16: The Promises to Israel - The Reproach of Christ

The Present Truth : August 20, 1896

“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.” Hebrews 11.24, 25

Here we are told most positively that the treasures of Egypt were the pleasures of sin; that refusing the treasures of Egypt was to refuse to live in sin; that to cast in one’s lot with the Israelites, was to suffer the reproach of Christ. This demonstrates that Christ was the real leader of that people, and that that which had been promised them, and to share which they were to be delivered from Egypt, was to be theirs only through Him, and that, too, through His reproach.  Now the reproach of Christ is the cross. Thus we are again brought face to face with the fact that the seed of Abraham, —the true Israel, —are those who are Christ’s through faith in His blood.

Very few stop to think what it was that Moses gave up for the sake of Christ. He was the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and was heir to the throne of Egypt. All the treasures of Egypt were therefore at his command. He “was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.” Acts 7.22. The crown prince, a scholar, a general, and an orator, with every flattering worldly prospect open before him, —he gave up everything to cast in his lot with a despised class of people for the sake of Christ.

He “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” That implies that he was urged to retain his position. It was in the face of opposition that he gave up his worldly prospects, and chose to suffer affliction with the people of God. We cannot over-estimate the contempt with which his action would be regarded, nor the epithets of scorn that must have been heaped upon him, among which that of “fool” must have been the mildest. When people in these days are called upon to accept an unpopular truth at the expense of their position, it will be well for them to remember the case of Moses.

What led him to make the “sacrifice?” “He had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” It was not merely that he sacrificed present position for the hope of something better in the future. No; he got more than an equivalent as he went along. He esteemed the reproach of Christ, of which he had a full share, greater riches than the treasures in Egypt. That shows that he knew the Lord. He understood the sacrifice of Christ for man, and he simply chose to share it. He could not have done this if he had not known much of the joy of the Lord. That alone could strengthen him in such a case. Probably no other man has ever sacrificed so great worldly prospects for the sake of Christ, and therefore we may be sure that Moses had such knowledge of Christ and his work as few other men have ever had. The step that he took is evidence that he already knew much of the Lord; the sharing of the reproach and the sufferings of Christ must have made very close the bond of sympathy between the two.

When Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, he did it for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. But his case, like that of Jacob, as well as of many others, shows that the most sincere believers often have much to learn. God calls men to His work, not because they are perfect, but in order that He may give them the necessary training for it. At the first Moses had to learn what thousands of professed Christians have not yet learned in this age. He had to learn that “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” James 1.20

He had to learn that the cause of God is never advanced by human methods; that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10.4, 5

“And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian; for he supposed that his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them; but they understood not. And the next day he showed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; Why do ye wrong one to another? But he that did his neighbor wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? Wilt thou kill me, as thou diddest the Egyptian yesterday? Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Midian, where he begat two sons.” Acts 7.23-29

It was true that the Lord designed that the hand of Moses should deliver the people of Israel. Moses himself knew this, and he supposed that his brethren would also understand the matter. But they did not. His attempt to deliver them was a sad failure, and the reason for the failure lay in him as much as in them. They did not understand that God would deliver them by his hand; he understood that fact, but he had not yet learned the method. He supposed that the deliverance was to be affected by force; that under his generalship the children of Israel were to rise and conquer their oppressors. But that was not the Lord’s way. The deliverance, which God had planned for His people, was such a deliverance as could not be gained by human efforts.

By this failure of Moses we learn much as to the nature of the work which God proposed to do for the Israelites, and of the inheritance to which he was about to lead them. If it had been a deliverance from mere physical bondage that He designed for them, and if they were to be led only to an earthly, temporal inheritance, then it might possibly have been accomplished in the way that Moses began. The Israelites were numerous, and under the generalship of Moses they might have conquered. That is the way in which earthly possessions are gained. History affords many instances in which a small people threw off the yoke of a great one. But God had promised to Abraham and his seed a heavenly inheritance, and not an earthly, and therefore it could be gained only through heavenly agencies.

Labour Troubles and Their Remedy

At the present day we find very much the same conditions that existed in the case of the children of Israel. Surely the “sweating system” prevailed at that time as much as it ever has since. Long hours, hard work, and little or no pay, was the rule. Capital has never oppressed labor more than at that time, and the natural thought of the oppressed then, as now, was that the only way to secure their rights was to meet force with force. But man’s way is not God’s way; and God’s way is the only right way. No one can deny that the poor are grossly abused and trodden down; but very few of them are willing to accept God’s method of deliverance. No one can condemn the oppression of the poor by the rich any more strongly than it is done in the Bible, for God is the poor man’s friend.

The Lord cares for the poor and the afflicted. He has identified Himself so closely with them that whosoever gives to the poor is considered as lending to the Lord. Jesus Christ was on this earth as a poor man, so that “he that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker.” Proverbs 14.31. “The Lord heareth the poor.” Psalm 69.33. “The needy shall not alway be forgotten; the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever.” Psalm 9.15. “The Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor.” Psalm 140.12. “For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.” Psalm 12.5. “Lord, who is like unto Thee, which deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him?” Psalm 35.10. With the Almighty God so interested in their case, what a pity it is that the poor are so ill-advised as to seek to right their own wrongs.

The Lord says: “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your old and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth; and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabbath. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just, and he doth not resist you.” James 5.1-6

This is a terrible indictment against the oppressors of the poor, and those who have defrauded them of their rightful wages. It is also a promise of sure judgment against them. The Lord hears the cry of the poor, and He does not forget. Every act of oppression He considers as directed against Himself. But when the poor take matters into their own hands, meeting monopoly with monopoly, and force with force, they put themselves in the same class with their oppressors, and thus deprive themselves of the good offices of God in their behalf.

To the rich oppressors God says, “Ye have condemned and killed the just, and he doth not resist you.” The injunction, “I say unto you, That ye resist not evil,” means just that, and nothing else; and it is not out of date. It is just as applicable to day as it was eighteen hundred years ago. The world has not changed in its character; the greed of men is the same now as then; and God is the same. Those who heed that injunction, God calls “the just.” The just do not resist when they are unjustly condemned and defrauded, and even killed.

“But how then can there ever be any remedy for these wrongs, if the poor suffer even to death?” Listen further to what the Lord says to the poor themselves. He is not ashamed to call them brethren, and He says, “Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; establish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.” James 5.7, 8

The coming of the Lord is the time when all oppression shall cease. The trouble is that, like Esau, people do not have faith nor patience to wait. So a lesson is drawn from the farmer. He sows his seed, and does not become impatient because he does not reap the harvest the same day. He has long patience in waiting for the fruit of the earth. “The harvest is the end of the world.” Matthew 13.39. Then those who have committed their cause to the Lord will receive ample return for their trust and patience. Then will be proclaimed claimed liberty throughout all the land, and to all the inhabitants thereof.

That which makes known this deliverance, and which gives even now the joy of it, although grievous trials oppress, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. The worldly-wise scoff at the preaching of the Gospel as the remedy for the labor troubles of the present day. But the labor troubles of to day are no greater than they were in the days of Moses; and the proclamation of the Gospel was the only means that God then approved of and used for their betterment. When Christ came, the strongest proof of the Divinity of His mission was that the Gospel was preached to the poor. Matthew 11.5. He knew the needs of the poor as no other ever can, and His remedy was the Gospel. There are possibilities in the Gospel that have scarcely been dreamed of as yet. The right understanding of the inheritance, which the Gospel promises, can alone make man patient under earthly oppression.