The Power of a Good Life
Hebrews 11:24-26
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;…

At Rome there is a colossal statue of Moses by Michael Angelo — one of the greatest statues in the world. He is represented with long hair streaming over his robe, and as you gaze on the awful statue you are smitten with awe; love and admiration are lost in dread. There is nothing attractive in mere human greatness; it is beyond our reach; but when greatness is but the attribute of goodness it instantly becomes refreshing. For goodness is in the power of every one of us, and is greater than any greatness. We are in some sense bidden to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect, and every human character who has been great in goodness helps us to live and strive after this ideal. To make the rivers flow swiftly across the plain they must have their springs high up amid the immaculate snows of the everlasting hills, and to make a man his faith and hope must be among the heights of heaven. Now this is the very force which moved those good men who inspire us with fresh faith in God, humanity, and ourselves. The race must be worth working for which produces such specimens. And then it comes home as a revelation to us that we, too, can be great as they were in goodness, and if we be great in goodness it matters supremely little to God or man how small we are in all things else. Every servant in a house, every workman in a factory, every member of an ordinary profession in his counting house, may, and is, called upon almost every day of his life, in a high or a low measure, to make the very same choice which has influenced the greatest lives. You will see, then, why I think it may be profitable for us to look at one scene in the life of Moses. Now, what was it which at the ripe age of forty altered his career? If we look at the paintings on Egyptian tombs we may see what he saw. One of our great painters years ago drew a picture, in which thousands of Jews are dragging along images of an Egyptian king; they are tugging at the ropes under the burning sun, and youths and men in the prime of life are punting, sweating, straining every nerve while their wretched slave women are beating cymbals, and over their backs falls the torturing scourge of their taskmasters. Such sights Moses saw. He saw them, too, labouring in the brickfields as in a burning fiery furnace, or treading at the water-mills on the banks of the Nile as Fellaheen of Egypt do now, with their monotonous chant, "They starve us, they starve us, they beat us, they beat us; but there is One above." A sight of oppression, a sight of misery, a sight of manhood humiliated out of its natural dignity, and defrauded out of its indefeasible rights. And what was worse, this nation of slaves was contented in its misery. Moses pitied them all the more because they had, for the time being, sunk too low to pity themselves. The glory of the faith of Moses was that he still saw them to be men. The great sculptor looks upon the rough, shapeless block of marble and sees in it the angel whom he will hew out of it; the man of faith sees in the debased man the potentialities of a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people which should be to the glory of God, who had called them out of darkness to His marvellous light. That was the sight which Moses saw without. What did he see at home? He belonged to these slaves no longer; he was an Egyptian prince; his life was ranked among the lords of these labouring myriads. What should hinder him from enjoying pomp and pleasure, and becoming himself, perhaps, a conquering Pharaoh, and in due time having some vast, godlike statue reared to him, with some pompous inscription such as this: "My name is king of kings; look on my works, ye mighty, and despair"? Moses might have done this, and if he had he would have lived for a few years like other Pharaohs and passed away; and history, reclining half asleep upon a pyramid, might have muttered some name, and we should not have known what it was. Happily for Israel, happily for mankind, Moses chose differently. He chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Moses became the first founder of that religion which was the cradle of Christianity. What was it but pity for human misery that made John Howard leave a comfortable home to breathe the sickening atmosphere of prisons? What was it but pity for human misery that sent David Livingstone straight from the splendours and triumphs of a London season to face the scorching wastes of Africa, and to die homeless, wifeless, childless, in a hut? It is the same spirit of self-sacrifice, which is the most potent engine for good in all the world; it is this spirit alone which is adequate to uplift our lives from their vulgarity and sensualism, and to place us, each in our humble degree, by the side of those who preferred, "to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." Whence came this spirit? Came it not from Christ? Did He not make for us men the most infinite sacrifice? Ah! let us follow His footsteps, bearing His cross as Moses did, and as all of His servants have ever done, trying to escape averages, trying to rise from the vulgar herd and the false, worldly, sensual pleasure into the high service of the saints of God. Remember that this choice did not come only to Moses, or to some great man now and then. It comes to all of us, it comes practically whenever we are called upon to choose between the paltry action from which we gain, and the right action from which we lose; whenever we are called upon to yield something to our neighbour and disappoint him not, though it were to our own hurt; whenever we seek for strength, even at the cost of bitter tears.

(Archdeacon Farrar.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;

WEB: By faith, Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter,

The Poisonous Lurking in the Pleasurable
Top of Page
Top of Page