Allow me to take you on a trip backward in time for a moment to 1888. In that year in England, Queen Victoria is on the throne and Robert Cecil, Marquess of Sailsbury (a Conservative) is her Prime Minister. Dunlop patents the pneumatic bicycle tire, the Lawn Tennis Association is formed, the Football League begins play, and Jack the Ripper terrorizes London. And on sunday morning June 24, 1888, Charles H. Spurgeon preached a sermon at the Metropolitan Temple in the Elephant and Castle district of London to about 2,000 people titled “Moses-His Faith and Decision” (you can read it in full here).
And why do I bring this all up? Because I have been thinking how much like teenagers we all are. Teenagers are full of angst and everything is dramatic for them because they are experiencing so many things for the first time. The first time a friend betrays them, the first time they compete and lose (or win), the first time they may have the responsibility of a job, the first time they fall in love. These things make them think that no one else has ever conquered, or loved, or lost or hurt as they do. But as adults we look at them and say,”This is not such a big thing.” Because we’ve been there, done that and know what they are going through is commonplace.
It happens to us too. We look at our world and say technological progress and communication has never been this great. Or politics has never been as dirty as it is today. Or crime worse today than it ever was. But Spurgeon’s Victorian London was a hotbed of technological change, the pace was breathtaking. Communication with the four corners of the Empire was nearly instantaneous. One could post a message in the morning and your correspondent across town could read it with his evening mail. Standards of living were the highest in the world and yet the police were bedeviled by an unsolvable series of killings by a serial killer that defines the type.
And Spurgeon, a thoroughgoing extremely modern Victorian, reaches even further back, to the time of Moses to remind his congregation that what they see in their own lives has been true since the time of Moses: that faith that causes us to act is faith that saves.
His text, and ours, was Hebrews 11:24-28:
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. 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. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
He notes a number of things about Moses faith:
- It was active and evidenced itself both in the things he did and didn’t do.
- It was a faith considered by a mature person, not an impulse of the immature.
- Moses paid a price for his faith
- Moses reward for faithfulness exceeded the reward he could have had otherwise.
But what I find fascinating about the sermon is his detailed listing of 4 of the arguments Moses must have faced from his friends and himself as he considered placing his faith in God and rejecting the riches of a life as a son of Pharaoh. Are these the same kind of arguments we find ourselves facing when we try to step out in faithful obedience to God?
The first objection was one of filial obligation to his mother the princess. Had she not lavished love an care on him? Surely following God and rejecting his Egyptian upbringing would bring great hurt on his adopted mother who loved him.
Next, the God who provides all things has provided Moses with the situation he finds himself in. Surely it was the hand of God that directed the princess to see him hidden in the river. God must mean him to keep his position.
How much more good could Moses do his people by retaining his position. Perhaps he could deflect some of the excesses of Pharaoh and make the life of the people easier. Perhaps one day he could be in a position to secure their freedom?
He might have thought to compromise. Spurgeon was ahead of his time suggesting that Moses could taken a much more open, liberal approach and styled himself as an “Egypto-Israelite” or an “Israelito-Egyptian–putting the better part in the front”. The saying he quote here is that Moses could have “held with the hare and run with the hounds”.
What is it that keeps us from truly stepping out on faith? What justifications do we make in our private thoughts that keep us where we are?
It is of some comfort to me that I am not the first to face such struggles. Spurgeon knew it, Moses knew it too. And millions of people throughout history have chosen to follow God in faith, just as Moses did. Paul knew what the answer for us must be. He said in Hebrews 12:1-2:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.