A Sermon Delivered by HAROLD B. KUHN, Time and Place Unknown.
Blackwood, Andrew W., ed. Evangelical Sermons of Our Day. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959, pages 72-80.
This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Part 4: The 20th Century.
In their bible setting these words show everyone here today the meaning and the glory of a faith
worth sharing. The example of Moses in turning his back on all that the world prizes, and
accepting a life work full of hardship and peril, ought to move every one of us to yearn after a like
faith. The place of Moses in time and rank differed from anything that we know today, but his
example in trusting the wisdom and power of God should teach certain lessons that everyone here
ought to learn. Let us consider the facts in this case, so that each of us may receive from,the Lord
the dynamic of a faith worth sharing.
I. A FAITH THAT SHOWS MATURITY
The faith of Moses is that of maturity. Noteworthy in the text axe the words, "Moses, when he
was come to years." A brief statement about the known facts of his early life should help us here.
At a period about as long before the birth of Christ as the discovery of America by Columbus
came after, Moses was born to a couple who shared the enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt.
His parents appear to have been above the average in comprehension of Israel's hope. At a time
when Hebrew boy-babies were special targets for destruction by Egypt's rulers, Amram and
Jochebed saw in this newborn child some indication of a providential purpose, and potential
greatness. Hence, at vast personal risk, they concealed their wee son. According to the inspired
record, "By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they
saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of ~the king's commandment" (Heb. 11:23).
We are all familiar with the way their plans, thus conceived in faith, matured in action. The infant
Moses was adopted by the daughter of the reigning Pharaoh, turned over for a time to his own
mother for subsidized care, and then reared as crown prince of Egypt. St. Stephen has indicated
to us the quality and the extent of the young man's royal education: "Moses was learned in all the
wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds" (Acts 7:22).
Thus far the major lines of this man's career were laid out by others, evidently with a view to a
career for him in the royal palace. But then something happened, of which we do not know. Here
we should be glad to have details that have been withheld. In any case, some circumstance arose
to demand that Moses himself make a personal commitment to the program laid out for him by
others. How this came about we can only conjecture. Possibly there came a time when he was to
be presented to the Egyptian people in an impressive public ceremony. In the light of what we
know about the religiousness of Egypt in that day, we assume that such an occasion would have
combined both religion and patriotism.
At this point Moses must have been put squarely on the spot. Then he proved the correctness of
Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side.
The issues must have been so transparently clear that there was no turning back from the choice
that he registered. The age at which this experience came to Moses is not of consequence, but the
fact that such a time arrived is crucial. Nor can we know all the other factors that entered into the
choice he made. Without doubt his early thinking had been shaped by the faith that he had
observed in others. The period during which he was reared at home, by the appointment of
Pharoah's daughter, may well have continued for three or four years. During such a time he could
have learned much about "the way of faith."
One element the early career of Moses has in common with our own. Each of us, also, is subject
to strong formative influences from his placement and environment. It would be the sheerest folly
,to suppose that any one of us acts wholly from within~ not being strongly shaped by influences
from without. True freedom consists, not in the absence of shaping forces, but in the choice of the
force that one permits to become dominant. Here Moses stands in a place of high example for us
today. When confronted with the choice that would be determinative of his entire career, the
element of faith became predominant as his shaping force. The element of faith gave tone to his
moment of high decision. Such is the faith of one who has matured. This leads us to a
consideration of the second element that he had in common with each of us who now believe.
II. A FAITH THAT CHOOSES THE RIGHT
At the crossroads of his early career, Moses made a decision profound and calculated. When a
person has attained the maturity indicated by the term, "coming to years," he cannot act in a
vacuum. At this stage in Moses' career, the element that challenges us is the fact that by this time
a profound personal faith was shaping his thought and life. It detracts nothing to say that he had
received this faith, imparted in large measure, no doubt, by his parents. During his boyhood,
adolescence, and early manhood there doubtless were events that helped to clarify certain issues in
his mind. For example, there must have been some searching comparison, on the one hand,
between the promises given to Abraham, by faith kept alive among the Israelites, and on the other
hand, the current lot of Moses' people as slaves in the province of Goshen.
We do not, of course, rule out the probability that Jehovah had dealt with the young man directly,
providentially making clear to him that these enslaved people were nevertheless "the people of
God," and that his identification with them would mean a special relationship to a providential
history soon to be unfolded. Further, there must have been for him some clarification of the
Messianic hope, so that his identification with the captives of Goshen would mean for him sharing
in "the reproach of Christ;" that is, having a portion in all that God would ultimately reveal
through the coming of the Anointed One.
