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In Our Ward: Lesson 13: Bondage, Passover, and Exodus

By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 18, 2010

Today’s Sunday School lesson, as taught in our ward:

Lesson 13: Bondage, Passover, and Exodus

Exodus 1-3; 5-6; 11-14
Matthew 26: 19, 26-28

Purpose

To encourage class members to (1) trust the Lord to fulfill his promises, (2) increase their appreciation for the Savior’s atoning sacrifice, and (3) make the sacrament more meaningful in their lives.

LESSON DEVELOPMENT

Attention Activity

[Before class, write “Remember” on white board.]

To begin with today, I ask that you bring to mind the face of someone you loved in the past who has now passed away, or to picture in your mind a significant moment from your past.

Even if some of the details have blurred, why are you able to picture this person or moment as clearly as you do?

As you live your normal life, month to month, year to year, is it that brings these memories to the surface again from time to time?

(Among possible answers, elicit and emphasize physical reminders – photos, smells, sounds – and recurring events – calendar anniversaries, holidays.)

This will be more effective, I think, if I do not show objects of my own but allow each person to keep his own memories at the forefront.

I love the stories of people, whether from my own past or from the distant past of the scriptures. For me, without stories, the doctrines of the gospel would be lifeless catalogues of rules and data. I might understand and even appreciate them with my mind, but it is only when I see how God has worked in the lives of real people that I am moved to act on gospel principles. Today we are going to discuss a key gospel doctrine by looking at how the Lord taught the principle to the ancient Israelites, how they remembered it throughout their existence as a people, and how we remember it in our own lives.

Scripture Discussion and Application

1. The Lord calls Moses to deliver Israel from bondage.
2. The Lord sends plagues upon Egypt.
3. The Lord instructs Moses in the preparation of the Passover.
4. The children of Israel cross the Red Sea.

We have seen how the sons of Jacob and their families prospered despite adversities: Joseph was sold as a slave, yet his days as a prisoner in Egypt led to his becoming a mighty man there. A famine made life next to impossible in most places of the ancient world, yet it caused Jacob and the rest of his family to go to Egypt, where they were reunited with Joseph and survived because of the food Joseph had caused to be stored there.

Egypt was not the land that the Lord had promised to Abraham, yet it served as a sort of nursery for the for the future people and nation of Israel. For the 430 years that the Israelites lived in Egypt, they multiplied from 70 souls (Gen. 46:26-27) to many, many thousands. There must have been some intermarriage between Israelite and Egyptian – Joseph himself married the daughter of an Egyptian priest – yet somehow the people of Israel managed to remain a separate and distinct people. We may not know enough to be certain, but how do you suppose they managed to retain their separate identity despite living in the midst of another people?

(Possible suggestions: They remembered the promises made to Abraham and taught them to their children; after the rise of the “Pharaoh who knew not Joseph,” the conditions of slavery may have set them apart.)

The Israelites lived in Egypt for more than 400 years without any prospect for a change in the condition of their lives. Modern scripture tells us that the name and calling of Moses, their deliverer, was known as early as the time of Joseph (JST Gen. 50; 2 Nephi 3), but they didn’t know when he would come, and could only look forward to the time he would come.

Just at the moment of Moses’s birth, a new and cruel hardship was placed on the enslaved Israelites. Probably in part to control the number of Israelite men who might wage war against their Egyptian captors, and perhaps in part to destroy the cohesiveness of the Israelites as a people – because ancient cultures generally traced ancestry only through the male line – the Pharaoh decreed that the midwives who tended Hebrew births must kill all Hebrew boys at birth. We know that was a sudden decree, because Aaron was only three years older than Moses, and there was apparently no threat to his life.

What other scriptural figure can you think of whose life was threatened as an infant when all Israelite boys up to two years of age were slaughtered?

Moses’s infant life was spared – no doubt chiefly because the Lord protected him, but also through the practical efforts of a remarkable group of women. First there were the midwives Puah and Shiphah, who were the officers charged with killing Moses, but who, at the peril of their own lives, did not. There was Moses’s mother Jochobed who, when she could no longer conceal the growing baby, devised the plan of hiding him among the bulrushes of the river. There was Moses’s sister Miriam, only about 7 years old, who played on the river bank keeping a watchful eye over her little brother. There was the Pharoah’s daughter, whose name is unknown, who took compassion on the baby when she and her handmaidens found him in the river, and who raised him as her son with all the advantages of the Egyptian court. Forty years later, when Moses had to flee Egypt after killing an Egyptian who was abusing a Hebrew, it was Zipporah (who soon married Moses) and her six sisters who found him wandering I the desert and took him to their father’s tent for safety. (All this may not be pertinent to the main point of our lesson, but since the Bible is the only scripture which pays any attention to women, I can’t resist throwing this into the pot!)

So in the course of time, the Lord calls Moses to return to Egypt to deliver his people.

