Grades 3-6 Lesson for Sunday School:
Moses: Taking a Stand
A note from the author: Last week we began a new series on the life of Moses. We met his ancestors, his Egyptian ruler, his parents, his adoptive mother, and the baby Moses, himself. This week we’ll be fast-forwarding to when Moses is a grown man, living in the home of the Egyptian Pharaoh. And we’ll see that the time has come for Moses to choose whose side he’s going to be on.
Last week, baby Moses was rescued from the Nile River by someone very special. Does anyone recall who found him, and chose to keep him? Yes, it was Pharaoh’s own daughter. She would have known, very well, what was supposed to be done with him. He should have been thrown to the crocodiles. But last week’s passage told us that she had compassion, and chose to keep him as her own son. And when she realized she would need help to care for Moses, who did she get to help her? It was Moses’ own mother. So Moses’ life was spared, and he was able to stay in his own family for several years.
But the time came when Moses’ mother knew he was old enough to go live with the princess. Do you think it was very hard for Moses’ mother to give him up? Have you ever had to give up something that meant a lot to you? (Allow the students to share if they would like.) Most of us will never be asked to give up something like our own child. It must surely have been one of the hardest things she ever had to do. She must have trusted God a great deal, to be able to follow through on her promise to bring him to the palace when it was time. And then know that he might grow up believing he was Egyptian.
But the Bible tells us that when Moses grew up, he knew that he had been born into a Hebrew family. And for Moses, that meant he had a tough decision to make: would he live a life of privilege and ease, as an Egyptian? Or would he choose, instead, to go back to his Hebrew heritage? Our lesson, today, will be looking at the tough choices that were placed before Moses.
Have you ever had to make tough choices, because of who you are? Especially if you’re a Christian? Let’s look at a few possible choices each of us might be faced with, even this week:
Imagine you are at a party at a friend’s house, and everyone’s going to play a game that you know your mom and dad would not want you to participate in (perhaps something involving ghosts or witchcraft). What are your choices? And which one(s) would make your Heavenly Father happy? (let the students make suggestions, then fill in one’s they may have missed)
Now, which do you think would make God happy? What might the consequences be of following that plan? Do you think it would be worth the consequences, to do what makes God happy? You might need to find different friends, altogether.
Here’s another choice you might face: Imagine you see a Christian friend being picked on by a group of non-Christians. What might your choices be?
What might be the consequences of following the last plan? This situation is not much different from one Moses found himself in. Let’s take a look at today’s lesson, to see what happened to Moses, and what he chose to do.
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.)
“… choose you this day whom ye will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15b
Opening prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And bless each one for the choice they’ve made to be here to hear your Word. Help us, now, as we look again at the example of Moses, to have our hearts open to Your message for us, today. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: Exodus 2:11-22, Hebrews 11:24-27 - Taking a Stand
Moses is now a grown man. As promised, his mother had taken him to live with Pharaoh’s daughter when he was very young, since the princess had rescued him from death in the Nile River. But the first verse of today’s passage tells us that when Moses was grown, he knew he was not Egyptian. Let’s look at a few verses, together.
Exodus 2:11 “And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens…’ And then, we find this verse in the book of Hebrews: “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;” (Hebrews 11:24)
From these verses, it’s clear that Moses knew he was Hebrew. And that he considered the rest of the Hebrew people to be his brothers and sisters. The Bible doesn’t tell us if he always knew he’d been adopted by the Egyptian princess, or if he found out later, as he was growing up. But by the time we catch up with Moses in Exodus chapter 2, we see that he understood that there would probably come a time when he would have to choose between two very different cultures. A passage in the book of Hebrews makes his dilemma very clear. It picks up with the verse we looked at just a moment ago: “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt...” (Hebrews 11:24-26)
Who would like to describe for our class what it sounds like life would have been like for the Hebrew people, at that time? (Allow the students to respond first.)
Now, what would it be like to grow up in the palace of the Egyptian Pharaoh? (Again, allow the students to respond, first.)
Do you think it would be possible for Moses to be both Hebrew and Egyptian: to enjoy all the benefits that Egypt had to offer him, but at the same time be true to his Hebrew heritage? Listen to Moses’ assessment of what it would mean for him to take part in the Egyptian culture: it would mean that he would “…enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” (Hebrews 11:25) If living as an Egyptian meant enjoying sin, and living as a Hebrew meant following God, then there is no way Moses could do both at the same time. He had to choose.
Let’s take a look, again, at our memory verse for this week, because it’s exactly what Moses might have thought as he made one of the most important, most difficult choices of his life: “… choose you this day whom ye will serve…” Joshua 24:15b. Exodus 2:11 tells us “… when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens…” So try to picture the scene with me. Perhaps Moses is standing out on a palace balcony, where he can see his Hebrew brothers and sisters struggling with their work in the hot afternoon sun. Then, he turns around to look at the beauty of the palace. He can see the servants waiting there to bring him whatever he wishes. There is probably food and drink, as much as he wants, just sitting there on a table, within his reach. And there are lovely Egyptian women who would love the chance to marry such an important man.
Just then, as Moses is contemplating what he should do, he happens to look out to where the Hebrew slaves are working. And Exodus 2:11 tells us that Moses “spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren.” And in his heart, Moses knew that the time had come for him to choose: Egyptian or Hebrew. We can find his decision in our passage in Hebrews: it says, “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king “ (Hebrews 11:25-27) Moses could have said these very words we find in our memory verse: “but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” He decided then and there that his loyalty was to God and His chosen people, Moses’ people – the Hebrews.
