Grades 3-6 Lesson 17 for Sunday School:
Moses – An Awesome God Calls a Hesitant Servant
Teacher’s Notes: We have left Moses sitting in the desert with a flock of sheep for two weeks (well, really forty years). Now God’s ready for Moses to make a big move. But is Moses ready?
Last week we learned that sometimes God takes His own, sweet time answering our prayers. We learned that sometimes those answers are just what we were praying for. But that other times, God’s answer may seem very different from what we were expecting.
The Israelites had been praying and begging God to rescue them from a life of slavery. We wondered last week if, perhaps, some Israelites thought that Moses would be the one to rescue them; and if that dream seemed to shatter when Moses ran away into the desert. But after forty years of Moses being gone, and continued slavery and prayer for the Israelites, God was now ready to move! It may have seemed like a long time for them to wait. But God’s timing is always perfect.
Yes, God had a time already set, and a rescuer already in mind. The only problem was that the rescuer was now eighty years old, and perfectly content to stay right where he was…in the desert, with his sheep.
Imagine, with me, that you are enjoying a sunny day of vacation on the shore of a beautiful lake. As you lie there, in the sun, you have nothing to think about except whether you’re going to get sunburned, and what your mom’s going to be fixing for dinner. But then a Coast Guard Captain (that’s what his uniform says) comes up to you, to tell you that there’s a big group of people who are out in the middle of the lake in a boat, and their motor has died. In fact, some of them are from your own family. They have no paddles. And there’s a big storm coming. They need to be rescued…and you’re the one who’s going to rescue them!
What do you think might be going through your mind? How about “why me?” Aren’t there others there, on the beach, who could go? There must be someone else around who wouldn’t mind. For one thing, you don’t have a boat. Even if you did, you don’t know how to drive one. And you don’t even know how to swim if something happens to your boat – the one you don’t even have. In fact, you’re not even sure what the Coast Guard is, so why is this guy telling you that it’s your job to rescue them?
But he insists that he has the authority to tell you to go. He’s going to give you a boat to get out there. And you won’t even have to steer. He’ll take care of all of that for you. You just have to be willing to get into that boat and head out onto the lake toward them.
But the Coast Guard Captain is not going to pick you up and force you in the boat. He’s just standing there, waiting to see what you will do. So…what would you do? Would you jump right up, ready to help? Or would you stay right where you are, on your warm, sunny beach, hoping that someone else will step up and rescue the boatful of frightened people?
In today’s lesson, Moses’ friends and family, the Israelites, are not out in a boat that’s drifting into a storm. But they’re in just as much danger. They’re being badly mistreated by their Egyptian taskmasters. And they’ve been begging for God to help them. So God, in His great love and grace, is going to do just that. He’s going to come to Moses in an awesome, exciting way; and call him to go back to Egypt, to lead the Israelites back to the Promised Land . But Moses isn’t exactly thrilled with the opportunity God presents to him. In fact, he has a list of excuses as long as our reluctant boat-rescuer’s.
Let’s take a look at our memory verse, and then see what God had to say when Moses responded, “Why me?”
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.)
“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” Philippians 1:6
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for the many lessons we can learn through studying the life of Moses, in Your Word. Please help us today, Lord, to learn to recognize Your voice, when You speak to us. And then help us to get rid of the excuses, and just learn to trust that when You call on us to do something for You, that You will always provide a way for us to do it. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: (Moses – An Awesome God Calls a Hesitant Servant)
Last week, we left Moses still shepherding his father-in-law’s sheep in Midian. And that’s right where we’re going to find him again, today…in the desert. Let’s open today’s passage and find out who else is in the desert, looking for Moses.
(Suggested Bible Reading): Exodus 3:1 – 4:18 (you may read the entire passage now, or just refer back to it when suggested in the lesson)
1Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.
2And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
3And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.
4And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.
5And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.
We have an awesome God! And He has many different ways of getting people’s attention. Sometimes He’ll send an angel with a message, like He did for the prophet, Daniel and Jesus’ mother, Mary. Sometimes He’ll come in a vision, like he did for John, when he wrote Revelation. Sometimes He’ll call to us with a “still, small voice” like He did when He spoke to the prophet, Elijah.
But this time, God came to get Moses’ attention with fire in the middle of a bush that didn’t burn. Now it may not have been unusual to see a bush burning in the desert. It is, after all, a very hot and dry place.
Have you ever started a fire, or watched someone else start one? What’s the best kind of material to use at the very bottom of a fire to get it really going? Yes…very dry brush. And once it catches on fire, how long does it last? Not usually very long. It burns up pretty fast.
So to see a dry, desert bush on fire that didn’t burn up…now that was something spectacular! And it certainly got Moses’ attention. But this was no ordinary bush. Moses quickly learned that God, Himself, was there, in the fire. And that meant Moses was on holy ground! How do you think Moses reacted to that news? Sometimes we put so much emphasis on how God is our Heavenly Father and friend that we forget that He is also an Almighty, Holy God!
