Lesson Focus: God delivers the people from suffering.
Big Question: Why doesn’t God fix all the injustice in the world?
Key Words: PLAGUE, PASSOVER, DELIVERANCE
• Moses serves as God’s mediator and the Hebrew people’s enfleshed liberator and leader.
• The fantastic plague narrative shows that the God of the Israelites is sovereign not only over the Hebrew people, but over the Egyptians (i.e., the world) as well.
• Yahweh is a God who rescues, makes relationships, and establishes covenants.
• Yahweh is powerful, and divine power is shown not in domination, as exercised by Pharaoh, but through deliverance.
• God’s purposes continue to be achieved through people—reluctant ones, even!
• God is involved in the sociopolitical world in profound ways.
• The story of the Exodus undergirds everything that comes after it in scripture. From now on, God is known as the creating, redeeming, and sustaining God.
The setting of the Exodus undergirds everything that comes after it in scripture. God’s action in this world to save his people from bondage to slavery becomes the story. God becomes known as the creating, redeeming, and sustaining God. And Moses becomes God’s flesh-and-blood liberator, leader, and lawgiver.
God has already called Moses in the famous scene of the burning bush. His “call narrative” is wonderful on many levels, not the least of which is that he argues and argues and argues with God. And God listens. God responds. There is discussion. The plan is modified somewhat. Finally God says, “Go!” And Moses goes. The divine trait of listening to the people is highlighted throughout this story. It is not only Moses God listens to, but the people in general. “Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them” (Exodus 2:23–25). God is identified as the God who entered into the covenant with their ancestors. This is our clue that the promise of blessing will be furthered yet again.
The plague narrative is always interesting. It is so fantastic and surreal! The point of it is not found in Bible notes or late-night TV documentaries insisting that scientific evidence of natural disasters around this time in history exists. The point is that it is fantastic. This God of the Israelites is sovereign not only over the Hebrew people, but over the Egyptians (i.e., the world) as well. These are not magic tricks Moses brings on in the name of the Lord—Pharaoh’s magicians cannot match them when the ante is upped. This is the power of the one true God. From this story comes the tradition of Passover, with its obvious links in the New Testament. This is the historical background of the celebratory feast that takes place each spring in the homes of our Jewish friends and neighbors. And it is our story too.
God shines from the pages of scripture in this story. As the people begin their wilderness wanderings after their miraculous crossing of the sea, Moses begins to talk with them more about the God who saved them. The themes are unmistakable, and they will continue to be spelled out again and again through the wilderness wanderings. Yahweh is a God who rescues, makes relationships, and establishes covenants. Yahweh is powerful, and divine power is shown not in domination, as exercised by Pharaoh, but through deliverance. God’s purposes continue to be achieved through people—reluctant ones, even! God is involved in the sociopolitical world in profound ways. These are the claims of a rescued people. Though the chosen people do not always confess it—rather, they complain much of the time—the setting of the Exodus undergirds everything that comes after it in scripture. From now on, God is known as the creating, redeeming, and sustaining God.
Why doesn’t God fix all the injustice in the world?
In a world of 24-hour news, adolescents are bombarded with the existence of injustice every day, but many of them feel helpless to do anything about it. This story is about injustice. The Israelites were slaves. God saved the Israelites, so why isn’t God saving all the people around the world who are enslaved by injustice today? This is a tough question that doesn’t have an answer, but it’s important to remember that the Israelites never had it easy. They suffered from their enslavement through their exodus and life in the Promised Land. A quick read through a handful of psalms will show that life with God is not always easy and cheerful. We can’t always see where God is working in our world, but God is there. And God fights through us. Let your group know that they are not helpless and that they, as followers of Christ, can fight injustice just like Moses did.
Welcome and Review
Help kids dive into the Key Words by asking for definitions and/or providing these definitions:
PLAGUE: any large-scale calamity.
PASSOVER: a Jewish festival commemorating the deliverance of their people from slavery in Egypt.
DELIVERANCE: the act of releasing or rescuing.
Option 3: Music Option: Redemption Song
Play the song “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley from Legend: The Best of Bob Marley and the Wailers (Def Jam Records, 1984). Please preview this content to determine its appropriateness for your setting
This song has been covered by artists as varied as Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer, yet Bob Marley’s version remains the best. Marley, a Jamaican with African roots, sings of freedom and redemption. If possible, print out the lyrics for the students to look at while they are listening to the song.