Now, while I’d like to be able to say that from here on, Moses became a great leader of the Hebrew people, unfortunately that’s not quite the way it happened. God will eventually call him to do just that. And we’ll be learning about that in future lessons. But at this point in his life, Moses got a little ahead of God’s plan and took matters into his own hands. Let’s read on in our passage in Exodus to find out what Moses did, as a result of the choice he made. Remember that Moses had just witnessed an act of cruelty. He saw an Egyptian hitting one of the Hebrew slaves. So here’s what he did: “…he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.” (Exodus 2:12) Moses decided for himself what should be done to the Egyptian, and punished him with death! Does that sound like a solution God would be pleased with? God’s Word says, “Thou shalt not kill.” So we can be sure that Moses solution was a sinful solution.
And what about his thinking that no one saw what he did? Numbers 32:23 says this: “behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.” That is exactly what happened! Moses’ action did not go unseen. And it had consequences. Let’s read on: “And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow? And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known. Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.” (Exodus 2:13-15) Moses’ murdering the Egyptian had, indeed, been seen. And in just a matter of days, Pharaoh, himself, heard about what had happened; and was not going to let Moses go unpunished. Moses’ only option now was to run away from Egypt.
Do you think that perhaps Moses must have been terrible confused by all that had happened? He had just made the biggest, hardest decision of his life; and had given up all his privileges as an Egyptian to identify with his Hebrew brothers, and their God. But his choice of action had been all wrong. And instead of being the rescuer of the Hebrew people, he was now a fugitive in the wilderness.
But God was not finished with Moses. In fact, He was just beginning to shape him into the leader He wanted Moses to be. So before we close this lesson, we’re going to see one more opportunity for Moses to make a choice, and take a stand. And this time, Moses is going to do the right thing. “Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father's flock. And the shepherds came and drove them away: but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.” (Exodus 2:16-17)
Here we are again, with Moses finding a group of people in distress. And again he has a choice to make. He could just assume that this is the way things were done in Midian. Or, he could decide that, as a godly man, it was his responsibility to help the women who were being taken advantage of by the shepherds. Now, the Bible doesn’t tell us exactly how Moses was able to persuade the shepherds to let the women water their sheep. It only says that “Moses stood up and helped them.” We’ll see, in a few more verses, that Moses must have still been dressed like an Egyptian prince, since the women at the well went home and told their father that an Egyptian had helped them. No doubt, Moses would have looked like a very important man. And whether it was because of that, or perhaps that he sounded intimidating as he spoke to the them, Moses was able to help the women water their flock. This time, Moses took a stand for what was right AND did the right thing to help in the situation.
And as a result, Moses gained a new family. Let’s finish reading today’s passage and see what became of Moses in Midian. “And when they came to Reuel their father, he said, How is it that ye are come so soon to day? And they said, An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and also drew water enough for us, and watered the flock. And he said unto his daughters, And where is he? why is it that ye have left the man? call him, that he may eat bread. And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.” (Exodus 2:18-22) Moses stood up for what was right in Egypt, but handled the situation badly. And that cost him his family, as he was forced to run away from Egypt. But when he came to Midian, Moses was again faced with a choice, stood up for what was right, and did the right thing to help. And in doing so, Moses found a new family. In fact, the Midianites were also descendants of Abraham (as Moses was, but through Abraham’s different wives). So they were almost like family, anyway. But to gain a wife and children through all this was, for Moses, an added blessing.
Now, Moses is becoming the kind of leader that God can one day use to lead His chosen people out of slavery in Egypt. But it won’t happen right away. Moses still has a few more lessons to learn, first. And we’ll look forward to hearing about those in the weeks ahead.
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for sharing the story of your servant, Moses, with us. Thank You for his example of choosing to stand for you, and then doing the right thing when it came to taking action. Thank You, too, for including the parts where Moses didn’t exactly follow Your path, because that encourages us not to give up on ourselves when we let You or others down. It reminds us to just do it right the next time. And that You’ll still be there ready to bless us as we obey Your will. Help us, this week to be willing to take a stand, if a choice has to be made – whether or not to stand for You. Give us the courage we need, Lord, and then the wisdom to do the right thing, too. Amen.
Class Discussion/ Activity:
Can anyone think of another person (or people) from the Bible who were faced with tough decisions and chose to stand for God? (Allow the students to share examples that come to mind. And if time permits, briefly tell the story of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as they chose not to eat the Babylonian king’s food – found in Daniel chapter 1. You can also use the story of Joseph’s choosing to get away from Potiphar’s wife, rather than giving in to temptation – Genesis 39.)
At the beginning of our lesson, we discussed some situations we might find ourselves in, where we might have to make choices that would or would not be pleasing to God. Let’s go back and look at our second example again, and consider how it applies to what happened with Moses in Midian…
Imagine you see a Christian friend being picked on by a group of non-Christians. Moses saw an group of shepherds chasing women away from a well where they were trying to water their flock. What might your choices be? Did Moses have those same choices?
I want to encourage each of you this week to be willing to choose God’s side, and stand up for what’s right. It often means you will be ridiculed and maybe picked on, yourself. But that is what Moses learned he needed to do. And that is what God would have us do. “Choose you this day whom ye will serve!”
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.
Devotional Poem: This week’s poem is the third verse of a hymn. If you know it, you can sing it!
Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus
by George Duffield, Jr
Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
Stand in His strength alone;
The arm of flesh will fail you –
Ye dare not trust your own;
Put on the gospel armor,
Each piece put on with prayer;
Where duty calls, or danger,
Be never wanting there.
Lisa DeVinney, August 2014