The FISHERS Magazine (Issue 233)
 

Faith in Action
Christian Living


Hebrews 11:23-26

What is True Faith?
The Scriptural answer is given to us in Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen". Immediately, we are taught that there are two aspects of how “faith” operates.

First, faith is being sure of what we hope for; it is having hope for the future and looking forward with confident expectation of that hope being realised. Second, it is also being certain of things we cannot see; this is more difficult to understand as it is not easy to believe in things that we cannot see. Yet true faith is to "see the invisible"; to perceive those things that are unseen. It recognises, is certain about, and acts upon the reality of unseen forces, powers and principalities that are all around us. We cannot see these things, but they are there, and faith enters into that unseen realm and lays hold of them.

These two basic areas – the hope for the future, and the trust in the unseen – are what the Scriptures mean when they speak about faith. This is what is meant when any man or woman says that they are believers, or that they are men and women of faith.

Faith is Not Feelings
Faith and feelings are not the same, and they must be differentiated. Faith does result in feelings but it is more than feelings. Faith operates basically in two directions. First, it looks back to the realities of what God has done in the past. It believes in what God has done, and in what God has said. It believes in and rests upon His revealed Word. Second, it also looks forward with the same assurance, to the unseen, and eternal realities. It rests upon those things which are not seen as yet, and it recognises them as being actual realities. Heaven is a reality; eternity is a reality; God is a reality. Faith recognises these things, rests upon them and acts upon them, and that is how we must understand what is happening here. Our Creator God is concerned about those things that are done in faith. He saves people through faith, He keeps and sanctifies them by faith and He rewards their faith.

The Faith that Formed the Man of Faith
Of all the great men whom God raised in Israel, there is none whom the nation regarded with more profound veneration than Moses. By him, they were brought out of Egypt, and through him, they received the Law. The Israelites, under God, owed to Moses all that was precious to them as a nation. “Since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face” (Deu 34:10). Moses was given the high privilege of being in the position of a mediator and a servant in all of God’s house.

His character was just as wonderful as his position. His love for God was seen in his love of God’s people, Israel – a love which forgave, and hoped and endured all things. The ingratitude and disappointments of Israel never quenched his love and never blunted his zeal. He was a man of courage and gentleness, zeal and meekness, love and compassion. The five books which bear his name are unequalled in literature for their beauty, majesty and grandeur. Moses stands out as a colossus on the pages of Scripture – he was truly a man of faith in God.

But how Moses came to be such a man of faith was the result of God working this out through the faith of both his parents. They were people of faith; they looked back and remembered what God had done and said, and they acted upon that basis. They also looked forward to the eternal realities and they also acted upon that basis. There are four aspects of the faith of Moses’ parents that we should understand.

The Historical Context of their Faith
Faith is never exercised in a vacuum; it is demonstrated and exercised in real situations in life. The historical context in which their faith was exercised was the suffering and persecution of Israel in the land of Egypt.

The king of Egypt had issued his commandment that all the male children born to Hebrew women were to be thrown into the Nile and drowned. This tyrant king was uneasy about these people as they were increasing mightily in numerical strength. They were a valuable labour force, but they were becoming a threat to the State. The king's solution was to make them suffer even more by increasing their workload and to reduce their numbers by killing off all the baby boys. Thus, it was a time of great suffering, persecution and hardship. These people were gathered together in labour camps and made to serve under the most awful conditions.

We might ask, why were these people in Egypt and why were they suffering like this? The Scriptures give us the answer. Four hundred years earlier, Joseph's brothers sold him to slave traders who brought him to Egypt, and he eventually became, by God’s grace, second in power to Pharaoh. Through the seven years of famine in the region and Joseph’s brothers going to Egypt to buy grain, the family was eventually reconciled and reunited. The whole family of Jacob was therefore brought down south, from the Promised Land in Canaan, to settle in the land of Egypt. From a small family of seventy-five (Acts 7:14), they multiplied and grew strong until the land of Egypt was filled with them (Exo 1:7).

So, the background to the faith of these people was that on one hand, the power and purposes of God were at work, fulfilling the Divine will by making an insignificant family group into a great and numerous company of people. On the other hand, the Devil was making his counter-attack through the bitter persecution and cruel oppression that they were experiencing. “The king’s commandment” was the reaction and response of hell to what God was doing.

We must never forget that all this is taking place within the overall constraints of the sovereignty of God, who is too wise to make a mistake and too loving to be unkind. Throughout Scripture, it is seen that nothing that the Devil can do can hinder or frustrate the purposes of God for His people. It is not always easy at times to see that fact clearly but it remains a fact of the spiritual life. Whether on a universal level or an individual level, God is always in control.

For Moses’ parents, into this context came the birth of a baby boy – Moses – under the threat of “the king’s commandment” of death by drowning.