Also significant for us is the fact that there came to Moses a time when he had to make a decision,
and when he could see clearly the two alternatives. We must bear in mind, of course, that over
against the difficult and forbidding path that Moses ultimately chose, there was to him a clear
alternative. From the human point of view, that alternative would seem to be logical, attractive,
and easy. In its favor one could have brought forward the perfectly reasonable argument that this
was what those in authority expected from Moses. Had not the royal family spent much upon his
education? Did they not also with high expectancy look forward to his administration?
Moreover, would it not have seemed plausible for Moses to assume such a royal status, and then
lead in enacting legislation that would bring to his captive people immediate and lasting relief?
Might he not even have elevated them to a position of security and comfort? Indeed, it would
have seemed strange if some such alternative had not suggested itself to the trained mind of
Moses. This line of thought raises the entire question of "means and ends." He must have weighed
the issues, by faith putting both means and ends in proper perspective. As for the outcome, that
appears before us in a very few words: Moses "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's
This was a measured choice. It was not a decision that he made on the spur of the moment, but
one in which he weighed both the objective and the outcome. The final and decisive element in his
decision was the faith by which "he esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the
treasures in Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense [that is, the outcome] of the reward."
This consideration brings us to a third factor in the account concerning Moses, another element
that he held in common with believing men of all time.
III. A FAITH THAT LEADS TO ACTION
Having surveyed the two alternatives, and weighed the momentous issues at stake, Moses made
his choice the basis for decisive action. By now it has become a commonplace that to experience a
profound impression, and then give it no suitable and adequate expression in deeds, means to
erode a man's character. On the contrary, the conduct of Moses underscores the clear-cut nature
of his choice: "By faith he forsook Egypt." Worthy of note here is the restraint with which the
inspired record describes his action. The same kind of restraint is evident in the account of Exodus
2. Such restraint stands in contrast with the tendency in purely human literature to overplay details
of the sort. Thank God for the restraint of God's revelation!
The element that grips us here is that Moses' action was decisive. By an act visible to those about
him, showing his resoluteness, he burned all the bridges behind him. Thus he made his own "point
of no return." Insofar as he was concerned, the die was cast. And yet his action was capable of
being misunderstood. In any case those who lacked the perspective of faith would consider his
decision a manifestation of wasted opportunity and unrestrained fanaticism. Beyond all this, those
who were accustomed to having their commands obeyed, as would have been the case with the
royalty of Egypt, must have felt completely perplexed and frustrated. Significantly, the inspired
author of the Epistle to the Hebrews adds the words, "Not fearing the wrath of the king." Even a
little degree of imagination will enable us to reconstruct the scene at the palace when the tidings
of Moses' decision became current. With much show of justice, the king might accuse him of
being an ingrate, an unworthy waif who had been rescued from the crocodiles when his infant
cradle had floated among the rushes along the Nile. The king might revile him for having accepted
the best education Egypt had to offer, and then frustrating the pattern of bright hopes that
well-meaning minds and hearts had woven about his future.
Except for two facts, these considerations might have weighed heavily with Moses. First, none of
these plans were of his own devising. Second, when he did make his decision, he stated it frankly
and clearly. No doubt it hurt him to feel compelled to make a decision that so intimately involved
those who had shown him the utmost personal kindness. Even more poignant must have been the
problem of trying to explain his actions to those who were not equipped to comprehend his
motives. After all, it was not faith that underlay the religion of Egypt, but the working of
darkened minds that could see nothing incongruous in worshiping creeping things of every kind.
Under such circumstances it must have proved frustrating for Moses even to attempt any sort of
Let us note with care that when Moses decided to forsake Egypt, he did not immediately begin to
act with the utmost wisdom. Having once made the choice of all choices, he did some serious
fumbling of the ball. He acted rashly and prematurely, so that instead of accomplishing the quick
deliverance his captive people, he himself felt compelled to flee from the country, and to take
refuge with a kindly shepherd-priest in the peninsula of Sinai. But when we see that he had made
up his mind, and had set his heart on doing right, we feel ready to forgive his errors in tactics. The
grand strategy of his life was longer in doubt.