Debrief the song with these questions:
• The writer of this song grew up in Jamaica. He was of mixed race and experienced a great amount of prejudice growing up. Do you think his experiences inspired the writing of this song? Why or why not?
• The song talks of real slavery and mental slavery. What do you think “mental slavery” is? What things do you think enslave people’s minds?
The story of God leading his people out of bondage into the promised land is one of the great stories of the Bible. Christians cannot help but make connections to Jesus leading us out of slavery to sin and death. In response to being rescued, we naturally want to help rescue others. As the students pray, have them think about places in their lives where people are hurting and what they could do to help in God’s work to rescue those in need.
Leader: Rescue those who suffer, O Lord.
Group: Rescue them.
Leader: Rescue those who are afraid, O Lord.
Group: Rescue them.
Leader: Rescue those who are hungry, O Lord.
Group: Rescue them.
Leader: Rescue those who are hurting, O Lord.
Group: Rescue them.
Leader: Make us instruments of your will, O Lord.
Group: Help us to help those who need you.
My Faith Story
Ask kids to respond to the Big Question: Why doesn’t God fix all the injustice in the world?
Then share a part of your own faith story using the suggestion below or another way to share about how you have experienced release from some kind of bondage.
God works through us to combat injustice just as God worked through Moses to combat injustice. Tell about a time when you worked against injustice. What did you do? How did God call you to serve? What was the experience like? How did you feel God’s presence? Help your group understand that when we choose to fight injustice, we are choosing to do God’s work in the world.
Open the Bible
Read Exodus 2:23–24. Make two lists on a whiteboard or chart paper. Title one list “God” and the other “Pharaoh.” As you read today’s story, list the differences between these two leaders. Before you begin reading, write “deliverance” under God’s name and “domination” under Pharaoh’s name. Throughout your reading today, continue to record the characteristics that were unique to each of them.
Exodus 5:1–9: Bricks without Straw. Read this passage together. Then ask your group these questions:
• What did Moses and Aaron ask Pharaoh on behalf of God?
• How did Pharaoh respond?
• What did Pharaoh do to make life even more difficult for the slaves?
Exodus 6:1–9: The Israelites Doubt. Read this passage, then ask your group these questions:
• Why are God’s people getting discouraged?
• How does Moses reassure them?
Lutheran Study Bible page 135: If you don’t have time to read the whole excerpt recounting the plagues (below), have your students take a look at the chart “The Ten Plagues on Egypt” on page 135. Divide the plagues among your group and have individuals or small groups report back on each plague.
Exodus 7:14–12:32: The Plagues. Read through the plagues together. Ask your group these questions:
• Why was Pharaoh so stubborn?
• How did God eventually convince Pharaoh to let the people go?
• What would plagues look like today?
Exodus 12:33–42: Passover. Pass out matzo crackers for the students to eat during the reading of this passage. Jewish people eat matzo as part of their Seder feast on the night of Passover. Explore more about Seder meals and how the Passover is celebrated today. Invite Jewish friends to class or explore printed and online resources.
Exodus 14:21–31: The Red Sea. Read this passage, then ask your group these questions:
• How do the Israelites escape?
• What do you think the celebration was like on the other side of the sea?
• When have you seen this kind of greatness in today’s world?
If you have time, sum up the reading of these passages with these questions:
• What do you think is the most dramatic part of Exodus 5–15?
• What is the weirdest part to you?
• Why do you think this story has been and remains such a source of hope for oppressed people?
Open the Catechism
On a whiteboard or on chart paper write the phrases “Noah and the Flood” and “The Red Sea.” Tell the students that Christians have long connected the stories of Noah and the flood and the people going through the Red Sea with baptism.
Student Book page 305: Invite students to turn to the Sacrament of Holy Baptism and Luther’s explanation. Ask the students how the stories of Noah and the flood and the people going through the Red Sea relate well to the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.
1. The king of Egypt was called . . .
c. Pharaoh. (Correct)
d. late for dinner.
