The Great Renunciation
April 9th, 1979 @ 12:00 PM
THE GREAT RENUNCIATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-09-79 12:00 p.m.
As you know, as you so poignantly are aware of, these last several months have seen an intensest activity in the diplomatic relationships of Israel and Egypt especially sponsored by our own government. Out of that came the thought that the theme of the services this week will be centered around Israel and Egypt. So I chose as a subject “Moses, the Mighty Man of God.” Tomorrow, on Tuesday at high noon, the subject will be In a Flame of Fire, and then on Wednesday at high noon, The Great Non-Compromiser. Then on Thursday, The Birthday of the People of God, and on Friday, the day that our Lord was crucified, The Blood of the Passover Lamb. And the first message today is entitled The Great Renunciation. And I am going to read the verse as it is described in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, and then I am going to read the story as it is told in the second chapter of the Book of Exodus. In Hebrews chapter 11, verse 23, the renunciation on the part of the mother is in these words:
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, they looked upon that as a sign from heaven—and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.
The commandment, of course, to destroy all the male children [Exodus 1:16, 22], and this child should have been destroyed. But trusting God, believing in the Lord, they committed the child to the care of His providence. So the story in the second of [Exodus] goes like this:
This woman, Jochebed, bare a son, and when she saw that he was a goodly child—
here again the same word, a beautiful child—
she hid him three months.
And when she could not longer hide him—
he grew to be too large, he could cry too loud—
she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags, in the weeds, by the river’s brink.
And his sister, her name is Miriam—his sister stood afar off, to see what would be done to the child.
Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river’s side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it.
It is a shame we’ve lost that word “fetch,” there is not another word in the English language that means “go get and bring back,” yet we don’t use it anymore; “fetch.”
She sent her maid to fetch it. And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children.
Then said his sister to Pharaoh’s daughter, standing right there, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew children that she may nurse the child for thee?
And Pharaoh’s daughter said, Yes, go. And the little maid, the sister, went and called the child’s mother.
And Pharaoh’s daughter said unto her, Take this child, nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages.
Can you believe that? How God does exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think, if we were only persuaded of it. The child under the sentence of death [Exodus 1:16, 22], now under the powerful aegis and protection of the Pharaoh himself [Exodus 2:3-6]; and as though that were not enough, as though God had not done enough, the wages are paid to the mother to nurse the child and to bring up the little boy [Exodus 2:5-9]. O God! By faith, the mother committing the child to the Lord!
And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: for she said, I drew him out of the water.
I have a comment to make about that, that I think—but remember this is just my persuasion—I think the name of the child was Rameses. You see all this happened in the Rameses dynasty. And the Pharaoh on the throne was the most famous of all the Pharaohs who ever reigned in Egypt. It was Rameses II—and you can see his mummy over there to this day. And the patriarchal dignity of that great Pharaoh is still seen in his face. Well, this girl, this child of the ruling emperor—the Pharaoh—when she saw that ark, peaked by curiosity, the nurse, the maiden, the servant girl, the slave fetched it for her. And her mother—her womanly heart was immediately moved by the beauty of the child, and in compassion as the child cried, as the babe wept, she immediately guessed the secret. The huts of the children of Israel were right there—right by the riverbank. And the complexion and the facial contour of the lad, of the babe, immediately made her know it was a Hebrew child [Exodus 2:5-6]. Then she remembered the stern edict of her father [Exodus 1:16, 22], and then followed this beautiful providence of God in preserving the life of the lad—paying wages to his own mother that it might be brought up to be the son of Pharaoh’s daughter [Exodus 2:7-9].
Now when you look at an Egyptian word, Rameses—the Ra is the name of the sun god, Ra, the Egyptian sun god, the presiding god of all the gods, the highest god—Ra. Now in the Egyptian language mes is the root, the stem for “born of,” so Rameses would be “born of Ra,” the sun god. Now the child was not born of the royal family, but this Egyptian princess went back beyond the immediate meaning of the word mes, “born of,” and went back unto its ultimate and original meaning—“drawn out, drawn out,” and came to mean “born of.” So she went back to the original meaning, “drawn out,” and then gave it explanation, “drawn out of the water.” And I think without doubt that the name of the lad as he grew up in the Egyptian court was Ramoses—Rameses, the name of Moses. And then I think—and remember, this is all just out of my persuasion—I think the reason that his name did not continue as Rameses was because of the Hebrew abhorrence for idolatry. So they cut off the Ra in his name and just kept the word, the latter part of it, “Moses.” It was an affront to the Jewish people that their great leader would be Ra, the sun god—meses. But I think in the [Egyptian] court that he grew up as Rameses, this child of the Pharaoh’s daughter.
Now it came to pass that when the child grew up—and this is the first renunciation—the mother took the child and gave the child to Pharaoh’s daughter [Exodus 2:10]. I can just see that. And I can see her hidden tears, and the last time she kissed the boy and gave him away. I wonder how old he was when Jochebed did that, and I wonder how old he was when she revealed herself to him, and I wonder how old he was when she taught him the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But in those days of nursing up that little babe, she revealed herself to him, and revealed to him who he was, and taught him the faith of the living God. And when the lad became the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, he never forgot that mother, and that God, and those people of the Lord. “By faith,” that mother; it is an astonishing thing what God is able to do.
