The Choices of Life
July 27th, 1969 @ 10:50 AM
THE CHOICES OF LIFE
Dr. W.A. Criswell
7-27-69 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas; and among other things, we are getting ready for colored television. That is seen in the shirt that our minister of music is wearing today. We only have one other addition to the way he is attired and that is next time we want him to have some fluorescent braid around his collar to make it even more beautifully emphatic. The attendance of our church in the summertime is nothing short of phenomenal. It is one of those many signs of God’s blessing upon us. At the eight fifteen service, the Lord was present. The people were present. God gave us a gracious harvest. And God is doing it again at this hour. Our people are here, and the Lord is here. And He will give us another harvest. He has never failed.
Now this is the pastor, and I am preaching the message on the decisions of life. It is entitled The Choices of Life. And if you would like to open your Bible to the text, you can easily see the substance of the message. Hebrews chapter 11, beginning at verse 23. Hebrews 11, beginning at verse 23:
By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child, a beautiful child; 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 recompence of the reward.
By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible.
And the heart of the message is in the text. Moses, when he was come to years, renounced his heir apparentship to the throne choosing – The Choices of Life – choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God [Hebrews 11:24-25]. We are introduced in the text to his parents [Exodus 2:1-2], Amram and Jochebed [Numbers 26:59]. "By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months by his parents" [Hebrews 11:23]. The little fellow came into a home with a brother and a sister. The sister was eleven years older than he, and her name was Miriam, Maria, Marie, Mary, all of them are forms of that Hebrew name, Miriam. And he had a brother named Aaron [Exodus 7:7]. And when this little baby was born in this Hebrew home, the child was unusually well formed and beautiful, and the father and mother hid the little fellow [Hebrews 11:23]. For Pharaoh had gave a commandment that all of those male children were to be slaughtered, drowned, exterminated, killed, murdered [Exodus 1:16, 22].
So when that little baby was born, and seeing how beautiful it was, they hid the little fellow as long as they could, but as the little boy grew, his voice grew. He could cry not only softly, he could whimper not only sweetly, but he could bawl out loud, and the mother couldn’t hide him anymore. So what the mother and father did, they built a little ark, a little basket doubed with slime and pitch, and they took it down to the River Nile at a place where they observed that Pharaoh’s daughter came to bathe, she and her maidens. And they sat the little ark afloat in the bulrushes and the reeds and the papyri plants on the edge of the Nile. And little eleven-year-old Miriam stayed hidden close by the river to see what should become of the little child [Exodus 2:1-4].
And in the providence of God, in the sovereign grace of the Lord, these things to us happen adventitiously, but not to God. He rules in every life, ultimately and finally, and in the providences of God, the daughter of Pharaoh came down to the river, she and her maidens. And she espied that ark floating on the bosom of the river, and she sent one of her maidens to fetch it [Exodus 2:5]. Now, you remember my expiation on that word not very long ago? There’s no other word in the English language that says, "Go get and bring back," except fetch! Yet we’re taking it out of the nomenclature of our King’s English. She sent one of her maidens to go get it and bring it back, to fetch it, and when the maiden brought the ark back and laid it before the king’s daughter and she opened to see the treasure inside, it was that beautiful baby boy. And at that time God pinched him, or an angel gouged him, and the little thing wept, cried just at that time [Exodus 2:6].
I would suppose, I’d be almost certainly sure of it, that the princess had no child. I would suppose she was either not married or being married, could not become a mother. But when that beautiful baby wept, it moved her mother’s instinct, the inside of her that makes every girl love a doll and a young woman to love a baby, and when the baby cried, she was moved in sympathy and compassion. And just at that moment, Miriam appeared and said, "Would you like for me to fetch a nurse, to go get a nurse and bring her here and she rear the child?"
And the princess said, "Go" [Exodus 2:6-8].
And Miriam brought the child’s mother, Jochebed, and the daughter of the king said, "Take this child, and nurse it for me, and I will pay thee wages" [Exodus 2:9]. What an amazing fortune God has brought to pass! A condemned child to die [Exodus 1:22], and now to be made heir apparent to the throne, the son, the grandson of the king himself [Exodus 2:10], and the mother to be paid to rear the child [Exodus 2:9]. So in keeping with the commandment of the daughter, the mother takes the child and rears the little fellow up to be the son of the king [Exodus 2:9-10].
Now the years passed again, and the little baby boy grew up, and he grew up to be a fine and noble man. And being the king’s grandson and the heir apparent to the throne, his opportunities were illimitable, his future immeasurably grand and glorious. And when it says that by faith Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and chose to suffer affliction with the people of God [Hebrews 11:24-25], we need for a moment to look at his station, at the vast, almost indescribable future that he renounced and governmental power that he rejected.
