A number of years ago, Evelyn and I had the privilege of being in Cairo, Egypt, for a few days. Egypt was once one of the wealthiest countries in the world, with its great stores of gold. Besides being wealthy, Egyptians were sun-worshipers and devil worshipers, which was evident as we went through the Cairo museum, where we saw many mummies of the ancient kings. As I pondered the mummies, the thought came to me that had Moses made the wrong choice, he could have been one of those mummies. The story of Moses is one of the most amazing stories in all the Bible. While he was in the palace of the king, he resisted the many temptations present there. As a result of his life choices, the Lord resurrected him, and he has been in heaven for many years. (See Early Writings, 164.)
In Hebrews 11:24–26, Paul writes, “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.”
Because of a miracle that God worked shortly after his birth, Moses was adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became heir to the throne, destined to become the ruler of the mightiest and wealthiest empire in the world. Ellen White says, “Moses was a great character in the world. He was the prospective heir of the throne of the Pharaohs. He had been reared for this position, and was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. He was fitted to take pre-eminence among the great of the earth, and to shine in the courts of its most glorious kingdom, and to sway the scepter of its power. His intellectual greatness distinguishes him above the great men of all ages.” The Signs of the Times, November 17, 1887.
From a worldly standpoint, he was one of the greatest men that ever lived. Five areas are mentioned in which Moses had intellectual greatness, superior to all other men. “As historian, poet, philosopher, general of armies, and legislator, he stands without a peer.
“But it was his moral qualities that made him valuable in the estimation of God. His faith, humility, and love are not excelled among the examples of humanity.” Ibid. The Bible comments on this very briefly in Numbers 12:3 which says, “(Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.)”
When Moses arrived at manhood, he had the world before him. He could become the most wealthy and most powerful leader of the world. However, his early training had taught him principles that gave him the moral strength to refuse the flattering prospects of wealth, greatness, and fame. It says in Hebrews 11:25 that he chose rather “… to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the temporary pleasures of sin.”
Many were the inducements held out to Moses while in the king’s court. “The magnificent palace of Pharaoh and the monarch’s throne were held out as an inducement to Moses; but he knew that the sinful pleasures that make men forget God were in its lordly courts. He looked beyond the gorgeous palace, beyond a monarch’s crown, to the high honors that will be bestowed on the saints of the Most High in a kingdom untainted by sin.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 246. So, he chose to join a humble, poor, despised nation in order to obey God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.
The tragedy of this story when you think it through is that not too many people are willing to make this kind of sacrifice. Ellen White says in the Signs of the Times, November 17, 1887: “The great anxiety of men and women of today is to be held in high esteem by the lordly ones of earth. The religion of Jesus seems to be considered of no special value, and the children of men have set their hearts to seek pleasure rather than to know the will of God.” Paul told the young minister Timothy that this would be the condition of the world in the last days. He said that men will be “… lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:4).
Without the special instruction by Jesus Christ, Moses would not have been able to resist the enticements. This same instruction is relevant to all believers today. “Christ has presented before us the greatest inducement that could be offered to mortals. It is not only the gift of eternal life and everlasting joy, but a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory in the kingdom of God. Those who feel the importance of taking God’s word as the rule of their life and conduct, will have respect unto the recompense of reward.” The Signs of the Times, November 17, 1887.
Moses esteemed the reproach of Christ to be worth more than the riches of the wealthiest nation on the face of the earth unlike today when the pleasures in this world steal men’s senses so they do not care to think about God in heaven.
Moses understood that someday there will be a judgment day and the world and all of God’s children are to be judged. The decisions they have made will determine their eternal destiny.
One of the earliest statements in the Bible predicting God’s judgment is recorded in Deuteronomy 32:36 where it says, “For the Lord will judge His people …” according to the deeds done in the body. Each one of us has a case pending in God’s court. The Bible says that although Noah, Daniel, and Job were in the land, they would not be able to save either son or daughter, but only their own souls. (See Ezekiel 14:14, 20.)
