Faith is acting on God’s Word

“Faith is Acting on God’s Word”

Hebrews 11:23-29

What a person believes is revealed by what they do.

Trust God Over Self

Forfeit Comfort for Obedience

Trust God Over Self

Hebrews 11:23-26, NKJV

23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command.

24 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.

            There are two places in which faith is revealed in actions. The first is described in Hebrews 11:23-26. The choices and decisions of individuals where faith is acted out in obedience to the Word of God is fertile ground for the maturing of a person’s trust in Christ. The impact of faith displayed by an individual is small in scale most of the time in the lives of others, but powerful in testimony to the authenticity and reality of God’s Word for those who know them. This portion of Scripture reveals the significance of obedience to God and how it can literally bring about the will of God in future generations because past generations believed it was more important to obey God rather than people.

            “By faith Moses…was hidden three months by his parents…” is a far bigger decision than this simple fact sounds. It is crucial to understand the society the Hebrews were living in at the time Moses’ parents decided to hide their son.

8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; 10 come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh supply cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were in dread of the children of Israel. 13 So the Egyptians made the children of Israel serve with rigor. 14 And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage—in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. All their service in which they made them serve was with rigor.

15 Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of one was Shiphrah and the name of the other Puah; 16 and he said, “When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” (Exodus 1:8-16, NKJV)       

            Population control is something which has been going on long before the United Nations Population Fund was introduced in 1969 to monitor and control the population of the world. The Egyptians attempted to control the growth of the Hebrews by ordering the death of all Hebrew male babies. This would have been an extremely effective way of stopping the people of God from increasing if the midwives would have chosen to obey the edict of the Pharaoh, “17 But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive” (Exodus 1:17, NKJV).

            Moses’ parents were able to act on their faith because the midwives who helped the Hebrew women in childbirth acted on faith first. The midwives made the hard decision to fear the Lord instead of fearing the Pharaoh which gave the Hebrew parents the choice and opportunity to act upon their faith which the Word of God has proclaimed. When an individual decides to act upon their faith it allows others to obey the commandments of God as well. If the midwives had not feared the Lord more than they feared Pharaoh, Moses would have been killed and the parents would have never had the chance to hide their child.

            There is a curious revelation in this passage which causes some to wonder why it was even stated in the text. Yet, every word of Scripture is “16 …given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NKJV). Hebrews 11:23 specifically states Moses was “…hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child…” (NKJV) which reflects what is recorded in Exodus 2:2, “2 So the woman conceived and bore a son. And when she saw that he was a beautiful child, she hid him three months” (NKJV).

            Some have looked at this statement as the human understanding that a person who is pleasing to look upon and healthy has been blessed by God. People who are disfigured, disproportionate, or maimed are often viewed as cursed by God. A perfect example of this attitude was expressed by the disciples when they asked who sinned to cause a man to be born blind. “1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

            3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:1-3, NKJV).

            Moses’ parents would not have changed their minds about risking their lives to save the life of their child even if he was disfigured or challenged in any manner. Moses was looked upon as a gift from God and worth the effort to save because they believed God had a plan for every single person. They hid him three months till it became impossible to conceal his presence in their home. It was then that they once again acted on their faith in God and placed their precious child in the basket to be watched over by his older sister Miriam (Exodus 2:3-4).

            Faith is acting on God’s Word when it is inconvenient, detrimental to personal safety, and against the counsel of other people. It takes no faith to do what comes naturally for a person, when there is no cost involved, and when others are supportive of the actions to be taken. The fear of God must be greater than fear of people or the loss of money, property, or even life itself. Faith is genuine when a person responds in every circumstance with the conviction that God is faithful to His promises regardless of threats, obstacles, or impossibilities people see.

            Moses was discovered in the river by one of the Pharaoh’s daughters who God graciously desired to raise as her own Egyptian son even though she was fully aware of his nationality (Exodus 2:5-6). God rewarded Moses’ mother for her trust and faith by allowing her son to be returned to nurse until the child was weaned, but to receive wages for raising her child till the day Moses was delivered to Pharaoh’s house (Exodus 2:7-10).

