The Faith of Moses
Moses lived for 40 years as a prince of the wealthiest, most cultured and advanced society of his day. Acts 7:22 says “Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians”. But he rejected a comfortable life at court with the royal family. He “refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter”. (24)
Exodus 2:5-10 tells us that Pharaoh’ daughter found the baby Moses in the river and she took him as a son. He was, in effect, a prince. Instead, he identified himself with God’s people, believing God’s promises. He would have learned of those promises during his early childhood, when his own mother raised him as a nurse for Pharaoh’s daughter. (Exodus 2:9-10). He may also have been exposed to this history as part of his education.
Moses chose to suffer with his people, to be mistreated, as one of the people of God. He rejected the life of sin in Egypt. (24) I think this refers to Exodus 2:11. It is the first event of Moses’ adult life. It begins with “when Moses had grown up”. That is the exact language used in Hebrews 11:24. You may remember the story of Moses killing an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew. The story starts out by saying “Moses went out to his people”. The Jewish writers generally interpreted this to mean he identified himself as Hebrew and rejected his Egyptian identity. Certainly, when he killed the Egyptian to protect the Hebrew, he identified himself with the Hebrews.
It is rather a picture of salvation for all of us, isn’t it? He left a life of sin to follow God at any cost.
It also relates back to the current situation of his audience, described in Hebrews 10. They lost property, Moses abandoned his riches. They suffered reproach, Moses was disdained by Pharaoh, his family and his court. But Moses endured in faith, he did not abandon his faith in the face of suffering.
He suffered to obey God. God asked Moses to do many scary things, such as confront the Pharaoh, part the sea and lead a nation out into the desert to the Promised Land. He suffered attacks from the Egyptians and nations he encountered along the way. He suffered rebellion from his people, jealousy from his brother and sister, heat, cold, dirt, fatigue, hunger and pain to obey God. In this sense he shared the reproach of Christ. (26)
Christ suffered for his people in obedience to God. Moses did the same. And he suffered because it was better than great wealth on earth. He did all that by faith. He believed God. He trusted God to fulfill his promise. He “was looking ahead to his reward”. (26) He could have had his best life now, living in indulgence in Egypt, but he chose eternal life with God. His faith was as “seeing him who is invisible”. (27) Certainly Moses had the experience of seeing the angel of the Lord in the burning bush. You can read about that in Exodus 3. And he had many experiences of communication with God. But God was invisible to him as to us. Heaven was invisible to him as to us. But his faith made them as real as seeing.
Verse 27 says “By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king”. It is difficult to know which departure from Egypt the writer means. It seems in context to refer to Moses fleeing Egypt after he filled the Egyptian. However, the text in Exodus 2 plainly states that Moses was afraid. If Hebrews 11:27 refers to that departure, it would have to mean Moses overcame his fear by faith. If verse 27 refers to Moses leading Israel out of Egypt, it fits the description of Moses not having fear because of his great faith. The problem here is that it would be out of chronological order, since the Passover is mentioned in the next verses, but occurred before the departure.
So, I think it is similar to the statement about his parents not fearing the king. They knew they could die for their actions, but they chose to obey God, to fear God, rather than the king.
Verse 29 adds one last fact about Moses. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled blood on the doorposts of every Israelite home so that the Lord, the destroyer, would not kill the first born children of Israel as he did those of the Egyptians. This was the last of the 10 plagues that made Pharaoh finally agree to let Israel leave Egypt. This is the event recorded in Exodus 12. He “passed over” the houses with blood on the door frames. Moses’ faith was demonstrated by doing what God said before the event happened.
Moses is a very important example in this passage, along with that of Abraham. Abraham was the father of the Jewish nation. Moses was the law giver. The law was often called “the law of Moses” even though it was the law of God revealed to Moses. Since he was associated with the law, it is important to the writer’s Jewish audience to see that he lived by faith, not law or ritual.
Faith at the Red Sea
God gave Moses the power to part the sea. Then, by faith, the Israelites walked across the dry river bed with all their belongings, their children, and their animals. At any time the wall of water could collapse on them and kill them. But they had faith in God to keep his word and deliver them. (see Exodus 14)