Grades 3-6 Sunday School Lesson
Jochebed: Harrowing Times Produce Heroes
Author’s Notes: We’re going to look at one more Old Testament heroine this week. Her name was Jochebed. And though her name might not be familiar, her story is one that many Sunday School children have learned through the years. Jochebed was the mother of Moses. And when her child’s life was threatened, Jochebed was not afraid, but trusted the Lord, and did what she needed to do to protect her child. This story is a great reminder of how the Lord sometimes allows difficult situations to come into our lives to teach us to trust Him, and to teach us just how strong and courageous we can be, with His help.
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For those of you who were with us for our study of Ruth, who remembers what made Naomi and her family leave Bethlehem, to move to Moab? There was a famine. If there had been no famine, Elimelech probably would not have moved his family to Moab; his son would not have met and married Ruth; and Ruth would never have returned with Naomi to meet and marry Boaz. And now we can learn from the courage and loyalty that Ruth showed because God had allowed great challenges in their lives.
Throughout the Bible, we can find many more examples of God using difficult circumstances to move His people where He wanted them; and to bring out the heroes and heroines among them.
Some of you may remember our study of Elijah. God used a famine there, too, to prepare the hearts of the Israelites for a great demonstration of His power, through His servant Elijah.
God also used a famine to drive the children of Israel to Egypt, after He’d sent Joseph ahead of them. And God had allowed Joseph to live as a slave, and suffer through a time of imprisonment to prepare him to become a great hero for both the Egyptians and the Israelites.
In today’s lesson, we’re going to meet another heroine who also lived in a very difficult time. But like our other heroes, it was the challenges in her life that led her to the courageous decision and actions she chose to take.
All of these examples remind us that when we face challenges, and sometimes feel that we can’t possibly find a way to overcome them, that those times are great opportunities for God to show His strength and grace in our lives. He allows us to go through such times so that we will learn to trust Him even more; and so we’ll see that we really are strong enough to overcome challenges when we have God on our side.
Today’s memory verse is a reminder that it’s in those times when we’re feeling weak that God can make heroes out of us, for that’s when He shows Himself to be strong on our behalf.
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.)
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for Your Word, The Bible, where we can learn new truths about You, and Your plans for us. Help each one of us here, today, to be attentive to what You would have us learn. Give us open ears and hearts, ready to listen to Your words. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: Jochebed: Harrowing Times Produce Heroes (Exodus 1-2)
Let’s go back, for just a moment, to one of the heroes we mentioned earlier. His name was Joseph, and God used him to rescue the people of Egypt, and his own people, the Israelites, from a terrible, seven-year famine.
Those of you who are familiar with his story might remember that Joseph was an Israelite. But his own brothers sold him into slavery; and he was taken to Egypt. But the Lord blessed Joseph while he was there, and brought him to a position of great power in Egypt, just in time to help the Egyptians prepare for the great famine.
Joseph’s own family, back in Canaan, heard of the food available in Egypt, and upon learning that Joseph was alive and well, and ruling in Egypt, they packed up their families and moved there. Joseph and his family were very highly thought of by the Egyptians, because of his great wisdom, given Joseph by God. And while Joseph was alive and remembered, the Israelites were treated well, in Egypt.
But as the years passed, the Egyptians grew forgetful of Joseph, and all he had done for them. And they began to notice how many Israelites were living in their country. They also noticed how strong the Israelite people were, and grew concerned.
6 And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation.
7 And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.
8 Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.
9 And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we:
10 Come 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.
A new Egyptian Pharaoh came along who didn’t know Joseph. All he seemed to know about the Israelites was what he could see with his own eyes: that there were lots of them, and that they were mightier than the Egyptians. What was Pharaoh afraid was going to happen? He thought that if another country sent an army to attack Egypt that the Israelites would fight on the side of their enemies. So he came up with a plan to try to keep that from happening.
11 Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.
12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.
What was Pharaoh’s plan? The Egyptians would make slaves of the Israelites, and make them work so hard they couldn’t possibly become a threat. But did Pharaoh’s plan succeed? No! These verses tell us that the more the Egyptians made them work, the more they grew. How was that possible? Remember our memory verse: God loves for us to be in a position where we seem weak, because it gives Him the opportunity to show how strong He can be, in us. That’s just what He did for His people. He supernaturally provided the strength they needed to keep right on growing in strength and numbers.
So what would Pharaoh do next? Let’s see:
13 And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour:
14 And 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.
15 And 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:
16 And 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.
Pharaoh was still convinced that working the Israelites nearly to death was the best answer for keeping them under control. But then, he added another much darker step to his plan. What was that? He told the Hebrew midwives, who helped deliver their babies, to kill any baby boys born to Hebrew (or Israelite) women. What an awful thing to ask the midwives to do. And what do you think would happen to those midwives if they disobeyed the orders of the Pharaoh? They would probably be killed!
17 But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.
Who did the Hebrew midwives fear (or respect) more? God or Pharaoh? They respected God more. This sounds very much like the way Peter and the apostles responded, when they were told to stop preaching about Jesus. This was their response to such an order: “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
And that’s just the way the Hebrew midwives felt. If they were faced with a law that directly violated God’s laws then they would choose to obey God, rather than men, even if it was the Pharaoh… even if it could cost them their lives. They were true heroines, too! They must have trusted that God would take care of them. And He did.
18 And 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?
19 And 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
20 Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.