            Each of these individuals would have missed out on blessings from God if they had feared mankind more than they feared the Lord. The midwives were blessed for their faith they acted upon. Moses’ parents were rewarded to spend time with their son openly without fear all because they were willing to trust God more than fearing what might happen to them if caught disobeying the command of Pharaoh.

            There are actions that are taken by people who love God and desire to obey Him that are not genuine acts of faith. For instance, Moses killing the Egyptian was not an act of faith but him acting on God’s behalf without God’s guidance. Moses denial of the luxuries and privileges of growing up in Pharaoh’s palace was certainly an act of faith on his part. Faith caused Moses to know the pleasures of this world only satisfies our evil hearts. Moses remembered that his parents, family, and people were suffering severely under the oppression of the Egyptians who he was living with intimately.

            This fact led for conflict between Moses and the Egyptians and also with his people. Moses attempted to show his solidarity with the Hebrews by acting out but not in faith; he took action that seemed good to him which caused Moses to flee into the wilderness.

11 Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12 So he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 And when he went out the second day, behold, two Hebrew men were fighting, and he said to the one who did the wrong, “Why are you striking your companion?”

14 Then he said, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?”

So Moses feared and said, “Surely this thing is known!” 15 When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well. (Exodus 2:11-15, NKJV)

            The people talked about how God was going to one day come and rescue them from the heavy hand of Pharaoh. The hopeful account of Joseph’s instructions to take his bones out of Egypt when God would lead the people out of Egypt was remembered. All these things Moses would have been aware of due to the interest in the history and identity of his people. The mistake is made whenever a person attempts to do God’s will by what makes the most sense to them.

            Moses’ actions and life, which are recorded in Exodus, seem quite different than the brief light found recorded in Hebrews 11:24-25. These accounts parallel one another instead of contradicting because Moses is writing about his actions, while the writer of Hebrews is expressing God’s plan which Moses at the time could not comprehend. Moses was physically trying to bring about the will of God instead of doing things in God’s timing. The way something is done is just as important as the result of the deed. Moses’ acknowledged his murder of the Egyptian was wrong before he killed him because he checked to see if anyone was looking before he acted.

            There is no reason to act in faith secretly. Faith is acting on God’s Word in spite of the opinion, thoughts, or presences of others. Ultimately, Moses was truly called to lead God’s people out of the land of Egypt. He may have not understood exactly all that was going to entail, but knew there would be one greater than he who would liberate God’s people from more than their physical oppression, “18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him” (Deuteronomy 18:18, NKJV).

Forfeit Comfort for Obedience

Hebrews 11:27-29, NKJV

27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them.

29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned.   

            The second place faith is revealed is described in Hebrews 11:27-29. The choices and decisions made by groups of people where faith is acted out in obedience to the Word of God is where the Holy Spirit makes His presence most evident among God’s people in society. The impact of faith displayed by multiple people is often on a large scale most of the time in the lives of others, dispelling the arguments and breaking down the defenses of those who have rejected Christ as their Savior and Lord.

            Verse 27 shifts the emphasis off of Moses personally and to him as the leader of the nation of Israel. Moses certainly fled Egypt in fear of the wrath of Pharaoh, but now it is recorded, “By faith [Moses] forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27, NKJV). There is something about having an encounter with the living God which changes a person for the rest of their lives.

            There were many reasons for Moses to not go back to Egypt far beyond the reasons he had given to God as he talked with Him at the burning bush. Yet, Moses returned in spite of all the human reasons for it being illogical. He was acting on faith on God’s Word rather than acting on his own accord to do for God what only He could do for Himself. Moses was no longer thinking about himself and how he could accomplish God’s work in his life; he was simply following God’s direction so he could see how God was bringing about the reality of God’s promises through the obedience of God’s people.

            Moses and his brother Aaron followed God’s instruction in faith knowing full well their lives were in great danger if the Lord would be absent from their presence. The warnings and plagues the Lord brought upon the Egyptian people devastated the land and brought low all the major gods of the Egyptian nation. The final plague was the most devastating where God passed through the whole nation and struck down all the first born of those who did not have the blood of the lamb upon the door of their house (Exodus 12:29-30).

