“That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.” (Philippians 3:10)
We all make choices every day, some more important than others. God has given each of us the capability and the responsibility to choose how we live our lives. It is important that we know how to make good choices. In this study, we will look at a key choice that Moses made and what led him to choose as he did.
We are all familiar with the story of Moses, who was placed alongside the river in a basket carefully prepared by his mother. There he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter who had compassion on him and raised him in Egypt as her own son.
When Moses was forty years old, he reached a critical point in his life. He was the son of Hebrew parents, one of God’s chosen people. He was descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the fathers of the nation to whom God had made great and wonderful promises. But Moses had been raised as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, with all the privileges and benefits that Egypt had to offer. Where would his life go from here? Moses had a choice to make. He could choose the way of the world and continue to enjoy his current life in Egypt, or he could choose the way of the Lord and join himself with the people of Israel.
Moses’ decision is recorded in Hebrews 11:24.
“By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.”
Moses chose to refuse his position in Egypt and all that this worldly nation had to offer him. As a result of this important decision, we know that God used him to deliver the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt and led them to the promised land of Canaan.
When did Moses make this choice? The King James text says “when he was come to years” and the New King James text says “when he became of age.” The Greek literally reads “when he became great.” The Greek word for “great” is “megas,” from which we get the commonly used prefix, “mega.” This word can mean great in years, grown, or mature, but it can also mean important, powerful, praised or promoted. Moses had become mature in years, for Acts 7:23tells us he was forty years old, but he had also become an important and powerful person in Egypt.
- He had great position and prestige, for he was called “the son of Pharaoh’s daughter” (Exo. 2:10).
- He had great privileges, for he was “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22).
- He had great power, for he was “mighty in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22).
- He had access to great pleasures, for he was raised in a household which worshipped idols, a religious system accompanied by all the worldly pleasures of “wine, women, and song.”
- He had great possessions, for as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, he was heir to and possessor of all the treasures of Egypt.
In spite of all this greatness that was his to enjoy, all that Egypt and the world had to offer, Moses chose to give it all up — and for what? The children of Israel were currently:
- Strangers and aliens in a foreign land.
- Slaves who were afflicted with hard labor under cruel taskmasters.
- Subjects of a king who hated them and would stop at nothing, even killing their baby boys, to keep his authority and control over them intact.
- Physically weak, poor, and utterly helpless to change their terrible condition.
- Spiritually weak, for they themselves had begun to worship the idols of Egypt (cf. Josh. 24:14).
Why would Moses give up Egypt to be associated with a group of people who were in such a sad and seemingly hopeless situation? What led Moses to make this choice? The answer is very important, for we face the same decision that Moses did. Do we follow the way of the world, with its position, prestige, privileges, power, pleasure, and possessions, or do we follow the way of the Lord? We must make choices like this every day in regard to our education, our work, our friends, our activities, etc.
As we continue reading in Hebrews 11, we find three principles which guided Moses in his decision; principles which we can apply in making our decisions as well.
Hebrews 11:25 goes on to tell us that Moses’ refusal, in verse 24, was based on his
“… choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.”
The word “choosing” could read literally “having chosen,” indicating that this choice occurred prior to his refusal and was therefore the basis for his refusal. What did he choose? Moses chose to suffer affliction (ill treatment) with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin. He chose suffering over sin, even with all its enjoyment and pleasure.
This verse makes it clear that sin does bring pleasure and enjoyment to people. We do a disservice to children, young people, and even adults by telling them that sin only brings misery, for when they become involved in some type of sin, they find that they receive a great deal of pleasure from it. Sin can be fun. It is pleasant to the flesh and to our old sin nature. We don’t need to lie and say that sin is not fun, for people will find out for themselves that this is simply not true. What we do need to stress about sin is that the pleasures and enjoyment it brings are only temporary. They only last for a season and then they pass away (1 John 2:17). Moses chose sufferings over the pleasures of sin because he knew that the pleasures afforded by Egypt were only temporary. In fact, he also knew this was true about the sufferings as well. They too would last only for a season, for God had made great and wonderful promises to Israel; promises that Moses knew God would one day faithfully fulfill.
Moses’ decision illustrates the first principle for making good choices.
Eternal versus Temporary
As believers, we need to make our choices in view of what will last for eternity rather than what is only temporary. The apostle Paul stressed this very principle in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
What do you look at when you are faced with decisions in life? The things you can see and feel and experience here and now, or the things which you cannot see, but you know will last for all eternity? We sing a simple little chorus that says,
With eternities values in view, Lord. With eternities values in view. May I do each day’s work for Jesus, With eternities values in view.
When we apply this principle, we will conclude, as Paul did in Romans 8:18,
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Returning to our passage in Hebrews 11, verse 26 tells us that Moses’ refusal to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, as well as his choice to suffer affliction with the people of God, was based on his
“… esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.”
The word “esteeming” could be translated, more literally, “having esteemed,” indicating that this occurred prior to his choice to suffer and prior to his refusal of Egypt, thus forming the basis for these two decisions.
The word “esteem” refers to what you judge or deem to be important or valuable. This verse gives us a view of Moses’ value system. Moses looked at two options: (1) the treasures (or storehouse) of Egypt versus (2) the shame or reproach of the Christ.
As the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses had access to the vast storehouses of earthly treasure associated with the king of Egypt. He was, no doubt, a very rich man. If he forsook Egypt and joined himself to the people of God, he knew that he would not only be giving up all those riches, but he would also experience shame and reproach from the people of Egypt. He would be ridiculed and verbally abused by the very same people who had once been his friends and family. It is interesting to note that this shame or reproach is said to be because of “the Christ.” Even at this early point in Israel’s history, they knew of their promised Messiah or Christ (lit. “the Anointed One”) who would be their Deliverer. Moses knew that aligning himself with the people of God would result in his suffering shame for the sake of this promised Christ.