Moses understood that the judgment was to involve the judging of people’s characters. He says in Deuteronomy 10:12, 13, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you this day for your good?” He goes on to say in verses 16 and 17: “Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, Who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe.”
The conditions of salvation are the same for everybody, without partiality. You have just as much an opportunity to be saved as anybody else in the world and maybe more because of the knowledge that God has allowed you to have. Can I say with Moses that I esteem the reproach of Christ to be worth more than all the riches of this world? Moses made that decision.
Every soul that enters through the gates of the city will not go there as a pardoned criminal but as a conqueror.
“There is help for every one who in humble faith seeks it. When you put all your powers to the stretch that you may become acquainted with God, you will have His power added to your weakness. Every soul that enters through the gates into the city will go in as a conqueror. There is no sickness, no sighing, no death, but everlasting joy throughout the cycles of eternity. I want to be there, for my soul is attracted to Jesus. Everything here is of minor consequence.” The Signs of the Times, November 17, 1887.
Moses understood that all the wealth and power of Egypt, was not worth losing eternity. This is one of the great examples of a person who deliberately made a choice that he would suffer rather than enjoy immediate pleasure. The reproach of Christ must be esteemed above every worldly honor, all worldly riches and all high-sounding titles, if we are to be saved. This is the kind of faith that the martyrs possessed.
Because of his choice, Moses is not a mummy in a museum with people looking at him through the glass; he is in heaven. All who make the same choice that he made will have the same eternal consequence. It is hard for people, even knowing about the eternal wealth of glory that is coming, to choose right and to do something that they know is going to cause them pain and suffering, instead of something that will bring joy and happiness at the present time.
One of my favorite stories in the Testimonies for the Church is about a person who chose to endure suffering at the present time and reproach rather than have worldly riches and honor and lose eternal life. Ellen and James White were at this meeting when J. N. Andrews told this story and Ellen White wrote it down as a first-person witness. There were some people there who were in a backslidden condition. She says as Elder Andrews was speaking, he talked about the case of Moses who refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter but chose rather to suffer affliction. She then relates the story that brother Andrews told involving the power of God that is inexplicable at the present time: “Brother Andrews related an instance of a faithful Christian about to suffer martyrdom for his faith. A brother Christian had been conversing with him in regard to the power of the Christian hope—if it would be strong enough to sustain him while his flesh should be consuming with fire. He asked this Christian, about to suffer [being burned at the stake], to give him a signal if the Christian faith and hope were stronger than the raging, consuming fire. He expected his turn to come next, and this would fortify him for the fire. The former promised that the signal should be given. He was brought to the stake amid the taunts and jeers of the idle and curious crowd assembled to witness the burning of this Christian. The fagots were brought and the fire kindled, and the brother Christian fixed his eyes upon the suffering, dying martyr, feeling that much depended upon the signal. The fire burned, and burned. The flesh was blackened; but the signal came not. His eye was not taken for a moment from the painful sight. The arms were already crisped. There was no appearance of life. All thought that the fire had done its work, and that no life remained; when, lo! amid the flames, up went both arms toward heaven. The brother Christian, whose heart was becoming faint, caught sight of the joyful signal; it sent a thrill through his whole being, and renewed his faith, his hope, his courage. He wept tears of joy.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 657.
“As Brother Andrews spoke of the blackened, burned arms raised aloft amid the flames, he, too, wept like a child. Nearly the whole congregation were affected to tears.” Ibid.
Many people in that congregation who were in a backslidden condition confessed their sins and asked everyone to pray for them that they would walk up the narrow way and not continue in the way that they had been going.
Some people talk as if it is some great condescension for them to become a Christian because of all that they have to give up. It is almost like they think that the Lord owes them something. We know that Jesus gave up far more to save us than we will ever have to give up. So do we call it condescension to grasp the chain of truth and call it humiliation to become a Christian? Actually, becoming a Christian is the only true means for you to be exalted. This exaltation is not going to come in this world, but becoming a Christian is the necessary and true provision for every human being to be exalted. In the message to the Laodicean church, Jesus promises that those who overcome will be allowed, “to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 3:21).