Verse 6 tells us that when God revealed Himself as “the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” that Moses’ immediate reaction was to “[hide] his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.” Throughout Scripture, when any man comes that close to God, they quickly become aware of how awesome and holy God is, and how lowly and sinful they are. While it’s true that we, as God’s children, are invited to come boldly to His throne of grace, it is also good to remember just what kind of God He really is - full of love and grace…but also righteous and holy.
And what a privilege it was for Moses, to have the very God of the universe come to him, to share His plans for the future! Let’s keep reading to hear what God had to say to Moses:
7And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;
8And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.
9Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.
Yes! This was such good, exciting news for Moses. He knew that the Israelites were in desperate need of deliverance, and God was finally ready to step in and deliver them. He must have felt privileged to be hearing this news directly from God. But he must also have been wondering why God was telling all of this to him. Yes, he was happy for the Israelites…that God was finally going to do something to deliver them. But he must have wondered what in the world it had to do with him. We know this because of his reaction to the next part of God’s message.
Here’s what God said next: “Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:10) What? Did Moses hear that right? Did God just say He was going to send Moses? That’s exactly what He had said. And what do you think was going through Moses’ head right about then? Do you think he was excited about the possibility of going back to Egypt as the big hero who would save the Israelites? Do you think he immediately thought of his family, there, and looked forward to seeing them again?
Unfortunately, verse 11 tells us that those were not the things going through his mind. Instead, Moses replied with something that has probably come out of your mouth and mine on more than one occasion: “why me?” Let’s take a look.
11And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt? This is not an “OK, I’m ready to follow You wherever you lead me, Lord” response. Instead, it’s one of reluctance and fear. And it’s only the beginning of the excuses Moses is going to come up with for why he couldn’t possibly be the one to go lead his people out of Egypt. Now don’t think for a moment that Moses didn’t want them to be rescued. I’m sure that he did. He just didn’t think he was the right one for the job.
But God knew Moses’ heart, and, since He is the Creator, He knew better than anyone exactly what Moses was capable of doing. He had already considered all of Moses’ strengths and weaknesses, and decided that despite those weaknesses, Moses was, indeed, the one He wanted to go back to Egypt and bring His people out.
And God had no intention, whatever, of sending Moses into such a big task without any help. The very next thing God said to Moses, even while the excuses were beginning to form on his tongue, was this: “And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.” (Exodus 3:12) Yes, Moses was only human. And yes, he was already eighty years old. And yes, he was way out in the desert tending sheep. But he was also God’s choice! And God had every intention of helping Moses every step of the way.
So now that Moses had been reassured of God’s presence…even to the point of God promising to send him a sign once he obeyed, do you think Moses is now ready to trust God, and set out for Egypt? I’m afraid that’s not the case at all. In fact, Moses had just begun arguing with God about why he couldn’t possibly do what God was asking. His next issue… “I won’t know what to say.” - “And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?” (Exodus 3:13)
And God responded to Moses with a very direct answer: “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” (Exodus 3:14) This was no gentle answer to Moses. When Jesus said these same words to the men who came to arrest Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, John 18:6 tells us that “they went backward , and fell to the ground.” These were powerful words from a powerful God!
He then went on, in verse 18 to assure Moses that the Israelites will believe him when he gives them God’s message. But Moses almost seemed to not really be listening to God, and also seems to have forgotten his earlier fear and reverence for God, as he moves right on with another excuse. This one is found a few verses later, in Exodus chapter 4. Verse 1 says, “And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee.” Didn’t God just promise Moses, in the last chapter, that the Israelites would believe him? Moses is letting his fear keep him from really listening to and obeying God.
And God is so patient and gracious! He knows that we sometimes need a little extra encouragement. He didn’t scold Moses, or give up on him. Instead, God gave Moses a lesson on the awesome power of Almighty God. Let’s see what God did.
2And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.
3And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it.
4And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand:
5That they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.
6And the LORD said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow.
7And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh.
8And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign.
9And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land.
Wow! Not only did God give Moses a miraculous sign to prove to him and everyone else that it was really God who was sending him…He gave him THREE signs! Surely now Moses would be ready to trust God, pack up his family, and head to Egypt. But guess what he did… yes, came back with another excuse.
10And Moses said unto the LORD, O my LORD, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. Moses was claiming that he’s not a good enough speaker, so he couldn’t possibly be the right choice to go back to Egypt, where he’d have to speak to the Israelite leaders, and the rulers of Egypt.
