Grades 3-6 for Sunday School:
Moses: Obeying God, Rather Than Men
A note from the author: This week we’re beginning a new series on the life of Moses. I’m very excited about this new series, and hope you will be, too. I know that the Bible stories about Moses are very familiar to many. But one of the most exciting things about Scripture is that it’s “alive and powerful.” (Hebrews 4:12). And no matter how many times we read the same passage, if our hearts are open, there is always something new that The Lord can impress upon them. So join me, now, as we open up the book of Exodus. Come, expecting to learn something new each week. And be sure to encourage your students to do the same!
This week, we’re beginning a new lesson series on the life of Moses. I know that many of you are familiar with the stories: the baby in the bulrushes, the burning bush, the plagues, and so on. But I would like to challenge you right from the start to remember that The Bible is God’s living Word! And if you come ready to hear God speak, He will have something new for you each and every week!
Today, I want to start off by having you imagine that you are at school; and your teacher asks you to go to the cafeteria, when no one is there, and bring him back a piece of pizza. Now I know that the door is usually locked, or someone is usually in there, working. But just imagine that this time no one is watching, and you could get in. Your teacher tells you he is really hungry, and that if he doesn’t get something to eat, he might not be able to teach very well. What would you say? Would you remind him that there are strict rules against taking anything from the cafeteria without paying? Would you remind him that taking the pizza would be stealing, and that God says you’re not to do that? And then, what if your teacher becomes angry, and tells you he will give you a failing grade if you don’t do what he asked? The Bible tells us that we are to submit to those in authority over us. So what are Christians to do when someone in authority asks them to do something that directly disobeys God?
This is what happened to the Israelite people, in the book of Exodus. The ruler of Egypt, the Pharaoh, gave them an order that would require them to disobey God. In our lesson today, we’re going to look at what one Israelite family did, and how God used their faithfulness to bring about His plan for the nation of Israel. Perhaps our memory verse for today is what they had in mind as they made their decision to defy the Pharaoh’s order.
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29
Opening prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for each student who’s here, today. We’re excited to begin a study of your servant, Moses, and to find what new lessons You might have for us to learn. Help us, Lord, to have our eyes and ears open to the truths in Your Word; and help our hearts be ready to apply what we learn to our own lives. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: Exodus 1:8 – 2:10 Obeying God rather than men
(a little history)
Let’s start off with just a little bit of Hebrew (or Israelite) history, for those who might not be familiar with our story. When given the choice, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God in the Garden of Eden; and sin came into the human race. But God had a plan. He would choose a particular family through which He would one day send His Son as a Savior for the world. God chose the man, Abraham. And his family would become the Hebrew people, also known as the nation of Israel. God led this family to a promised land. But severe famine drove them down into Egypt. It was one of the Hebrew people (the descendants of Abraham) who, with wisdom from God, was able to guide the Egyptians in surviving this famine. This Israelite’s name was Joseph. And because he saved them from famine, Joseph was made a ruler in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. But as generations came and went, and the painful memories of the great famine faded, the Egyptians forgot Joseph. And this is where our Scripture reading for today’s lesson picks up…
( Exodus 1:8 – 2:10 )
8Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. 9And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: 10Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.
You see, it had been many years now since the Israelites came to Egypt to escape the famine. When they arrived, they were just one family, the children and grandchildren of a man named Jacob (Joseph’s father). But a couple of generations had now passed, and this family had multiplied, so much that the rulers in Egypt became afraid of them – fearing that they might join forces with one of Egypt’s enemies, and take over their land.
Think of it this way: imagine that your parents own an ice cream shop. They’ve told you that you can come there every day after school, and bring your friends, and have all the ice cream you want. One day, a new family in town comes into the shop for ice cream. This new family really likes your parents’ ice cream and keeps coming back. They invite their aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents to come enjoy the ice cream there, too. Pretty soon, you notice that it’s starting to get a little crowded. One day after school, you get there a little later than usual and there isn’t even one empty table for you and your friends to sit at. And worst of all, you think you heard one of them say something about another ice cream store owner from across town who’s planning to come in and take the store from your parents. And he’s part of their family! If that happens, not only will you not have a table…what’ll happen to your free ice cream?
