So we could say that
Moses was one well tested, man of God. 40 years of testing with all the
wealth, power and prosperity of Egypt. Then 40 years of testing in
isolation, as a shepherd down in Midian (a greater contrast with Egypt
you couldn't find!) This was finally followed by 40 years of testing in
the wilderness leading an often bickering and grumbling Jewish nation.
So there's the quick overview. The writer of Hebrews looks at the first
40 years and Moses' last 40 years. In this study we'll look at Hebrews
11:23-26 which focuses on the first 40 years of Moses' life.
The faith of Moses' parents (but please stop crying!)
Hebrews 11:23 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.
So the passage starts not with the faith of Moses himself (we'll let
him off, he was less than three months old!) but with the faith of his
parents. I won't say too much about this but it is no small step of
faith. You will remember that the Pharaoh of the day ordered that all
male Hebrew children born should be put to death... all of them! Of
course the parents of a child could chose to disobey that decree, but
they did so at risk of their own life. Some choice they had... let your
child die and save your own life or try to save your child and risk
both of your lives!
When Moses was born the parents saw that he was 'beautiful'. When
Stephen is reciting Israel's history shortly before they stoned him to
death in Acts 7, he says
'It was at this time that Moses was born; and he was lovely in the
sight of God' (vs 20).
So there was something different about Moses right from birth that
indicated God's hand upon him. Now it is likely to have been more than
just his looks as well. The Jewish historian Josephus records that God
gave Moses' father a dream telling him not to despair but that just as
He had aided his forefathers Abraham and Jacob, so would he enable this
child to deliver the Israelites from the Egyptian bondage. This is not
recorded in the Bible so we take it as a possibility but clearly God
had his hand on Moses right from birth and one way or another, his
parents knew it. So facing their own death if caught, in faith they
defied the king and hid the child. No small feat. You can imagine their
thoughts every time baby Moses cried. 'Please be quiet, please be
quiet... for the sake of you own existence, and ours, PLEASE stop
But there came a time when they could hide Moses no longer. Most
Christian parents experience the time when they have to hand their
child over to God and let them go. Not an easy time in some cases. This
often happens somewhere round the late teens or early twenties. For
Moses' parents this happened a little earlier... when Moses had turned a
whopping three months old. If that isn't great faith, as they committed
Moses into the hand of God and pushed the basket out into the reeds of
the Nile River, I don't know what is. As they watched on from a
distance they no doubt were saying in their heart 'we have done what we
can. Now O God, You must do what only You can!'
The unseen hand of God
Hebrews 11:24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be
called the son of Pharaoh's daughter,
As mentioned earlier, for the first 40 years of his life, Moses grew up
in Egypt, the son of Pharaoh's daughter. Acts 7:22 says
'Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he
was a man of power in words and deeds.
' Moses was the real-deal. He was a powerful man. All he had known in
his first 40 years was gold statues and marble floors. His life was one
of servants and lavish banquets. He had not known hunger or lack of any
kind. He was educated in all the wisdom of Egypt and trained as the
possible king one day. He had everything that he could ever desire or
dream of. And yet, by the age of 40, he was having a one-third life
crisis. Something strange was happening within him. The unseen hand of
God was drawing him away
from this life, the only life he had ever known, to associate with
those strange slaves doing hard labour outside - the Israelites. Acts
'But when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind
to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel.'
We could say he was beginning to have an identity crisis. 'Am I an
Egyptian, or an Israelite?' 'Is my ultimate allegiance to Pharaoh, or
to God?' 'Is my purpose in this life to live to be successful in Egypt,
or is there a higher calling and purpose in life?' Moses was being
drawn away, by an unseen hand, to associate with a different family...
his true family and to find the purpose for which he had been created.
I'm sure no one that knew Moses really understood it. 'Why would Moses
want to leave all the glory of Egypt for the sake of those slaves?'
'Has he gone mad? He could have been king... Why is he throwing all his
future away?' Well, the Bible answers why as we'll see. Let's carry on.
Power, pleasure and prosperity. Fame, fortune and... never mind.
Hebrews 11:25-26 '...choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the
people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, (26)
considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of
Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.
We see here that Moses had a lot of temptations to overcome to break
free from the attraction of Egypt. Egypt threw all the biggies at him!
Some Bible teachers and preachers like to divide passages such as this
into single words so that the overall theme can be remembered. If we
were to try that we could say from verses 24-26 that Moses faced the
threefold temptations of 'power, pleasure and prosperity.'
Those three things alone are enough to break a man. In fact, a large
part of the world is spending most of their efforts trying to obtain
one, two or all three of these things - Power, pleasure and prosperity.
Moses faced all three temptations... and still won.