21 And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses.
God rewarded the heroism of the Hebrew midwives by blessing their families. And He kept right on blessing the Israelites, too. Pharaoh was not happy! And he felt he needed to take more drastic steps to get rid of the threat he saw against Egypt.
22 And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.
Not only were the midwives told to kill all the newborn Hebrew boys, now it was the responsibility of everyone in Egypt to do so. And that’s when our new heroine stepped into the scene.
1 And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi.
(We aren’t told the names of this man and his wife, at this point. But Exodus 6:20 gives us their names: “And Amram took him Jochebed his father's sister to wife; and she bare him Aaron and Moses…”)
2 And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months.
What was Jochebed, Moses’ mother, supposed to do with Moses when he was born? She was not supposed to keep him, but kill him, or allow the Egyptians to do so. But what did Jochebed do, instead? She hid baby Moses as long as she could from those who might be looking for him. And she did so at the risk of her own life. Pharaoh could have her put to death for disobeying his command. But like the midwives, Jochebed was more concerned with obeying God than obeying man. In Hebrews 11 it says this, “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) This action by Jochebed and her husband, Amram, earned them a place in God’s record of the Bible heroes of faith!
It’s in those moments when we face great challenges that God can give us even greater strength and wisdom, if we ask Him to. And the time soon came when Jochebed was no longer able to hide Moses. She would have to do something drastic to save his little life. So though it would break her heart to give Moses up, God showed Jochebed just what to do, to save him:
3 And 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.
4 And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him.
What did Jochebed make to protect her baby boy? She made a little ark out of reeds, and covered it with slime and pitch to make it water proof. Can anyone think of another time an ark, covered with pitch, was used to save lives? Yes! At God’s direction, Noah made an ark and also used pitch to keep the flood waters out. The ark that Jochebed made wasn’t nearly as big as Noah’s. But it was just as important in saving the lives of many, many people – simply by saving the life of one baby boy; because this baby boy would one day deliver the entire nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt. But that’s getting ahead of the story. For now, little baby Moses was floating in the Nile River, perhaps alongside dangerous wildlife like hippos and crocodiles.
5 And 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.
6 And 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.
Who happened to be the one to find baby Moses floating in the river? Pharaoh’s own daughter found Moses floating in his little ark. And what had her father said about all Hebrew baby boys? They were to be killed! But God put compassion in the princess’s heart, so she wanted to keep the baby. There may have been no one, other than Pharaoh himself, who could better protect this baby from his death sentence. God was surely watching over him. And it was all because his mother, Jochebed, was willing to follow what God had put in her heart; even though it meant letting him go. But God had a little surprise for Jochebed.
Did you notice who was standing off, in the distance, watching to see what would happen to baby Moses? It was his sister, Miriam. And when she saw the princess pull Moses’ ark out of the river, she went right away to see what she could do.
7 Then 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?
8 And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child's mother.
9 And 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.
10 And 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.
Miriam and Pharaoh’s daughter both recognized that the princess would not be able to care for such a young child herself. So Miriam came with a suggestion for her. What did Miriam offer to do? She said she could find a Hebrew women to take care of the baby for her. And who did Miriam bring back? She brought Moses’ own mother, Jochebed.
What a special blessing this must have been for Jochebed. Although she knew she would one day have to give Moses back to Pharaoh’s daughter, she also knew that there would be no more reason to hide her baby boy. He would now be protected by the Pharaoh’s own family. And Jochebed would be able to love and teach her little Moses for several years to come.
When it came to the greatest challenge of her life, Jochebed had been a real hero. She was able to trust the Lord to care for her little baby, as she ignored the Pharaoh’s order to kill him. Then, when it probably felt like the hardest thing she ever had to do, she placed her baby in what looked like a dangerous place (floating in the Nile River). But in doing that, she was placing him right where God wanted him. And there’s no safer place than that! God gave Jochebed the strength she needed to become a hero for Him.
Jochebed’s little boy grew up to be a great leader of the Israelite nation - rescuing them from slavery in Egypt, and leading them back to the Promised Land in Canaan. Do you think Jochebed knew that she had so much courage in her? That she could live in such faith that she’d be willing to put her son in a basket on a river? She probably would never have considered such a thing. But God will sometimes bring circumstances into our lives to prove that we can completely trust Him. And to show us that we really can find our strength in Him, even when we think we’re at our weakest.
Are you facing any challenges in your life this week? Is there something going on a home, at school, or maybe with your friends that you think you just don’t have enough courage or strength to face? God wants to face it with you. In fact, he wants to show you just how strong He can be for you. So why not ask Him to do that for you… to give you His own strength and let Him work through you, so you can see for yourself that when you are weak, He is strong!
None of us can be heroes on our own. But all of us can be heroes, when we let God work through us!
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the example of Jochebed, and the way You gave her the wisdom and courage she needed to keep her baby alive. Thank You for always being there for us, and showing us that in our times of weakness, You can be our strength, too. For we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Activity: (Review Questions)
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. The Egyptian Pharaoh was concerned by the size and strength of the Hebrews. (true)
2. The midwives were afraid to disobey Pharaoh, and followed his orders. (false – the midwives feared God)
3. When Moses was three months old, Jochebed could no longer hide him. (true)
4. Jochebed turned baby Moses over to the Egyptians. (false – she made an ark and put him in it, on the river)
5. Miriam watched the princess rescue Moses, and offered to find a nurse for him. (true)