First, his station politically; there are no men among men who have the power latent, possible, and used as our political leaders. The richest men in America, Henry Ford II, or one of the Rockefeller sons, both of them put together, all of them put together do not have the influence, even in wealth and riches, as the political leader of the American government, the president of the United States. For this man who leads the American government has billions and billions and billions of dollars that he controls, these vast projects of the American government, and all of them are under his administration and under his surveillance. Beside the incomparable power to appoint justices to the Supreme Court, federal judges, cabinet members, he’s the commander in chief of the armed force of the country. He appoints the chiefs of staff.
The political power of the head of a government is almost illimitable, and Moses had that in prospect. He was the heir apparent to the throne. Again, militarily, his status, we do not have this in the Bible, it is written by Josephus, but Josephus the Jewish historian has a long expatiation upon Moses, and in that description of his life, Josephus says that when Moses was in the prime of his life, Egypt was invaded by a conquering army from Ethiopia. And the defensive army of the Egyptians was shattered, and the Ethiopians were beseeching the very central capital city of Memphis itself. And in that desperation, Josephus says they inquired in an oracle of their gods who pointed out Moses to be their leader and deliverer. And Josephus says that Moses led the army of the Egyptians against the Ethiopians and overwhelmed them, and not only that, but invaded Ethiopia itself and brought back great riches and spoils for the king.
Militarily his status – then again, his educational opportunities and privileges and achievements; the seventh chapter of the Book of Acts which contains the marvelous address of Stephen to the Jewish nation, in that address, Stephen says that Moses was learned in all of the arts and wisdom of the Egyptians [Acts 7:22], which at that time was the highest civilization in the world and the greatest empire in the earth.
And not only that, but think of his social status. Moses, the Prince of Wales, wherever he went, wherever he walked, there was acceptance, and fame, riches, affluence, everything. And that’s a thing in which a man ought doubly to consider. For it is not when the senator is working at his office in the capitol that he falls into these wretchednesses, but its when he’s out partying and socializing and driving around in the middle of the night. That’s when he’d better watch what he’s a-doing more than some people do watch what they are a-doing. Moses had that opportunity, socially acceptable in any circle, with any group, with prestige and power and affluence.
But when he came to manhood with all of the riches and prestige of the government, there was something about Moses that forced in his life the greatest decision any man can ever make. For you see, when that mother taught that little boy, she not only taught him in the things of the Egyptians, but she taught that little fellow the name of the true God and the name of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob [Exodus 2:8-10]. And the little fellow as he grew, listening to his mother speak about the God of his fathers, when he grew to manhood, he couldn’t forget. These children don’t. We just think they do. They don’t.
For you see, the gods that the Egyptians worshiped were cats, and crocodiles, and reptiles, and sacred cows. When you went into an Egyptian temple, you could see them there, the remains today, beautiful, magnificent. On the inside of the sanctuary, you would find a veil, and beyond that veil, you’d enter a sanctum sanctorum. And on the inside of the sanctum sanctorum, you would find a plush pillow, and on that pillow the god: a cat, a snake, a crocodile. And the worship of the Egyptians was as debauched as the animality of the heart of their sanctuary.
But this little boy, when he grew up, was taught the name of the living God and his forefathers who worshiped Jehovah the Almighty. Not only that, but as the boy, now a man, remembered the name of the God of heaven, he looked upon the faces of his brethren. They were covered with tears, and their cries broke his heart. In the fields, they toiled unremittingly. In the cities, they worked under great burdens. There were no mechanical contrivances then, and the work of building the empire was done by slave labor, by hand. And he saw them making bricks without straw, building cities under the lash and the bullwhip of hard taskmasters, and he heard their groans, in the nighttime the wails and the lamentation of the misery of their servitude [Exodus 5:5-19]. Isn’t that a strange thing?
I had a man yesterday come from Orlando, Florida. He is a newspaper reporter of the daily paper in Orlando. And he asked if he might sit down with me for an hour and ask me questions in an interview. He said, "We got lots of Baptist people in Florida, and they’d be interested in a story that I could write about you." So we sat down. You know, there is a common denominator with all men everywhere. You sometimes are persuaded that it isn’t there, for they seem so nonchalant, or so uninterested, or so worldly, or their goals and dreams and interests in life are so different, but that’s not true. Underneath they’re all alike, all men, a hungering and a thirsting, and a wanting to find some answers to life itself. Does it have meaning? Does it have purpose? Where did I come from? Where am I going?
