SMALL GROUP CURRICULUM (Download PDF)
Spend the week studying Exodus 6, Numbers 14 and Joshua 1. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
Determine which discussion points and questions will work best with your group.
Pray for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members, and their receptivity to God’s Word.
Focus on the Main Point. Moses shepherded God’s people out of slavery through the wilderness to the promised land. God redeems us from captivity and gives us freedom that can only be found through Him.
What comes to your mind when you hear the word “captivity”?
When we give ourselves over to persistent sin in our lives, how does sin hold us captive?
Simply defined, captivity is a state of being held, imprisoned, enslaved, or confined. Sometime after the death of Joseph in Genesis 50, the people of Israel became enslaved, held in captivity by the Egyptians. God heard their cries and delivered them by the hand of Moses. Though the people were free from the Egyptians captivity, they were still very much captive to their own sinful natures. We are the same today—though we have been given every reason to trust God, we return to the captivity of sin. Thankfully, the power of sin was broken and defeated by Jesus Christ, who offers us a true and better promise than the land of Canaan.
What key events guide the biblical story line from Abraham to Moses?
Last week we looked at the story of Abraham, and this week we will be looking at Moses. A lot of story development takes place between the lives of these two great men. God created a people for Himself, just as He promised through Abraham’s line. Abraham had a son named Isaac, who had a son named Jacob (later named Israel). Jacob had 12 sons, who started the 12 tribes of Israel. Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph, was sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt. Joseph prospered there and became the second in command. When a great famine fell upon his brothers, they went to Egypt for grain and were welcomed by their brother. The entire family moved to Israel and lived there, multiplied, and eventually became slaves in Pharaoh’s land. It is at this point that Moses enters God’s story.
HAVE A VOLUNTEER READ EXODUS 6:1-7.
What in this passage shows that God was attentive to the plight of Israel?
How did God plan to deliver Israel from their slavery? What did God say they should have learned after He did this?
Ultimately, with what did God promise to provide His people? What confidence should this have given the people of Israel?
God refers to Himself as “the Almighty” in these verses. To say that God is “Almighty” is to acknowledge He is powerful and able to do all He purposes. Pharaoh’s hand was strong on the neck of God’s people, but God’s is stronger still. The people were miserable and burdened, and God heard them. God remembered His covenant with His people and worked through acts of judgment to free the people from Egypt. Though the people were free from their bondage to Pharaoh, they were still captive to their sinful hearts.
Read John 8:34. How is sin the most dangerous form of captivity?
HAVE A VOLUNTEER READ NUMBERS 14:1–38.
Summarize the content of this chapter in a few sentences. What did God teach the people about Himself in the wilderness?
What complaints did the Israelites have? Did they have any reason to grumble and complain? What did doing so reveal about their hearts?
How did Moses respond to their complaints? How did God?
Numbers 14 is a summary of all that happened in the wilderness. God led His people through the wilderness by a pillar of smoke and fire. He fed them with manna from Heaven, but even this was not enough for them. They still complained—again and again. People complained, Moses interceded on their behalf, and God relented. Wilderness wandering reveals our sinful and forgetful hearts, but it also reveals God’s continued and faithful goodness.
Read Exodus 23:20. What had God promised the people of Israel?
Re-read verses 36-38. How did the people respond to the reports about the land? Who are the two faithful servants?
HAVE A VOLUNTEER READ JOSHUA 1:1-9. ￼
How did God intend for His people to live when they entered into His promised land?
Read Exodus 23:29-30. Why didn’t God give them the land all at once? What was their entering the land contingent upon?
Why is such great priority given to calling the people to obey the Word of the Lord in these verses?
As the people entered the promised land, God promised to be with them. Joshua arose in Moses’ place to lead the people of Israel. Little by little, as God remained faithful and the people were obedient, those people began to take the fullness of the land. God did not give them commands to burden them, but to give them life. He has made good on His Word and wants His children to have the blessing He desires for them. We find this life to be increasingly true as we know and treasure God throughout our lifetimes.
How is our promised land different from the promised land of the Old Testament? Though we won’t inherit a physical land, what awaits us? How can we live well today in light of our coming inheritance?
What is keeping those you know outside the Kingdom from entering into God’s promised land? How can you, like Moses, pray desperately for them while reaching out to them by the Spirit’s leading?
