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 (Hebrews 11:24-26).
We know very little about the first 40 years of the life of Moses while he lived in the court of Pharoah as a Prince in Egypt. The writer of Hebrews indicates that during these years Moses undoubtedly enjoyed unrivaled luxury. These “fleeting pleasures of sin” and “treasures of Egypt” would have been difficult for anyone to abandon. In realative terms, the decision Moses made to leave the house of Pharaoh for the wilderness of Midian is akin to trading Trump Tower for low income housing. It is almost inconceivable that anyone would do such a thing.
Of course, the writer of Hebrews is silent about one not-so-incidental detail. Moses enraged Pharaoh by killing an Egyptian who had been beating a Hebrew. We are told in Exodus 2:15 that “when Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian.” The point that the writer of Hebrews is making, however, is that when Moses witnessed the abuse of a Hebrew slave, he decided, in that moment, to identify with the slave and not the master, with Israel and not Egypt. This is what the writer of Hebrews means when he writes: “[Moses] 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.”
Moses may not have rejected his adopted mother. However, he rejected the title of Prince, here called “the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” In other words, by killing the Egyptian, Moses effectively abdicated his royal position in Pharaoh’s court. For, no “Prince of Egypt” would kill an Egyptian to protect a Hebrew slave. It is in this moment, as Moses “looked this way and that,” when Moses chose Israel over Egypt, the LORD God over the many gods of Egypt. So, while his murder remained sin, it demonstrated Moses’ self-identification with God’s people. It is this accompanying self-identity that is the manifestation of faith, not the murder itself.
The writer of Hebrews continues to say that Moses preferred the reproach of Christ than the treasures of Egypt. It is difficult to affirm that Moses would have been aware of Christ at the moment of his self-identification with Hebrew slaves. And yet, at some level Moses was motivated to identify with Israel because he believed that they were the people of the One True God. He may not have been able to articulate it any more than this at first, but this was enough. He preferred to be counted among the slaves than among the royal family because he believed that the reward coming to the Israelite slaves was greater than that coming to the royal family. This would have been, by no means, self evident. Nevertheless, Moses discerned correctly by faith and is sure to be rewarded accordingly.
This same dilemma faces every Christian today. Contrary to how it may seem, there is nothing of greater importance or eternal significance than toiling within the local church. Whether paid pastoral work or unpaid service in any given ministry, no work is greater than church work. With some exceptions, the labourers of the local church are not the poweful, the rich, or the elite in our world. In fact, even unpaid servants of the church necessarily relinquish earthly wealth and prestige by giving significant time and energy to the local church. Like Moses, may we have the eyes of faith to look forward to the reward that will be ours at the end of the age. Let us not be distracted by worldly idols that seem greater, but are, in the end, only fleeting pleasures of sin.