Tomorrow marks the 505th Anniversary of the 16th century Protestant Reformation. Each year, Protestants all around the world take time to commemorate this very significant event in history, which is often traced back to Martin Luther’s posting of his “Ninety Five Theses” on the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg on the 31st of October 1517.
In this article, I’ll like to highlight one similarity between Martin Luther and Moses. In Hebrews 11:24-27, we read, “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 recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.”
Moses saw the invisible God through the eyes of faith and that sight of God led him to do four things.
First, it made him willing to renounce his privileged status. For the first forty years of his life, Moses had been brought up as a prince in Egypt. For most of his life up until that point, he literally enjoyed the best that this world had to offer. To be a “son of Pharaoh’s daughter” was an unspeakably great privilege.
Moses was also a man of tremendous potential. Acts 7:22 says, “And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.” Moses had been well trained from young and groomed for a position of leadership in the greatest country of the world at that time. From an earthly perspective, he had it all going for him. What more could a man ask for?
But through eyes of faith, Moses saw Him who is invisible and he was willing to break the habits of a lifetime and to renounce his privileged status as a son of Pharaoh’s daughter.
Second, the sight of God made Moses choose suffering rather than pleasure. Not only did Moses refuse a life of pleasure, he also chose a life of suffering with the people of God.
Moses serves as a pale shadow of Christ who was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might become rich.
Moses chose to suffer affliction with the Hebrew people, not primarily because they were his people, but because they were God’s people. Ultimately, Moses was really making a choice for God; and if that choice involved hardship and affliction, then he was willing to accept it.
Moses refused to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. This phrase “the pleasures of sin” does not refer to things that are sinful in themselves, but rather to the fact that Moses could no longer enjoy the riches and pleasures of Pharaoh’s court without at the same time being unfaithful to God and His people. Moses knew that the pleasures of sin for a season are not worthy to be compared to the enjoyment of God for all eternity.
Third, the sight of God made Moses willing to deny himself, and to look beyond temporal things. He considered the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt. Moses did not do what he did at the spur of the moment but rather he did what he did only after careful consideration. We could say that Moses counted the cost carefully and he eventually decided that it was better to deny himself, take up the cross and follow Christ than to continue in Egypt. Moses saw the Invisible God, by faith, and he was willing to deny himself, to turn his back on untold earthly riches and to seek heavenly and eternal riches.
Fourth, Moses was unafraid of an angry king. Verse 27, “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king.” Now there are essentially two ways of persuading a person to do something. The first is to offer him many incentives and rewards while the second is to threaten or intimidate him with many disincentives in order to strike fear into his heart, and to force him into submission.
Here in Hebrews 11, we see the devil trying to use both methods with Moses in order to destroy him. First, he offered honour, pleasure and wealth, but Moses refused them. Then he tried to use the wrath of an earthly king to strike fear into Moses’ heart but again he failed.
When Moses and Aaron went in to see Pharaoh for the first time, Pharaoh flatly turned down their request to bring the people out of Egypt; and not only that, he ordered his officers that very day, to take away the supply of straw for making bricks and to force the people to make the same amount of bricks as before. And when they couldn’t deliver, he punished the leaders of the people, rebuked them for being idle and sent them back to an impossible task. Very soon, not only did Moses have to face the wrath of Pharaoh, he had to face the wrath of the people too!
But after several encounters with Pharaoh and after the ninth plague, things reached a climax. We read in Exodus 10:27-28, “But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go And Pharaoh said unto him, Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die.” Pharaoh’s anger had reached dangerous levels by this time, and Moses was in grave danger of losing his life at the swift command of an angry king. John Owen wrote, “Moses had before him a bloody tyrant, armed with all the power of Egypt, threatening him with present death if he persisted in the work which God had committed unto him.”
But Moses was unmoved by Pharaoh’s angry threat, and the reason for that is that he saw Him who is invisible. Moses looked beyond Pharaoh to the King of kings and he could say with the apostle Peter, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Moses and Peter are but two among a multitude of saints throughout history who have seen, by faith, the invisible God, and have chosen to obey Him rather than men.
Martin Luther’s act of posting his “Ninety Five Theses” eventually led to his excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Leo X in January 1521, and it eventually brought him before Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in April that same year. There at Worms, Luther was asked two questions – “Are these your writings? And will you or will you not recant?” Luther answered in a voice barely audible, “The books are all mine and I have written more.” He then requested for a night to think things over.
That night, in the solitude of his room, Luther prayed, “O God, Almighty God everlasting! How dreadful is the world! Behold how its mouth opens to swallow me up, and how small is my faith in Thee…Oh the weakness of the flesh, and the power of Satan! If I am to depend upon any strength of this world, all is over. O God! O God! O thou my God! Help me against all the wisdom of this world…The work is not mine, but Thine. I have nothing to contend for with these great men of the world! I would gladly pass my days in happiness and peace. But the cause is Thine…And it is righteous and everlasting! O faithful and unchangeable God! I lean not upon man. Forsake me not for the sake of thy well-beloved son, Jesus Christ, my defence, my buckler, and my stronghold. I am ready to lay down my life for thy truth…For the cause is holy. It is thine own…I will not let thee go! no nor yet for all eternity. And though this body should be cast forth, trodden under foot, cut in pieces, consumed to ashes, my soul is thine. Yes, I have thine own word to assure me of it. My soul belongs to thee and will abide with thee forever! Amen! O God send help! Amen!”
Late the next afternoon, Luther returned to the hall and said to all present, “Since then your majesty and your lordships require from me a clear, simple and precise answer, I will give you one. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen”
You see, that is what spending time with the invisible God will do for a man or a woman facing great trial. “Seeing him who is invisible” will empower and encourage a Christian to stand against the tyrannies of a Pharaoh or a Caesar or a Holy Roman Emperor. “By faith, Moses forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.”
As we look back in history, whether biblical or church history, may we be encouraged to put our faith in the Invisible God, who says to us in His Word, “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (Dt 31:6) Amen!