don’t walk like an egyptian: why you’re not who you think you are, and that’s a good thing
I moved to Louisville in August of 2006, as many of you know. Some, or most of you probably, will remember that the World Series that fall featured your Detroit Tigers against the St. Louis Cardinals. What I learned that fall was that the fine citizens of Louisville KY predominantly cheer for one of two baseball teams: the Cincinnati Reds, or the St. Louis Cardinals. So, there I was, at the time not the world’s biggest baseball fan, but my home team was in the fall classic, so I rep’ed the Tigers. I can’t speak for metro Louisville in general, but on the campus of Southern Seminary, I was a lone wolf; a speck of orange and blue in a sea of Cardinal Red. You probably remember that the Tigers lost that series, having only won the second game. I, of course, was appropriately ridiculed for identifying with the Detroit Tigers that fall. People love to identify with sports franchises. Do they not? Those fans (to use the “being” verb literally), you can replace the St. Louis Cardinals with any sports team at any level, are Cardinal fans. They identify as Cardinals fans, they see themselves existing being Cardinals fans. Even though I like baseball now more than I did then, at the time, if I was going to identify with a major league baseball franchise, it was going to be the Detroit Tigers.
Whether you identify with a sports team or not, most people try to find their identity in some kind of group, some kind of community. On April 12th of this year, the NYT published an article entitled, Why Americans Vote ‘Against Their Interests:’ Partisanship. The article talked about wealthy liberals who vote against tax cuts for the rich and working class conservatives who would vote for economic or healthcare related policies that don’t favor their income bracket. The NYT submitted partisanship as the answer. The wisdom of NYT said most people identify themselves either as Republicans or Democrats in America, and in our political climate that usually means all or nothing for people. If someone votes Republican, they will usually support all Republican politicians and policies without differentiation, and the same for Democrats. Usually. They would say if you are a Democrat, that means you believe “X, Y, & Z,” and the same is true for the Grand Old Party.
Regardless of your specific political affiliations or sports allegiances, one thing is true everyone who’s ever lived is tying their identity to something. Feminists tie their identity to sex; racists tie their identity to race, some place their identity in their education, their income bracket, their citizenship, their appearance, and the list goes on and on. The question for us, church, this morning is, with what, or maybe more appropriately, with whom, does Christianity call us to identify? As we move forward, now, in the eleventh chapter of Hebrew – in this biblical theology of faith – we stumbled last week across baby Moses, and we beheld the faith of his parents. This morning we’re going to see how the life and faith of Moses is a picture for us, and how it can help us run our race better. How did Moses address the universal human identity crisis by faith, and how can we do the same?
Identify with the King’s People
First of all, the Holy Spirit, in Hebrews 11, tells us that Moses identified with God’s people. Moses identified with God’s people. Look at verse 24. This verse is specifically making reference to Moses’ defense of the Hebrew slave and murder of the Egyptian taskmaster (Exod 2.11-22). Tom Schreiner notes, “Such an action, even if it was a mistake in some respects, wasn’t merely a temporary fit of temper. It signaled where Moses’ loyalties were, demonstrating that he had associated himself with the people of God rather than the Egyptians.” You know, sometimes we talk about Moses’ murder of the Egyptian in defense of the Hebrew slave almost like it was just a chaotic circumstance, like it just kind of happened and then Moses reacted and he just happened to run away. But I’m a Calvinist, so I don’t believe in coincidence. Moses was taking a stand. Moses was choosing to identify with God’s people, over against his adopted kin.
The author of this sermon even goes so far as to say that [Moses] considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. When Moses chose the hardship of Israel over the throne room of Egypt, he was identifying with Jesus himself. That is what the Holy Spirit says. Moses considered the reproach of Christ greater than the treasures of Egypt. Jesus himself who would chose the hardship of the cross over the throne room of Heaven. Moses was finding his identity in the promises of God, not in the comfort of his upbringing. You know, if I were Moses, I think I would have been able to convince myself to stay in Pharaoh’s house. I would say something like; “I believe that God has me here for such a time as this. He providentially had me adopted and I am going to do everything I can in the interworkings of the Egyptian legal system to make things better for the Jews. God made me Pharaoh’s grandson, so he must want me to stay here.” But that’s not what YHWH called Moses to do, is it? He called him to identify with God’s people. Moses’ identity was not found in being Pharaoh’s grandson, or in being one of Egypt’s most eligible bachelors; it was in being one of the elect children of YHWH.
A few moments ago we just sang that beautiful hymn, All Creatures of Our God and King. You may or may not know this but that song was written in the 1200’s by St. Francis. Francis was raised in wealth but gave it all up to preach the gospel and to feed the hungry. He literally abandoned his wealthy attire and founded the Franciscan order. Francis left a life of privilege to obey the call of God. Church, Moses did the same thing. He left a life of privilege to identify with God’s people. That’s why he defended his oppressed brother against the tyranny of the cruel Egyptians. That’s why he left his home. That’s why he returned to Egypt to lead God’s people out of slavery. Moses’ identity was not found in his family, it was not found in his education, or his wealth; his identity was found in God’s people.
