Citing Exodus 2:11-15 and Hebrews 11:27, two questions are posed:
(1) Was it an act of faith when Moses fled to Midian after slaying the Egyptian?
(2) Was it an act of faith when Moses slew the Egyptian?
To begin with, and as shall be explained, the "forsaking" of Egypt mentioned in Hebrews 11:27 is not the flight to Midian, nor does the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews have in view the slaying of the Egyptian. Neither the slaying nor the flight constituted an "act of faith."
I. THE REWARD OF FAITH
Hebrews Chapter 11 cites numerous examples of the faith (faith being confidence) exhibited by the Justified as they, walking in the Way of Life, pursue the goal of Sanctification. Confidence in the promise of the Lord motivates obedience of the command of the Lord; and the outcome of obedience is deliverance. But the deliverance is not necessarily had in the present mortal life; this fact is expressed by Job, with the declaration, "Though the Lord slay me, yet will I trust in him." The great and ultimate confidence of those who enter the Way of Life and persist in the Way lies in the promise of resurrection.
II. FAITH TO FORSAKE EGYPT
Verses 27, 28, & 29 of Hebrews Chapter 11 have in view the confidence of Moses regarding the deliverance of God which would be necessary for the Children of Israel to gain freedom from slavery in Egypt. Through personal experience as a shepherd in Midian, Moses knew the perils which lay ahead in the wilderness. Having been raised in the household of Pharaoh, Moses anticipated that the wrath of Pharaoh would result in pursuit; and Moses knew perfectly the might of the Egyptian military. Moses understood well that, apart from repeated and miraculous intervention on the part of the Lord God, exodus from Egypt would have been futile, ending in slaughter, return to an enslavement even more rigorous, or death in the wilderness. Thus, it was by faith that Moses led the people out of Egypt.
III. FAITH TO ASSOCIATE WITH THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL
Verses 24, 25, & 26 have in view a decision which Moses made prior to the encounter which resulted in the slaying of the Egyptian. The dissertation, Acts 7:22-37, of Stephen to the Jews who murdered him provides perspective on the matter.
Regrettably, few teachers call attention to the parallel between Moses and Joseph as instruments by which the Lord God delivered his People. Even as the Lord had elevated Joseph to a position of great authority within the government of Egypt, so also the Lord had elevated Moses. It was through Joseph that Jacob and his twelve sons were delivered from famine. Four centuries later, the Lord used Moses to deliver from slavery the thirteen tribes of the Children of Israel.
Moses was familiar with the prophecy and promise of the Lord to Abraham concerning servitude, oppression, and deliverance of the progeny of Abraham, Genesis 15:13-16. And Moses was familiar with the deliverance which the Lord wrought through Joseph. Stephen reveals that Moses perceived his destiny as the agent whereby the Lord would accomplish the deliverance promised to Abraham, and that Moses assumed that the Children of Israel likewise would perceive his calling as their leader, Acts 7:25.
Brought up as the son of the daughter of Pharaoh, Exodus 2:10, Moses enjoyed a life which few men experience; he lived at the very top of Egyptian society. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says that it was by faith that Moses left behind this rich life in Egypt, Hebrews 11:27; the Greek verb is KATALEIPO, the primary meaning of which is to leave or leave behind, but the verb also can mean to desert, abandon, or forsake. Moses forsook Egypt long before he fled for his life upon killing the Egyptian. The abandonment of luxury, prestige, and power took place when Moses made the decision to take upon himself the reproach of his brethren, the Anointed (Greek, CHRISTOS, here meaning the Children of Israel as the progeny of Abraham), Hebrews 11:26, by affiliating with them. It was because of this decision that Moses, at age forty, went out to his brethren and gave consideration to their burdens, Exodus 2:11.
There is a striking parallel between the abandonment on the part of Moses and the abandonment required of any man who would enter the Way of Life. In order to follow Jesus, one must "take up his cross," Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Mark 10:21, Luke 9:23.
The English term "cross" is associated with the combination of two beams, one vertical and the other horizontal; but the Greek STAUROS means "torture stake," which is nothing more than a bare pole or post set upright in a hole in the ground. The victim is fastened to the torture stake by nails driven into the pole through his wrists, above the carpal bones; this is so that when the arms of the victim, stretched vertically above his head, are bearing the weight of his body, the victim is unable to inhale. After nailing the arms, the legs of the victim are drawn upward slightly, and nails are driven into the pole through the cartilage behind the ankle; this allows the legs of the victim to lift the weight of his body sufficiently to allow inhalation. The pain inflicted by driving nails through the wrists and the heels is unimaginable. In the course of death, which can take an entire day, the victim repeatedly lifts himself, gasps for breath, and then falls. Death comes by suffocation, but only after the victim is so fatigued that his legs no longer can raise his body for inhalation. This is the fate which awaits the man who takes up his torture stake; not only does he leave behind family, friends, and possessions, but his very life is at an immediate end.
IV. LOVE OF ONE'S NEIGHBOUR
The Law of God existed long before the Law of Moses; indeed, Abraham kept the Law of God, Genesis 26:5. The Law of God is spirit in nature, Romans 7:14, even as the Lord God himself is spirit, John 4:24. And to say that the Law of God is spirit in nature is simply to say that the Law of God cannot be reduced to a finite set of commandments. However, the spirit of the Law can be expressed in two broad principles; the first principle is love of the Lord God, Deuteronomy 6:5, Deuteronomy 10:12, Deuteronomy 11:13, Deuteronomy 13:3, Deuteronomy 30:6, Joshua 22:5. The second broad principle is love of one's neighbour, Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 19:19, Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31-33, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14. Accordingly, it is the spirit of the Law which is to be kept, as opposed to observation of a list of commandments.
The Law of Moses is but an imperfect representation of the Law of God; the Law of Moses allows for the weakness of man, Matthew 19:8, Mark 10:4. Thus, and contrary to the assertion of the Protestant Pulpit, it was possible for the Israelite to keep the Law perfectly; the Lord God does not mock his creatures by commanding of them the impossible. The Law of Moses was brought into existence specifically to govern the Old Covenant, which was a marriage covenant between God the Son and the nation of Israel. When the Old Covenant was dissolved, the Law of Moses was done away, I Corinthians 13:10, II Corinthians 3:7, II Corinthians 3:11. The New Covenant is governed by the uncompromised Law of God, which has to do not only with action, but also with intent and motivation. However, there is no conflict between the Law of God and the Law of Moses, the latter being a subset of the former.
The slaying of the Egyptian was done in obedience to the command to love neighbour as self; it was an act of love. In delivering his brother Israelite from the assault of the Egyptian, Moses simply was obeying the mandate of the Law of God, doing unto his brother as he would have his brother do unto him. And though the Scripture has not a word of condemnation for Moses regarding the slaying of the Egyptian, the Protestant Pulpit not infrequently makes the slanderous assertion that Moses was a murderer.
The flight of Moses to Midian did not require faith; it was a matter of commonsense. Moses is doing nothing other than that which the Law of Moses subsequently prescribes, namely, flight to a City of Refuge in order to escape unjust punishment, Numbers Chapter 35, Joshua Chapter 21, I Chronicles 6:57. The same behaviour is seen on the part of Joseph, who, taking Mary and the infant Jesus, fled Judaea to escape the wrath of Herod. And the same behaviour is seen on the part of Paul, who, being let down over the city wall in a basket, fled Damascus, Acts 9:19-25, II Corinthians 11:32-33.