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How Moses Overcame Temptation

Egypt by khalid almasoud on compfight


Every Christian faces temptation.  We are tempted to gossip, lie, disobey, lust, overeat, seek revenge, and more.

And sometimes our temptations can feel so strong that sin seems inevitable.

But it’s not.  In 1 Corinthians 10:13 Paul says that every temptation can be overcome (see also 1 John 5:3-4; Romans 6:6; John 8:31-32).

And not only can every temptation be overcome, throughout the Scriptures God tells us how.

And one passage that clearly shows us how is Hebrews 11:24-26.

How Moses Obeyed

Here is what we read in Hebrews 11:24-25 —

24      By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,
25      choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.

Moses had been adopted into Pharaoh’s family, which meant he had vast wealth, prestige, and power.

To put it in the modern-day terms, he might have had a river-front mansion on the Nile, a luxury yacht, private jet, fancy sports car, and every luxury and comfort imaginable.

But God called Moses to leave all that and rejoin God’s people, becoming a slave in Egypt, laboring to make bricks under the hot Egyptian sun.

What Did Moses Do?

Imagine having to choose between the wealth of Egypt, and slavery with God’s people.  Can you feel the temptation Moses might have faced?

So what did Moses do?  As the above verses show, he overcame the temptations and obeyed God.  But how did he do that?

We might think he did this by gritting his teeth and turning from the superior pleasures of Egypt’s wealth, to suffer with God’s people just because it was right; because he was supposed to; because God commanded it.

And that’s how many of us try to obey God.  We see the great pleasures of sin, but believe God calls us to turn from pleasure.  So we grit our teeth and try to obey him just because it’s the right thing to do, even though it means less pleasure.

But that’s not how Moses obeyed.

Greater Wealth

How did Moses obey?  The author tells us in v.26 –

He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.

The “reproach of Christ” is how the author describes the suffering Moses would experience as a slave in Egypt.

But what’s shocking is that Moses saw this suffering as GREATER wealth than the treasures of Egypt.

How is that possible?

It’s because of the last six words of v.26 – “he was looking to the reward.”

The Reward

Moses overcame temptation and obeyed God by looking to the reward.

What is this reward?  It’s not health, or wealth, or earthly comforts.

All through the Bible God tells us that he himself is our reward.  Or to put it in New Testament terms – the reward is knowing God in the person of Christ.

When we trust Christ, walk with Christ, fellowship with Christ, and obey Christ – he will give us times when he pours his love into our hearts, reveals to us his glory, and satisfies our heart-thirsts with the living water of his Spirit.

That’s what Jesus promises in John 14:21 —

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.

And when Jesus manifests himself to us we will be so satisfied that we desire nothing else, like the psalmist says in Psalm 73:25 –

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

So Moses understood that God does not call us to turn from the greater pleasures of sin and settle for the lesser pleasures of God.  God calls us to turn from the lesser pleasures of sin and pursue the greater pleasures of God.

Not that our obedience earns this reward from God.  It’s all by God’s grace alone.  Because of Christ’s death on the cross, and our being united with Christ by faith alone, God has mercifully chosen to reward our undeserving faith and obedience with even more joy in him.

But still, the more we obey, the more we will be mercifully rewarded with more joy in him.

And Moses obeyed by looking to this reward.

He knew that slavery with God’s people would be more satisfying than the wealth of Egypt, because the pleasures of God’s presence are far greater than the pleasures of sin.

And that’s always true.  The pleasures of knowing Christ are always greater than the pleasures of sin, whether it’s gossip, lust, revenge, overeating, fame, or pride.

But this raises a question –

Why Are We Tempted to Sin?

If there is greater pleasure in Christ, why are we pulled towards the lesser pleasures of gossip, or overeating, or pride?

It’s because sin is blinding us to the superior pleasures of Christ.

Think of it like this.  God’s word teaches that we all have heart-hungers – for joy and pleasure and meaning and excitement.

So we are hungry, and we have two options before us.  We can pursue God, who is like a sizzling steak on the barbecue.  Or we can pursue sin, which is like a moldy peanut butter sandwich in the gutter.

So why do we sometimes hunger for the moldy peanut butter sandwich more than the sizzling steak?

It’s because at those times sin is blinding us to the sizzling steak.  If you are hungry, and blind to the sizzling steak, you will desire the moldy peanut butter sandwich, because that’s all you can see.

So every time we are tempted with sin, it’s because sin is blinding us to the superior pleasures of Christ.

But if that’s true, then what can we do?

Good News

God promises that if we will turn to Christ as we are, confessing our sinful blindness, pleading for the work of his Spirit, and praying over passages describing God’s glory in Christ – he will heal our spiritual blindness (Hosea 6:3; Luke 11:13; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 1:16-18; Ephesians 3:14-19).

We will once again see and feel his glory, his love, his majesty.

We will see that obedience means greater wealth than sin, because as we obey, Jesus will manifest himself to us.

We will see the sizzling steak, smell the sizzling steak, taste the sizzling steak.  And we will gladly turn from the moldy peanut butter sandwich, to the sizzling steak – and obey.

So that’s how to overcome temptation.  Like the old hymn says –

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
look full in his wonderful face;
and the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
in the light of his glory and grace.

Comments?  Questions?

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(Picture is by Khalid Almasoud from Compfight.)

Category: Overcoming Sin and Temptation


4 Responses

  1. Kathy says:

    This was helpful. It can also apply to something that seems good, like a better life circumstance. When I’m frustrated by my circumstances, it’s likely that I’m not finding heart satisfaction in Christ. I’m believing that I will only be happy if I get a particular outcome.

  2. Caroline says:

    Deep, and so appreciated, Steve. Thank you for sharing such Godly wisdom and insight with us. Meat for the hungry, Living Water for our thirst. Perhaps answers within to prayer for your and Jan’s future pathway. As is God’s faithfulness and blessing on so many in the Bible by their own willingness to lay it all down for Him. I think of Joseph; I think of Ruth. Thank you both.

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