Let’s Make a Deal has been running intermittently for more than fifty years. On this game show, contestants try to trade up their prizes by “making a deal” with the host. If they choose well, they may start with a shoelace and end up with a new car—or, if they choose poorly, they may go home with a goat. It all comes down to making good choices (and a quite a bit of luck) when the host asks them if they’d like to choose what’s behind Door #1, Door #2, or Door #3. Today I want to take a look at a choice that seems for all the world to be what the Let’s Make a Deal people would call a “zonk,” a joke prize, the door that no one would choose if they knew what lay behind it.
The choice we want to consider today is found in Hebrews 11, a walk down memory lane of some favorite characters from the early Old Testament and their triumphs of faith. The writer had many instances of faith to choose from in Moses’ life, but he selected one that came well before his days living off manna in the wilderness, taking us instead back to Egypt. You know the story. Moses was rescued from the king’s murderous, infanticidal command by none other than the Pharaoh’s own daughter. Moses’ parents had defied the king’s command by hiding their baby boy at home as long as they could and then placing him in the bulrushes of the Nile in a basket covered in pitch. Pharaoh’s daughter happened upon the basket and eventually wound up raising young Moses.
This sounds like quite the human-interest story. I can almost see the headlines: “Baby Rescued from Death and Given a Crown!” or maybe “Rags to Royalty: The Story of Prince Moses.” However, Moses’ story takes another unforeseen twist. Though the prince had the opportunity to stay in the palace and enjoy the lap of luxury, he instead chose to identify with his people and embrace certain persecution.
No, you didn’t read that wrong. That’s really what he did. He gave up life as the son of Pharaoh so he could suffer affliction as a son of Abraham. It wasn’t a publicity stunt or a political protest. It was a calculated decision made for a different reason entirely:
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen. (Heb. 11:24-27).
In verse 25, we’re told that Moses chose “to endure ill-treatment with the people of God.” Walking by faith and enduring to the end always requires a choice. It’s never something that we merely stumble into. Our hearts are active worshipers, not passive victims. Events don’t just happen to us, trapping us into a particular response. While we cannot choose our circumstances, we do choose the response. Moses didn’t choose for Pharaoh to issue an order of infanticide. He didn’t choose when to be born or whether to be discovered by an Egyptian princess. He didn’t choose to be an Israelite or for his people to be enslaved. While he had no control over those things, he did have control over his response. He could either choose to suffer with his people, or he could choose to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.
So, Moses can choose one of two doors. Behind Door #1 we see the Egyptian palace he’s known basically his whole life. Behind Door #2 is slavery and suffering. Obvious choice, right?
Door #1: Enjoying the Passing Pleasures of Sin
The author shows us that the first option is indeed tempting. Moses could have chosen to enjoy something. We’re hardwired for enjoyment. In fact, it’s part of our being made in the image of God. However, part of the curse is that our wires are crossed, and we often take delight in all the wrong things. The fact that Moses would have enjoyed himself is not what makes Door #1 the wrong choice. The author goes on to tell us that the pleasures he would have enjoyed were fleeting.
We’re familiar with this, aren’t we? We think that giving in to some temptation or other will make us happy, and, in fact, it does—for all of about five seconds. We shoot the perfect zinger at an offender at just the right moment and with just the right ratio of humor to contempt. And we feel awesome. Until, that is, we see the look on the other person’s face. Then, just as quickly, the pleasure vanishes. It might not always fade quite that quickly, but it never sticks around long. Maybe for you it’s not words but time-wasting. That “five extra minutes” on social media was great, but how long did that feeling of joy last? I am speaking from experience, but I’m also speaking from Scripture (a far more reliable source). The pleasures of sin, our author says, are momentary.
Finally, the choice behind Door #1 is sinful. It’s not wrong because it’s temporary or because it’s enjoyable. It’s wrong because it’s a transgression of God’s law. Why exactly would it have been sinful for Moses to stick around Egypt? Honestly, I’m not sure. But if he knew God wanted him to identify with his people and leave the palace, then for him to do anything short of obeying would be sin. Yes, if he stayed, the palace would be just as cushy and plush as ever, but the pleasures therein would be transient at best.
Door #2: Enduring Ill-Treatment
Behind Door #2 is suffering with God’s people. At the moment they’re enslaved to Egypt. Eventually Moses will lead them from that affliction to another set of difficult circumstances in the wilderness for forty years. Israel may have been known as “the people of God,” but that didn’t make them popular. Even after leaving Egypt, they would have to deal with one set of enemies after another for quite some time. In fact, come to think of it, that’s still the case today. That’s what Moses was signing up for when he left Egypt. Yet, we’re told he made the right choice. He’s commended to us as an example of great faith. Not because he went looking for persecution (never something God asks us to do), but because he had his eyes on something greater.
Hebrews gives us two reasons for Moses’ choice. First, he saw something. Verse 26 tells us that he was “looking to the reward.” Remember that five extra minutes online that didn’t make good on its promise of enjoyment? Moses recognized that he would find the enjoyment he was wired for in eternity—not in a palace or a phone. Yes, we have good gifts here: family, friends, ice cream, pets, funny memes, a riveting novel. All of these have been generously bestowed on us by our Creator. However, they don’t hold enjoyment in themselves. Not ultimately. Moses recognized that, and he knew that the reward of faithful obedience was in pursuing the Giver Himself, not just his gifts.
Secondly, Moses considered something. In his mental accounting, he assigned the “reproach of Christ,” not as a debit but as a credit. In fact, he considered it a credit of so much value that it outweighed all the “credit” Egypt had to offer. I’m sure Pharaoh and all of his accountants would have poo-pooed Moses’ math, and our society is no different. But Moses’ accounting was right on the money. Door #2 was where the real treasure lay. Moses knew it, and he had enough faith to open that door and pursue the prize, even though it would require enduring affliction.
We too have a choice to make. We can pick Door #1—Easy Street and the fleeting, fading pleasures of this world. Or Door #2. It won’t be easy—don’t buy anything from someone who says differently—but the reward will be eternal, it will be sweet, and it will be satisfying. The reward is Christ Himself. And that’s the deal I want to make!