“esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward” (Hebrews 11:26).
A cursory look at Hebrews 11:26 should prompt an immediate question: “How could Moses regard ‘disgrace for the sake of Christ to be of greater value than all the riches in Egypt’ when Jesus had not yet been born?”
We can address this question when we consider the passage that precedes this verse: “[Moses] chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25 NIV). When we take these verses together, we find that Moses elected to exchange the temporary mistreatment he experienced during his earthly life for something better in the future.
That mistreatment represented “abuse suffered on behalf of the Messiah” (CJB) in the following sense: whenever someone is mistreated for a decision to follow God in faith, he or she follows the ultimate example set by Christ. For Moses, that meant looking forward to Jesus’ example. For us, it means looking back.
For example, consider the following excerpt from Jesus’ Sermon On The Mount…
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).
While contemporary audiences can benefit from this principle, the heart of Jesus’ message is also reflected in the lives of Old Testament saints like Moses, as well as many of the other individuals we meet in Hebrews chapter eleven. They were often reviled, mistreated, and persecuted, along with other notable Old Testament personalities such as Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, among others.
One Biblical scholar expands on this idea with the following insight…
“This is a text that shows that Moses himself was conscious of the coming of the Messiah and of the Messiah’s own ‘reproach,’ with which Moses was willing to identify in an anticipatory manner. It may be that Moses to some degree saw his suffering and the suffering of his people… as a typological foreshadowing of the ultimate suffering of God’s Son who also would come out of Egypt (Matt. 2:15, quoting Hos. 11:1).” (1)
Finally, it is significant to note that Moses (along with Elijah) spoke with Jesus at the time of His transfiguration in Mark 9:2-10. Just as Moses suffered “…disgrace for the sake of Christ” (NIV), so also was he honored with the privilege of an audience with the Messiah during His glorious transfiguration.
(1) R. C. Sproul, ed., The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015), 2217.