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.

"By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharoah's daughter."--Hebrews 11:24

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.


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 Lowell's words,

  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.


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 daughter."

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.


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 explanation.

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.


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.


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.