The Expression of Their Faith
Exodus 6:20 records that the father of Moses was Amram and his mother was Jochebed; they were very ordinary people. Nevertheless, at a time when most of the Israelites were fatalistic and disillusioned, forgetful of their high and holy calling, of what God had said and done in the past; at a time when most of them had lost all sense of hope for the future, both of these humble people lived on in faith (Heb 11:23). They believed God, what He had done and said in the past, and what He promised concerning the future.

Both parents were involved in hiding Moses after he was born, for three months, and because he was a boy, they gave him the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant – circumcision. That was the expression of their faith: they clearly marked him out as being a Hebrew baby.

Whilst it says that they were not afraid of the king's commandment, it does not say that they were not afraid of his messengers or his punishments. They held on in faith and by faith for three months. Many a time during those months they must have been in an agony of heart and mind and soul, wondering how it would all work out and what would eventually happen. Yet they lived in faith, trusting in God, waiting upon Him, praying to Him and believing in Him. They firmly believed that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6).

The Foundation of their Faith
Hebrews 11:23 reveals, “They saw that he was a beautiful child.” What the word “beautiful” means in the original Greek is that he was “pleasing to God” and that “he was no ordinary child”. In other words, there was something about him that could not be defined simply in natural terms. His parents recognised and perceived that God was in all of this. They did not have the Bible to rest upon, they only had their oral traditions; but what little they knew, they believed – and that was faith.

How much this challenges us who have the whole counsel of God in the full canon of Scripture! We have seen the full blaze of Christ's glory and yet we seem at times to have so little faith. Oh, that God would grant us to exercise stronger faith in Him and His Word! Even when we are in such a dark situation like this couple, and everything is against us, may we trust Him and rest upon His Word.

This kind of faith is not irrational; this couple acted sensibly, wisely and rationally. Proverbs 2:10-11 says, “When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you and understanding will keep you.” Their faith made them wise and discreet. So, in godly wisdom and discretion, they took what steps they could to guard their child.

These parents were taking a tremendous risk – they were putting the lives of the whole family at stake. When they could no longer hide the baby at home, they made an ark, placed him in it and put it in the river. They had to bow before the inevitable circumstances that prevailed, and they handed Moses over to God to see what would happen.

Some of us who are parents do come to that point in life, when having done all that we can to bring our children to faith, we must do as these parents did. We have protected our children from the world, preserved them from evil, influenced them for God. But there comes the time when we must hand them over to God and see what He will do. This is not defeatism. It is faith; we need to have less fear and more faith.

Moses’ parents ‘lost’ their precious child when Pharaoh's daughter just 'happened' to go down to the river on that very day, found Moses among the reeds and decided to make him her son. Yet they received him back, when, in the glory of His sovereignty, God caused Pharaoh's daughter to pay Moses’ mother to look after and nurse him! Hence, she could train him in the things of God and laid the foundation for his future life and service.

Then there came the time when they had to hand him back to Pharaoh’s daughter and watch him being absorbed into the Egyptian court and palace with all its paganism, idolatry and immorality. No Christian parent would wish to place their child in such a situation. Everything about this situation militated against what Moses’ parents believed in and stood for. But the circumstances dictated it and so they bowed before it, with their faith standing against all their fears. That was one of the greatest acts of faith in the Old Testament.

They trusted God for their child, and no doubt prayed for him every day! 40 years later, all the effects of Pharaoh's court and all the influence of the world in Egypt had not erased from Moses the consciousness that he was a Hebrew! “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter" (Heb 11:24). That is what prayer can do! This is the foundation for our faith – we need to lay hold of the God of the promises!

The Triumph of their Faith
It is marvelous to see how God over-rules the wickedness of men and the Devil. It was as if the LORD was playing games with Pharaoh by arranging for the very one who would overthrow him to be brought up and protected in his household! Psalm 2:4 says, "He that sits in the heavens shall laugh!"

Moses was set apart unto God – passing through death, as it were, in that tiny ark and entering into a new experience of grace. It seems a very daring thing for God to do but He could have saved Moses by some other way; so, we must recognise that there was a purpose in all of this.

The reason why God preserved Moses was because of the coming of Christ; the reason for the way He saved him was for our encouragement and faith. In all of what happened, we must recognise the hand of our Sovereign God.

The Divine initiative in history is not always seen in great, dramatic events. The greatest initiative of God was seen in a baby being born in a stable in Bethlehem. In that story, no-one would have thought that there was anything of great significance in that baby being born into that poor family; yet that baby was the answer of God for the plight of His people all over the world and through the ages.

Conclusion
Never lose faith and never lose hope, even in the blackest situation; great events hinge on little incidents. And we see in Isaiah 7:9, God's Word to King Ahaz when the Syrians were threatening him, "If you will not believe, you surely shall not last."

May God grant that we may do everything, whether little or great, by faith, for His Word says, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb 11:6).


William Hughes

- William Hughes has served as a pastor in UK and USA for over 40 years. He is now retired from full time ministry but continues to be a conference speaker in different countries.

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