The Choices of Life
July 27th, 1969 @ 8:15 AM
THE CHOICES OF LIFE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-27-69 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Choices of Life. It is a message from the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews. And if you would like to turn to the passage, we shall begin at verse 23, "By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child," a proper child, it reads here:
and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;
Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.
By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible.
The choices of life: "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter"; the next and the heir apparent to the throne, "choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season" [Hebrews 1:24-25].
The choices of life, they began in the life of Moses in his parents, in his father and mother: "By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents" [Hebrews 11:23]. The pharaoh who knew not Joseph had committed himself to the extermination of the people: some of them by exhaustion, some by strangulation, some by drowning; and this last edict, that the male children that were born to the Hebrew families all were to be slain [Exodus 1:16]. And this little boy was born; and when Jochebed, his mother, looked upon the little fellow, he was a beautiful child [Exodus 2:2]. And spurning the edict of the king, Amram the father made a little ark and daubed it with slime and pitch, and he and the mother went down to the Nile River at a place where the daughter of the king came with her maidens to bathe. And when they could no longer hide the child, the little fellow grew, and as he grew, his voice grew; and maybe when he was born they could have kept him in a little room and his voice not be heard, but when he grew and his voice became loud and he cried, they couldn’t hide him any longer. So they took the little fellow, and put him in that basket, and set it afloat among the bulrushes, the reeds that grew out of the water on the banks of the river [Exodus 2:3].
And the rest of the story is familiar to you: when the daughter of Pharaoh came with her maidens, she saw that little ark. She sent one of her maidens wading out into the edge of the water to secure it for her, to fetch it. Did you hear me say a month or so ago, there’s no word in the English language to take the place of "fetch"; but we have decided to discard it. She sent one of her maidens to bring it to her, to go get it and bring it to her. There’s no word that says that but "fetch." And when the little ark was laid before the daughter of the king, and she opened it, she looked upon the face of this beautiful child; and the babe wept. Evidently, the daughter had no child; possibly she was unable to bear a child. And when the babe wept, the sight of the crying baby touched her mother instinct; and being a beautiful child, she chose to keep it for herself [Exodus 2:5-6].
Now little Miriam, who was at the time eleven years old, the sister of Moses – Miriam, Maria, Marie, Mary – all those words come from Miriam. When the little girl, Miriam, who was watching to see what would become of the ark and the child, saw the compassionate response of Pharaoh’s daughter, she ran to the princess and asked if she might find a nurse who could rear the child for her. All of this in the providence of God, and the daughter said, "Yes." And Miriam fetched Jochebed, the child’s mother. And the daughter paid her wages to rear her own son. And thus Moses became the child of the princess and the heir apparent, the next in line to the succession of the throne of the greatest empire in that day, the kingdom of Egypt [Exodus 2:7-10].
"Now by faith Moses, when he was come to years, a grown man now, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season" [Hebrews 11:24-25]. Now, we’re going to look at those choices that Moses made; the choices of life.
Look at his station, and at his incomparable opportunities, and his certain and assured future. First, political: even in America we think of Henry Ford II as being a very wealthy man, and we think of the Rockefeller family, Nelson or Winthrop, any of those Rockefellers, as being wealthy men; but they are poor, very poor, compared to the illimitable billions and billions of dollars that are controlled by the politicians and preeminently by the president of the United States. There is nobody comparable to him, the almost illimitable funds that go through his hands, as he administers the government of America. Not only that, but the influence that he has appointing Supreme Court justices and federal judges, and cabinet members, and military staff members; for he is the commander in chief of the army. Oh, in how many areas do the political leaders of a nation overshadow every other citizen, including our richest and most affluent members of it. Moses was that: his political station was incomparable.
Look again at his military prowess. Whether this is true or not, we cannot say, but Josephus writes at great length about Moses. And he said that in the days when Moses was in the prime of his life, that an army from Ethiopia invaded Egypt, and overwhelmed the opposing army of the Egyptians, and was besieging Memphis itself, and that directed by an oracle of God they turned to Moses, and that Moses not only routed the Ethiopian army, but invaded Ethiopia itself and brought back great spoils, militarily.
May I speak of the advantage that he obtained educationally? The seventh chapter of the Book of Acts, in the address by Stephen before the Jewish nation, he said that Moses was learned in all of the arts and the wisdom of the Egyptians [Acts 7:22]. And, of course, that at that time was the greatest seat of learning in the earth. And think of his advantage socially: he was the Prince of Wales; he was the greatest of all of the young men in the kingdom.
And isn’t it a strange thing: it’s not when the senator is working at his desk that he falls into such agony and wretchedness, it’s when he’s out partying, it’s when he’s socializing. That’s true of you too, don’t forget. It’s not while you’re laboring and slaving that you fall into these awesome curses of life, but it’s while you’re out socializing, free, doing what you want to do. That’s why you need to come to church, lest you want to do what you ought not to be a’doing! Moses had all of those opportunities, all of them.
