Biblical Faith, Part 7

faith 7

The late Jim Elliot, missionary, once observed,

God always gives His best to those who leave the choice up to Him.

That sounds good and makes for an inspirational meme on the Internet, but it’s not true. It doesn’t make any sense. And it’s also not Biblical. The Bible is replete with examples of people who made choices, good ones and bad ones. God doesn’t and won’t make the choice for anybody. He gave us the ability to choose and as believers it’s up to us to make the right choices – the God-glorifying choices. That’s up to us. Ayn Rand was right when she wrote,

[Man] has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice.

We make choices all the time; hundreds of choices every day. There are big choices and small ones but as Christians, all our choices should reflect the character and nature of God.

Moses’ hard choice

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 fleeting pleasures of sin. (Hebrews 11:24, 25 NIV)

You’ll recall the amazing story of the faith of Amram and Jochebed, the parents of Moses, as they defied the Egyptian “law of the land,” which called for the killing of all Hebrew baby boys. In faith, they hid baby Moses and then floated him down the Nile, where he was retrieved, unbelievably, by the pharaoh’s daughter! She then raised him as her own, employing Jochebed, Moses’ real mother, as his full-time nanny! You have to shake your head in astonishment at how God honored the faith of those two Hebrew parents. But, then, God honors the faith of all believing parents, as they in faith entrust their children to the care and providence of God. It’s their choice to make.

At the age of 40, Moses made a conscious decision to side with his people, the Hebrews, and to forsake the Egyptians. No other Old Testament character holds such an esteemed position among the Israelites than does Moses. He was their deliverer and their lawgiver. Both inside and outside of the Bible, Moses is the kind of person legends are made of. Josephus, for example, wrote that when pharaoh’s daughter brought the child to the king, he put his royal crown on the boy’s head. Little Moses, though, hurled it to the ground and stomped on it.

That may or may not be Hebrew lore, but what we do know for sure is that Moses made the most important decision of his life as a man, not as an impulsive child. The phrase, “when he had grown up,” it has been suggested, may mean something like this: “having become great.” Stephen in Acts says Moses was 40 years old when he decided to side with the Israelites. In all probability both ideas are true. Moses had become a great man and he was a mature man when he made the choice that would trigger the fulfillment of God’s will, not only his life but for the life of a nation.

Never underestimate the power and influence of a single decision you must make. No wonder the Bible has so much to say about making the right choices! A lot can hinge on making the right one. God is very interested in making sure we do just that, so He leads us and guides and has given us some excellent advice:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5, 6 ESV)

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5 ESV)

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. (Isaiah 30:21 ESV)

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV)

Very often, in the absence of all the facts or flying in the face of common sense or cultural norms, a decision will have to be made in faith. Such was the decision of Moses, and he was commended for that.

But it wasn’t an easy one for this man to make.

He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. (Hebrews 11:25 NIV)

Facing those consequences

Game developer and atheist Ken Levine, who was so wrong about God, was right when he said this:

We all make choices, but in the end our choices make us.

Moses, the guy who had such a good life, needed to become a leader and a deliverer. Think about his decision. He knew going into it that the consequences would not be so great, at least in the short term. He could have kept on enjoying the “pleasures of sin,” but he chose to side with those who were facing persecution and hardship. He was going to learn firsthand why his people needed to be delivered; he needed to feel firsthand what persecution and ill treatment felt like.

This man, Moses, was not a reformer or a revolutionary, but a man of pure faith who deliberately sided with God’s people, even though that decision appeared to make no sense, to Egyptian and Hebrew alike.

That phrase, “the pleasures of sin” deserves a second look. It in no way suggests that Moses was some kind of rakish, spoiled party boy. Rather it’s a phrase that carries a much deeper thought. Once Moses was made aware of God’s call on his life, to not respond to that call would have been sinful. To simply ignore the decision God wanted him to make and return to Egypt would have been a sin. He may, in fact, have been a decent and moral man living in the Egyptian court. But if he was there out of God’s will, that would have been sinful.

That’s why making the right decision is so important. Even those so-called “small decisions” should be made, not in the light of the present, but in the light of eternity. Esau is the classic example of the way most of us make decisions. Here was a guy who was hungry who made a choice to satisfy a genuine temporal need he had, but at the expense of taking into consideration how that decision would affect his future.

Moses’ decision made him into the kind of leader and deliverer he needed to be. He already had the right character – his outward and courageous refusal to become part of the Egyptian machine was the result of who he was on the inside. One Bible scholar put it this way:

The ability to make up one’s mind, and to settle always on the right side, is the mark of strong character.

But the Hebrew Christians to whom this letter was written weren’t like Moses. Their faith was wavering. They seemed to be questioning their decision to follow Jesus. They needed to pay attention to the faith of a guy like Moses and emulate his faith.

And we should, too!

Counting the cost

Moses is, perhaps, the first example of a believer who consciously counted the cost of following Jesus:

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. (Hebrews 11:26 NIV)

David Meece wrote about this idea of “counting the cost,” and the lyrics of his song are right on:

You gotta count the cost If you’re gonna be a believer, You gotta know that the price Is the one you can afford! You gotta count the cost If you’re gonna be a believer, You gotta go all the way If you really love the Lord!

Moses knew the value of “the treasures of Egypt,” but he determined in his own mind that “disgrace for the sake of Christ” was of greater value. We’ve discussed this idea of Moses and Christ previously. Somewhere in the recesses of Moses’ heart and mind, there was the inkling that he was not the final deliverer of God’s people. Moses, using the prophetic insight available to all people of faith, knew he was just a spoke in the great wheel of God’s will. But what he knew of a coming Messiah was enough to help him make the right decision.

It was some choice: “disgrace for the sake of Christ” versus “the treasures of Egypt.” Imagine what would have become of Moses had he not chose to side with his people. Moses might well have become a pharaoh of Egypt. His sarcophagus might have been dug up by Howard Carter and his mummified body on display in some musty museum today. Instead, he chose to become associated with the people of God. He became Israel’s deliverer and lawgiver and here is his name listed among the greatest of all people of faith.

Moses was far from perfect, though. He had a self-doubts. He had a temper. And in the end, he didn’t quite make it into the Promised Land. He died in the obscure mountains of Moab. But, oddly enough, that wasn’t end of Moses.

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. (Matthew 17:1, 2 NIV)

What an honor. No wonder the writer to the Hebrews listed Moses as a man of faith.

True, Biblical faith always esteems suffering for the sake of Christ above any kind of riches. James Stephenson wrote:

If you are reproached for the Name of Christ, happy are you; your position is to be coveted.

It’s not that suffering is so great, it’s because of something Peter wrote in 1 Peter 4:14 –

If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (NIV)

We need to remember this verse, because sometimes the evidence of our faith is seen in our suffering for Christ, not in the blessings we receive from Him.

 

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