He goes to Egypt, and he and his brother Aaron confront the Pharaoh, saying “Let my people go!” What kind of reception do they get? What events occur as Moses attempts to convince Pharaoh to let his people go? (Have class members tell briefly about the wonders and plagues, and elicit the fact that although the Egyptians suffered by these plagues, the Israelites evidently did not: Ex. 9:4-6, 23-26; 10:22-23; 11:4-7.) (If time is too short, don’t engage in discussion but simply note that the Lord sent a series of plagues to convince Pharaoh – and the Israelites – that God was on the side of Israel.)

The last of the plagues was the most terrible one of all: If Pharaoh did not release the Hebrews from slavery, the firstborn of every house in Egypt, from highest to lowest, would die on a given night.

We do not have enough information to know whether Moses commanded the Israelites to do anything in particular to spare themselves from the earlier plagues, but the Lord instructed Moses in great detail what they must do to protect themselves from this last and worst plague.

Read Exodus 12:1-28.

Some of these instructions pertain to the one-time event of that night in Egypt; others govern how the event – known as Passover – is to be remembered throughout the generations.

As Christians, we recognize that Passover is the foreshadowing of the atonement of Jesus Christ: The perfect Lamb of God, his first-born, without stain or blemish, gives his flesh and blood to fulfill a promise and to rescue believers from death. Do you see other elements in this event that foreshadow the mission of Christ, or how we are supposed to respond to his call?

The Lord chose to have the Israelites do something very physical, something very active and visible, rather than instructing them to believe, or to pray, or to exercise. Why might this have been a more effective teaching tool than simply telling them to believe?

How are the Israelites supposed to pass a memory of this event down through their generations? By telling the story only? How would that re-enactment help their children understand and appreciate and remember the Passover?

As with all types and shadows, we can’t be certain how much of the Passover observance through the generations was only a looking backward to a time when the Lord kept his promises and spared Israel in times of great evil, and how much of the Passover observance was teaching Israel to look forward to the coming sacrifice of Jesus Christ so that they would recognize him when he came. Looking backward, it is easy for us, however, to recognize the foreshadow of the Atonement in the events of the Passover.

At the Last Supper, which began as an observance of Passover, the Savior instituted a new ordinance – the Sacrament – in place of the Passover remembrance.

Read Matthew 26: 19, 26-28.

19 And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover.

26 ¶ And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Think back to our discussion at the beginning of this class: The memory of a loved one who has passed away, or of a significant time in your life, is called to mind very often because something today is the same as something then: You celebrate Christmas now and remember the people who were part of your Christmas back then. You hear a certain piece of music, or smell a certain scent, and it suddenly reminds you of a long-ago day when you heard or smelled the same thing. A date on the calendar rolls by every year, and every year you are reminded of something that happened on that date.

How do the physical elements – the re-enactment and the tangible presence of bread and water – serve as an equally powerful reminder of the Atonement? If they have become so routine that they no longer serve that purpose, what can you do to make them power reminders once again?`

Conclusion

The Atonement of Christ was planned from the beginning of the world – God the Father knew it would be a necessary part of purifying his children to return to his presence, and Jesus offered himself for that purpose. We can talk about the Atonement as THE key doctrine of the Gospel, and we can discuss why it was necessary and how it was offered and why we should be grateful. But the history recorded in scripture, the stories that let us see that God remembers his promises, that we can trust the Lord to deliver his people, today as well as in ancient times, makes the doctrine real for me, and helps me to see how God works with man. I am grateful for ordinances that let me re-enact God’s past dealings with man. The Sacrament is only one of many ordinances that involve a physical re-enactment of the past. It’s the one most familiar to all of us because of its frequent repetition. It reminds us, even when the physical world sometimes tends to interfere with our reception of the Spirit, that Christ has made his sacrifice, and that the next step – my acceptance of that gift – is up to me.



4 Comments »

  1. Thanks.

    Comment by Amy — April 18, 2010 @ 5:55 pm

  2. In thinking about the Exodus story one thing that has impressed me is the ability of different peoples in different historical situations to take the story of leaving one’s home and going to a new promised land and passing from slavery to freedom and apply it to their own time and place.

    For example in American Slave religion the exodus story was a major theme. The spiritual “Go down Moses” is one of many illustrations.

    In the 20th century civil right movement there is a great deal of Exodus immagery. The massive trilogy by Taylor Branch describing the history of the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King had the titles “Pillar of Fire” “Parting the Waters” and ‘”At Cannan’s Edge”

    In our own Church History the westward movement of the Saints from Illinois and Europe to the Great Basin was refered to as an ” Exodus to Greatness” Leonard Arrington titled his biography of Brigman Young “American Moses” for a good reason.

    Comment by john willis — April 18, 2010 @ 10:08 pm

  3. So very true, John, thanks. I get to teach again next week and want to emphasize the 19th century LDS use of the Exodus theme, but I’m still working out the details on how to do that.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 19, 2010 @ 6:40 am

  4. Great stuff.

    How’d the lesson go? Did you get some good participation? Did folks share their examples of memories?

    Comment by Hunter — April 20, 2010 @ 10:12 am

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