Grades 3-6 Lesson for Sunday School:
Moses: Parting of the Red Sea
Teacher’s Notes: Last week we learned about the Jewish Feast of Passover, and how it commemorates the night that Pharaoh finally let the Israelites leave Egypt. In fact, he practically chased them out. But this week we’re going to find that this stubborn man changes his mind, one last time. And one last time, God is ready, with another mighty miracle, to close the book on Pharaoh, forever.
Perhaps you were thinking that last week was the last we’d hear from Egypt’s stubborn Pharaoh. But if that’s what you are thinking, then it’s time to think again. Do you remember how he kept changing his mind after God removed each plague? He’d promise to let them go, but once the danger was removed, he’d go back on his word. Well, that’s just what’s going to happen, again.
And when Pharaoh comes looking for them, the Israelites are going to find themselves trapped! Would you like to guess how they’re going to respond to this new predicament? Remember, they have just seen God’s mighty hand at work through ten powerful plagues that were brought on Egypt. Let’s see how many of those plagues we can name: water turned to blood, frogs, lice, flies, disease in livestock, boils, hail and fire storm, locusts, darkness, and the death of the firstborn.
The Israelites have just seen, first-hand, the awesome power of the God who has chosen them to be His people. And He has provided them with a leader, to guide them to the Promised Land. But the first hardship is upon them. Have any of you had to face any difficulties this week? They may not be as big as what the Israelites are going to face, but we all face tough situations each week. And every time we do, we make a choice about how we’re going to respond. Would anyone like to share something that happened to them this week? (Allow the children to share their experiences. And encourage them to share how they responded. If they can’t think of any examples, please share one of your own). Then mention these possible responses:
There are lots of ways we might respond when something bad happens. What are some of the ways that you responded? And what others can you think of?
I’d like to tell you that because of what they’d just been through, the Israelites chose our third response, and trusted that God would be able and ready to deliver them. But that’s not quite the way it happened. They did not have the words of today’s memory verse in their hearts.
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.)
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
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 have ears ready to listen and hearts ready to learn about You. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: (Moses: Parting of the Red Sea from Exodus 13-14)
Last week, we ended our lesson with the Israelites leaving Egypt in a hurry, as Pharaoh was furious, and deeply saddened by the deaths of all of the firstborn sons in Egypt. Do you remember these verses from Exodus 12?
31And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as ye have said.
32Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also.
33And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.
Pharaoh had finally bowed his knee to God Almighty, and agreed to let the Israelites go. And the Israelites had wasted no time getting out. They had eaten their Passover meal with their traveling clothes on their backs, and their shoes on their feet. So the moment Pharaoh gave the word, they were ready to go.
Have you ever had to eat a meal with your shoes and coat on, because you had someplace to go as soon as you were finished eating? It’s not a very comfortable way to eat. You can be sure that each of them was very aware that something special, and very exciting was about to happen.
And now the Israelites were on their way out of Egypt. Exodus 13:37-38 tells us that there were “…about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children. And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.” That’s a really big group of people and animals. So if you had pictured a quick escape, that’s probably not the way it went. They would have had to move slowly enough for the youngest children, the oldest adults, and the slowest animals to keep up.
And the land they had to cross wouldn’t have made for quick travel, either. There were no paved roads. So they would likely have been walking through desert sand. And for any of you who’ve ever walked along a sandy beach, you’ll know that is no easy task. But God did provide them with another great miracle, to make their travel a little easier. Listen to what we find in Exodus 13:21-22:
21And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:
22He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.
So God gave the Israelites two clear signs that they could always see, to guide them. But in addition to being guides, these pillars also would have offered the Israelites protection from the harsh desert climate. Does anyone know what it’s like in the desert during the afternoon, and in the middle of the night? (Allow the children to answer, first.) In the afternoon, the sun beats down harshly, and the temperatures get very hot! But Psalm 105:39 tells us that “He spread a cloud for a covering…” In other words, the pillar of cloud during the day provided the Israelites with shade from the harsh afternoon sun. Then at night, the desert can be very cold. What better way to keep warm than to have a great fire with you all the time. God certainly provided for the needs of His people.
