Pastor David B. Curtis


Faith Overcoming Fear

Hebrews 11:27-29

Delivered 01/13/2002

We are looking at the faith of Moses, in our last study we saw the example of the power of faith to rise above the temptations of riches and pleasures of the world. Moses made a conscious choice to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; and that was an act of faith. He actually believed that if he did what God wanted him to do, he'd come out better in the end. He believed that his eternal rewards would far outweigh anything the world had to offer:

Hebrews 11:26 (NKJV) esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.

This morning we want to look at how faith can triumph over the terrors of the world. Faith not only elevates the heart above the materialistic pull of the world, but it also delivers it from the fear of man. Faith and fear are opposites, and yet, they are often both found dwelling within us; but where one is dominant the other is dormant. The constant attitude of the Christian should be, " Behold, God is my salvation: I will trust, and not be afraid" (Isaiah 12:2) But what ought to be, and what is, are often two very different things.

1 Samuel 21:10 (NKJV) Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath.

Here we see David, the giant killer, afraid and running for his life. Then in Psalm 56 which was written after the incident at Gath, David says this:

Psalms 56:3 (NKJV) Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.

We all seem to have that potential to vacillate back and forth, between faith and fear. One day we're trusting in the Lord, and the next we're running in fear.

In our text we see Moses standing in faith against incredible opposition, and because of his faith, he has no fear of the king of Egypt. As we study the faith of Moses, we must remember its context in the book of Hebrews. The author is writing to believers who were becoming discouraged and were ready to give up. He is exhorting them to endurance in their Christian lives:

Hebrews 10:35-36 (NKJV) Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:

In the midst of trials and persecution, a person's faith may waver or even fail. Hence the exhortation to endurance; to hold fast their hope:

Hebrews 10:23 (NKJV) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

This is the theme verse. If we understand the Epistle as a call to go on believing in the truths of Christianity, this chapter makes a lot of sense. It's not an explanation of how to be saved. It is rather a call to perseverance in faith, whatever the odds. 10:38 says,"The just shall live by faith,"and whenever we fear, we are not living by faith; we are not trusting God.

Hebrews 13:5-6 (NKJV) Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." 6 So we may boldly say: "The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"

With the promise of His presence, we should never be afraid.

Let's look at our text and see how Moses' faith overcame fear:

Hebrews 11:27 (NKJV) By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.

This verse poses a problem because Moses left Egypt on two occasions, and the commentators are divided as to which of them is in view here. Was Moses' flight from Egypt after he killed an Egyptian an act of faith? Many commentators seem to think so. Let's look at:

Exodus 2:11-15 (NKJV) Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12 So he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 And when he went out the second day, behold, two Hebrew men were fighting, and he said to the one who did the wrong, "Why are you striking your companion?" 14 Then he said, "Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?" So Moses feared and said, "Surely this thing is known!" 15 When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well.

If Moses left Egypt in fear, as verse 14 says, how would this be an act of faith? Why would the author of Hebrews select this incident as an example of Moses' trust in God? Some commentators see this forty year period in Midian as a time of great faith in which Moses overcame the temptation to frustration and discouragement as he waited on God. But I think what we see in Exodus 4 might contradict this. Let's look at these verses:

Exodus 4:21-26 (NKJV) And the LORD said to Moses, "When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 "Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the LORD: "Israel is My son, My firstborn. 23 "So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn."' " 24 And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the LORD met him and sought to kill him. 25 Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses' feet, and said, "Surely you are a husband of blood to me!" 26 So He let him go. Then she said, "You are a husband of blood!"; because of the circumcision.

This is a curious story; the Lord almost kills Moses, possibly by an acute illness. We don't know exactly how, but we do know why. The fact that the Lord "let him go" (verse 26) shows that His anger was caused by the fact that Moses' son had not been circumcised. The fact that one of Moses' sons was uncircumcised was a sign of disobedience and apostasy and a transgression in the eyes of God:

Genesis 17:10-11 (NKJV) "This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; 11 "and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.

Therefore, I don't think that Hebrews 11:27 refers to Moses' flight to Midian. By contrast, after Moses had waited forty years in Midian, God called him and spoke to him from the burning bush:

Exodus 3:1-2 (NKJV) Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.
Exodus 3:9-10 (NKJV) "Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 "Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt."