This is what the book of Revelation is all about. The book of Revelation is not about future chaos, Henry Kissinger, or how your credit card chip is the number 666. The mark of the beast means to identify with Babylon, or in Moses’ case Egypt, over against the kingdom of Christ. Throughout history, God’s people have never taken the mark of the beast. That’s how we know they are God’s people. Moses did not take the mark of the beast, he identified with God’s kingdom. He thought that the reproach of Christ was better than the treasures of Egypt.
The beginning of this chapter told us that faith is the assurance of things hoped for and that faith is the conviction of things not seen (Heb 11.1). As new covenant believers that means that we identify with God’s people – the church, even when the church appears to be weak. We don’t identify with any of the faux churches that the world has to offer, but, first and foremost, our identity is found in the kingdom of Christ. You are not first and foremost a millennial, a baby boomer, or a member of the greatest generation. Your identity is not cemented in your race, your education, you income level, or your sexual attraction. You are not first and foremost a Republican, Democrat, or even American. If you have faith in Jesus Christ, then your identity is in Christ. That is who you are, church!
By faith, you have been adopted into God’s family. You are a member of Jesus’ body. You are a stone in the temple of the Holy Spirit. You are a solider in the Lord’s army. You are a disciple of Jesus; you’re a Christian. You have died with Christ and resurrected with Christ when you were baptized. You are a new creation, behold the old has gone and the new has come. Hear the glory of the gospel this morning, church. When God looks down at you, he sees the righteousness of his Son Jesus Christ. By faith these things are true of you right now. You are the church.
Church, that means that we need to have a little smaller view of the world. If we are going to properly identify with God’s people. Because faith, first and foremost means that we identify with God’s people. We don’t always believe that. If that’s true, that means you have more in common with a Christian Syrian refugee than you do your unbelieving American next-door neighbor. You are more related to the Russian Christian who is legally banned from sharing the gospel, than you are to your unbelieving parent, sibling, or child. You are more connected with South American Christians living in huts on the Amazon River that have never ever heard of the Detroit Tigers, than you are with the unregenerate thousands who fill Comerica Park and sing the national anthem with you. Now that doesn’t mean that going to ball games and having small talk with your neighbor is wrong, on the contrary, these are good things, but we must not forget their place. The question we have to ask ourselves this morning, do we value the reproach of Christ more than the treasures of America? Like Moses did the treasures of Egypt. Would you rather be mistreated with the people of God than enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin? Surely everything Moses enjoyed in his comfortable Egyptian life was not sin, just like going to a baseball game is not sin, but it sin if we love it more than Jesus.
It’s not wrong to identify with a certain political party, but if that means you have to train yourself to hate the unborn, or anyone else made in the image of God, then we’re doing it wrong. If you can go to a ball game and get all emotional singing the national anthem, and you remain here stoic during corporate worship, than you’re doing it wrong. Are you willing to be mistreated with the people of God, or do you love the pleasures of comfort?
This is the truth, guys, identifying with God’s people, means you will be mistreated. If you want to follow Jesus, then your understanding of sex and marriage is going to be hated by most Americans. “What do you mean marriage means only one man and one woman? What do you mean that any sex outside of the marriage of one man and one woman is sin?” Are you willing to stand with God’s people in that? “What do you mean that you give at least 10% of your gross income to the church? That’s crazy! Imagine how much more you could have or how much more you can invest? What do you mean you want to get married young? What do you mean that you want to have kids? What do you mean you want to have a lot of kids? What do you mean abortion is murder? What do you mean you go to church every Sunday?” They look at us like we are Looney Tunes. Identifying with God’s people will mean reproach. Moses had faith, so he knew that it was more valuable than all the treasures of Egypt. Do you believe that the reproach of Christ is more valuable than the American dream?
Rebel Against the King’s Enemy
Moses also knew that following king Jesus meant rebelling against king Pharaoh. Verse 27 says that Moses left Egypt because he was more afraid of the invisible king than he was the king of Egypt. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Moses was convicted of the invisible kind. Moses feared YHWH more than he feared Pharaoh. He falls in line with the history of God’s people who have rebelled against all that is anti-Christ. Rahab who rebelled against Jericho, the Apostle’s who looked the Jewish leadership in the eyes and said, “We cannot help but preach that which we have seen.” Martin Luther who defied the world-ruling Roman Catholic Church when he declared, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer who fought Hitler’s Germany, and gave his life in the process. Indeed, church, there are a great cloud of witnesses who have come before us in rebellion to the evil serpent king; many of them gave their blood as the seed of the church.
