By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;…
As the son of Pharaoh's daughter Moses would have at his command all that is called pleasure; pleasures of intellect and taste, besides all the pleasures of sense, the pleasures of the man of the world, and of the man of fashion. There never was a great man whose temptations were not as great as his gifts. I do not mean to say that his pleasures, those open to him in the position he held, were sins. By no means. In themselves and apart from duties with which they might chance to be incompatible, these things were pleasures, and yet not in the smallest degree sins. It was what made them sins to Moses which shows us what sort of man he was, what nobleness of character there was in him by faith. There is an exquisite simplicity in the story in Exodus concerning the change in Moses from youth to man, from Egyptian to Israelite, from courtier to patriot. The deed which he did was unpremeditated, the work of a moment. It was done not without alarm; but it marked the critical moment when his life passed into a higher and nobler phase. He went forth an Egyptian courtier; he came back a Hebrew patriot. After this, whatever they might be to others, the pleasures of Pharaoh's court, were to him the pleasures of sin; the best and most refined and most innocent of these pleasures were sinful. To go on enjoying his old pleasures after this wakening up of his manhood, this recognition of the fact that there was an oppressed people in existence, and that that people was his people, was a crime of which he could not be guilty. There was in him that nobleness of nature which, besides tending to sympathy with the oppressed, revolts from all that is selfish and cruel; and this nobleness was stirred up in him, by seeing the state of his kindred, and comparing it with his own. This was his faith. Faith saved him from being content to be idle and useless, and gave him zeal and courage to play the part of a man and of a hero in the liberation of his people. Faith made him refuse idleness and luxury as sin, when he saw that there was work to be done and suffering to be endured in a good cause. Faith made him despise the honours of a court when, by identifying himself with the shame and sorrow of a race of slaves, he could help them out of bondage worse than death. In a word, faith, in the case of Moses, was another name fur manliness or heroism. Every man who fights for his country, not from fear or by compulsion, but freely and bravely; every man who sacrifices time, or comfort, or health, or ease, for the good of his fellow-men; every man who makes a stand for truth, fair play, honesty, against lies and meanness and treachery and wrong; every man who thinks himself despicable if he is idle and useless, and respectable if he has duty to do and does it; every such man has in him something of the faith of Moses. It was a marvellous faith which Moses exhibited in his long and eventful life. With one or two mysterious lapses he played his heroic part in the most heroic fashion. It was not what he risked, or what he suffered in the execution of his great task at the hands of the Egyptians or other enemies of his race; it was what he had to endure from his countrymen; it was their murmurings and backslidings, their servile spirit, the bondage to sense which they carried with them out of the house of bondage — it was this which tried what manner of man he was, and of what stuff was his faith. As with all the greatest, as with Christ Himself, his conflict was not so much with force as with stupidity and baseness — those ancient and indomitable foes which never fail to rise up against the man whose purpose is to elevate his fellows. To make a nation, a chosen nation, a peculiar people, a commonwealth of righteousness, out of a horde of slaves, was a noble task. But it was a task in which he who undertook it had to suffer as much affliction, and refuse as much of what is called pleasure, as could well be suffered or refused. Herein Moses, as the language of this passage suggests, connects himself with Christ. His faith was the faith of Christ. The choice which the son of Pharaoh's daughter made in his time was the same choice which was made again when He who was rich for our sakes became poor. It is striking to notice the conjunction here of these two names, the greatest in the history of mankind. A superficial account can be and often is given of it, from which we get no lesson worth learning: — it is that, by a marvellous second-sight, Moses anticipated Christ's day, and by faith in Christ as the Saviour of the world was enabled to make his choice. There is a sense, no doubt, in which it is true that Moses, like Abraham, saw Christ's day and was glad. But it was not certainly in the way in which we see it, now that it has been or, rather, is. To fancy that the Old Testament worthies had substantially all the light we have concerning Christ is to fancy what, in the first place, is very incredible, and what, in the second, distorts and confuses the whole teaching of the Bible. Christ's life is the perfect life. As far as any one in times before He came approached to that life, he was a Christian — he saw Christ's day; he believed in Christ; he esteemed the reproach of Christ the greatest of treasures. Moses was not only a Christian before Christ; he came as near almost as a man can come to the stature of a perfect man in Christ Jesus, inasmuch as, like Christ Himself, he had to be good and do good, he had to be a man, and live a man's true life, at the expense of having to count life-long afflictions great gain, and to turn away as from sin from all that common men call pleasure. It is a great thing to remember how old Christianity is — to remember that it is as old as Moses, nay, as old as man. Every true and noble life that was ever lived in this world, no matter where, or when, or how, was Christian. Above all, every hour of suffering that was ever endured in the way of duty to God and man was Christian. Nor does this make Christianity less or Christ less — it makes them greater. It is only an expression of the fact that Christianity is eternal truth gad eternal life. There are two remarks which I think ought to be made in conclusion.
(1) As to the relation of Judaism, of which Moses was the founder, and Christianity, which began with Christ. Moses, whose faith was that of Christ, did not found a system which was destined to put ages of no faith, or different faith, between himself and Christ. There is but one faith — that which Moses had, and which Judaism, in its own way, inculcated — that faith which is another name for love to God and man.
(2) Lastly, remark this as to the enjoyment of the world and what are called its pleasures. Many Christian people are much perplexed in their minds on this point. Where to draw the line between lawful and unlawful pleasure is a difficulty which they find great or insuperable. But there is one rule as to the enjoyment and the renunciation of what are called pleasures, which is good for practice, and it is that which is suggested to us here: we may safely enjoy pleasures, as long as they do not interfere with our duty as Christians — to be good and to do good; and if there are pleasures, as there are many, which help us to do this duty, we ought to enjoy them. Give up your pleasures and call them sins when they hinder you from doing Christian work. Till then enjoy them with a good conscience, giving God thanks for them.
(J. Service, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;