Well, it wasn’t long until this young man, a handsome young fellow – it wasn’t long until I think he was forgetting about the mission that brought him here, and he began asking me about salvation and about how Jesus saves. And if a man is saved, is he saved forever? Well, when I answered him, he was almost startled. "You say if Jesus saves you, you’re saved forever? You can’t be lost? Why," he said, "I can’t understand such a thing! Why," he said, "A man can be saved, and then he could be lost, and then he goes back as he was, and then he’d have to be saved over again."
I said, "No, No. Not in the Bible and not in experience."
"Why," he said, "Why, why certainly that’s true. I just see it."
"No, you don’t see it," I say, "’cause it never happens."
"Why, if one is saved and he can never be lost, why, he could just be saved and then go out and live like he pleases, just to do anything he wants to."
I said, "That’s right. That’s right! Yes," I say, "that’s right. Why, he could be saved, then he could go out here and could cuss, he could drink, he could get drunk, and live in debauchery, and yet he’s saved. Just go out and live just any way. That’s right. I do that. That’s the way I live."
"Oh?" he said.
"Yeah," I say. "Yeah. Yeah. That’s the way I live. I just go out, and I just get drunk all I want to, and I just cuss all I want to, and I just gamble all I want to, and I just live the most debauched life, just, just all I want to." Well, he was about to go through the floor. "Isn’t that something? But the point is I just don’t want to! Just not interested in it. It has no appeal to me." And I said, "To any born again regenerated Christian, you don’t want to! You just don’t." And I said, "If a man is ever really saved, and ever born again, and he’s out there in that world, just put this down: underneath, he’s the most miserable wretch you ever saw in your life."
I said, "It’s the difference between a pig and a lamb. Put a pig in the mud, and he likes it. He’s got a pig’s nature. Put a lamb in the mud, and he’ll try to get out." I said, "If anybody’s ever saved, they go away or they backslide, give them time, they’ll be back home. Just keep looking down that road; you’ll see that prodigal with his face turned toward his father’s house [Luke 16:18]. That’s what it is to be a Christian."
And that’s what happened to Moses. He had all of Egypt before him and in his hands [Hebrews 11:26]. But back yonder when he was a child, he listened to his mother, and he believed in mother’s God. He couldn’t forget it, and when he looked out on the fields and in the cities, he said, "These are my people, and these are my brethren."
Well, the decision was catalyzed. A catalytic agent came in his life unexpectedly. The decision was made catastrophically, suddenly, without thought. Sometimes, have you ever – not noticing the weather particularly or any change in it or any gathering clouds – have you never noticed sometime there’ll be a crash of lightning? Well, you say, that just happens suddenly. Oh, no, for the heavens were gathering the charge by the minutes and by the hours, and then, just suddenly, the bolt flashed! Or, like going to war. No nation just gets up and goes to war. There are periods of time, of preparation and latent bitterness and greed or whatever they’re fighting over. For example, that war in Central America now between Honduras and El Salvador: it’s just not upon a day they just went to fighting. There have been years and years of bitterness and hatred that lie back of it, and it had just now precipitated.
That’s what happened in the life of Moses; going along, and going along, and walking along, and looking, and seeing suddenly the thing crystallized in his soul. It came about upon a day when he saw an Egyptian taskmaster mistreating one of his brethren, and I suppose beating him to death, that Moses took the Egyptian and slew him. Now, life was cheap in those days. What was one Egyptian above millions of others? All he had to do was go to Pharaoh and to apologize. "I’m sorry." And all he had to do was to go to those hard taskmasters and say, "I’m on your side! I’m for you." But he made a decision, and he renounced his heirship to the throne, and he cast his life with the people of God; the great decision.
So the Scriptures say, "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" [Hebrews 11:24-26]. You just don’t know how fleeting the rewards of the earth are until you honestly weigh and consider them. How very fleeting, for a season, for a moment? I do not know of any one in the earth that can be more lionized and more marvelously popular, more of a hero than an athletic hero. Oh, how they are adored and worshiped. And then as suddenly, there is no one more completely forgotten than an athletic hero. Just overnight they’re thinking about somebody else, they have just forgotten. In my reading this week 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, "Okay, Raymond, go on in." I did. In a couple of plays, I called a pass. We pulled the game out of the bag and won it. I was the BMOC, big man on the campus. Well, the years passed, and 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, but no one said, "Send Raymond in." In fact, one kid behind me said, "Hey, mister, sit down! I can’t see."
Ah, how fleetingly, swiftly it passes away. Well, what does it mean when it says he chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for that fleeting moment? [Hebrews 11:25]. Was Moses vile? Was he iniquitous? Was he filthy? Was he dirty? Was he promiscuous? What does it mean when it says to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season? Was he one of those unspeakably vile and sinful persons? No. It does not refer to that at all. What it refers to is this; that Moses was in a place of ease and of pleasure. He had everything that he wanted and, had he so chose, a place of irresponsibility; no burdens, no heaviness, no work, no acceptance of an assignment. He lived in a world of affluence and ease.
