24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. – Hebrews 11:24-26 ESV
In an attempt to preserve his life, Moses’ mother, Jochebed, placed him in a basket and set him afloat on the Nile. This mother of a three-month-old baby boy was attempting to save her son’s life by protecting him from Pharaoh’s edict to cast all newborn Hebrew male infants into the Nile.
She had no idea what was going to happen next but somehow understood that God had plans for her son. Rather than sacrifice her son to the Egyptian god of the Nile, she placed him in the hand of Yahweh, the God of Israel. As her daughter, Miriam, looked on, the infant was found by the daughter of the Pharaoh, the very man who had ordered that all Hebrew baby boys be thrown into the Nile. One of the truly miraculous outcomes of Jochebed’s act of faith was that she was hired by Pharaoh’s daughter to nurse her own child. Moses would grow up at home until the day he was weaned, and then he would become a part of Pharaoh’s household.
In the book of Exodus, Moses records his own life story:
When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.” – Exodus 2:10 ESV
As a member of Pharaoh’s household, Moses would receive an Egyptian education. He would be raised to know all about Egyptian culture and would become familiar with their pantheon of gods. This Hebrew boy would grow up in the palace and wear fine clothes. But evidently, Moses never forgot his Hebrew heritage. The book of Exodus records, “One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens…” (Exodus 2:11 ESV). His people, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, had been relegated to slave status and their lot in life was drastically different than that of Moses. While he lived in luxury, they suffered. While he dressed like an Egyptian prince, they wore the tattered clothes of a slave. He enjoyed fine food, while they managed on a subsistence diet.
Moses was appalled at what he saw, and something within him led him to do something about it. The book of Exodus tells us what happened: “he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand” (Exodus 2:11-12 ESV). Moses, enraged by the injustice he witnessed, decided to take matters into his own hands. He sided with the oppressed Hebrew and killed the Egyptian.
At that very moment, Moses had made a conscious and somewhat rash decision. The author of Hebrews says he “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God” (Hebrews 11:24-25 ESV). It would appear that his action was the result of a premeditated decision to reject his title as “son of Pharaoh’s daughter” and associate himself with his own people. He was a Hebrew and he knew it. His people were being oppressed and he was not okay with it. He felt the need to do something about it. But his initial action would get him in trouble. Even though he buried the body, his crime had not gone unnoticed. Word of his murder soon spread. Perhaps the man whose life he spared was afraid that he would be blamed for the death of the Egyptian and so he pointed the finger at Moses.
The very next day, Moses came across two Hebrews fighting with one another and when he attempted to intervene, they responded, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” (Exodus 2:14 ESV). They didn’t view Moses as their savior. They didn’t even seem to acknowledge him as one of their own. These two men questioned Moses’ right to intervene in their affairs. And to make matters worse, when news of Moses’ crime reach the ears of Pharaoh, “he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian” (Exodus 2:15 ESV).
Moses was forced to flee for his life. And yet, the author of Hebrews paints a slightly different picture. He states that Moses turned his back on the pleasures of life as an Egyptian prince. His crime was part of a conscious decision to give up his 40-year-long existence as a privileged member of Pharaoh’s family and rejoin his own people. And that choice came with serious consequences that would result in him being “mistreated with the people of God” (Exodus 11:25 ESV). He would not longer “enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25 ESV) that were associated with life among the wealthy, ungodly, and immoral ruling class of Egypt.
But the author of Hebrews adds another interesting point of clarification concerning Moses’ decision.
He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. – Hebrews 11:26 ESV
How did Moses consider the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt when Christ had not yet come? What was the reward for which he was looking? It seems clear that Moses knew of the promises that God had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He knew about the land of promise. He was fully aware of what God had told his forefather Abraham.
Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. – Genesis 12:1-3 ESV
Jochebed, his mother, must have shared with him the stories of his patriarchal ancestors. He must have known about the story of Joseph and how God had sent him to be a savior for the people of Israel. He had heard the stories of Joseph’s miraculous rise to power. He must have seen himself as a kind of savior as well, having been placed by God in his elevated position for the purpose of rescuing his fellow Israelites.
All during his days growing up in Pharaoh’s court, Moses must have remembered the promise that God had given to Abraham:
“I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” – Genesis 17:6-8 ESV
He believed in the promises of God. He knew about the land. He knew about the “offspring” to come, who Paul said would be the Christ.
Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. – Galatians 3:16 ESV
Moses believed. And he was willing to forego the pleasures of life in Pharaoh’s court in order to be faithful to the promises of God, even if it meant suffering. It’s interesting to note that Joseph remained a part of Pharaoh’s court until the day he died. Daniel remained a part of the Babylonian court until the day he died. But Moses was being called by God to reject the fleeting pleasure of sin and the treasures of Egypt. This was part of God’s plan for his life, and he would spend the next 40 years of his life in Midian as a common shepherd until the day God appeared to him in the burning bush.
Moses left his former life behind. He turned his back on his old identity as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter in order that he might be who God had called him to be, a son of Abraham and the future representative whom God would use to redeem His people from their bondage in Egypt.
Moses had a future-focused faith. His attention was on the hoped-for and the unseen. What was promised by God meant more to him than the present pleasures of life. His faith in God would lead to his exile, but also to the exodus. He would find himself a shepherd of sheep and, eventually, the shepherd of God’s people.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.