Now, this was an assignment that demanded faith. Moses repeatedly objected until God reassured him that the elders of Israel would listen to him (v.18); that God would make the Egyptians favorably disposed to the Israelites (v.21); that Moses would perform miracles (Exodus 4:1-9); and that Moses' brother, Aaron, would accompany him (vv. 14-16). After receiving these divine instructions, Moses' faith was strengthened, and he was unafraid of Pharaoh. I believe that the entire verse, Hebrews 11:27, refers to all the confrontations Moses had with Pharaoh in his effort to gain freedom for God's people. That... "he forsook Egypt"... is then the culmination of a series of events. One of these events is the institution of the Passover, to which the author of Hebrews pays particular attention in the 28th verse. And the clause... "not fearing the wrath of the king"... covers the period of the ten plagues and Pharaoh's pursuit of the Israelites to the waters of the Red Sea.

..."Not fearing the wrath of the king"... - that's quite a statement when you consider Moses' task - he was to enter the presence of Pharaoh:

Exodus 5:1 (NKJV) Afterward Moses and Aaron went in and told Pharaoh, "Thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.'"

For forty years Moses had lived the life of a shepherd in Midian, and now with no army behind him, he has to make this demand of the haughty monarch who reigned over the greatest empire then on earth. Such a task called for a strong faith. Moses didn't get a warm reception:

Exodus 5:2 (NKJV) And Pharaoh said, "Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go."

Not only did the king refuse their request, but he made life more difficult for Israel:

Exodus 5:7-8 (NKJV) "You shall no longer give the people straw to make brick as before. Let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8 "And you shall lay on them the quota of bricks which they made before. You shall not reduce it. For they are idle; therefore they cry out, saying, "Let us go and sacrifice to our God."

The heads of Israel came to Moses and said:

Exodus 5:21 (NKJV) And they said to them, "Let the LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us abhorrent in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us."

They were calling down the judgement of God on Moses and Aaron. When even the people you're trying to help turn against you, it takes a strong faith to keep going.

Well, Moses begins to confront Pharaoh with the judgments of God. This took a lot of faith to be continually going before Pharaoh and causing him grief. Humanly speaking, all he had to do was give the order to his officers, and Moses would have been seized, beaten, tortured, and murdered, yet Moses... "feared not the wrath of the king"....

After the ninth plague, Pharaoh called for Moses and proposed a compromise, which, upon Moses refusing, he said:

Exodus 10:28-29 (NKJV) Then Pharaoh said to him, "Get away from me! Take heed to yourself and see my face no more! For in the day you see my face you shall die!" 29 And Moses said, "You have spoken well. I will never see your face again."

But Moses... "feared not the wrath of the king"... and boldly announced the final plague:

Exodus 11:4-8 (NKJV) Then Moses said, "Thus says the LORD: 'About midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt; 5 'and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the female servant who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the animals. 6 'Then there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as was not like it before, nor shall be like it again. 7 'But against none of the children of Israel shall a dog move its tongue, against man or beast, that you may know that the LORD does make a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.' 8 "And all these your servants shall come down to me and bow down to me, saying, 'Get out, and all the people who follow you!' After that I will go out." Then he went out from Pharaoh in great anger.

How would you like to stand before a king and threaten the death of his son? Think about that! Most of us can't even share our faith because we're afraid of how people will respond. Let's look at some examples of how fear affects us:

John 12:42-43 (NKJV) Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

Why wouldn't they confess Christ? Because they were afraid they would lose favor with the people.

The greatest pressure that Christians face, in many cases, is the pressure of fear. The reason that most Christians are like an antic river (frozen over at the mouth) and don't really communicate their faith is because they're afraid. They're afraid of losing their popularity, of not being accepted. Fear and faith are opposites, and whenever you're afraid you're not trusting God.

Numbers 13:30-33 (NKJV) Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, "Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it." 31 But the men who had gone up with him said, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we." 32 And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, "The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. 33 "There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight."
Numbers 14:8-11 (NKJV) "If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, 'a land which flows with milk and honey.' 9 "Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the peopleof the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them." 10 And all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Now the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all the children of Israel. 11 Then the LORD said to Moses: "How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?

