In The Screwtape Letters a senior devil, called Screwtape, is writing to his nephew, a junior devil called Wormwood. And at one point the man that Wormwood oversees becomes a Christian. Screwtape writes to him to offer some words of wisdom…(quote)…"The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel."
What Screwtape knows, and what the writer of Hebrews knows, is that unless we put our faith into action, it will die. The writer of Hebrews is desperate for Christians to persevere, not to grow weary and lose heart. And the way to do that is to put your faith into action.
And so in chapter 11 he gives us example after example after example of what that looks like. He shows us, through examples in the Old Testament, what it looks like to live by faith.
And tonight we come to the example of Moses.
And what I hope we're going to see through the example of Moses is that faith means...Seeing God in the Dark
In Acts chapter 7 we read this about Moses…
At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for in his father's house. When he was placed outside, Pharaoh's daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.
Just imagine the upbringing Moses must have had in the Royal palace of Egypt. Three and a half thousand years ago Egypt was a world superpower. Pharaoh was the supreme ruler of Egypt and Moses was his grandson. He was a royal baby, a public figure. I'm guessing there would have been pictures of him in the Ancient Egyptian equivalent of Hello! magazine. Moses would have had the finest education in the world! He would have grown up knowing all about the history and economics and engineering of Egypt. And of course he would have been taught to worship the gods of Egyptians. Like Ra the god of the sun and Hapi the god of the Nile…
The amazing thing is that when he grew up, Moses chose to reject all of that. He chose to worship the god of his people, the Israelites. The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.
For 40 years he lived as a member of the Egyptian royal family. The son of Pharaoh's daughter, the grandson of Pharaoh himself! And yet somewhere along the line, he put his faith in God, And so we read in Hebrews 11.24…
By faith, Moses chose not to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter, or as one of Pharaoh's grandchildren.
He chose to be known as one of God's children. And that choice meant giving up everything. He chose to leave the palace to become a slave. He left privilege to embrace poverty. Do you want to know what it looks like to put your Christian faith into action? Well here is one example. By faith, Moses gave up his wealth, his status, his privilege, his security, his position, his inheritance…everything. Why? Because Moses could see…
Seeing the Treasure of God in the Dark (v.24-26)
Moses knew that he had a choice. He knew that he couldn't stay in the palace and be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter AND follow God. He had to choose. Do you remember what Jesus says in Mattew 6.24…
No-one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
Or what John says in 1 John 2.15
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Moses knew that he had to make a choice between all that this world had to offer, and God. And he chose God. Why? Well, because in the darkness of life as an Israelite slave, he saw the treasure of God. Moses knew that staying in the palace and being a good, faithful Prince of Egypt would bring all the pleasures of sin. But only, v.25,
for a short time
He knew that the things that this world has to offer, only last a lifetime. But he that after we die each one of us will be judged by God. And he believed that being right with God for eternity was a far greater treasure that being right with Pharaoh for life. Moses understood that the things of this world, and loving the things of this world only make sense if you don't believe in heaven and hell.
Do you see?
Even though Moses gave up life in the palace to become a slave… He didn't give up riches for rags… No, he gave up short-term, limited, earthly riches, for long-term, unlimited, heavenly riches. Someone once said…"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." That was Moses.
And perhaps for some of us, that is the step of faith we need to take. You're still trying to hold on to both. The things this world has to offer AND the things of God. But you can't. You have to chose. And faith chooses to give up everything else to follow God. Because faith sees, even in the darkest times, that the treasure of God is greater than the treasure of this world.
But that's not all, look at v.26. What Moses saw in the dark was not only that the treasure of God in heaven is greater than the treasure of this world… He also saw that disgrace for the sake of Christ…suffering for the sake of being a Christian…being persecuted because of your faith… Is of greater value than the treasure of this world!!
Following God is not easy. Choosing to reject the world and follow God is hard, and the Bible tells us that if we chose that road then we will face persecution. But what faith sees, and what Moses saw, is that suffering for Christ is actually greater, and more satisfying, and more meaningful and ultimately will bring you more joy…than the pleasures of sin.
Do you remember the story of the Apostles in Acts 5? The Apostles had been preaching the good news of Jesus. They'd been healing people, and a church had started meeting together in Jerusalem. And the religious leaders were furious, so they arrested the Apostles and put them on trial. And this is what we read in Acts 5…
They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.
They were flogged for following Christ and what was their response? They were full of joy and went on preaching all the more!
Now I'm sure that if you're not a Christian here tonight that will make no sense to you at all. But if you are a Christian, then let me ask you...have you discovered this yet? That following Christ, even when it means hardship and persecution, and ridicule from your friends, and mocking from your mates, and missed promotions, and lost friendships... Even when it brings all those hardships, following Christ brings more joy.
Disgrace for the sake of Christ is of far greater value than the treasures of this world. Because we're being counted with Christ. We're following where he has gone before, and one day we can be sure that we will continue to follow him all the way into heaven.