The constant problem of the Israelites is that they returned to their sins together in community. How can we as a community here at Pinelake spur each other on to flee sin while giving ourselves over fully to God?
God gives us commands for our good and His glory. How can we encourage one another to love and live the commands of God week by week, in our everyday lives?
As you close, thank God for delivering you from the captivity of sin through the blood of Jesus Christ. Express your desire to live for Him and Him alone—praying first for the desire to do so. Ask for God’s help to avoid the sin that holds you captive, and pray that you would trust wholeheartedly in the promise of God and the deliverance you have received from Christ.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
- What sins are holding you captive? How can you find freedom from those sins in Christ?
- Do you know someone who has wandered from the Lord? How can you intercede for them?
- Memorize Exodus 6:7.
6:1. The Hebrew wording does not include the pronoun “My” to specify that the strong hand must be that of the Lord rather than Pharaoh, but this impetus has been mentioned in 3:19-20.
6:2-3. A variety of attempts have been made to derive English renderings other than (or more precise than) God Almighty for the Hebrew name El Shaddai, based on proposed etymological connections with words in Hebrew or in other Semitic languages. But as with many names, usage provides the best insights into its significance. Among these are references to the exercise of authoritative power, discernment, justice, chastening, protection or destruction, provision of blessings, and the hearing of prayer. “Shaddai” appears most often in the book of Job (Job 5:17; 6:4,14; 8:3,5; 11:7; 13:3; 21:15; 33:4; 34:12; 37:23; 40:2, among others), and the combination with El is prominent in Genesis as a name for God in His dealings with the patriarchs (Gen. 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3). Naomi used the name Shaddai in her complaint against God (Ruth 1:20-21), and it appears also in Num. 24:4,16; Ps. 68:14; 91:1; Isa. 13:6; Ezek. 1:24; 10:5; Joel 1:15. The rendering of “Shaddai” with “Almighty” is traceable to Greek translations done before the time of Christ (pantokrator) and to the Vulgate (Omnipotens). Meanwhile, the word “El” is associated with a Hebrew word for “strength”, and forms of it appear widely in ancient Semitic languages to refer to deity.
6:5. “I have remembered” is a way of saying that He was about to act in accordance with His covenant with the ancestors (Ps. 98:1-3; 109:14-16; 115:12; Jer. 14:21; Amos 1:9).
6:6-8. God’s message for the Israelites put emphasis at the beginning, middle, and end on His identity: I am Yahweh. Freeing Israel from Egypt would be part of a permanent relationship between the Lord and the Israelites. By what He did, the Israelites would come to know from experience who He is, and their own identity as His people would be established and displayed.
Both the Lord and the Israelites would be known as a result of what the Lord would do: deliver you from the forced labor (literally, and perhaps easier to visualize, “bring you out from under the burdensome labor”), free you... redeem you... take you as My people... bring you to the land, and give it to you. That the Lord would be known as a result of what He did continues the theme of action leading to knowledge (see 4:1-9), which is repeated frequently throughout Exodus and serves as one of the book’s unifying elements (7:5,17; 8:10,22; 9:14,29; 10:2; 11:7; 14:4,18; 16:6,12; 18:11; 29:46; 31:13; 33:13,16).
Somewhere in the northern Negev, close to Canaan, the Lord commanded Moses to send out spies who could ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of its inhabitants and prescribe a course of action in regard to conquest (12:16–13:2). The twelve, including Joshua and Caleb, traveled the length of Canaan and returned with a divided report. The land was rich and fertile, they said, but the majority argued it could not be taken because of the superior might of its citizens. Caleb’s affirmations of the Lord’s presence and power notwithstanding, the people listened to the majority report and refused to press forward. The people rejected God’s gift of the promised land.
Once more Moses’ leadership was at stake. In fact, the people demanded that he step down in favor of someone who would guide them back to Egypt. His striking response to them—and to the Lord who tested him by threatening to destroy them—is remarkable. If Israel failed to enter Canaan, he said, the whole world would view Yahweh as unreliable. He had to pardon His people for His own name’s sake if not for theirs.