Have you ever been asked to speak or perhaps sing in front of a group of people? For most of us, that’s not a very easy thing to do. Some of us are shy. Some of us might have a speech impediment, like stuttering. Some of us may have difficulty hearing, which can lead to difficulty speaking, as well. But regardless of our limitations, if God calls us to do something, He promises to help us get through it. That’s what our memory verse for this week is talking about. God has a plan for each one of us. And He has all of the resources we need to follow through with His plan. He just needs our willing obedience. The same was true of Moses. God was calling Him, and promising to help him. But Moses still held back.
Of course we don’t know the mind of God, but if you were to guess what God was thinking right about now, what might it be? Do you think God was getting a little frustrated with Moses’ reluctance? In fact, with this excuse, Moses was not only questioning his own abilities…he was also questioning God’s wisdom in how He chose to make Moses. Listen to God’s response to this latest excuse:
11And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?
12Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.
God reminded Moses that He was the one who had made Moses just the way he was. And with that response, you might think that Moses would realize that he’s has about reached the limits of God’s patience. But believe it or not, he was not finished. He finally came out and said what he’d been wanting to say all along:
13And he said, O my LORD, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send. In other words, Moses was saying, “Please, Lord, send somebody else!”
Now God was angry. He had preserved Moses’ life when he was a baby. Allowed him to grow up in the Egyptian palace, and given him a place of refuge, and a new family in Midian. All along, He had been preparing Moses to lead His people out of Egypt. But Moses was so caught up in the “why not’s” that he just couldn’t see God’s special plan for him. And God had heard enough. Verse 14 of chapter 4 says, “the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses…”
But even in His anger, God was merciful to Moses. And rather than leave him out of the plan, and choose another leader, God gave Moses another option – an option that would take care of Moses’ excuses and get him on the road to Egypt. Let’s finish verse 14, and see what God had planned…
and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart.
15And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do.
16And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God.
17And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs.
God called Moses to join Him in His plan to deliver the Israelite people from Egypt. He promised He would be with Moses all along the way. And now, God had provided for every concern Moses had. He had given Moses a spokesman to help him, and it happened to be his own brother. Now there was just one thing left for Moses to do. Obey! And the final verse of our passage today tells us that this is just what Moses was finally ready to do.
18And Moses went and returned to Jethro his father in law, and said unto him, Let me go, I pray thee, and return unto my brethren which are in Egypt, and see whether they are yet alive. And Jethro said to Moses, Go in peace.
Our awesome God came to Moses in a miraculous way, a fiery bush that did not burn away. And He presented Moses with an awesome task – delivering His people. In his humanness, Moses allowed his own fears to hold him back from accepting God’s invitation. But our awesome God is also a gracious, patient God. He listened to Moses’ fears and concerns, and responded to each one with His wisdom and power. Now Moses was ready to be an obedient follower of God, and a faithful leader of God’s people.
Closing Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for reminding us, today, of how patient and gracious You are. And thank You for including us in Your plans. Help us, Lord, to have our eyes and ears open and ready, in case You should come to call us to serve You, even this week. And if You do call, help us not to be caught up with the “why not’s” and be ready to simply say “show me the way!” Amen.
Class Discussion/ Activity:
Moses was eighty years old when God came to him in the burning bush, and called him to be the one to deliver the Israelites from Egypt. But God doesn’t always call older people. There are many Biblical examples of younger adults who were called by God, too…Jesus’ disciples, many of the prophets, great leaders such as Joshua and Gideon.
But what about you? Are you too young for God to call you to serve Him? The Bible also includes many examples of children who were called by God to do great things. Can anyone name someone from the Bible who God called as a child? (Allow the students to share any names or stories from the Bible that come to mind.) Samuel, the judge who anointed David as King, was called by God as a young child, living in the temple. Josiah was only eight years old when he became the king of Judah. And Joash (or Jehoash) was only seven when he became the king.
God may not call you to be a judge or a king. But He definitely has a plan for your life. Many missionaries and pastors look back to a time when they were teenagers or younger, and remember that they knew, even back then, that God was calling them to serve Him. God may not call you into that type of ministry. But He will call you to do something. Will you find excuses not to follow Him? Or will you put your life in His wise and loving hands. And trust that no matter what He calls you to do, He will be there to help you all along the way. Our verse says that we can be confident that He will complete whatever He begins in us. So let’s decide, even this very day, to put our confidence in God, and listen for His call!
This would be an excellent opportunity to ask your students if they’ve ever sensed God calling them. Perhaps you could have a time of prayer, and let the students indicate to you if they believe God has called them, and if they would like you to pray for their courage to be obedient to follow Him.
When God presents you with a special challenge,
Do reasons not-to-follow fill your head?
Remember He can well-equip a Christian
Who, rather than “I can’t” says “how,” instead.
So step up when you hear The Father calling
For volunteers to follow where He leads.
It isn’t for the biggest, best, and brightest;
But for the willing heart our Father pleads.
Lisa DeVinney, April 2015