Faith sees the treasure of God in the dark. I don't mean to embarrass anyone here… But faith means giving up your Thursday nights to spend time helping out with The Rock, even when the kids you're trying to reach out to you swear at you… Faith means giving up a week of your hard earned holidays to lead on a Christian youth camp… Faith looks like taking a pay-cut so that you can work four days a week in the office and use the extra day to reach out to your local community with the gospel… Faith means moving house, out of the catchment area of the good schools for your kids, so that you can be part of an estate that has no Christian witness… Faith means leaving your family, and leaving England to go abroad and serve God as a missionary overseas… Faith means speaking up when your friends are ridiculing Biblical values. Faith means seeing the treasure of God in the dark.
Secondly faith means…
Seeing the Faithfulness of God in the Dark (v.27)
Now when we read the account in Exodus 2 it seems that Moses left Egypt when Pharaoh discovered that he had murdered an Egyptian. Well again I think the account in Acts chapter 7 helps us find the answer. In v.25 it tells us that after he had killed the Egyptian…
Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not.
Now we're not told exactly when, but it's clear that Moses grew up with some sense that God was going to use him to rescue his people. And he thought that killing the Egyptian would be the start of that uprising. But it wasn't. The people didn't follow Moses, and Pharaoh turned against him…so Moses ran. Now maybe Moses was afraid for his own life, but he wasn't afraid that ultimately Pharaoh would win. Even as he ran, Moses had faith… Faith that God would use him to rescue his people. And Moses kept that faith for the next 40 years. A few verses later in Acts 7 we read this…
After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai.
Can you imagine that? Moses left Egypt when he was 40 years old. He was in the prime of his life, he was smart, he was educated, a born leader with faith in the power of God and his part in those plans. But God made him wait. Not until things had calmed down. Not until Moses had regained his composure. God made him wait for 40 years! Can you imagine what must have been going through Moses' mind? Can you imagine what was in his prayers must have been like? "God I'm ready...send me now." "Ok God, now I'm ready...send me now." Year after year, for 40 years there was no word from God. And then one day, God appeared to him in the burning bush. And yet all that time, we're told, Moses had faith.
He persevered, because he saw him who is invisible.
Moses' faith meant that he saw the faithfulness of God, even in the dark. Isn't that remarkable faith? When God seems slow to answer our prayers, or slow to keep his promises, how long does our faith last? How long is it before we turn round to him and say,
"God you said you would be with me!
"God, you said that I had nothing to fear.
"You said that you would guide me.
"You said that you would help me, and give me strength.
"God you said that all things would work together for the good of those who love you...
"But God, this illness hasn't brought me any good...
"This unemployment hasn't brought me any good...
"This sin that I'm battling with hasn't gone away and it hasn't brought me any good...
"This infertility, this pain, this suffering, this singleness hasn't brought me good...
So often we lose faith, because we don't have what God promised NOW. When life gets dark, we don't trust God, we doubt God. But faith... Faith sees the faithfulness of God, even in the dark. Moses waited for 40 years...and then God used him, just as he had promised. Faith means seeing the faithfulness of God in the dark. And finally Moses shows us that faith means...
Seeing the Love of God in the Dark (v.28)
When Moses came back to Egypt he brought with him the message from God to Pharaoh that unless he let his people go, God would send plagues against him. And if we know the story, you'll know that's exactly what happened. Blood, then frogs, then gnats, then flies, then death to livestock, then boils, then hail, then locusts, and then darkness. 9 terrible plagues But none of them as terrible as the last. Finally God said that he was going to come and kill the firstborn son of every family in Egypt. It was the punishment for the sin and wickedness of the people.
The problem was that the people of God, the Israelites, were just as wicked and sinful as the Egyptians.
If death was going to come as a punishment for sin, then the Israelites were in just as much danger as the Egyptians! So what did God do? He told Moses that there was a way to be saved. That if each family made a special meal of lamb, and if they took some of the blood of the lamb that they had killed and put it on their doorframes, then when he came to bring judgment he would 'passover' those houses that had already been marked with blood. Even in the darkness of his own judgment, god still loved his people and provided a way for them to be saved. And Moses saw the love of God in the dark.
The story of Moses is remarkable. This prince of Egypt who chooses to give up everything to come to his people and be used by God to rescue them. It is an incredible story. Yet what is most remarkable about it is that it is just a glimpse, just a shadow of a much greater story. 1500 years after Moses, Jesus gave up his position in heaven, he gave up his place in heaven, to come and be with us, to be used by his Father to rescue us. Philippians 2.5b-8...
...Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!
If we have faith like Moses, if we believe in God, then we know that one day he will come to judge each one of us. He is a good God, so he must judge us, and we know that that day will be a dark day because what we deserve is God's punishment. But God sent his Son, His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life. That day should be a day of darkness, and for some it will be. But for those of us who have faith in Jesus it will be a day of joy and light and love. Having faith like Moses means seeing the love of God even in the dark.
Life is not always easy. Very often it is hard and painful, and dark. But if you have faith, and if you put that faith into practise, well then, like Moses... You will see the treasure of God even in the dark. And the faithfulness of God in the dark. And the love of God in the dark. And if you hold onto that faith, then he will hold onto you, until he returns and this world is no longer dark, anymore.