FAITH’S CHOICE: What do you refuse?

An excerpt taken and Adapted from “Faith’s Choice”
Written by J. C. Ryle

Jewish_Faith_Moses“By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; “Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.”

–Hebrews 11:24-26

It seems to me that the work of faith here spoken of…

…comes home more especially to our own case.  The men of God who are named in the former part of the chapter are all examples to us, beyond question.  But we cannot literally do what most of them did, however much we may drink into their spirit.  We are not called upon to offer a literal sacrifice like Abel—or build a literal ark like Noah—or leave our country literally, and dwell in tents, and offer up our Isaac like Abraham.  But the faith of Moses comes nearer to us.  It seems to operate in a way more familiar to our own experience.  It made him take up a line of conduct such as we must often take up ourselves in the present day, each in our own walk of life.  And for this reason I think these three verses deserve more than ordinary consideration.

I will speak of what Moses gave up and refused.

Moses gave up three things for the sake of his soul.

He felt that his soul would not be saved if he kept them, so he gave them up.  And in so doing, I say that he made three of the greatest sacrifices that man’s heart can make.

1.   He gave up rank and greatness.

“He refused to be a called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.”  You all know his history.  The daughter of Pharaoh had preserved his life, when he was an infant—adopted him and educated him as her own son.

If writers of history may be trusted, she was Pharaoh’s only child.  Men go so far as to say that in the common order of things Moses would one day have been king of Egypt.  That may be, or may not—we cannot tell.  It is enough for us to know that, from his connection with Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses might have been, if he had pleased, a very great man.  If he had been content with the position in which he found himself at the Egyptian court, he might easily have been among the first—if not the very first—in all the land of Egypt.

Think, reader, for a moment, how great this temptation was.

Here was a man of like passions with ourselves.  He might have had as much greatness as earth can well give.  Rank, power, place, honour, titles, dignities—all were before him, and within his grasp.  These are the things for which many men are continually struggling.  These are the prizes which there is such an incessant race in the world around us to obtain.  To be somebody—to be looked up to—to raise themselves in the scale of society—to get a handle to their names—these are the things for which many sacrifice time, and thought, and health, and life itself.  But Moses would not have them at a gift.  He turned his back upon them.  He refused them.  He gave them up.

2.  And more than this, he refused pleasure.

Pleasure of every kind, no doubt, was at his feet, if he had liked to take it up—sensual pleasure—intellectual pleasure—social pleasure—whatever could strike his fancy.  Egypt was a land of artists—a residence of learned men—a resort of everyone who had skill, or science of any description.  There was nothing which could feed the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, or the pride of life, which one in the place of Moses might not easily have commanded.

Think again, reader, how great was this temptation also.

This, be it remembered, is the one thing for which millions live.  They differ, perhaps, in their views of what makes up real pleasure—but all agree in seeking first and foremost to obtain it.  Pleasure and enjoyment in the holidays is the grand object to which a school boy looks forward.  Pleasure and satisfaction in making himself independent, is the mark on which the young man in business fixes his eye.  Pleasure and ease in retiring from business with a fortune, is the aim which the merchant sets before him.  Pleasure and bodily comfort at his own house is the sum of the poor man’s wishes.  Pleasure and fresh excitement in politics, in travelling, in amusements, in company, in books—this is the goal towards which the rich man is straining. 

Pleasure is the shadow that all alike are hunting—high and low—rich and poor—old and young, one with another; each perhaps pretending to despise his neighbour for seeking it—each in his own way seeking it for himself—each secretly wondering that he does not find it—each firmly persuaded that somewhere or other it is to be found.  This was the cup that Moses had before his lips.  He might have drank as deeply as he liked of earthly pleasure.  But he would not have it.  He turned his back upon it.  He refused it.  He gave it up

3.   And more than this, he refused riches.

“The Treasures in Egypt” is an expression that seems to tell of wealth that he might have enjoyed had he been content to remain with Pharaoh’s daughter.  We may well suppose these treasures would have been a mighty fortune.  Enough is still remaining in Egypt to give us some faint idea of the money at its king’s disposal.  The pyramids, and obelisks, and statues, are still standing there as witnesses.  The ruins at Carnac, and Luxor, and Denderah, and many other places, are still the mightiest buildings in the world.  They testify to this day that the man who gave up Egyptian wealth, gave up something which even our English minds would find it hard to reckon up.

Think once more, how great was this temptation. 

Consider, reader, the power of money—the immense influence that the love of money obtains over men’s minds.  Look around you and see how men covet it, and what amazing pains and trouble they will go through to obtain it.  Tell them of an island many thousand miles away, where something may be found which may be profitable if imported, and at once a fleet of ships will be sent to get it.  Show them a way to make one per cent more of their money, and they will reckon you among the wisest of men—they will almost fall down and worship you.  To possess money seems to hide defects—to cover over faults—to clothe a man with virtues.  People can get over much, if you are rich.  But here is a man who might have been rich, and would not.  He would not have Egyptian treasures.  He turned his back upon them.  He refused them.  He gave them up.

Such were the things that Moses refused—rank, pleasure, riches, all three at once.

Add to all this that he did it deliberately.  He did not refuse these things in a hasty fit of youthful excitement.  He was forty years old.  He was in the prime of life.  He knew what he was about.  He weighed both sides of the question.

Add to it that he did not refuse them because he was obliged.  He was not like the dying man, who tells us “He craves nothing more in this world;” and why?—Because he is leaving the world, and cannot keep it.  He was not like the pauper, who makes a merit of necessity, and says, “He does not want riches;” and why?  Because he cannot get them.  He was not like the old man, who boasts “that he has laid aside worldly pleasures;” and why?  Because he is worn out, and cannot enjoy them.  No! reader.  Moses refused what he might have kept, and gave up what he might have enjoyed.  Rank, pleasure, and riches did not leave him, but he left them.

And then judge whether I am not right in saying that his was one of the greatest sacrifices mortal man ever made.  Others have refused much, but none, I think, so much as Moses.  Others have done well in the way of self-sacrifice and self-denial, but he excels them all.

May the Holy Ghost bless the subject to us all!    May He give us the same spirit of faith, that we may walk in the steps of Moses, do as he did, and share his reward!