Moses understood this requirement and did not consider it a condescension for him to join with a nation of slaves. “He [Moses] had the privilege of living in king’s houses. He was a mighty warrior, and went forth with the armies of the Egyptians to battle; and when they returned from their successful conquest, they everywhere sung of his praise and his victories. The highest honors of the world were within his grasp ….” The Review and Herald, April 19, 1870. He made a deliberate decision to choose to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than to enjoy these honors and the pleasures of sin for a season. He chose delayed gratification over immediate pleasure.
Hebrews 11:26 says, “Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; he looked to the reward” (literal translation). His mind was focused on something else rather than riches, wealth, pleasure, or honor in this world. Where are your eyes focused?
“In like manner we have fixed our minds upon the exceeding great and precious reward, and in order to obtain it, we must have a perfect character.” The Review and Herald, April 19, 1870. Some people become offended by this expectation. They say, “nobody’s perfect” and some will quote you many texts in the Bible and also in Spirit of Prophecy to support their contention. However, Romans 4:18–22 says, “Who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.”
Abraham was convinced that what God said, He was able to accomplish. He did not understand, even in his day, how a man a hundred years old could be a father. Neither did Sarah understand how a woman 90 years old could be a mother, but God said it and so he believed it. This is a great example of how we can be saved. God says He can save me and I am depending that He is going to make it happen in my life. Because I have no way to bring this about, I am trusting You and choosing to cooperate with You Lord, and I will never quit asking until You make it happen in my life.
“The angels of God are watching the development of character. Angels of God are weighing moral worth; and we are to obtain a fitness here to join the society of sinless angels. Do you expect that when Christ comes He will give you that fitness? Not at all. You must be found of Him without spot, without blemish, or wrinkle, or anything like it (Ephesians 5:27). Now is the watching and trying time. Now it is the time to obtain a preparation to abide the day of His coming, and to stand when He appeareth.” The Review and Herald, April 19, 1870.
One of the persons in the Bible given as an example for people living in the last days without spot or wrinkle is the man Enoch. In thinking of this standard, many become discouraged, believing that their situation is worse than that of others saying, You don’t know where I work or what I have to deal with or the people that I have to associate with to make a living. You don’t know the kind of language they use and what they discuss; so you don’t understand my situation.
My dear friend, Enoch lived in that kind of situation. “Enoch represents those who shall remain upon the earth and be translated to Heaven without seeing death. He represents that company that are to live amid the perils of the last days, and withstand all the corruption, vileness, sin, and iniquity, and yet be unsullied by it all. We can stand as did Enoch. There has been provision made for us. Help has been laid upon One that is mighty; and we all can take hold upon His mighty strength.” Ibid. That is a promise that you can claim.
Isaiah 27:5 says, “Or let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me; and he shall make peace with Me.”
There are so few people today who are willing to suffer in the present time and become overcomers in order to gain the eternal riches. “Angels of God, that excel in strength, are sent to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation. These angels, when they see that we are doing the very utmost on our part to be overcomers, will do their part, and their light will shine around about us, and sway back the influence of the evil angels that are around us, and will make a fortification around us as a wall of fire.” The Review and Herald, April 19, 1870.
Unless a person is willing to make the same kind of decision that Moses made, he is not ready to be saved. The Bible not only records the right decision that Moses made, but also many instances where people made the wrong decision. One of the most prominent examples of choosing wrong—or failing to choose right— was the case of the rich young ruler, as recorded in Matthew 19. This young ruler wanted to be saved asking, “What shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Jesus said, “… Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you will enter into life, keep the commandments” (verses 16, 17, literal translation).
Jesus tried to direct his attention to the fact of His own divinity. In verse 18, first part, the young man asked which commandment. “Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to Him, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me’ (verses 18, last part, 19–21).”
Verse 22 states: “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” He wanted to be saved, but he did not want to give up his worldly wealth and honor. By the way, the Bible says that the wealthy have many friends. He did not want to give up the honor and wealth he had in this world in order to become an itinerant preacher, following Jesus of Nazareth. All he could see was trouble and affliction. Commenting on this, Ellen White says, “This was not a hard requirement; for the ruler was not handling his own property. His goods had been entrusted to him by the Lord. The choice was left with him; he must decide for himself.” The Review and Herald, December 14, 1897.
