‘BY FAITH HE FORSOOK EGYPT, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible’, Heb. 11. 27. This is the only occurrence in the New Testament of the word translated ‘endured’, so we might say that the many honours done by God to Moses included the application peculiarly to him of this term, which has the meaning ‘persevered’, with the thoughts of steadfastness and patience. This was true of him for the simple reason that God was real to him. That is the essence of faith.
Various views are held as to the particular period in the career of Moses that is in view in this reference to his endurance. Without going into that question, it is clear from the record in Exodus that this trait characterized him from eh. 4, v. 18 onwards. Prior to that there had been occasions of doubt, hesitancy and timidity but the point was reached when these all came to an end and thenceforth, in remarkable contrast, he continued for forty years firm, steadfast and patient, in the face of the greatest and most varied difficulties. He soon found that ingratitude and reproach must be borne from those for whom he had sacrificed so much and that his heart must be wrung as his efforts to help them, made in obedience to God’s word, brought not the expected early relief but increased sufferings and anguish of spirit.
But, seeing God, he Endured
in those early experiences, as later throughout the long years of wilderness journeying. We might wonder at his courage in approaching Pharaoh time and again, with no toning down of the God-given message, boldly announcing warning after warning of disaster upon disaster, still calm and collected before the infuriated monarch as he declared God’s final word of judgment – did we not know the secret, i.e. the reality of his God to his soul.
What Moses said about the Word of God in Deut. 30.10-14, was also his experience in connection with God Himself -He is not hidden … neither is He far off … He is very nigh. There had been a time when his eyes had been upon ‘the recompence of the reward’, and no blame attaches to him for that, but now they were upon the Rewarder Himself. At the end, his natural vision undimmed at the age of 120 years, he could survey a vast expanse from Pisgah’s summit but his spiritual vision had long been accustomed to a more wonderful sight. So he had endured, in honour and dishonour, in evil report and good report, through storm and calm, in days of quietness and days of sudden emergency and crisis, in difficulties and dangers, amidst folly and repeated provocation, notwithstanding envy and treachery, in grief and disappointment caused even by those nearest to him and, withal, in scarcely believable devotedness and self-denying love to that disobedient and gainsaying people whom he led.
Early New Testament Experience
As in previous articles, our thoughts now turn to New Testament times and the experiences of the Lord’s people in the early days of assembly fellowship. We readily recall that the first thing recorded by the Holy Spirit concerning those believers is their perseverance, as they continued in all they had been taught and had commenced to practice, Acts 2. 42. No doubt they experienced difficulties and hindrances but nevertheless they persevered. Later, as Paul gave his farewell advice and instructions in the darker days which had already set in, he charged Timothy, regarding the things he had been taught, in the terms, take heed, keep, continue in, hold fast, 1 Tim. 4. 16; 6. 14, 20; 2 Tim. 1. 13, 14; 3. 14. Paul’s entitlement to use such language could not be challenged, for, unlike some then and now, he was an outstanding example of practising what he preached.
It is clearly of considerable significance that, in the record of the early years of the Church, the figure of whom the Holy Spirit has told us most was a man of like spirit to Moses. Not all his contemporaries were so, by any means. We read of Peter, fearful and dissimulating, of Barnabas who was carried away, of John Mark who turned back and of Demas who forsook. But nearly thirty years after his conversion Paul could say ‘Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day’, Acts 26. 22. Thereafter he went on, ever pressing towards the mark, until finally he could speak of his course finished, with the faith kept. In all this he stands in most happy contrast to David (see last article) to whose vision God was so real in his early days but whose later history was so disappointing.
Keeping the Faith
How is it with ourselves in connection with this necessity which concerns practice as well as doctrine, to ‘take heed’, ‘keep’, ‘continue in’ and ‘hold fast? These are plain terms, not open to genuine misunderstanding: how are we re-acting to them? Would it be unreasonable to suggest that if Paul could survey the assembly witness today he might wonder whether his words had been mistranslated in some of our Bibles and had reached us in the form ‘disregard’, ‘discard’, ‘give up’, ‘let go'?
In previous articles we have considered Daniel and David who, each in his day and circumstances, gave evidence, as did Moses and Paul in theirs, of the reality of God to his soul. In consequence, Daniel viewed kings and lions alike against the background that he would, at all costs, be loyal to God and faithful to His Word: whilst David, full of concern for the honour of God’s name and the blessing of His people, was bold and strong to overthrow the giant. These objectives should be ours and endurance in securing them needs to be shown if we would be numbered amongst those who keep the faith. For this we must have the energy and power which result from God being real to our souls. Without these, the visible things will loom large, with mere men seeming as giants and every difficulty as a mountain, and fear will paralyse the hands and seal the lips. With these, we shall be ready for every exigency and able to act, for His glory and the blessing of His people, in all circumstances. Efforts are made at times to force or to insinuate into an assembly some new teaching or practice against the judgment of mature and well instructed believers. When faced by such a situation vague talking about grace and that nothing must be done to cause contention is not keeping the faith. God-given instructions cannot rightly be qualified and whatever is not clearly in accordance with them must be resolutely refused.
It is a humbling thought that our attitude in every circumstance, our reaction to every happening, our conduct on every occasion, reveal to our fellow-believers how real God actually is to us.