Hear this, this morning, brothers and sisters, faith means that we must rebel. We are rebels. Like Moses, we must rebel against our own comfort. Pharaoh was abusing God’s people and Moses spoke truth to power. Like Moses’ parents, we must rebel against a culture that says that children are an unfortunate side effect of sex, and they are the end of your happiness and freedom. We rebel against that evil and declare that children are a gift from God. Like Joseph, we must rebel against a culture that tells us that sex outside of marriage is liberating and bountiful, while sex inside of marriage is dull and rare. We rebel by running from sexual immorality and by loving our spouses like Christ loves the church. You know what Satan loves? He loves it when you badmouth your spouse to other people. Because there is nothing in all of creation that declares the gospel isn’t true, like two spouses not loving each other. Man, Satan really loves that. That helps his cause. He loves it when we ignore our children. He loves these things because they are anti-Christ. He loves it when a Christian man is addicted to pornography and it affects his relationship with his wife. Church, we need to fight back against this damning worldview. We need to rebel! Faith means that, like Moses, we must rebel against God’s enemy.
Dine at the King’s Table
Moses didn’t just identify with God’s people, and rebel against God’s enemy, but he also dined at God’s table. Verse 28 says, By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. Instituting and keeping the Passover was an act of faith on Moses’ part. YHWH had declared, as our brother Bobby read this morning, that he was going to reckon the payment of the firstborn that was due him. But those who would sacrifice the lamb and spread the blood over the doorposts, the angel of death would pass over them. Israel remembered this groundbreaking event in the history of God’s people every single year when they would celebrate the Passover feast. By participating in the event itself and then continuing in its annual feast, Moses declared that he was abandoning Pharaoh’s table and sitting at YHWH’s table.
The spring semester of my sophomore year of college I moved home for a semester and took some online classes. Bethany was a senior in high school and I wanted to spend that last semester here with her before we both moved down to Kentucky in preparation for getting married. Because I knew that I was moving back to Kentucky, I left my seminary-parking sticker on my car. You know you have to have your parking sticker or else you will get a ticket at school. So, one night I was driving home from Bethany’s parents house, they used to live at12/Hayes and I was driving to my parent’s house. They live at 13/Campbell. I made it to 13/Dequindre, and got pulled over for running a red light, which looked kind of orange to me. For the record, I think it was more orange than red. I got pulled over at 13/Dequindre by Warren PD and the officer comes up to my window and I’m, you know how you feel when that happens. The first thing he says to me, I swear, the first thing he says to me was, “Son, are you a Southern Baptist?” I was like, “Excuse me sire?” You know, that is not the question you normally get when you pulled over. So I say, “Well, I go to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville KY.” He said, “I saw your Southern Baptist parking sticker on your car. I’m Southern Baptist!” I was like, “Okay!” I am still reeling, like this is going on. He said, “Son I am going to let you off with a warning now because you are going to seminary and you are going to be a preacher, so don’t run red lights.” So he let me off! Glory, right? Under the protection of that parking sticker, the just wrath of the law passed over me. Because I had that sticker, that is what saved me, I was under that protection and I guess you could argue that I deserved it. Again, I feel like it was rather orange. But if you were to argue that I did than that sticker protected me as the law passed over me.
Church, when Moses by faith sacrificed that lamb for Israel and they spread the blood over the doorpost, the just wrath of God passed over them. That which they deserved, they were sinners like we are and God’s justice and wrath passed over them because they were covered and protected by the blood of the Lamb. Moses dined at that table every single year by faith, in rebellion to the serpent king. Identifying with God’s people. What Moses did not fully understand thought, was that the Passover was instituted because some 1,500 years later, in a small upper room in Jerusalem, Jesus of Nazareth would shed light on the true meaning of the Passover. The bread is his body. The wine is his blood. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. As Israel celebrated the Passover feast for centuries, it was all pointing them forward to Jesus who would die on their behalf. Church, when we identify with Jesus, when we have faith in Jesus, his blood covers our doorposts and God’s just deserving wrath passes over us.
This is why we celebrate the Eucharist every week. We dine at Jesus’ table to identify with his people, to rebel against his enemy. The Passover meal has been redefined by the gospel of Jesus. We were once enemies, but now we’re sons and daughters. We, church, have traded the table of this world for the table of the king. This is your family. This is your meal.
It’s easy for us to find our identity in sports, politics, education, family, but church, these things are eternal. Like Moses, we must identify with the king’s people, rebel against the king’s enemy, and dine at the king’s table. Faith means that your identity is found in the kingdom of Jesus. That is who you are. Before country, before blood, we are kingdom people. Like Moses, we declare unabashedly, we pledge allegiance to king Jesus. And that allegiance is stronger than a political party, its stronger than the United States of America, and its even stronger than the Detroit Tigers. Let’s pray.