Power & Position - 'W
hen he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's
Moses had power for he was royalty within the leading nation on Earth
at the time. Mankind has been striving for power and position right
from the fall of mankind. You also see it in the animal kingdom where
there is an alpha male in the group who rules from the top... the top
dog. Often there will be a complete hierarchy from top to bottom with
every little chicken knowing it place in the pecking order. You see it
in the business world, in a large corporate environment where people
jostle for positions with some getting trodden on and others ascending
to the top. Brooke Fraser has a song where she uses the line 'w
e are Hosea's wife, we are squandering this life, using people like
ladders and words like knives...'
You can see the lust for power and position in the corporate business
world (using people like ladders to climb up and get ahead of them) but
even within the Christian world. Power and position can be an
intoxifying proposition. Moses faced this temptation.
Pleasure - '
choosing to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to
enjoy the passing pleasures of sin'
Most sin is pleasurable. If it wasn't there would be no temptation. But
it is also shallow and fleeting, never bringing what it promised but
only, eventually, discontentment, separation and death. That's why
earlier on in Hebrews it says to '
encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called
"Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness
of sin.' (Hebrews 3:13)
Sin deceives. It promises one thing and delivers something totally
different. It is deceitful.
But pleasure in general, even if not sinful, can be a temptation and is
a big issue for our Western culture. The Apostle Paul wrote
'But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.
People will be... lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.' (2
People will be lovers of pleasure instead of lovers of God. Now it is
not that God is a kill-joy! The Apostle Paul also wrote in 1 Timothy
6:17 that 'God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment'.
For me, there is nothing better after sitting in front of a computer
all week than to get out into the forest and the sun and enjoy some
mountain biking. But you have to be careful that you don't become a
slave to the things that give you pleasure. I have to be careful. I'm
mindful of that verse that says in the last day people will just go
after pleasure and not God.
considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the
treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.'
Prosperity and getting ahead is a massive part of the Western world.
The 'prosperity gospel' is rife in sections of the Christian church. In
the last 40 years especially covetous men have made this into a
doctrine to not only be believed, but to be greatly desired. 'God wants
you rich... If you are the King's kid you should be rich like He is!'
It's become a familiar catch-cry. Moses 'considered the reproach of
Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.' He was willing to
give up the throne and all the prosperity to be identified with slaves.
He was willing to exchange wealth for the wilderness and follow God's
call. Moses would have identified with this verse:
Psalms 84:10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand
elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
How Moses overcame these temptations - Moses' 20/20 Vision!
So how did Moses overcome this threefold temptation? Four verbs came
into play. You could underline them but working backwards through the
passage is the key. We see that he looked, he reckoned,
he choose and he refused. But it all started with where
Moses was looking. The Bible saying that he was able to do what he did
'because he was looking ahead to the reward.' He had his eye on
eternity. We read at the end of Deuteronomy that when Moses died 'his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.' So at the end
of his life, Moses still had 20/20 vision. Many today are near or
short-sighted. If you are near-sighted you see things that are close
well enough but objects in the distance appear blurry and out of focus.
By that definition, most people in this world, and even many Christians
in the Western world, are seriously near-sighted... spiritually
speaking. They can't see the things of eternity in any type of focus.
Moses' physical eyes were still perfect when he died but more
importantly his spiritual eyes were spot on as well. He was looking,
with clarity, at the things that take place after this life. And it
made a difference!
So he looked. Then he reckoned. Different translations use other words
here like 'considered, esteemed, and regarded'. The word actually has
an accounting thought attached to it... it means to weigh up the pros
and cons. So with 20/20 spiritual vision, being able to see far into
the future and past this earthly life, Moses was able to weigh up what
was the most important for the here and now. It led to only one
conclusion - He considered 'the reproach of Christ greater riches than
the treasures of Egypt.' Having looked at eternity and having weighed
up what he should do, he made a choice. He chose to 'endure
ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing
pleasures of sin'. In short, he chose God, and by extension, God's
people. God had really chosen him from before his birth, but there
still came a time when Moses had to weigh up what was most important in
his life and choose God. This in turn led to the 4th verb in
this passage - He refused. It led to a definite action then and there.
He refused to be part of Pharaoh's line, and Egypt's system, anymore.
Not an easy choice. But oh so important!
The Believer's Bible Commentary sums it up well -
'He was the adopted son of Pharaoh's daughter and therefore assured
of a place in the social elite, perhaps even as Pharaoh's
successor. But he had been born of better blood - a member of God's
chosen earthly people... In his adult years he made his choice; he
would not hide his true nationality to win a few short years of
earthly fame. The result? Instead of occupying a line or two of
hieroglyphics on some obscure tomb, he is memorialized in God's
eternal Book. Instead of being found in a museum as an Egyptian
mummy, he is famous as a man of God.'