So he grows up in the palace and in the court, and is heir-apparent to the throne. This is the Egypt of Herodotus, the first Greek historian. He visited the land, and he describes it in marvelous terms. It is the land of the pyramids; it is the land of the palaces; it is the land of the winged colossi of the sphinx. It is the land of beauty, and science, and art, and civilization; it is the greatest empire of that ancient era. And the young man grows up, the cream of the kingdom is in his cup. When he rides through the streets of Memphis in his golden chariot, there are slaves who run before him calling, “Bow the knee, bow the knee, Ramoses, Ramoses!” I can just hear the ring as they call out his name. If he floats down the Nile, it will be on a golden barge listening to voluptuous music. All the treasures of Egypt are at his command.
The seventh chapter of Acts describes him as being “learned in all of the arts and wisdom of the Egyptians” [Acts 7:22]. The great schools that surrounded the temple of the sun, the temple of Ra, were open to him. And he could read and he could write that strange mysterious hieroglyphic language, and he was taught in mathematics and astronomy; just look at the miracle of the pyramid building. Taught in chemistry; to this day we have never discovered the secret of the chemical formula of the embalming by which they preserved the dead to this hour; learned in all of the arts and sciences of the Egyptians.
And the seventh chapter of the Book of Acts says: “He was mighty in words and in deeds” [Acts 7:22], this Rameses, this son of the daughter of the Pharaoh, this “prince of Wales,” this heir-apparent to the throne. Mighty in words, I suppose he was a literary genius, he could write; he certainly did in Hebrew. And mighty in deeds? Josephus says that when the empire was invaded by Ethiopia an oracle said that he was to deliver the nation. And then follows the marvelous story of how Ramoses, this Moses, attacked, not by way of the river, as the Ethiopians would have thought, but by way of the land; overwhelmed them and brought great spoil to the kingdom—a mighty prince! And the days multiplied into the years; and as the broad and majestic Nile continues on only deeper and broader, so the life of this Ramoses, heir-apparent to the throne.
But there was a strange brooding in his heart and no one could understand it. His mother—foster mother—couldn’t understand him; and the servants who waited upon him couldn’t understand him; and his fellow princes at the court couldn’t understand him. There were things in his heart that cast shadows, seen in his face. There was a brooding about him that never left him. You see, as long as his brethren were in slavery, he was not free. As long as they were crushed, he was not exalted. As long as they were poor, he was not rich. And as long as they were degraded, he was not a prince. So the great renunciation, this time of the son; after the mother [Exodus 2:10], now the son:
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.
And when I read it, “And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens,” and the great resolve was made in his soul [Exodus 2:11-12]—in his heart. He was at the height of his manhood. He was at the height of his glory, and at the highest zenith of his career, he stepped down from the greatest throne in the world. And when he did it, he stepped down into the life of a people at their lowest ebb. He exchanged a palace for a hut; he exchanged the treasures of Egypt for the poverty of his own people; he exchanged the power and glory of a kingdom throne for the contempt and hatred of a despised and outcast people. He exchanged reverence for reproach, and he was numbered as a child of Jehovah and a member of the family of God.
May I make the comment, for our time is gone: he did that decisively and decidedly, and I want you to see it in this moment. Dear people, there is not anything that characterizes the ordinary follower of Christ more than temporizing, extenuating. How easy it would have been, how very easy it would have been for this Rameses to say to himself, “These degraded and enslaved people need a friend at court, and I’ll be that friend. These who labor in the brick kilns of Egypt, they need a champion where influence can count. And it is better for them that I stay in my place of luxury, and social life, and worldly compromise. And I will do both; I’ll be a prince, in the service of Ra, and then I will be a friend to the people of Jehovah God.” How easy it is to extemporize, and to temporize, and to extenuate our compromising in the world. Not Moses! He made a decisive, and stated, and everlasting decision. It will not be Ra, it will be Christ. It will not be Pharaoh’s court; it will be the people of God. It will not be all of the voluptuous life of the Pharaoh, but it will be the hard slavery of those who name the name of the Lord.
And that’s the kind of a decision that I ought to make, and that we ought to make. There is no compromise in the world; we are for our Lord, and we are for His church, and we are for His people, and we are for His great mandate from heaven, and there is no compromise. “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” [Hebrews 11:25].
Would to God I could get our wonderful women out of the bingo table, out of the dancing club, out of the compromise social life of the world. Would to God I could pull them out, and see them dedicated to the teaching of the Bible, to the visiting of the lost, to the building up of the household of faith, identified with the people of God. And would to God I could call our men, gifted, able, endowed, out of the compromised world, and to stand as Moses did, looking unto Christ. For he had a commitment to the recompense God always has in store for those who place their trust in Him [Romans 10:11]; the great renunciation.
I have decided to follow Jesus,
No turning back.
If no one goes with me, I still will follow,
No turning back.
The world behind me, the cross before me,
No turning back.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
[from “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” folk hymn of India]
Our Lord, thinking these thoughts, ten thousand times have we temporized and compromised: the allurement, and the blandishment, and the rewards of the world, so attractive; and the way of Christ and His people, so difficult and so hard. But God has spoken. The Lord has called. We have heard His voice. And please, blessed Savior, in this moment may the Holy Spirit find in us an infinite willingness to hear, to renounce, to obey, to follow Thee, cross and all [Romans 10:8-13]. In Thy precious name, amen.
THE GREAT RENUNCIATION Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Faith of Moses’ mother and results; renounced the king’s edict
1. Moses became part of royal family of Egypt
2. Moses educated
3. Moses statesman
II. Moses’ renunciation
1. Made at the full maturity of Moses’ power
2. Made when fortunes of the children of Israel were at their lowest
3. Made when the idea of Moses as Egypt’s ruler most enticing
4. Made decisively