This can be a great lesson for all of us: that if God asks us to do something, He will always provide whatever we need to make it happen. Now that doesn’t mean He’ll give us whatever we want. God knows that we don’t always make the best choices for ourselves. But His Word does say, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19) We can be sure that our Heavenly Father is always concerned about meeting our needs.
So I’d like to be able to say that when the next test came for the Israelites, they were ready to follow that third response that we talked about earlier, trusting God to provide for them. After all, He hadn’t let them down, yet. But let’s read on and see what new trouble is chasing the Israelites, literally.
5And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?
Had Pharaoh forgotten so soon what happened to the Egyptians when he went back on his word? Had they all already forgotten the anguish they were in not long ago, as they buried all those who died in the final plague? Apparently their desire for a life of ease was stronger than their memories of the past few painful days. So they wanted their slaves back.
6And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him:
7And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them.
8And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.
9But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baalzephon.
Can you imagine what the Israelites must have been thinking at that point? Pharaoh just wouldn’t give up! And not only was he chasing after them, he had them penned in. Verse 3 tells us that Pharaoh’s assessment of their situation was that “…they are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.” And now, the Israelites had the Egyptian army behind them, and the Red Sea in front of them. For many, this situation would have seemed hopeless. But what about to a nation of people chosen by God? And this was a God who had just proven Himself worthy of their worship and faith. Unfortunately, that is not the way they chose to respond.
Think back to the options we talked about before, when something bad happens. Do you remember what the second one was? The second possible response is to become angry, and find someone to blame. And this response was to become a habit for the Israelites, as we’ll see in the coming weeks. Let’s take a look at their response, as they saw Pharaoh’s army quickly approaching.
10And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD.
11And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?
12Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.
What were the Israelites saying? (Allow the students to try to summarize what you’ve read.) In their state of panic at seeing the Egyptians surrounding them, the Israelites turned against Moses, and began to blame him for the predicament they were now in. They did not stop to consider the mighty miracles God had performed for them in Egypt. Nor did they just look up, and see the very protection God had put right there in the sky. Instead, they looked inside their own hearts. And unfortunately, what most of them found there was fear.
And does anyone remember reading or hearing about any earlier passages where the Israelites told Moses they just wanted to stay in Egypt, and keep being slaves? You won’t find any verses like that in the Bible. Fear was taking control of their hearts and minds. And the Israelites weren’t even thinking clearly. Now they are the ones who seem to have forgotten the recent past, and all the suffering they had just been delivered from.
But God is so good, and patient with His people. And Moses was patient, as well. “…Fear ye not,” Moses said. “Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:13-14) And sure enough, once again, God had a miraculous plan in mind to rescue the Israelites. All they had to do was stand back, and watch God do the work.
15And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:
16But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.
17And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
18And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
19And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them:
20And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night.
Once again God allowed a difficult situation to fall on the Israelites. But once again, He also provided a way for them to escape. And as was true on the night that the death angel passed over, the Israelites needed to follow God’s instructions in order to escape. This time the instructions were clear and simple: they needed to “go forward.” (verse 15) If they chose to just shrink back in fear, they would certainly be overtaken by the Egyptians, and marched right back to Egypt to become slaves, again. But God said they were to “go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.” (verse 16)
Now many of you may already be familiar with the rest of the story. It is probably the most often told story of the life of Moses. But it’s just so amazing, that the story never gets old. Let’s listen to exactly what the LORD did to provide an escape route for His people. Picture with me somewhere near one million people perhaps pushed right up to the edge of the Red Sea. The lights from the Egyptian army’s torches dancing in the distance; the thunder of their horses and chariots getting closer and closer. Perhaps they could even hear the cries of the army as they came within sight of the people. Then…
21Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
22And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
Do you think you could have been the first person to take a step into that dry sea-bed? And do you think they expected to sink down into sticky, wet sand as they walked in? Then, what about the walls of water on either side as they walked through…do you think they could see the fish swimming to the edge of the wall? Do you think you’d have been tempted to hold out your arm, and run your hand through the water as you walked by?
Details like these are not recorded for us. What we do know, however, is that the entire nation of Israel obeyed the directions that God had given to Moses. They began the process of moving all those people, and all those animals between the walls of water, to the other side of the Red Sea. We don’t know whether or not the Egyptians witnessed the parting of the Sea. But we do know that they certainly took notice of their slaves getting away.
