The Main Idea
After many blessings and curses in his life the whole family of Joseph and his brothers are living comfortably in Egypt. But in Chapter 4 the tide changes and the Egyptians, fearful of the success of the people of Israel, devise many ways to oppress them. The rest of Chapter 4 is God’s deliverance of the people of Israel from the hands of the Egyptians and the beginning of their journey to the land that God had promised Abraham in Chapter 2.
Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)
Q1: Have you ever had an experience where you ended up somewhere where the Pharaoh was different and you had to start all over again gaining a reputation? This could be school, work, or a group you are a part of. Tell that story.
Q2: Have you ever been to a desert? Talk about the experience and then speculate what it would be like to wander for 40 years in that desert.
Q3: Sometimes we have to prepare a long time before we can do a job or a task. Do you have a story like that, where you had to prepare for years (or decades) before your job became clear and you could finally begin to do it?
Dig a Little Deeper
The central characters in chapter 4 are Moses, Pharaoh, and God. In the chapter we see the people of Israel thriving in an oppressive environment at the hand of a Pharaoh—perhaps more than one over many decades—who does not know what great things God, though Joseph, had done for Egypt. To relieve the oppression God raises up Moses who leads the people of Israel out of Egypt, but not before God shows his power to the Pharaoh and establishes who is really in charge.
Act 1: The Egyptian Oppression (pp. 43-44)
“Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt.”
Chapter 4 begins with the generation of Joseph dying out leaving a million (or so) descendants of Israel—by the end of the chapter, anyway—and a ruler in the land of Egypt who did not know Jospeh and felt no obligation to his family. Fearing that this crowd of foreigners in their land would somehow rise up against them, and seeing the opportunity for hands to do work, the Egyptians began to oppress the people of Israel and force them into labour.
Act 2: We Meet Moses (pp. 44-45)
“[Pharaoh’s daughter] named [the baby] Moses, saying, ‘I drew him out of the water.’”
Despite a command to kill all the Israelite baby boys in Egypt, the people continued to flourish. And out of that circumstance a leader was raised up. Because of the danger, Moses’ mother placed him in a pond, and because of that pond he was discovered by the daughter of the King of Egypt, and because of that discovery Moses was raised in the court of the King of Egypt, and because of that upbringing he was uniquely suited to be the one who stood between God and the Pharaoh to negotiate the release of the people of Israel.
Act 3: The Calling of Moses (pp. 45-47)
“The LORD said, ‘… And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.’”
Moses was a reluctant servant. Despite meeting with God face to face he doubted his own ability to carry out God’s plan. But, in the end, accompanied by is brother Aaron, Moses returned to Egypt to convince the Pharaoh to let the people of God leave the land of Egypt.
Act 4: The Plagues and Escape from Egypt (pp. 47-55)
“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: because of my mighty hand he will let [my people] go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.’”
Getting out of Egypt was not easy. Moses negotiated with Pharaoh on behalf of God. Reluctance turned into staunch stubbornness as God rained plague after plague on the land, livestock, and people of Egypt. Finally, with the killing of the firstborn of each family, the pain was too much too bear and the Pharaoh send the people of Israel out of the country. Even after that, the Pharaoh changed his mind and it took killing much of his army in the Red Sea for him to finally turn back and leave the people of Israel alone.
Act 5: Wandering in the Wilderness Begins (pp. 55-57)
“The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded.”
Escape from Egypt was not the end of the problems that the people of Israel had, in fact, it was only the beginning. But from the start of their long, and often pointless, journey in the wilderness, God established that he would care for them, providing water and food for their daily needs.
Looking back at the story, the theme of the greatness of God and his deliverance is clear. The people of Israel were in bondage to Egypt and God, through the obedience of his servants and through mighty acts of power, allowed them to leave their oppressors. The remembrance of this time and its reenactment throughout the centuries that followed has become the Jewish celebration of Passover. Here are some things to discuss:
The Jews had quite a number of festivals where they remembered significant times in their lives with God.
Q1: Why do you think it was (and continues to be) so important to the Jews to remember the Passover?
It is no coincidence that when Jesus celebrated with his disciples the first Lord’s Supper (Eucharist) it was held on the Passover. And the church has replaced Passover celebration with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
Q2: What is the importance of remembrance in the lives of the followers of Jesus of the Lord’s Supper?
Celebrations were not just about remembering. The physical symbols, the actions, the reciting of specific words, these are all designed to bring people into the moment of the first event.
Some churches practice yearly Seder celebrations: this is the modern Passover. While most followers of Jesus have never been to a Seder, most of us have experienced a celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
Q3: How does re-enacting an event differ from simply talking about it?
The theme of deliverance is ongoing in the lives of the followers of Jesus. First, we think of our initial deliverance from Sin: the power of the world over us and the release that comes as we begin to follow Jesus. But, second, there is also the deliverance that comes to us day to day as we live our lives and we overcome, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the constant pull of sin in the world and in our own bodies and minds.
Q1: What parallels to your own life do you see in the story of the deliverance of the people of Israel, as found in Chapter 4 of The Story? Share those stories with your group.
Struggling with temptation is not sin. Satan would have us believe that because we are tempted by certain things we are, therefore, sinful, but that is not true. For all of us we struggle with certain sins, some for only a time, others for all of our lives. Our thought must always be to the forgiveness that Jesus has given to us and the power that the Holy Spirit provides to overcome those temptations before we give in to them and sin.
Q2: What temptations do you struggle with? What do you need deliverance from?
Pray specifically for each other for those temptations and struggles that are mentioned. Rather than simply praying out in a circle do something new this week in your prayer time. For each member of your group, form a circle, put your hands on him or her, and pray specifically for strength to overcome the sin and to break its power in his or her life.