Because these rulers weren't trusting God, they feared the people. David was afraid of Absalom, and he ran because he wasn't trusting God. The disciples were afraid in a storm at sea, and Jesus asked them, "Where is your faith?" Peter was afraid, and he denied Jesus. Believer, fear is a very destructive thing, and when we are afraid we are not trusting God.

I think that believers are afraid to confront sin in other believers. We are more afraid of men than we are God.

2 Thessalonians 3:5-6 (NKJV) Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ. 6 But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.
2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 (NKJV) And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
1 Corinthians 5:11 (NKJV) But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; not even to eat with such a person.

Believers, if we're honest, we'll admit that fear keeps us from obeying God in many areas.

No matter what the king did or said, Moses didn't fear him. Moses gives us a great lesson on faith. Strong faith doesn't fold under the world's pressure. Why? Well, Moses didn't fold because he saw... "Him who is invisible"... In other words, he knew he had an invisible means of support. He knew that no matter what happened, whatever he faced, he would be held up and strengthened.

Let's look at that phrase, "...he endured, as seeing him who is invisible". The word "endured" is from the Greek word kartereo, it means: "to be strong, steadfast." Moses' strength came from seeing Him who is invisible, that's an oxymoron, how can you see the invisible? Moses practiced the presence of God, Moses' focus was on the King of Kings and not on the king of Egypt.

The Old Testament has a good deal to say about Moses' close relationship with God:

Exodus 33:11 (NKJV) So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle.

Frequently, the word "face" is used in a theological sense with regard to the person or presence of God. Sometimes "face" is translated as "presence" (Gen. 4:16; Ex. 33:14; 2 Thess. 1:9). That Moses didn't physically see God is clear from:

Exodus 33:20 (NKJV) But He said, "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live."

Although Jehovah showed Himself to Moses in some peculiar form of manifestation, He never appeared in His own essential glory, but only in such a mode as human weakness could bear.

Numbers 12:6-8 (NKJV) Then He said, "Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. 7 Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. 8 I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant Moses?"
Deuteronomy 34:10 (NKJV) But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face,

This close walk with God sustained Moses through all the difficult days, and if we are going to live a life of faith and not be overcome with fear, we also must walk in fellowship with God. Only as we walk in holiness can we walk in fellowship with God. Sin blocks our fellowship and hinders our understanding of God.

John 14:21-23 (NKJV) "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him." 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, "Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?" 23 Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

When we walk in obedience to Him, He manifests Himself to us, and we can see him who is invisible.

Moses left Egypt in fear, but he returned in faith as Israel's deliverer. As we follow the story of Moses' life, we see that he grows in his faith. As we said earlier in our study of Hebrews 11, there are degrees of faith; the more we walk with God, the stronger our faith grows. In Matthew 10:26 -31 our Lord told His disciples not to fear the world.

Matthew 10:26 (NKJV) "Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.
Matthew 10:28 (NKJV) "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Believers, we are not to fear man, but we are to fear God. And I think that if we really feared God, we wouldn't fear Man. As long as God is on our side, what can man do to us?

Matthew 10:29 (NKJV) "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will.

A copper coin is equal to a penny. These birds were cheep. God knows when a bird falls to the ground, and some Greek texts even indicate that the word "fall" may mean "hop". He not only knows when a bird falls, but He knows when they hop. Nothing happens in the most insignificant element of life, even with cheep birds, that God doesn't know about, care about, and have absolute control over.

Matthew 10:30 (NKJV) "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

Do you know that there is an average of 140,000 hairs per head? And it doesn't say that God counts them - He numbers them. He actually identifies every hair on your head. What's the point? The point is this: If God is concerned about little birds, and He's concerned about the hairs of your head, then don't be afraid.

Matthew 10:31 (NKJV) "Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

We don't ever need to fear! We can never get into a situation where God can't sustain us.

The best way to overcome fear is to cultivate the sense of God's presence. Fear is the result of distrust, taking your eyes off God, and being occupied with the difficulties and troubles.

Hebrews 11:28 (NKJV) By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them.

The institution of the Passover was an act of faith, similar to that of Noah's preparation of the ark. Without any fear of the fury of Pharaoh, he went ahead with the preparations for abandoning Egypt entirely, of which the Passover was the first step.