Moses had that same opportunity to decide for himself. He was a free moral agent as was the rich young ruler. We are all free moral agents. This decision each must make for himself or herself. Neither your spouse nor a friend can make it for you. “The choice was left with him; he must decide for himself. Did he accept the eternal treasure? or did he decide to gratify his desire for earthly treasure, and in so doing, refuse the eternal riches?—When he heard Christ’s words, ‘he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions’ (Matthew 19:22; Mark 10:22). He chose the earthly good, and lost the eternal weight of glory.” Ibid.
“Individually, we are tried as was the young ruler. God tests us to see if, as stewards, we can safely be trusted with the eternal riches. Shall we do as the ruler did—fasten our grasp upon the treasures lent us by God, choosing that which appears most agreeable to the natural heart, and refusing to use our possessions as God plainly states He expects us to? or shall we take up our cross, and follow our Saviour in the path of self-denial?” Ibid. God tests us to see if we can be trusted with eternal riches.
“Millions of people in our world are making the choice made by the young ruler.” Ibid. It seems sad when you think that only a few will make the correct choice, and the great majority make the wrong choice. They refuse to do God’s will by showing love to their fellow men, and by such selfishness they prove themselves unworthy of the eternal riches.
Ellen White says: “They show that they are unfit for a place in the kingdom of God; if they were allowed to enter there, they would, like the great apostate, claim everything as if they had created it, and would spoil heaven by their covetousness.” Ibid. This is especially the case in places like the United States where people are wealthier than in other countries. Moses was called to make a decision. He was a free moral agent and he could choose to go either way. The decision that he made to follow the Lord and suffer affliction cost him all that he had. He was in line to be the most powerful and wealthiest man in the world. He literally had the world before him. He could have had it all in what was at that time the mightiest and wealthiest nation in the world. However, you cannot have both this world and heaven. Moses had to make that choice. He had conflicting objects to choose between. Was he going to choose to become the ruler of the mightiest and wealthiest nation or was he going to choose to suffer affliction with the people of God and lose all that?
“The treasures of Egypt, the honor of a temporal crown, and all the worldly benefits involved in this choice, were presented by the prince of this world. The opposite side was presented by the Prince of Light, the world’s Redeemer. He held out the recompense of reward, the unsearchable riches of Christ, and showed also the path of affliction, self-denial, and self-sacrifice, that must be traveled by all who gain this reward.” Ibid. Jesus said when He was here, “If anyone wants to follow Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Moses understood, by making that decision, that he was starting down a path that would involve affliction, and self-denial, and self-sacrifice. But that is the same path that has to be travelled by everyone who goes up the path that leads to eternal life.
The decision was left with Moses. He could have made the same decision that the rich young ruler made, although it was a much more difficult decision for Moses because he had much more at stake. Moses figured out that having worldly riches was not worth losing eternal riches, even though what Jesus was offering him involved a path of affliction, self-denial, and self-sacrifice.
Moses was a free moral agent and at liberty to choose. But the Bible says that by faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king, for he endured as seeing Him Who was invisible. Moses made a choice. One of the greatest men, recorded in the Bible, who had the opportunity to become the leader of the greatest and wealthiest, and most powerful nation in the world, left it all in order to follow Christ in a path of self-denial, and affliction, and self-sacrifice.
If I’m going to be saved, I must walk in that same path. Moses was a rare example in the Bible of a person who chose to lose everything, and to be associated with a nation of slaves, and to walk in a path of affliction, of self-denial, and self-sacrifice, instead of enjoying the riches and pleasures of this world. This is a hard decision to make, and so few people are willing to make the correct decision today. Think things through and try to realize that the eternal weight of glory is of much more value than if we should be given the whole world and lose our soul. We need to think clearly about the future and to not make our decisions based on just the present, but based on what is going to happen to us in the future.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.