Now, as he walked, and as he rode, and as he shared the rulership of the kingdom, there was something that he remembered: because you see that mother, Jochebed, when she was rearing that little child, taught the little fellow the name of God. Pharaoh worshipped a crocodile, a sacred cow, a cat, a serpent. When you went into a temple of the Egyptians, past the sanctuary into the sanctum sanctorum, there on a pillow at the heart of the faith would be a sacred cat, or a coiled serpent, or some kind of a crocodile. But that mother had taught that little boy the name of the true God. And isn’t it remarkable how they never forget?
I was asked yesterday: there was a newspaper reporter sent to Dallas from Orlando, Florida, and he asked for an hour that he might interview me. And to my amazement, the young fellow got to talking to me about doctrinal questions. Shows you that underneath, always underneath the apparent worldliness and worldly objectives and goals of people, that underneath there is a great famishing and thirsting and hungering after God. Is there some answer? Is there some purpose? Is there some meaning? That’s not just occasional; it is universal. Well, he began asking me, he said, as I talked to him, as he asked me about how to be saved and how Christ would save us, then he asked me, "How is it that a man can be saved, and then he’s lost, and then he’s saved again?" I said, "That’s not true. And that’s not in the Bible. And that doesn’t happen. And that’s not the experience of the Christian."
"Oh?" he was surprised. He said, "You mean that you believe that if a man is saved, he’s saved forever?" I said, "Yeah. Yes. Yes. That’s what it is. When a man is regenerated, he’s a new creation [2 Corinthians 5:17]; and he may fall into error, he may backslide, but he’ll always come back because a man who’s saved is miserable out in the world and in sin and backslidden."
Well, we began talking about, "Well, if that is true, if a man is saved and he’s saved forever, and he can’t be lost, why doesn’t a man get saved and then just go live any way that he pleases?" Well, I said, "He does. That’s right. When a man is saved, he’s saved forever. And he can just go out and live as he pleases. He can just drink all that he wants to. He can just curse all that he wants to. He can just carouse all that he wants to. He can just gamble all that he wants to. But," I said, "that’s what it is to be saved: you have a new heart, you have a new soul, you have a new love, you have a new life, you’re regenerated, you’re a new creation! [2 Corinthians 5:17]. You just don’t want to!"
Well, I do cuss all I want to cuss; I just don’t want to cuss. I just drink all I want to drink; I just don’t want to drink. I just carouse all I want to carouse; I just don’t want to carouse. I just don’t like it. I don’t like that kind of a life; it doesn’t appeal to me.
That was Moses. The mother taught that little fellow of the true God. And when he came of age, and was a grown man, he looked at the sordid life of those who worshipped cats, and crocodiles, and sacred cows, and something else: he walked, and rode through the length of the land, and saw his brethren [Exodus 2:11]. If you’ve ever been regenerated and are on your way to a worldly party on Sunday night, and you hear God’s people singing songs in the church, it’ll tear you apart. Those are my people. These are my people. And Moses was like that: he walked through the length and breadth of the land, and he saw them groaning under terrible burdens.
At that time they had no mechanical instruments with which to work; and what was done was done by hand. The pyramids were built by hand. All of those cities, and some of them are named, were built by hand. And Moses saw the groaning and the trials and the tears of his people, and it precipitated a violent agony in his heart.
Well, the great choice came in an unexpected and an unusual and a cataclysmic way. Sometimes, have you ever just been going along, and you hadn’t noticed the gathering clouds, and you hadn’t seen any particular change in the weather, and then just suddenly there is a crash of lightning? Well, it never came just suddenly like that. For the heavens were being charged, and charged, and charged by the gathering storm, and then just suddenly it precipitated. War is that way: nations don’t go to war, just suddenly these men are fighting; they’re always months and sometimes years of preparation. Like that war going on now they’re trying to stop between El Salvador and Honduras. All of those things are in the background of nations and people; and then upon a time it is precipitated.
That’s what happened to Moses. All of those years of his young manhood, the thing was rising in him: the burden and agony of soul. And it came about, as you know, like this: he saw an Egyptian mistreating one of his brethren. And being a volitive man – and you’ll find that later in his life; that’s why he was not allowed to enter into the Promised Land – Moses was volitive. He had a burning spirit. I don’t object to that in any man. I had rather see a fellow volitive and burning and high-tempered than to see him lazy and phlegmatic and lethargic; because if he’ll learn to control that volitive spirit, my, he’s like ten engines all in one. Well, that’s the way with Moses: this thing was precipitated suddenly. And when he saw that Egyptian mistreating one of his brethren, in anger he slew him, and hid his body in the sand [Exodus 2:11-12].
Now, life was cheap. What did it matter, one less Egyptian, one less mouth to feed in that Nile Valley. He could have apologized to Pharaoh. He could have made redress. He could have said to the taskmasters as they popped their bullwhips over those who were slaving, making brick without straw, he could have said, "I am for you." But Moses chose a volitional choice: he chose to cast his lot with the people of God. And we haven’t opportunity to follow through the story. Just let me apply it to ourselves.