If Moses had been fleshly minded, he would have chosen the treasures of Egypt. Most of the people of the world today have this mindset, even many believers. They esteem the physical things of the world to be more valuable than the spiritual blessings God has to offer.
Moses demonstrated that he was spiritually minded. He knew that suffering shame and reproach with God’s people for the sake of their promised Christ afforded him greater riches (wealth) than all the treasures Egypt had to offer. The same is true today. The apostle Paul told the Philippian believers,
“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”
The word “granted” is the Greek word “charizomai” which is closely akin to the word “grace.” The opportunity to suffer for the sake of, or on behalf of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is a gift freely given to us by God. If we would keep this in mind, it would make it much easier for us to bear up under the sufferings and tribulation which come our way.
The twelve apostles, in Acts 5, illustrate the proper attitude believers should have regarding trials and sufferings. The apostles had been imprisoned and interrogated by the Jewish Sanhedrin in Jerusalem because of their testimony concerning Jesus Christ. Many of the Jewish leaders wanted to put the apostles to death, but a Pharisee named Gamaliel intervened on their behalf. The apostles were beaten, commanded not to speak anymore in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, and then released. Upon their release, the apostles
“… departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41)
Moses had the same value system as the twelve apostles. He knew that greater riches were to be found in suffering shame for Christ than in all the treasures in Egypt.
Moses’ value judgment illustrates the second principle for making good choices.
Spiritual versus Fleshly
If we, as believers, are to make good choices, we need to base our decisions upon the correct values. Fleshly, physical treasures are only temporary. There is no guarantee that they will last. In fact, we know that they will not last. In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus taught this same principle as part of His “sermon on the mount.”
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
As God’s dear children, the things that are truly valuable to us are not the treasures this world has to offer, but the spiritual treasures we receive from God; treasures that are found in His Son. Colossians 2:3 tells us that
“In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
In Philippians 3, Paul indicates the proper value system believers should have. In verses 4-6 Paul lists all the “fleshly” things he had once valued and placed his confidence in. Then in verses 7-8, Paul expresses his new value system as a believer in Christ.
“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”
What do you esteem to be important and valuable to you? Is your heart set on the treasures of this earth, the physical things which may satisfy the flesh, but are of no value spiritually? Or have you, as Paul, counted all these things as loss for the single most important thing in life; that you may gain Christ? Remember, that your value system will determine the type of choices you make in life.
As we proceed to the latter part of Hebrews 11:26, we find the third principle for making good choices. Here we read that Moses,
“looked to the reward.”
The word “looked” is the Greek word “apoblepo” which means “to turn the eyes away from all other things and fix them on one thing.” The verb form used indicates that Moses “was continuously looking” to the reward.
Moses, as he grew up in Egypt, had a spiritual heritage, probably received from his faithful Hebrew parents (Heb. 11:23). He knew that God had made promises to their father Abraham in Genesis 15, that following their captivity in Egypt, God would bring them out of Egypt and into the land of Canaan. Having this knowledge of God’s promises and understanding God’s character (i.e. He is faithful and true), Moses looked continuously beyond Egypt to the reward in Canaan. No doubt, Moses longed to be a part of this with God’s people, therefore he fixed his eyes on this future reward.
During this present dispensation of grace, we too need to fix our eyes on the reward that God has promised us as His people. Paul stresses the importance of where we focus our attention in Titus 2:11-13.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
We are not only saved by the grace of God, but we are taught by this same grace how to live for the Lord. We are encouraged to choose, as Moses did, to “deny ungodliness and worldly lusts” and to “live soberly, righteously, and godly” in this present age. Moses was able to choose as he did because “he looked to the reward.” If we are to make this same type of choice, we must be continually “looking for” our blessed hope, the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ for His church. Our reward is not to be found here on earth, but in heaven! Philippians 3:20-21 tells us,
“Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”
We are to be continually looking for and looking unto our wonderful Savior, who will one day come for us and transform our lowly, sinful bodies that they may be made like His glorious body. By keeping our minds and hearts focused on Him, we are able to make choices which are pleasing to God. We must heed the admonishment of Colossians 3:1-4.
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
Here then is the third principle for making good choices.
Heavenly versus Earthly
Believers are heavenly citizens. We are to continually stay focused on our heavenly reward and on the Person who is our blessed hope, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We are to look away from all other things, that is the things of this earth, “looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher (Perfector) of our faith” (Heb. 12:2).
As we live out our lives here on earth, these three principles for making good choices are not easy to put into practice. They are especially difficult for young people, who seem to have their whole lives before them. We must discipline ourselves to think soberly about these issues. Think about what will matter for eternity, not just the here and now. Ask yourself this question, “What will matter to me 1000 years from now?” You know that you will not be here on earth anymore. Live your life and make choices with eternity’s values in view.
Consider what is really more important to you. Is it physical things you can see and feel, or spiritual things such as love, peace, joy, and warm relationships with others? Most people, if they are honest, will acknowledge that money and possessions cannot provide true happiness. When we consider the most important relationship of all, our relationship with God, this becomes even more apparent. The love, joy, and peace that comes from knowing Jesus Christ as Savior, far exceeds anything that this world has to offer. Your values will determine the type of choices you make.
Remember that this earth is not your eternal home. You are truly a pilgrim here on earth. You are a citizen of heaven, and one day the Lord is going to come and take you home to live with Him in heaven for all eternity. The Lord Jesus Christ is your blessed hope. Keep your mind and heart continually fixed on Him. Get to know Him, love Him, and serve Him with all your heart. Continually looking unto Him and the reward He promises, will enable you to make good choices—choices that please and honor God.