Nothing but faith could avail here. Everything was opposed to human understanding and human reasoning. None of the nine plagues had worked so far, nothing but a strong faith in God could have enabled Moses to go to the people and give them the details of the Passover. If the blood of the lamb proved to be ineffective in protecting the first-born from death, what would happen to Moses? By faith Moses explained to the children of Israel the details of the Passover.

Hebrews 11:29 (NKJV) By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned.

The text says, "they," but I believe it is Moses' faith that is in view. In Hebrews 3:16 it says that " They came out of Egypt by Moses" and in 1 Corinthians 10:2 it says, "They were identified with Moses and by reason of his faith secured their deliverance." Just as Noah's faith saved his family, so Moses' faith saved Israel.

Exodus 14:8-9 (NKJV) And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the children of Israel; and the children of Israel went out with boldness. 9 So the Egyptians pursued them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and overtook them camping by the sea beside Pi Hahiroth, before Baal Zephon.

Here is the situation Moses faced: On the one side was the impassable mountain range of Baal-zephon; on the other side were the vast sand dunes which a traveler could not survive; behind Israel was the pursuing Egyptian army; and in front was the Red Sea.

Humanly speaking, they were trapped and would surely be destroyed. Pharaoh and his army had just lost their sons, and they were mad. Look at Israel's response in:

Exodus 14:10-12 (NKJV) And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD. 11 Then they said to Moses, "Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? 12 "Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, 'Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?' For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness."

They still didn't trust God, after all they had seen, they still didn't trust. Does this remind you of anyone? Like maybe yourself? Remember: God brings us into these circumstances to teach us to trust in Him. Who made the Red Sea? Who made the mountains? Who made the Egyptians? Who is it that works all things together for good to those who love Him? GOD! And God alone! And when we get into situations like this, we should get excited to see how God is going to resolve it.

Look at Moses' response in:

Exodus 14:13-14 (NKJV) And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 "The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace."

Here was the crucial moment, the supreme test. Did Moses' heart fail him; was he now terrified by the wrath of the king? No, far from it, he calmly and confidently said unto the people, "Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD". O, how the courage of Moses shames our petty fears! What a man of faith! I'm sure that he felt responsible for all those Israelites, and yet he never flinched, he trusted his God. He said to them, "Fear ye not." Isaiah put it this way:

Isaiah 26:3-4 (NKJV) You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, For in YAH, the LORD, is everlasting strength.

Moses told the children of Israel to "stand still". When you can do nothing, wait on the Lord. This was a military order and was equal to telling them to stand by until they received further orders. Then he said, "And see the salvation of the Lord." I'm sure they were anxious to see God's salvation.

Exodus 14:15-22 (NKJV) And the LORD said to Moses, "Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. 16 "But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. 17 "And I indeed will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them. So I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, his chariots, and his horsemen. 18 "Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen." 19 And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. 20 So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night. 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

Picture it ! Did it take faith for them to walk into that sea? Not really, if the walls of water collapsed, it was still better than being cut in half with a sword.

Exodus 14:23-31 (NKJV) And the Egyptians pursued and went after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24 Now it came to pass, in the morning watch, that the LORD looked down upon the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud, and He troubled the army of the Egyptians. 25 And He took off their chariot wheels, so that they drove them with difficulty; and the Egyptians said, "Let us flee from the face of Israel, for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians." 26 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the waters may come back upon the Egyptians, on their chariots, and on their horsemen." 27 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and when the morning appeared, the sea returned to its full depth, while the Egyptians were fleeing into it. So the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. 28 Then the waters returned and covered the chariots, the horsemen, and all the army of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them. Not so much as one of them remained. 29 But the children of Israel had walked on dry land in the midst of the sea, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 30 So the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 Thus Israel saw the great work which the LORD had done in Egypt; so the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD and His servant Moses.

It's about time they believed, but it didn't last long. In the next chapter they're murmuring against God.

Moses had grown in his faith, he went through quite a lot with those Israelites, yet he kept his eyes on God. Trials are like a Red Sea experience, We can either pass through them victoriously by faith, or they can destroy us.

Remember, the key to victory in the Christian life is occupation with Christ. Moses endured as seeing Him who is invisible, and so can we. With Moses as our example, let's keep our eyes on Christ through the trials of life.

Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV) You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
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