That’s just about how the Egyptians were feeling. They became afraid of what might happen with the Israelites. Does anyone know what the Egyptians decided to do about their concerns with the Israelites? Let’s read the next few verses to see what they did:
(Exodus 1) 11Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel. 13And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: 14And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.
Do you see what Pharaoh did with the Israelites? He made slaves of them! And you might think that that would discourage the Israelites, and make them lose heart. But did you notice what happened to them? “They multiplied and grew.” The harder Pharaoh worked them, the more God blessed them. And this didn’t go unnoticed by Pharaoh. He saw what was happening…that the Israelite nation was just getting bigger and stronger. So he knew he was going to have to come up with a new plan to put the Israelites back in their place, to discourage them, and keep them from growing any stronger. And here was his new, evil plan:
15And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah: 16And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.
Midwives are women who come to a woman’s home when she’s ready to have a baby. And they help the woman deliver the baby. Can anyone explain to me what these verses said? What is Pharaoh’s new plan? Yes, he wants to be sure there are no more Hebrew men who might grow up to some day turn against him, and join his enemies. So he has ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill all the Hebrew baby boys that they deliver.
Can anyone think of who else might have wanted this plan to be followed? Who else might benefit from making sure no Hebrew boys survive? After all, that would eventually mean the end of the pure Hebrew race. Remember how we talked earlier about how God had a plan in place, to have His Son born through this race? If no more male children are allowed to survive, then two possible things could happen. First, there would be no Hebrew race for the Savior to be born from. And if, perhaps, this was to be the very time the Savior would be born, then killing all the male children would mean this Savior would not survive. And who would be happiest if God’s plan for the Savior was thwarted? Yes, Satan would gain the victory. Do you think that perhaps Satan might have helped Pharaoh come up with this plan to keep the Israelites from taking over?
Let’s continue with our passage to see what happened. We are going to find that there were some Israelites who were more concerned with what God wanted, than they were with the Pharaoh’s command.
(a little disobedience – but not to God)
17But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive. 18And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive? 19And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them. 20Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty. 21And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses.
Do you remember our exercise from earlier in the lesson, where we considered what we should do if someone in authority tells us to do something that we know is wrong? Well, that’s just what these midwives were dealing with. They knew that it was wrong to kill these innocent Hebrew children. Then probably knew, from growing up in Hebrew homes, that they were God’s chosen people. And that what Pharaoh was asking of them would be directly disobeying God. And that’s where our memory verse comes in. When we have to make a choice between obeying God, or obeying someone in authority, who asks us to do something that we know is wrong, the choice should be clear: “we ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) The midwives understood this, and followed God’s laws. And God blessed their families because of their obedience.
So now, Pharaoh had to come up with yet another plan. He still wanted the baby boys to be killed. So he tried a new tactic:
22And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.
Does anyone know what river runs through the land of Egypt? Yes, it’s the Nile River. And does anyone know what you might find swimming in the Nile River? How about Nile Crocodiles! Yes, Pharaoh was counting on the fact that if somehow the baby boys didn’t drown in the river, that surely the crocodiles would get them.
But, in addition to the brave midwives, there was at least one Hebrew couple who also defied Pharaoh’s orders, and kept their baby boy alive. Let’s continue in our passage to learn more about them:
(Exodus 2) 1And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi. 2And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months. 3And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink. 4And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him. And the book of Hebrews adds this note: “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment.” Hebrews 11:23
Moses’ parents were godly people. Exodus chapter 6 tells us that his father was a grandson of Levi, and that his mother was Levi’s daughter. Levi was one of Joseph’s brothers. So no doubt they would both have heard the story of how God had chosen their family as His special people. They would have been taught to love and obey God. And believed, as the midwives did, that it was “better to obey God” rather than Pharaoh. So when the joy of a new baby in the family suddenly turned to serious concern, as they realized they had a baby boy, Moses’ parents knew they needed to save their son from Pharaoh’s decree. And for three months, they were able to hide him. But as he grew older, bigger, and stronger, they knew they could no longer hide Moses. So his mother made a little boat for him, and they placed him at the edge of the river.
Why do you think they put him there? Do you suppose they knew who might come along? Let’s read on and find out what happened.
(a great rescue)
5And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river's side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it.