2. A plague . . .
a. causes cavities and gingivitis.
b. is a large-scale calamity. (Correct)
c. is a tiny little problem.
d. is something that brings real estate prices down.
3. The water of what river turned to blood?
b. Nile (Correct)
4. What kind of bread did Moses tell the Israelites to make?
d. unleavened (Correct)
5. This feast is celebrated in remembrance of what God did for Israel in Egypt.
a. Feast of Remembrance.
c. Passover. (Correct)
d. Moses Day.
6. When the people were leaving Egypt, the Lord went in front of them as . . .
a. a star to lead them to Bethlehem.
b. a cloud with a silver lining.
c. a windy day.
d. a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. (Correct)
7. God parted the waters of . . .
a. the Mediterranean Sea.
b. the Red Sea. (Correct)
c. the Sea of Tranquility.
d. the Nile River.
8. God took the people out of Egypt so that they could . . .
a. go to the New World.
b. go to the land of Midian.
c. go to the land of Oz.
d. go to the promised land. (Correct)
Select one of the options below to explore in your small group. Then finish with the Best/Worst activity and prayer.
Option 1: Drama Option: Crossing the Red Sea
The story of God’s people crossing the Red Sea ahead of Pharaoh’s army is a great story to act out. Read Exodus 14 as a group and then work together to act it out. Everyone needs a part. Students can make their own props and makeshift costumes, and assign parts. Emphasize the drama of the waters parting and then covering Pharaoh’s army. Allow enough time to read the story, plan what to do, and then act it out. If appropriate, perform the story for other groups as well.
After reading and acting out the Bible story, ask these questions about the drama and its connection to the lesson’s Bible text:
• What is the coolest part of the story?
• What must this story have meant to Israel during later years when they faced difficult times?
• What can it mean today to people facing difficult times?
Option 2: Music Option: The Promised Land
Play the song “The Promised Land” by Bruce Springsteen from The Essential Bruce Springsteen (Sony Records, 2003). Please preview this content to determine its appropriateness for your setting.
Your students may resonate with Bruce Springsteen’s melancholy song of desperate hope and longing for a promised land. Like a short story or poem, many of Springsteen’s songs are sung from the point of view of some fictional person, a narrator telling their story. The “narrator” of this song feels trapped, in bondage to a life without meaning, and is longing for something more.
After listening to the song, ask these questions about its connection to the lesson’s Bible text:
• The singer feels trapped by his life. How is feeling trapped by a difficult and meaningless life like being in bondage?
• What do you think the promised land looks like to the singer of the song?
• How can we help people find their promised land?
Option 3: Movie Option: Prince of Egypt
Play a scene from the movie The Prince of Egypt (animated, rated PG, 1998). Please preview this content to determine its appropriateness for your setting.
Start cue: 1:22:20. Man blows a ram’s horn.
End cue: Wide shot of people looking back over Red Sea.
This adaptation of the Moses story depicts the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. It is about 6 minutes long but makes quite an impression
After watching the movie clip, ask these questions about its connection to the lesson’s Bible text:
• How does the scene from the movie fit into the way you imagine the scene when you read the Bible?
• What would it have been like to live this story?
• How does God help people in situations like this today?
Best/Worst and Prayer
Go around the group and have each student share the best and worst thing from his or her week. Remind them to pay special attention to (for example) the person on their right, as they will be praying for that person in a moment. Alternate prayer partners from week to week.
Have students get together with a prayer partner. Ask them to share with their partner any particular joys or concerns they may have for the upcoming week. Is there something in particular they would like their partner to pray for? Introduce the prayer and allow them time to pray for their partner either aloud or silently.
Gracious God, you create, sustain, and care for your people. Thank you for all you have given to us. Help us to be your instruments to those in need. (Allow time for partners to pray aloud or silently for each other.) In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Pass out pencils and Student Sheets. Look at the front of the Student Sheet together. Pick a volunteer to read each bullet point aloud for the group. Talk about the points with students.
• What is the most surprising thing on this list?
• What are some connections or similarities between the story of Noah and the story of Moses?
• God acted to help the people of Israel. Where do you think God is acting today?
Turn to this week’s activity called “Moses and Pharaoh Word Scramble.” Let your kids pair up to work through the activity page together. After a few minutes, discuss the answers as a group.
