In Hebrews 11:23, the writer uses the faith of Moses’ parents to illustrate that even in the Old Testament the key element in any relationship with God was faith alone. Stedman observes, “Josephus, in his Antiquities, suggests that Moses’ parents received a revelation from God concerning their son’s destiny. This would explain why their action was by faith…”[1] They believed that God was going to do what He said He was going to do. Moses lived by faith himself, knowing that God had a plan for him. Verses 24-25 say, “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.”

Moses’ parents somehow recognized that he had a special calling by God. Moses recognized it also. Trusting in God’s calling and promise, Moses is a type of Christ. When Moses was born there was an official edict to kill him. When Jesus was born there was an official edict to kill him. Amram and Jochebed hid Moses in Egypt from Pharaoh’s men. Joseph and Mary hid Jesus in Egypt from Herod’s men. This passage specifically highlights Moses’ identifying with the people of God over the temptations of the world. In the wilderness, Jesus underwent the temptations of the world given directly to Him by Satan and he chose to identify with his mission of suffering for the deliverance of His people also. There were many other situations in Moses’ life typifying the coming deliverance by Christ of the people of God.  For example, Moses’ 40 years in the wilderness might be typical of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness.  But the key element in these 2 verses is the phrase “the fleeting pleasures of sin.” One commentary observes, “More significantly, Moses’ choice foreshadows that of the perfecter of faith, who accepted suffering in place of joy. The description of the rejected sinful pleasure as ‘temporary’ evokes by contrast the eternal salvation resulting from faith.”[2]

Moses had faith in the promises of God. As he looked at Joseph’s bones, he was reminded daily of God’s promise to deliver His people from slavery and take them to their own land. Just as his parents somehow saw their son Moses as the instrument of that deliverance, so too did Moses. He was convinced that God would fulfill his promises to his people. This is what the author of Hebrews wants us, his readers, to understand. It was by faith in God’s promises that Moses did what he did. Even though he could not see the land, and never did, Moses trusted that it was there and that God would bring His people home. We don’t see the “promised land” God has in store for us either. But we believe that God will fulfill His promises we have in Christ. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” Jesus brings “eternal” life filled with “eternal” joys in heaven. His promise is far superior to any other promise!

[1] Ray C. Stedman, Hebrews, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Westmont, IL: IVP Academic, 1992), Heb 11:23.

[2] Harold W. Attridge and Helmut Koester, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1989), 340–341.