May 6 – Trials’ Lessons: Contentment

“Considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt …”

Hebrews 11:26


Trials can show that material things are inadequate to meet our deepest needs.

We rely every day on material possessions—cars, computers, pagers, telephones, microwaves, radios, and TVs. These familiar conveniences make us feel as though it’s quite a hardship to cope without them. Therefore it’s difficult to avoid the pitfall Jesus warned about in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [riches].”

Materialism can exert such a powerful influence on us as believers that the Lord will sometimes subject us to trials just so He can remove us from the grip of the world’s devices and riches. Various trials and sufferings will almost invariably reveal how inadequate our possessions are to meet our deepest needs or provide genuine relief from the pains and stresses of life. And this realization ought to become more and more true of you as you grow in the Christian life. I have observed that mature believers, as time goes by, become less and less attached to the temporal items they’ve accumulated. Such stuff, along with life’s fleeting experiences, simply fades in importance as you draw closer to the Lord.

Moses is a wonderful example of someone who learned through trials these important lessons about materialism (Heb. 11:24–26). He spent forty years in Pharaoh’s household and was brought up to be an Egyptian prince. But he was willing to leave a position of prestige and power so he could experience something of the sufferings of his fellow Israelites, who were living as slaves in Egypt. God in effect made Moses a participant in Israel’s trials, content to rely on Him, not on the comforts and advantages of materialism: “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen” (Heb. 11:27).

The Lord might need to get our attention in similar fashion, so that we learn one of the key lessons from life’s trials: to rely on His unlimited spiritual wealth, not on our finite and fading material possessions.


Suggestions for Prayer: Ask the Lord to make you more willing to rely on His strength and less willing to lean on material things.

For Further Study: Read 1 Timothy 6:6–11. According to Paul, what does contentment involve?[1]

Faith Rejects the World’s Plenty

Considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. (11:26)

Living in Pharaoh’s palace, Moses had everything material he could have wanted. He had more than enough food, possessions, and money. Discoveries such as the tomb of King Tutankhamen, who lived only a hundred or so years after Moses, have shown us how vastly rich Egypt was at its peak. Moses had access to a great deal of wealth, and likely had much in his own possession. He had all the things the world holds dear. He must have been strongly tempted to hold on to them; but he did not.

Considering (hēgeomai) involves careful thought, not quick decision. Moses thought through his decision, weighing the pros and cons. He weighed what Egypt had to offer against what God offered. When he reached a conclusion it was well-founded and certain. God’s offer was infinitely superior in every way. In the eyes of the world no reproach (being ridiculed and persecuted) would be worth sacrificing riches for. Yet Moses believed that the worst he could endure for Christ would be more valuable than the best of the world.

It is interesting that the writer of Hebrews speaks of Moses’ considering the reproach of Christ, since he lived nearly 1500 years before Christ. Christ is the Greek form of Messiah, the Anointed One. Many of God’s special people in the Old Testament are spoken of as being anointed. Anointing set aside a person for special service to the Lord. It is possible, therefore, that Moses was thinking of himself as a type of messiah, a deliverer. If so, verse 26 could read, “considering the reproach of his own messiahship as God’s deliverer, …” It is also possible that the reference is to Moses as a type of Christ, just as Joseph and Joshua are types of Christ.

I believe, however, that the meaning is just as it seems to be in most translations—with “Christ” capitalized. That is, Moses suffered reproach for the sake of Jesus Christ, the true Messiah, because he identified with Messiah’s people and purpose long before Christ came to earth. Every believer since Adam’s fall has been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, no matter in what age he has lived. It is also true, therefore, that any believer at any time who has suffered for God’s sake has suffered for Christ’s sake. In a sense, David suffered just as surely for Christ’s sake as did Paul. In one of his psalms, David says, “The reproaches of those who reproach Thee have fallen on me” (Ps. 69:9). From the other side of the cross Paul made a similar statement: “I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus” (Gal. 6:17). The Messiah has always been identified with His people. In a very real sense, when Israel suffered, Messiah suffered, and when Moses suffered, He suffered. In their afflictions on His behalf, He was afflicted. A comparison of Matthew 2:15 with Hosea 11:1 shows that Messiah is identified intimately with His people. Hosea refers to Israel, Matthew to Jesus Christ. Both Israel and Christ are the son called out of Egypt.