So... how's your eyesight?
So how is your spiritual eyesight? Have you learned to see beyond what
the world tells you is important? You can be sure that the world's
values revolve around power, position, pleasure and prosperity. And
because we live in this world, every day there is an attempt made to
mould us into that likeness. Moses faced it all but was able to choose
God instead because He was looking ahead to His reward. In other words,
he knew that yes, there was temporal pleasure in many of the things
Egypt had to offer, but that is exactly what it is... temporal. The
rewards God give are eternal. One of the last things that Jesus said
comes in the last chapter of the book of Revelation:
Revelation 22:12 "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is
with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.
How would you feel if the Lord returned this week and you had to stand
before him to have your life examined? Some people think that being
motivated by the thought of eternal rewards is wrong. I guess they
think it is selfish. Maybe they think that love for God should be our
motivation. There is no doubt that love for God, flowing out of His
love for us, should be the primary motivating factor in our pursuit of
God. But don't discount or lessen the motivation that comes from
knowing that each and every one of us will one day stand before God to
have our life accessed in regards to eternal rewards. Hebrews 11 is
God's assessment of the great saints of old and why they were able to
do what they did. And clearly God is happy to show how they were
motivated by what happens in the days of eternity. Apart from what we
have read about Moses, it also says in Hebrews 11:35 about other saints
'Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might
gain a better resurrection.' There is such a thing as obtaining a
Light from some graves???...
As I was doing this study I started thinking of what we can learn from
those that are nearing death as they reflect on a life now over. And
this led to seeing what words of wisdom were written on different
gravestones - especially of well known Christians. Sounds a little
morbid but let me just state a few:
One epitaph on a tombstone stated:
'What I spent, I lost. What I saved, I left. What I gave, I have.'
There is someone that knows something about eternal rewards. In
contrast is the following gravestone in a small English village which
"Here lies a miser who lived for himself, And cared for nothing but
gathering wealth. Now where he is or how he now fares, Nobody knows
and nobody cares."
Gulp...That's really sad! None of us want to get to the end of our life
and have that as a life story! The godly evangelist George Whitefield,
who God used wonderfully, said the only epitaph he wants engraved on
his tombstone is
"Here lies George Whitefield; what sort of man he was the great day
There is sobering truth there! C.S. Lewis wrote about a
gravestone that read, 'Here lies an atheist - all dressed up and no place to go.' You
definitely don't want to get to the end of your life not even knowing
why it began! Expressing the thought of what happens at death is this
one that tickles me, (which I've mentioned before), from Alabama! '
Here lies Solomon Peas, under the daisies and under the trees. But
Peas is not here, only the pod, Peas shelled out and went to God.'
John Newton who wrote the immortal hymn 'Amazing Grace' has the
following on his gravestone:
"John Newton, Clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of
slaves in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour
Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to
preach the faith he had long labored to destroy."
Now that's a testimony of a changed life! In a Uniontown, Pennsylvania
cemetery, one grave simply says:
'Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake. Stepped on the gas Instead
of the brake.'
Ok... even though that was just put in for a laugh, in this life where
it is very easy for people to be incredibly busy doing very little of
consequence, we can probably learn something from Jonathon Blake!
Sometimes we just need to step on the brake, slow it on down, take time
to commune with God again and get back to the things that matter.
Another gravestone is that of the great evangelist and teacher D. L
Moody. His has one line under his name: 'He that doeth the will of God abideth forever.' That was his
message, in life and death. Buried next to him is Moody's wife, Emma,
whose stone has the inscription
'His servants shall serve him: ...and they shall reign for ever and
Again we see the eternal focus.
So Moses looked ahead to his reward. He thought of eternity and that
made the difference. That, as we see in Hebrews, led to a series of
actions - He looked at what was ahead, leading him to consider what was
important, leading him to make a choice of which way he would go,
leading him to refuse the attractions of Egypt and to follow God. That
is why he is in Hebrews 11. That is why, as Big Blue says, '
Instead of occupying a line or two of hieroglyphics on some obscure
tomb, he is memorialized in God's eternal Book. Instead of being
found in a museum as an Egyptian mummy, he is famous as a man of
And these things are written as examples for us. We face the same
temptations and the same choices. We want to be found on that great day
as someone who loved God and wanted to make Him known.
But as we close, also remember what we said at the start as well -
Moses was a friend of God. The Bible says God spoke with him face to
face as a man speaks with his friend. He was a man of God, a servant of
God, but best of all, the friend of God. That was the ongoing source of