Moved by this intercession, the Lord relented, but announced to Moses and the people that they would not live to see the land of promise. Instead, they would die in the wilderness, leaving the promises of God to be enjoyed by their children. Only Joshua and Caleb, who had trusted God for victory and conquest, would see for themselves the land of milk and honey.
Having refused the opportunity to enter Canaan with the Lord, the people now perversely determined to do so without Him. Leaving the ark in the camp, they pushed north, only to be confronted and defeated by the Amalekites and Canaanites of the southern hill country. Thus began their forty years of aimless wandering in the wilderness.
1:1. The death of Moses created a leadership vacuum. Moses’ epithet, the Lord’s servant, was first applied at his death (Deut. 34:5) as this epithet would first be applied to Joshua at his death (Jos. 24:29). Used rarely in the earlier part of the Bible as an evaluation of a person’s life, it became more common and was enhanced by Jesus (John 15:15), although Paul retained the title (Rom. 1:1). Joshua son of Nun, who had served Moses, identifies Joshua as the one who had been with Moses since Exodus 17. That he “served Moses” (cp. Ex. 24:13) uses a different term than “ Lord’s servant.”
1:2. God commanded Joshua to prepare the people to cross over the Jordan. The key word “cross over” (in Hebrew, ‘avar) ties this section together. The fact that all the people were involved emphasizes the importance of unity among the people of God. God emphasized that the land was something He was giving the Israelites; it was God’s grace, not the efforts of the Israelites, that provided the land.
1:3. Repeating the emphasis on the land as God’s gift, it now included every place where the sole of the foot tread. Although the “promised land” is normally understood as something that God promised Abram, Isaac, and Jacob (Gen. 12:1-3), here God attached the promise to Moses. Deuteronomy 34:4 refers to this promise made to Moses (cp. Ex. 3). The extension of Moses’ promise to Joshua further establishes him as successor.
1:4. This wilderness is not the land of wandering. The term is used in 8:15, 20 and 12:8 to describe the area east of Ai and the“desert”region of Judah in the south. It thus designates the southern part of the promised land. Lebanon (“white”) refers to the mountains north of Israel in the modern land of that name. The land of the Hittites seems not to refer to the Hittite Empire of modern Turkey but the Egyptian and later Assyrian usage of this term to describe the region controlled by the Hittites in the western part of modern Syria. These lands and boundaries identify Canaan as it was known both to the Bible (Gen. 10:19; Num. 13:17,21- 22; 34:3-12) and to Egyptian writers of the second millennium B.C.
1:5. The reference to “as long as you live” looks to the end of Joshua’s life, concluding this “Table of Contents” in verses 2-5. The promise “I will not leave you” anticipates the plea of Gibeon in 10:6, “Don’t abandon your servants,” using the same expression. Likewise the verb “forsake” occurs again in Joshua, in Israel’s promise of loyalty to God (“abandon” in 24:16,20). This verse forms a hinge, concluding the previous sections of promises and introducing the next section of responsibilities. God’s promise of His presence occurs again in 1:9 and thus provides an “envelope” to 1:6-9. All the responsibilities of these verses depend on God’s presence that guarantees the mission’s success, just as Christ’s presence enables His disciples to achieve their mission (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15,20; Acts 1:8).
1:6. God’s command, “Be strong and courageous,” already spoken by Moses to Israel (Deut. 31:6), appears three times here (Jos. 1:7,9). The expression is used before great undertakings, like David’s charge to Solomon to build the temple (1 Chr. 28:20), King Hezekiah’s encouragement to his subjects to withstand the enemy’s siege (2 Chr. 32:7), and Joshua’s own charge to Israel to fight (Jos. 10:25).
1:7. The word success (in Hebrew, sakal; cp. “succeed” in v. 8) is found frequently in the Wisdom literature to describe one’s mastery of the world and insight into its challenges (“wise” in Prov. 1:3). The whole instruction (in Hebrew, torah) describes God’s revelation in the form of the previous books of the law of Moses.
1:8. Two more references to the instruction affirm the key importance of God’s revelation. Study and learning of it are to form so much a part of one’s life that the words are fully obeyed as in Deut. 6:6-9. The “frame” of God’s promised presence in Jos. 1:5,9 indicates that Joshua’s success will come because God is with him, enabling him to read and observe God’s word (Eph. 2:8-10).