            The Israelites by faith followed Moses’ instruction from God believing death would come to the first born in their families just as God had promised would happen to the Egyptians. The act of faith Moses did upon his own home as the leader of the people caused the Lord to pass over the homes of the Israelites. The lack of faith in Pharaoh’s home and in the homes of the Egyptians caused the entire nation to mourn inconsolably while those of God’s people had reason to quietly thank God for their families. Following the instruction of God was tedious and specific but their obedience brought life.

            Obedience to God may cause conflict with the world and struggle within the heart, but life is always the result of submitting to God’s commands. What Moses did by leading the people was only a shadow of the leadership of the Spirit of Christ living in God’s people today. Christ spoke of this Himself to His disciples before His arrest:

5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:5-11, NKJV)

            The fullness of joy Jesus spoke of to His disciples during the Passover feast they were celebrating together was connected to the solemn joy of life the Israelites experienced in the midst of the tragedy of the Egyptians. The blood Jesus was about to shed, which He identified as being connected with the Passover meal, was about to give spiritual life rather than physical life like those of the exodus experienced that night when God passed through Egypt killing all the first born of man and beast alike.

            This life and joy is bound up in Christ through obedience to the will of the Father which Jesus made clear even in the beginning of His ministry when He said, “21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21, NKJV). Jesus can offer life and joy to all because He sacrificed Himself and the comforts of glory to endure for mankind what they could not provide for themselves.

42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45, NKJV)

14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:14-17, NKJV)

            God never asks His people to do what He has not first done. Christ explained what the attitude of the disciples should be: serve as He has served. Jesus has forfeited comfort for obedience to God the Father as an example to all who would follow Him as Savior and Lord of their life.

            The obedience of the Israelites in spreading the blood on the mantle and door posts of their homes simply because God said He would not bring death to their homes when He saw the blood was an act of faith based on nothing more than what God had said. The mourning of the Egyptians during the night certainly tempered the joy of the Israelites, but those families praised God for His mercy and faithfulness. Mankind has short memories though which is why God would follow up the Passover with something far more dramatic and visual for His people to experience and all the nations to witness.

            “By faith they passed through the Red Sea on dry land…” God had a purpose for leading the people the long way around by the Red Sea. The Lord told Moses what He was planning and why.

1 Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, that they turn and camp before Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal Zephon; you shall camp before it by the sea. 3 For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, ‘They are bewildered by the land; the wilderness has closed them in.’ 4 Then I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.” And they did so. (Exodus 14:1-4, NKJV emphasis added)

            The route God sent His people on to leave Egypt was impossible to navigate without following the direction of God. Death was impossible to avoid without obedience to His Word. Dealing with Pharaoh after years of running from him was impossible for Moses to do in his strength, but powerful enough to bring about God’s will in God’s way in God’s timing. All these things were uncomfortable, confusing, and caused Moses and the people to deny the fear they felt in their hearts in leading up to the event and going through the midst of it.

            It all must begin with the individual making the decision in their life to act on God’s Word in faith. The exodus began the moment a new Pharaoh came to power who acted upon his fear of God’s people rather than in faith of the living God. It was the act of faith of the midwives who recognized the preciousness of the miracle of birth which God has given to mankind. Moses’ parents who trusted the Lord to hide their son rather than kill him. Their act of leaving Moses to be found was one of faith by setting their son at the mercy of the Lord’s will for him. God taught Moses that deliverance of the Israelites would not come from his ability but through his obedience.

            It was also the people of God as a whole acting on the Word of God which Moses and Aaron spoke to them that brought life instead of death. The act of faith in following Moses to the Red Sea and then being willing to step out onto dry land where moments earlier the sea blocked their escape. All these individuals who acted in faith trusting God’s Word led to a nation’s ability to act in faith in the face of certain death. The rejoicing over the lifeless Egyptian soldiers washing ashore at their feet on the other side of the Red Sea would have never been seen unless someone takes that first step of faith and acts on God’s Word.

            Let us act in faith on God’s Word so the world may know that He is the Lord.

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