Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | August 30, 2010

Sermon on Hebrews 11:23

Downloadable version

Faith Puts Fear In Its Place

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Most parents would agree that their child is no ordinary child.  When they hold that newborn child, Mom and Dad are holding in their arms the most beautiful child in the world.  There’s no debate.

That’s what Amram and Jochebed, Moses’ parents, saw.  They saw a beautiful child, a fine child, no ordinary child.  They saw their son, who was even more extraordinary, because he wasn’t supposed to be alive.

Pharaoh, king of Egypt, had issued two decrees condemning all Israelite boys to death because he feared the political and military power of an Israelite nation living in Egypt.  He first told the Israelite midwives that they were to do away with Hebrew baby boys.  But those midwives refused to carry out this disgusting order.  They foiled Pharaoh’s attempt at quietly exterminating Israel.  They obeyed God rather than men.  But when that plan failed, Pharaoh issued another order:  Every boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live. We have no idea of how generally this order was followed, how many baby boys died, but that it was taken seriously is beyond doubt, for Moses’ parents hid him for three months.  And then they threw caution to the wind, and let God find an adoptive Egyptian for him so as to keep him alive with their daring float-the-baby-down-the-river plan.  All because Moses was no ordinary child.

It’s a somewhat open question what that phrase means.  How was Moses no ordinary child? The Greek word refers to someone being genteel, that is, sophisticated and proper.  From there, it came to refer to exceptional beauty.  Was Moses an exceptionally beautiful baby?  Is that what his parents saw?  Or in this extraordinariness, did they see something more, something theological?  Were they somehow able to divine that here, in their arms, was the deliverer who would bring Israel out of Egypt?  Perhaps Acts 7:20 can help.  We heard Stephen say:  At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. How is that helpful?  Well, if we had been reading from any number of other translations, we would have heard something from the Greek that the NIV left out.  A more literal translation says, “At that time Moses was born, and he was lovely to God.”  Again, we ask, “Lovely, as every child born on earth is lovely, every child that God has knit together in the womb?” or “Lovely, because of what God was going to call Moses to do?”

Whichever the case may be, Moses’ parents saw SOMETHING in their son, and that something moved them to risk their lives to save their son.  And they saw this something, they did this thing, by faith. They clung to the words passed down from Joseph’s death bed, God will surely come to your aid. They clung to petitions they hadn’t yet been taught, Thy will be done.  Give us this day our daily bread.  Deliver us from evil. And this faith allowed them to put fear in its place.  They were not afraid of the edict of Pharaoh, they instead feared the LORD their God, the one who can kill bodies and souls, and obeyed him instead of Pharaoh, knowing what Cain knew too:  You shall not murder.

Thankfully, the LORD hasn’t placed us in such a position here in America.  But it’s happening in other parts of the world, like China, where parents are forced to abort children.  The pressure builds as the fears about overpopulation and global warming lead some to advocate such policies for the “greater good” of the world.  So, perhaps we might face such a decision – God or men?

But that doesn’t mean we aren’t already making such decisions.  There are plenty of areas in our lives where we’re forced to decide between God or men, where we’re forced to decide whom we fear – men who can kill my body, or God who can kill my soul.  How are we doing?  Are we, by faith, obeying God rather than man, standing firm until salvation?  Or are we lacking faith, letting fear stand on top, creating new gods?

Without a doubt, the sinful nature that wars inside of me, the world that pressures me from without, the devil that prowls around me are hurling challenges at me, challenges as disgusting as those hurled at Amram and Jochebed.  These pharaohs say, “Stand up for freedom, stand up for choice!”  They want us to recognize a person’s right to end a life – in the womb or in a hospital bed – where life is still found.  The world wants us to say my choice is more sacred than God-given life.  God or men?

These pharaohs say you’ve got to drink those beers, do those drugs, cut those classes, cheat on those tests, spread that gossip, sleep with these people, live with that girlfriend or boyfriend, act on that urge.  You have to, or else you won’t fit in, no one will like you.  You’ll be the dweeb, the dork, the nerd.  God or men?

These pharaohs say that you need a good job, you need health insurance, you need social security, you need these benefits, because you need that house, or that style of life, or this or that other thing.  These pharaohs say, “Then you’d better put job and family before God and church, at least for a little while.”  They say, “If your boss asks you to do something shady, well, you can’t afford to lose this job.”  They say, “It’s okay to compromise here and there, it’s okay to lie about an address to get a benefit, or to fudge the records so you’ll get a lower premium, or…because it’s important….  You need it.”  God or men?

These pharaohs tell you that it’s silly, dogmatic, legalistic, unloving, and bigoted to be the kind of Christian you are.  Nobody takes the whole Bible seriously.  Nobody says that only Christians go to heaven.  Nobody says women shouldn’t be pastors, homosexuals shouldn’t get married, the world didn’t evolve, and that some people shouldn’t receive the Lord’s Supper.  And if you say that, you won’t get this job, you can’t be my friend, you won’t be taken seriously in college, or you might get taken to court for hate speech.  God or men?

Just a handful of examples, the tip of the iceberg no doubt, but real.   We’re tempted to compromise the 5th Commandment for the sake of the 4th Commandment, as Amram and Jochebed were.  We’re tempted to reject the 4th and 7th Petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, so that we can be secure in the here and now.  We’re tempted to let fear reign over our faith in God, as if God is not the God here and now helping and securing.  As if God is not the same God who protected Moses and his family for those three months, floated Moses into the arms of Pharaoh’s daughter, sent the ten plagues, parted the Red Sea, provided manna and quail, brought forth water from rocks, made shoes and clothes last for forty years.

But He is that same God.  Hebrews 13 says, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Through Isaiah, that eternally unchanging God says, Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God….  I myself will help you. He says, Do not worry about your life. Because He does not just say, “I can kill soul and body in hell” and Whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven but He also says, Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. He says, He who stands firm to the end will be saved. Faith puts fear in its place.  Because faith sees what those three young men facing the fiery furnace saw, that God was able to save them from the flames, but even if He didn’t He is still the LORD and His will will be done on earth as in heaven.  That’s what Amram and Jochebed saw and know.  God was able to save Moses from Pharaoh and Israel from Egypt.  And even if He hadn’t, as likely happened for many Hebrew babies, as has happened for hundreds of millions of babies in our abortion world, as has happened for millions of Christians facing martyrdom, still, despite that, He is still the LORD, still the Deliverer.  And Christ is still Christ.

Faith puts fear in its place because God put Christ in this world and on that cross.  For your sins.  He saw that we were no ordinary children, not in the sense of being beautiful, but in how ugly, scarred, and dead we were in sins.  Yet, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly….  God demonstrates His love for us in this:  while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Amram and Jochebed did not fear Pharaoh.  They weren’t delusional or dumb.  They were faithful.  Because they knew, To live is Christ, to die is gain! And there’s nothing to fear there.  Amen!

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