The action of Moses in taking leave of Egypt's court led to a series of multicolored events: first as
a shepherd in semi-waste land north of Mount Sinai; then as a son-in law, a householder, and a
father; and later as one whom Jehovah summoned to go as an uninvited ambassador to the court
of Egypt. This line of thought leads us to consider a fourth and final feature of Moses' career. In
this feature, also, we can see a parallel with our own common experiences.
IV. A FAITH THAT SUFFERS HARDSHIP
Moses endured! What a word full of challenge! When forsook Egypt, the elements of high resolve
and heroic decision may have tempted the cynically minded to exclaim: "But wait! How will this
man react when his hopes backfire, and his ideals explode in his face?" Yet when we survey the
career of Moses we are deeply impressed with the number and variety of the hard. ships he had to
confront. Bear in mind that his mission compelled him to serve as military chief, civil engineer,
Jehovah's quarter. master, legislator, civil judge, and religious prophet. Recall, further, that he was
responsible for a childlike people as numerous as the inhabitants of our fifth or sixth largest city, a
childlike people whose faith had been eroded through long years of grinding servitude. What a
colossal task of discipline, and one that offered no visible compensation!
When we measure the difficulties that Moses had to face, we find his endurance all the more
remarkable. Despite constant misunderstandings and slanders, loneliness among crowds,
disloyalty of associates, and gross lack of appreciation on the part of so-called friends, Moses
never once looked back. His people might yearn for the cucumbers and garlic of Egypt, but never
once did their leader. The secret of his endurance is not merely a matter for our understanding:
Moses was a man with iron-clad faith. "He endured as seeing Him who is invisible."
The vitality of this man's faith sprung in part from the fact that it was no spur-of-the-moment
affair. True, there had come a moment of supreme commitment, a moment when he crucially
confronted issues that he knew to be pregnant with eternal weight. But this moment of
commitment had carried with it all there was of Moses, so that when his decision began to involve
him in difficulties and perils, there was in him nothing that he had not committed to Jehovah,
nothing that could ever draw him back from doing his duty. Moses had a faith undergirded by
divine disclosure, a faith born of mature reflection, a faith tested in the crucible of suffering, a
faith hammered out on the anvil of rugged experience. Nothing less than such a faith could enable
a man to endure all that Moses suffered for his God.
Also revealing to us is the fact that his endurance was a derivative of his insight. "He endured as
seeing Him who is invisible." Once over in England while conversing with an organist who was
blind, the writer half in pity apologized for frequently referring to things visible, which of course
the blind organist could not see. Then the organist made a discriminating remark. When asked
how he had come to grasp a certain situation he replied: "Oh, I do not mean seeing in that way.
Do you not catch what I mean? There are deeper ways of seeing things!" That man could see with
the eyes of the soul.
In such a manner did Moses see the invisible God. His vision of God was no idle, theoretical
seeing. That vision gave him new supplies of divine grace, and new qualities of human endurance.
Like Saint Paul, though with vastly less in the way of historical inheritance, Moses could live out
in triumph the spirit of the Apostle's later words, "None of these things move me." Moses' faith
led to a quality of endurance that revealed towering greatness of soul, and likewise added to his
spiritual suture. His was a character of such dimensions that before it today any one of us ought
to stand in awe. Even more than the magnitude of his achievements, the size of his personality
ought to impress us permanently.
A FAITH THAT LEADS TO TRIUMPH
Finally, in all its major outlines the career of Moses was of one piece with the mighty central
motivation of his beam In the whole of that magnificent life there was a transcendent consistency,
as well as grandeur. When at last complete, his career served as a majestic crown piece to the
faith that he had begun to show as the self-renouncing crown prince of Egypt. In shining idealism
his faith once began, and throughout long years until he brought the Lord's people to the
threshold of the Promised Land, his faith continued to shine undimmed.
When at last this man went up to his last resting place on Mount Nebo, a place known only to
God, the faith of Moses was most impressive in its quiet dignity. Centuries later on the Mount of
Transfiguration the son of Amram and Jochebed talked face to face with the Christ whose cause
he had long since espoused, and whose reproach he had then borne. On that mount of vision the
faith of Moses shone with a splendor from above. Who can imagine with what emotions his heart
filled up when he beheld his Lord, the Image of the invisible God, toward whom with steadfast
faith he had looked forward throughout a long career.
May the Lord of all grace now grant each of you such a faith worth sharing. In its vigor may you
live and serve with courage and hope. In its power may you complete your earthly course with
fidelity and with joy.