But rather than stay in that world of ease and irresponsibility, he cast his life and lot with the people of God [Hebrews 11:24-25]. There’s no one that lives, including you, but who faces that decision in your life. Shall I take it easy or shall I answer God’s call in the responsibilities and assignments that God has laid upon me? There are classes to be taught. There are children to be trained. There are teenagers to be guided. There are young people to be encouraged. There are the ministries of the church to be offered unto the Lord. There are buildings to be built. Ah, in how many areas of life does God need us? And we all face that decision, that choice. Shall I assume the responsibility or shall I pass it by? Let somebody else do it, somebody else teach that class, somebody else make that visit, somebody else offer that testimony, somebody else pay for those buildings, somebody else serve God, but not I. I have chosen to take it easy.
You face that choice. Moses faced that choice. And how did he fare with it? Well, he fared with the same way that you will. Wouldn’t you suppose, if a man chose to serve God, that the Lord would make for him a primrose pathway down which to travel? Wouldn’t you think he’d live in a bed of roses? Wouldn’t you think if a man chose to serve God, all of the gates would just automatically open before him and everything would be salubrious and felicitous and fine? Wouldn’t you think so? Well, how did Moses fare? If I could sort of sum it up, it seems to me that he lived in a world of heartbreak and heartache and disappointment.
For example, just a few of those instances: when he was up there on the mountaintop talking to God face to face, and the Lord laid in his hands those commandments written by His own finger on tables of stone [Exodus 31:18], and Moses came down the mountainside with the tables written by the finger of God to deliver God’s word to the people; and when he stood on the lowest part of the ramparts of the mountain and looked, the people were there dancing around a golden calf naked [Exodus 32:25], naked like the sexual orgiastic practices of worship of all of those heathen and pagan people. There his people were, God’s people, around a golden calf in an orgy [Exodus 32:1-8]. Think of it.
Or again, while he was leading them to the Promised Land, the people cried and murmured and bitterly complained, saying, "Oh, that we were back there where they raised onions, and leeks, and garlic, and we gathered round the fleshpots of Egypt, for we are weary of this manna from heaven. Our soul loathes it" [Numbers 11:4-6], angels’ food. Think of it. Think of it, the heartache and the heartbreak of it. Or think of it when finally he brought the people to the edge of the Promised Land, and they could see those forested hills and those verdant and emerald meadows and valleys, and when the time came for the people to enter in, they murmured and cried and said, "Would God we had died in the land of Egypt!" and refused to enter in [Numbers 14:2]. Think of it.
But most pathetic and sad of all, when time came finally after forty years of wandering and discipline in the wilderness, they stood on the banks of the Jordan River to go across into God’s Promised Land. God said, "They all may pass over, all of them except you, except you. Moses, get up to Nebo and look over that beautiful land that I’ve given as an eternal inheritance for your children, for your people. But just look at it; you can’t enter in" [Deuteronomy 3:27, 34:1-4]. Then the Lord told him to go to the valley over against Beth Peor. Think of it. The dedication of the man of God for the years of his manhood, and he dies in a valley in Moab. And the Lord in some unknown sepulcher laid His great servant away [Deuteronomy 34:4-6].
When you read it, you think, "Well, maybe he made a mistake. Maybe he chose it wrong." Oh, no. No, sir. The Deuteronomic account says that when Moses died the Holy Book added this verse. "And there never lived a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom God knew face to face" [Deuteronomy 34:10]. Think of that; whom the Lord knew and spoke to face to face. But not only that, there came a day when the Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Glory was transfigured in the Promised Land, and guess who was there. Think of that, and guess who was there. At long last Moses stands in the Promised Land, glorified by the side of the Son of God [Matthew 17:1-5; Luke 9:28-35]. Well, there’s no comparison. You don’t even compare them. You don’t put them together in the same sentence.
"Choosing to suffer affliction with the people of God . . . for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward . . . He endured, as seeing Him who is invisible" [Hebrews 11:25-27]; looking with eyes of faith, serving God, and the Lord remembered it and rewarded it. And He will you if you decide for God.
In a moment we’re going to sing our song, and while we sing that appeal, in the balcony round, somebody you, on this lower floor, somebody you, make that decision for the Lord now. And in a moment when we stand to come, come, stand up coming. A family, a couple, a father and mother, a youth, somebody you as God shall press the appeal to your heart, come. On the first note of the first stanza, come. And God bless you in the way, as we stand and as we sing.