By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. (Heb. 11:24–26)

Everyone loves a reward—if they are good rewards. It strikes me that nearly every business offers some sort of reward program. From restaurants to clothing stores to movie theaters and certainly the travel industry, everyone offers rewards. But those rewards are quickly spent and fade away. Some airlines promote miles that never expire, but once you use them, they are gone. According to our text in Hebrews 11, Moses was looking forward to a reward. Yet, unlike the materialistic rewards that so quickly fade away, the reward to which Moses was looking was one that never would—for the reward was God Himself.

Hebrews 11:24–26 tells the story of when Moses grew up and became a man. This is a fast-forward scene in the narrative of Hebrews 11. The previous scene depicted Moses as an infant, and the miraculous grace by which God providentially spared his life from Pharaoh’s death decree. Since then, Moses had grown up, ironically, in Pharaoh’s own house. He was a son of privilege. Before him lay all the glory, splendor, and indulgences of Egypt. As a son in Pharaoh’s house, he could have almost anything he wanted. He was a prince before a prosperous nation. The Pharaoh’s shadow rested over Moses and protected him from the blighting heat of Egypt’s sun, but it also set before Moses a life of ease and pleasure. Moses was living the dream.

People in such circumstances easily forget who they are. Privilege and pleasure often numb the senses in ways that make the sufferings of others a distant reality that is all too easy to ignore. But not Moses. According to Hebrews 11:26, by God’s persevering grace, when Moses grew up, he did not forget who he was. In fact, when Moses grew up, he became even more self-aware. He realized that he was not only a son of privilege, reared in Pharaoh’s house, but he was also a Hebrew, a son of Israel, a descendent of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and thus a member of the suffering people of God.

The next scene is hard to imagine. Moses, with the world before him, set aside a life of comfort and ease in Pharaoh’s house and chose rather to identify with the people of God. It is noteworthy that as far as we can tell, no one pressured him into this decision. It was not a choice born of guilt or manipulation but rather a sincere and willful choice Moses made “by faith” (Heb. 11:24). Faith is a strange thing. It makes people embrace things they cannot see and yet trust to be a reality. Faith makes people go where their senses might not lead. By faith, Moses not only set aside a life of comfort and ease in Pharaoh’s household but also embraced the suffering of the people of Israel. He chose not simply to wear their shirts and play their music; he chose to suffer with them, “choosing rather to be mistreated” (Heb. 11:25). Israel was a suffering people. They labored vainly from dawn to dusk as others not only ruled them but enjoyed the fruit of their labors. The Israelites were slaves, lacking the rights and protections that all humans made in the image of God should enjoy. Even more, they were the chosen people of God, yet at this time, it was hard to look at them and see God’s blessing and provision. When the people of God were at their lowest point, it was then that Moses came down from his princely throne to identify with them. This is great faith! But it raises the question, Why would Moses do this?

Moses, by faith, was looking forward to a heavenly reward—to God Himself.

Faith always has an object. It is neither blind nor baseless; rather, it rests in that on which it is fixed. The faith of Moses was bound up in the story of the people of God and the promise that was taught him (likely from his Hebrew mother) that God’s people would not always be slaves but would one day experience the blessing and favor of God and inherit His covenant promises. Moses must have known both the covenant promises and the covenant stories of what God had spoken and done on behalf of His people. In particular, the promise of a “reward” is striking. The language of “reward” arguably originates in Genesis 15:1, where God tells Abraham, “I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward” (NKJV). God promised Abraham that not only would God be a shield of protection for Abraham, but He would also be the ultimate inheritance Abraham was to receive. In short, God Himself was the reward. What could be better than that? Often, Christians think of heaven as a place (which it is), but it is also a space, in the sense of being in the context in which we will enjoy the blissful presence of God for all eternity as we “glorify and enjoy him” (Westminster Shorter Catechism 1–2) as the chief end of our lives. Heaven would be nothing without God there, but with Him there, it is the most blessed place ever created.

So, what was the reward to which Moses was looking? It was God Himself. God is our eschatological reward—the object of our faith, and our shield and confidence even as we stand before dreadful foes. The author of Hebrews takes this amazing story one step further as he tells us that Moses “considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt” (Heb. 11:26). This phrase may never cease to amaze me. How did Moses understand that the sufferings he was about to voluntarily endure with the people of God would somehow be a participation in the sufferings of Christ? As intriguing as the question is, it is not easily answered. Somehow, the inspired author of Hebrews believed, Moses could see beyond the horizon of his present existence to the day of Christ and the suffering of Christ. He believed a Savior would come. He believed God would keep His promises of redemption and inheritance. He believed in the hope of heaven, and thus, by faith, he was convinced, as Jim Elliot said (and so many other missionaries have attested), that “he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Moses, by faith, was looking forward to a heavenly reward—to God Himself.

Life is full of rewards. The world offers us many. Some of them come on the back of credit cards; others come with the “fleeting pleasures of sin.” But these rewards sting, and none of them are free. In the gospel, we have the offer of a free reward. Christ has given Himself for us, and what He accomplishes for us by taking our place at the cross (enduring our suffering) is as full and free as the promises of the covenant. Moses did not earn the reward of God’s grace, and neither can we. But as we have received the promise of His grace and inheritance, it is a joyful privilege to bear our own crosses—to identify with the sufferings of others, to bear the reproach of Christ. What is the world offering you? Is it an offer that really compares with God Himself? Or is it as fleeting as airline miles? If God is your reward, you have before you that which can never expire or disappoint. He is all we need, and having Him, we have all we need—by faith.

Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series on faith. Previous Post. Next Post.

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