The word of the day is “choose.” What way of life do we choose? Is it the way of the pleasures of this world or the way of the promises of God? In today’s reading of Hebrews 11:24-26, 32-12:2, we focus on Moses, who had a choice to make between his Egyptian upbringing and His lineage as a member of the People of God. The apostle writes, “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the People of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin…” (NKJV vs. 24-25). Today we will explore that choice and apply it to ourselves.
Today’s reading recalls that Moses left the luxury of Pharaoh’s palace to side with the misery of his relatives, the Hebrew slaves. By faith, he left his comfortable life as a Prince of Egypt to identify with the People of God and their oppression.
Rejecting the Treasures of Egypt and the Pleasures of Sin
The apostle writes that Moses willingly accepted the “reproaches of Christ” rather than possess the “treasures of Egypt” (NKJV vs.26). The Greek word for “reproach” means “defamation,” that is, condemnation, especially slander that is not deserved (Strong’s #3680, 179). This vilification is “of Christ.” That surprising thought refers to Psalm 89:51-53, a lament about the harsh treatment of God’s “anointed,” that is, the king. According to the Psalmist, the king is suffering abuse and dishonor from his enemies, “the reproach of many nations” (Psalm 89:51). This “scorn” foreshadows the maltreatment of the Messiah, that is, the “Christ” who is God’s Anointed.
The apostle writes that Moses resolved to forsake the gratification of the passing “pleasures of sin” (OSB and NKJV vs.25). The Greek term “pleasures” refers to “enjoyment,” and the text reads literally, “… than the temporary enjoyment of sin” (vs. 25). What makes the “delights” of the royal chambers “sin”? The indulgences of the rich, of course, foster the temptations of gluttony, lust, revelry, drunkenness, and idle amusements. When Moses fled the palace, he wisely left behind these “occasions for sin.”
Leaving Behind the Learning and Glories of Egypt
However, in his Life of Moses, Gregory of Nyssa wrote that Moses abandoned more than these temptations. Gregory wrote, “After he had left childhood, and had been educated in pagan learning during his royal upbringing, he did not choose the things considered glorious by the pagans nor did he any longer recognize as his mother that wise woman by whom he had been adopted, but he returned to his natural mother and attached himself to his own kinsmen” (Gregory-of-Nyssa 1978).
Gregory notes that Moses left his pagan learning behind. Paganism is founded on idolatry, and so we can suppose that Moses was educated in the rituals, myths, and morals of the gods. Thus, Moses forsook everything that had to do with idols. His heart and mind were cleared so that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob could reveal Himself to him in the Burning Bush (Genesis 3:6).
Moreover, Gregory says that Moses rejected the “things considered glorious by the pagans.” We can imagine that these things not only included the false worship of idols. They consisted of the values of power, fame, privilege, wealth, extravagance, and comfort of heathenism. But his adopted mother probably also trained him in the virtues of honor, strength, dominance, skill and cunning.
The Reward of Moses’ Choice
All these things Moses renounced to side with the rough and lowly life of His people. By faith, he looked for a better “reward” than he would have received in the Egyptian court. The Greek word for “reward” means payment or wages due (Strong’s #3405, 165). But what was that remuneration to Moses? In his lifetime Moses earned banishment from civilization, bitter conflict with the Pharoah, and the constant complaining of the people. He was paid with forty years of leading an ungrateful and fickle people in the wilderness. Yet his true reward was God’s promise first made to Abraham of the blessings of the covenant relationship with God. Moses would have to wait until the generation that saw the coming of the Messiah for that promise to be fulfilled (Hebrews 11:40).
Moses’ Choice: Our Decision
Now that we have described Moses’ choice, we might apply our study to ourselves. We also have a choice between the goods that our society has to offer and the Good that God gives. We can strive to be comfortable in this life and to strive for success and happiness in this world. Or we can seek first the Kingdom of God. The difference between these two options could not be made clearer than Jesus’ word to the disciples: “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you, but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant” (Mark 10:43-43).
If we want to be served, if we want to have what our passions desire, if we want a comfortable life, then we should stay in the palace of this world. But if we want to enjoy life with God in the everlasting Kingdom of Christ, then we need to forsake the pagan land of our society. We must follow the way of Christ, the way of servanthood, of the cleansing of the passions, and of the Cross (Mark 10:21).
Life in the courts of this world may indulge our appetites for pleasure and ease. But it is also full of intrigue, betrayal, conflict, and dissatisfaction. Most of all, it is “passing,” that is, temporary, as the apostle says (OSB 11:25). But peace, truth, goodness, love, and righteousness are ours in the Kingdom of God. And that Kingdom is eternal.
Every day we wake up to the challenge of making the choice that Moses made once again. What will it be today?
Gregory-of-Nyssa. 1978. The Life of Moses Translated by Abraham J. Malherbe and Everett Ferguson. New York Paulist Press.