"By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be the heir to the throne of Egypt, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season" [Hebrews 11:24-25]. For a season; there’s not anything in the earth more fleeting and more temporary than the rewards and the glories of this life. I don’t think you can find a better illustration of that than in the athletic world. Oh! the heroes in the athletic world, and how quickly they are forgotten! In my reading I came across this:
When I was in college, I was captain of the football team, and played quarterback. In one game, I had been slightly injured, and I was sitting on the bench. We were losing the game. Then the crowd began to chant my name. You can imagine how I felt. The coach turned to me, and said, ‘OK, Raymond, go on in.’ I did. In a couple of plays, I called for a pass. We pulled the game out of the bag, and won it! Well, I was BMOC: big man on the campus. A few years passed. I went back to my alma mater, to a football game; and there they were, yelling in the stadium. Our college was having a hard time with the game; but no one shouted, ‘Send Raymond in!’ In fact, one kid behind me said, ‘Hey mister, sit down! I can’t see.’
Oh, dear! I don’t have to argue the point; you just know it. "For a season": how fleeting!
Now when it says, "He chose to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season" [Hebrews 11:25], does that mean that Moses was vile, and filthy, and promiscuous, and dirty, and iniquitous, and sinful? No, that does not refer to that. What it refers to is this: that Moses had a choice between living a life of ease and irresponsibility, when there was a tremendous need, a vast assignment, that God put in his heart and in his soul. You remember God talked to him about it at the burning bush. "Moses, My people cry, and I have heard their cry. And I am sending you; I am sending you" [Exodus 3:9-10].
Now that was the choice that he made; and that is the choice that you’re going to make, too. You can’t escape it, because you are born into it. There is great and illimitable need: there are children to be taught, there are teenagers who need to be guided, and there are young people who need to be trained, and there are families who need to be won; there’s a whole ministry that ought to be offered in the name of God. And what are you going to do?
"Well, I love my ease, Lord, and I love God. Let somebody else bear that responsibility. We have buildings we’re going to build; let somebody else pay for them. We have great visitation programs by which we’re trying to reach people; let somebody else go." Well, we all make the choice: and Moses chose to bear the burden and the responsibility rather than to enjoy the ease and the pleasures of life for just a season [Hebrews 11:25].
Now, I have to close. As you read the life of Moses and the result of his choice, what do you think of it? Now you follow me. Does that mean when he chose to serve God and be God’s minister to the needs of the people, does that mean that he lived in triumph and in glory all the rest of his life, does it? Well, my impression as I read his life is that it was just the opposite: he lived in heartache; he lived in great disappointment, constantly.
For example, when he was up there on the mountaintop talking to God face to face, and God gave into his hand the Ten Commandments on those tables of stone, and Moses came down from the mountaintop with the tables of stone, and the commandments written with the finger of God [Exodus 31:18], and when he came down and looked, the people were worshipping a golden calf, and they had taken off their clothes like the sordid, sexual rituals of those pagan, heathen ways of worship. And there they were in an orgiastic feast around a golden calf [Exodus 32:1-8, 19]. Think of that. Think of that.
Or, look again, when he was seeking to guide the course of the people to the Promised Land, they began to murmur and to find fault, and to say, "Oh, that we were back in the land of Egypt!" and then they named it, "where the leeks and the onions and the garlic grows round the fleshpots of the Egyptians. Would God we had died as slaves of the land of Egypt" [Exodus 16:3; Numbers 11:5]. Think of that.
Or when they came to the edge of the Promised Land, to Kadesh Barnea, and I can see the great lawgiver as he looks over those borders into that rich and fertile country, at that time, like an emerald meadow, covered with forests and trees and verdant valleys; and then the heartache of listening to the people say, "We are not able to enter it" [Numbers 13:31]. And they turned back and wandered forty years in the wilderness [Joshua 5:6]. Think of that.
But most of all, think of the day when God said, "You are to go over this Jordan, except you, Moses, you cannot go." And Moses went up to Mount Nebo, and he looked at the length and the breadth of that goodly land. And then that solitary pilgrimage in the land of Moab, over against Beth Peor, where the Lord buried his servant away [Deuteronomy 34:4-6]. Think of that.
The heartache and the discouragement that always attend the work of the servant of God – but, "He endured as seeing Him who is invisible. For he had respect unto the recompense of the reward" [Hebrews 11:26-27]. So I close with that contrast. He could have stayed in the land of Egypt. He could have become the pharaoh, the king of the land. That’s one. The other: his life is closed with these words: "And there arose not since a prophet like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew, whom God talked with face to face" [Deuteronomy 34:10]. Think of that. Think of that.
Why, you had might as well compare the most wretched, worthless pebble in the earth with the most sparkling diamond God ever made, as to compare the fleeting reward of being a pharaoh in Egypt with being a man whom God knew face to face. The choices of life – so for us, as for us, we choose to follow our Lord. We have made that choice, and God is blessing us in it. And we proffer a like choice to you today.
To choose God, would you come and stand by me? Giving your heart to the Savior, down one of these stairways, down here into one of these aisles, and clear to the front, "Pastor, today I choose the Lord, and here I come, here I am." A family you to put your life with us in the circle of this precious church, will you come? "Pastor, this is my wife, these are our children; we all coming today. Here I am; here we come." Do it, now. A couple you, or just you, as God’s Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, come. Do it now. On the first note of this first stanza, come, and God bless you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.