All Christians should willingly bear the same reproach. “Hence, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach” (Heb. 13:13). Everyone who has stood with God by faith, who has lived for Him and turned his back on the world’s plenty and gone the way of God’s direction, has received the reproach of God and of His Anointed, His Christ. It belongs to all who suffer for God’s sake. The church bears the reproach of Christ. After being flogged by the Sanhedrin, the apostles “went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). Moses would have agreed with what Peter wrote: “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Pet. 4:14). Moses rejected the treasures of Egypt and took his stand with God’s Anointed.

We do not know how much Moses knew about God’s future great Deliverer. But he had considerably more light than Abraham, and Jesus tells us plainly that Abraham looked forward to Jesus’ day and rejoiced (John 8:56). In the same way, Moses looked forward to Jesus.

God’s reward is always greater than the world’s. “God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). He supplies according to His riches, not just out of them. A millionaire who gives ten dollars to help someone in need is giving out of his riches but not according to them. If he gave a hundred thousand dollars, however, he would be giving according to his riches. Moses surely saw the reward of a blessed life, but the emphasis is best seen as being on the eternal reward.

“Better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of many wicked” (Ps. 37:16). It is not a sin to be rich, but it is a sin to want to be rich. if we work hard and honestly and to God’s glory, and become wealthy in the process, fine. But if we set our minds on getting rich, we have the wrong motivation. Paul told Timothy, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang. But flee from these things, you man of God; and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:10–11). In other words, if along the way God happens to make us rich, wonderful. If in His wisdom he keeps us poor, also wonderful. It should make us no difference, as long as we are in His will. It made Moses no difference. For forty years he enjoyed the riches of Egypt. For the rest of his life, he forsook them, because they interfered with his obedience to God and would have prevented his receiving immeasurably greater riches when it came time for eternal rewards.

Portia, a beautiful and wealthy heiress, is the heroine of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. She had many suitors of noble birth who wanted to marry her. But her father’s will decreed that her husband would be chosen by a certain test. She would belong to the one who chose the right chest out of the three that were prepared. One chest was made of gold. On it was inscribed, “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire,” and inside was a skull. The second chest was of silver, with the inscription, “Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves,” and inside was the picture of a fool. The winning chest was made of lead and held Portia’s picture. On the outside was the inscription, “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.” All of her suitors but Bassanio chose one of the first two chests, because both the precious metals and the inscriptions were so attractive. Bassanio picked the one of lead and got Portia’s hand in marriage, because he was willing to give everything he had for the sake of the one he loved.

That is the attitude every Christian should have about Christ. We should be willing to forsake and hazard all we have for the sake of God’s will, knowing with Moses and with Paul that our “momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17; cf. Rom. 8:18).[2]

11:26 Third, he turned his back on the treasures in Egypt. Faith enabled him to see that the fabulous treasure houses of Egypt were worthless in the light of eternity. So he chose to suffer the same kind of reproach as the Messiah would later suffer. Loyalty to God and love for His people were valued by him more that the combined wealth of Pharaoh. He knew that these were the things that would count one minute after he died.[3]

26 “The reproach of Christ” is often taken to be an echo of LXX Psalm 119:5, where the psalmist tells how the other nations “mock your anointed one [Israel],” but it is unlikely our author could expect his readers to understand the familiar name “Christ” in this corporate sense, particularly as he will again use the phrase “his [Christ’s] reproach” in 13:13.

“Looking ahead” translates ἀποβλέπω, apoblepō, literally, “look away” (GK 611); cf. 12:2 where the readers are exhorted to “look away” to Jesus (ἀφοράω, aphoraō [GK 927], a related verb), a metaphor that equally suggests setting this world’s experiences in a wider perspective.[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 353–355). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2199). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] France, R. T. (2006). Hebrews. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 161). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


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