Use the cartoon and questions on the Student Sheet to kick off a conversation.
• Which plague sounds like the grossest to you? Explain.
Have fun with this. Since grossness, like beauty, is probably in the eye of the beholder, let each student explain which one seems the grossest to them. If time permits and they are feeling creative, let them come up with their own list of gross plagues.
• How does God work in the world today to overcome injustice?
As the students discuss this question, remind them that God uses people to help other people. What kind of organizations do the students know about that help feed and clothe people? How do governmental and nongovernmental agencies act to help protect and care for those who are vulnerable and suffering? Do they know what organizations like Bread for the World, Lutheran Social Services, and Lutheran World Relief do?
• Tell about a place in the world today where God is acting to free people from some kind of burden or bondage.
As the students discuss this point, remind them that God is always active in the world on behalf of those who are poor and suffering. Sometimes the way God is active is not readily evident, but we know that he is there and that he cares. Ask the students to consider in what ways God may be using them.
Student Book Connection
Student Book page 43: Continuing the theme of gross, have the students turn to “The Five Grossest Bible Stories.” Let them have fun discussing these stories. One of the misconceptions that people sometimes have about church and people of faith is that we have no sense of humor. Your students, like all adolescents, sometimes love to laugh at gross things. When we let them enjoy themselves and be themselves, adolescents (like adults) learn better and feel more comfortable talking about other things as well. After reading this article together, talk with your group about these questions:
• Which one of the stories do you consider to be the grossest?
• How do these stories compare to the plagues?
• What are some gross plagues that could happen today?
Student Book page 195: Take a look at “How to Work for Peace and Justice on Behalf of People Who Are Poor and Oppressed” together. Focus especially on those things that they could start doing today to help people who are poor and oppressed. Praying and paying attention is the place to start. When we become able to focus on issues beyond ourselves and begin to notice and care about others, we have started the process of truly loving our neighbor as ourselves. After reading this article together, talk with your group about these questions:
• What could you do today to help people who are poor and oppressed?
• Who could you talk to in your congregation to find out what your church is doing to work for peace and justice?
Talk about last week’s Life Connection. Ask your group what they did this week to live out last week’s lesson. What did they learn? What might they do in the future to keep living out that Life Connection?
Today’s Life Connection continues last week’s. Encourage the students to continue finding out what members of their congregation are already doing to help those who are suffering or who need to be freed from some kind of bondage. Your students may not be fully aware of all the ways your congregation supports local and global missions, food pantries, soup kitchens, family crisis centers, and the like. When local congregations support larger organizations like Lutheran Social Services, Lutheran World Relief, and Bread for the World, they are fulfilling the mission of Christ to care for the poor. Encourage the students to find out how they can do even more to support the ministries that are already happening in your congregation.
Kids this age have lots of questions about right and wrong, stories in the Bible, and faith and life. Provide time for them to ask questions. Remember, there isn’t always a right answer, but encouraging discussion is great! Questions help kids explore their faith. Help them explore on their path to confirmation.
After their questions, ask one or more of the following questions to connect your conversations with the Lesson Focus:
• Where have you seen with your own eyes that God cares about people who are suffering and is working through people to help them?
• Why does prayer help people who are suffering? Why does it help us?
• How would you explain to someone who is not a Christian why taking care of others is so important?
• What are you going to do to combat injustice in the world?
The Song of Moses and the Song of Miriam in Exodus 15 celebrate God rescuing God’s people. Tell the students that today’s Closing Prayer will be a celebration prayer of what God has done in their lives. Ask them to take a minute to think of the good things that God has done in their lives.
Leader: Lord, you rescued your people Israel and led them through the Red Sea.
Group: Lord, you rescued us from sin and death and led us through the waters of baptism.
Leader: You sent Moses to lead the people of slavery.
Group: You sent your Son to lead us out of sin.
Leader: For all you have done we thanks you. (Allow time for class petitions.)
Group: Thank you, Lord.
Before students depart, offer the following blessing to each one, or ask small group leaders to give this blessing to each one in the group. Leaders trace the cross on each student’s forehead as they say the blessing.
Go forth in the freedom of Christ and proclaim the good news. In the name of the Father+, and the Son+, and the Holy Spirit+. Amen.