What do you think Pharaoh’s daughter and her maids expected to see when they uncovered the little boat? Maybe someone’s lost lunch. Maybe a lost treasure. But do you think they ever expected to see a chubby little baby’s face?
6And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews' children.
Do you think there’s any chance that Pharaoh’s daughter did not know her father’s decree concerning the Hebrew baby boys? Our passage says “she had compassion on him.” No doubt God brought the Egyptian princess there that day, and put that compassion in her heart. She had probably grown up hearing about how the Hebrews were getting too strong, and in danger of taking over her father’s kingdom. She might have been raised with a great deal of prejudice in her heart. But as she looked into little baby Moses’ face, she only felt compassion. And now, what was she to do? What would her father say if she brought this Hebrew baby boy into his house? How would she care for him?
Then, just as these very thoughts might have been running through her head, someone came to her with a perfect answer. Remember what we read at the end of verse 4, just moments ago? Moses’ big sister, Miriam, had been close by, watching to see what would happen to her little brother. Listen to what Moses’ brave sister, Miriam, had to say to the princess:
7Then said his sister to Pharaoh's daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?
What a great plan! To have Moses’ mother, herself, take care of him. Would the princess suspect? If she did, the Bible does not tell us. It only says:
8And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child's mother. 9And Pharaoh's daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the women took the child, and nursed it.
Not only was Moses going to be allowed to live…he was going to be cared for by his own mother, under the protection of Pharaoh’s house. And not only that, but Moses’ mother was to be paid for taking care of her own child. The only thing that could have been better would be if Moses were allowed to stay and grow up in his family’s home. However, the Bible tells us that the time came when the princess came to claim the little one she had saved from the Nile River. Our passage for today ends with verse 10:
10And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water.
You may have already guessed that God must have a very special plan for this Hebrew baby boy. It took a great deal of courage in many people for his life to be spared. And now, he is to grow up in the palace of the Egyptian Pharaoh. Yes, indeed, God has a plan for this boy’s life. And that’s what we’ll be studying together for the next few weeks.
But, in the meantime, I’d like to leave you with this thought. God went through a great deal to bring Moses safely into this world. So you may think he must have been pretty special to God. But did you know that you are special to Him, too? Psalm 139:14 tells us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” And Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has a plan for your life, and mine. Listen to what it says: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” God has a very special plan for us. And once we accept Jesus Christ as the Savior who was promised through Abraham’s family, we can begin to find out what God wants us to do or be, for Him. Perhaps He will call you to be a great leader, like Moses; or a great preacher, like Peter. Perhaps He wants you to be a missionary, like Paul. Or perhaps He’ll call you to teach, or be a mom. Whatever His plan, God has brought you into this world to serve Him, just like Moses did. And you can begin, even now, to ask Him to show you what that plan might be!
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for sharing the story of your servant, Moses, with us. Thank You for the way You protected him, and for the courage You gave his parents to do the right thing, even when it meant they could be punished. Help us, this week, to remember that if we have to make a choice, we need to obey You! And help us, too, to be willing to seek out what it is You have planned for each of our lives. What an exciting thing it is, to see Your plan revealed, and begin taking steps to follow You! Bless each student, Lord, as they seek Your will for their lives. Amen.
Class Discussion/ Activity:
One way to find out what God might have planned for you is to pray and ask Him to show you. Another is to ask others in your church what talents they see that God has given you, and consider how you might be able to use them for Him. Take a few minutes and go around the classroom, and have the students share with each other what they see as talents the Lord has given them. Then have them think about what they might do, in the future, to use those talents for Christ.
If you have time, have the students play a game of Bible Tic-Tac-Toe. (Instructions for this game can be found in previous lessons. See lesson 13). Another game you can play to reinforce the lesson is to have the students each take a turn at drawing or acting out a scene from the lesson. The student to guess the right scene would be the next to take a turn. You can also offer small prizes for the first one to guess correctly.
Follow the Right Leader
Someone says, “Here’s what to do…”
But to God you should be true;
For you know He is the One
Who, for you, gave His own Son.
To Him your allegiance goes.
He’s the one who really knows
What your life will someday be.
So follow Him, obediently.
Lisa DeVinney, May 2013