23And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.
So here they came with their mighty horses and chariots, following the footsteps of the Israelites into the bed of the Red Sea. And this move did not escape God’s attention.
24And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians,
25And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the LORD fighteth for them against the Egyptians.
The Egyptians have now had a lot of experience with this God of the Israelites. And none of it had been good. So it didn’t take them long to realize Who was behind the sabotage to their chariots. They correctly guessed that they were now in deep trouble. But just how deep, they probably had no idea!
26And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.
27And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.
28And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.
29But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
30Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.
Yes, God was in control. It may have looked for awhile like He’d forgotten about the Israelites, and had left them in the trap of the Egyptians. But God had a reason for once again taking His people through a great challenge. And we see that reason in the final verse of chapter 14:
31And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses.
God meant for this experience to be a faith-building lesson for the Israelites. He brought them to a place where only He could rescue them, then did so in a truly miraculous way. God wanted there to be absolutely no doubt in the minds of the Israelites as to Who the true and living God really is.
And did you know that God does the same thing with us, today? He may not part a sea, or destroy an enemy army for us. But each day He provides just what we need, when we need it. He is never too late, either. God always works in His own timing. And we can be sure that He is always keeping an eye on our greatest enemy, Satan; and is fighting our battles with him every day.
And please don’t fail to notice what happened to the army that was not on God’s side. They did not have His protection from the walls of the sea. And when it came time for God to remove His hands that held that water back, the entire enemy army was destroyed. Along with that, there is one more thought you must consider, today. You may not believe that you are God’s enemy, like Pharaoh and the Egyptian army. But did you know that Jesus said, “He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.” (Luke 11:23) Those are some pretty serious words. They are a strong reminder that if we haven’t chosen to follow Jesus, then it’s not like we’re just undecided about who to follow. We have, in fact, chosen to follow Satan. That was true of the Egyptian army. And it’s just as true for us today.
So I would challenge you to consider which side you’ve chosen. And remember, from our lesson, how God wants to rescue His own people. But He’s also ready to punish those who come against Him and His plan. If you haven’t carefully considered which side you’re on, why not make that choice today! And choose The LORD, who will always fight on your side, and provide you with a way to escape when tough times come.
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, this is a serious matter we’ve talked about today. And for the Egyptian army, it meant life or death. If there’s anyone here today who needs to make that choice - to claim Your Son as their Passover sacrifice, as we learned last week, to apply His blood to their lives, and put them on the right side…Your side – help them, Lord, to have the courage today to take a stand, and choose You! Amen.
Class Discussion/ Activity:
Have the class discuss the following Fill In the Blank and True or False questions to review today’s lesson.
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. Pharaoh was sorry that he had let the Israelites leave. (true)
2. When the Israelites saw the Egyptian army coming, they knelt down to pray because they trusted God to deliver them. (false – they were afraid and complained to Moses, saying they wished they had stayed in Egypt.)
3. The Israelites had a difficult time moving through the wet sand between the walls of water. (false – The Israelites went through on dry ground.)
4. Pharaoh’s army realized they were in trouble when the wheels of their chariots started to come off. (true)
5. Some of the Egyptian army swam to safety after the water came back down. (false – according to Exodus 14:28, “there remained not so much as one of them.”)
God parted the Red Sea for the Israelites. But He parted it for us, too. He wanted all of us, down through history, to remember this story and see that He is a God worthy of our worship and trust. That’s why he had Moses record the story in the book of Exodus. And that’s why He has you here, today. So that you will carefully and prayerfully consider whether or not you’ve chosen Him to be your one and only God. Joshua put it this way in Joshua 24:15, “…choose you this day whom ye will serve…” Can you answer with him, “as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”?
God’s people were hemmed in on every side.
They saw no place of refuge they could hide.
But God sent out a mighty wind that blew,
And split the daunting Red Sea right in two.
And there, God’s people walked through on dry land.
But Pharaoh’s wheels came off there, in the sand.
And as the waters fell back into place,
The army knew they’d overstepped God’s grace.
Then with a mighty rush, they lived no more.
But Israel was safely on the shore,
Where they rejoiced to see God’s mighty hand,
As they set out, to find the Promised Land.
Lisa DeVinney, May 2015