The Birdcage

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Exodus 14-17, 1 Peter 1
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 3

The Birdcage

(Exodus 14-17, 1 Peter 1)

Copr. 2022, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.

Introduction: I read a story about how a covered birdcage helps a bird to concentrate on learning a specific song. You know the expression, “bird brain?” It is not a compliment! Are people like birds? Do they need to be focused to learn vital lessons? Is suffering a way to focus our attention? Let’s plunge into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. The Trap
    1. Read Exodus 14:1-3. We are picking up the account of God’s people leaving Egypt after 400 years of living there, the last part living in slavery. Who is directing where the people travel? (God.)
      1. What is Pharaoh supposed to conclude about the wisdom of their movements? (They are confused, “wandering,” and they have mistakenly taken a dead end.)
    2. Read Exodus 14:4. What does walking into this apparent trap cause Pharaoh to do? (He pursues God’s people. He apparently wants to bring them back as slaves.)
      1. Who is responsible for all of this? (The reasonable conclusion from these verses is that God is responsible. However you may interpret “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart,” God directed the movement of His people that caused Pharaoh to believe they were trapped and vulnerable.)
      2. What does God say are His motives in this? (The Egyptians will know that He is Lord.)
    3. Read Exodus 14:9-11. How do the people respond to this situation? (“They “feared greatly.” They were terrified!)
      1. To whom did the people turn? (God and Moses.)
        1. What was the nature of their request for help? (It was hardly a request for help. It a complaint for which they blamed Moses.)
    4. Read Exodus 14:12. Is that really how they looked at this? If it was, why did they leave in the first place? (Read Exodus 5:20-21. It was a long-standing problem that the people were not completely on-board with the rescue plan.)
    5. Read Psalms 23:1-3. Is being terrified about the future something the people should have expected? Is it something you should expect?
    6. Read Exodus 14:13-14. How does Moses believe the “still waters” will arrive? (When we decide to be a spectator to the battle. God said that He is proving who He is, and Moses essentially says, “Just watch how this plays out.)
    7. Read Exodus 14:15-16. Do Moses and God disagree on the course forward? Moses says to watch and God says to get moving? (Moses did not understand the full plan.)
      1. Are both “watch” and “get moving” good advice to us when we view a terrifying future? (Yes. It is not our fight, but we need to follow God’s direction.)
    8. Read Exodus 14:20-22. Is this a solution that the people of God could have predicted?
      1. Did the terror focus their minds?
      2. Did the people have to do anything except obey?
      3. How much of their protection was supernatural? (None of this was within their experience. First, a cloud drops between them and the Egyptian army. The cloud gives the Egyptians darkness and the Israelites light. Then a wind divides the waters and dries the seabed.)
    9. Read Exodus 14:23-25. What conclusion did the Egyptians reach about the power of God?
      1. Who, did it turn out, were the truly trapped people? (Not God’s people.)
    10. Read Exodus 14:26-28. What would you conclude about the meaning of Psalms 23 (our first study in this series) if you had just gone through this experience?
      1. Would you regret your previous terror?
    11. Read Exodus 14:31. Have the people reached the same conclusion you would have reached?
  1. Rinse and Repeat
    1. Read Exodus 15:22-24. What reaction should the people have had?
    2. Read Exodus 15:25. Is this a supernatural solution? (A log would never have made bitter water sweet. Thus, this is a supernatural solution. But, it does not look like it on the surface.)
    3. Read Exodus 16:2-3. What is the complaint about this time? (Food. It was water, now it is food.)
    4. Read Exodus 16:4. How does God solve this problem? (Supernaturally. He promises to “rain bread from heaven” for them. The rest of Exodus 16 describes how this worked.)
    5. Read Exodus 17:1-4. We have been down this specific path before. How do you explain this complaint, which was so serious that Moses thought the people might try to kill him?
    6. Can you explain why the people react the way they do in light of the previous miracles? In short order they were saved from the Egyptian army, saved from a water problem, saved from the food problem, and now they face a water problem for a second time. Are they fools? Were their minds insufficiently focused at the Red Sea?
  2. God’s Reaction and Ours
    1. I’ve skipped over the section where God gives specific instructions on how to prevent this repeated failure of faith. Read Exodus 15:25-26. How does this fit the problem? (If we look at this the way many Jews and Christians have, then you would conclude that you need to diligently work to avoid the problem of being terrified of the future and being worried about disease.)
      1. Does that conclusion make any sense given the stories that God tells us just before He issues His “statute and rule?” (No. In all the stories the people needed to trust God. They did nothing to defeat the problem except to cooperate with God as He cured the problem.)
        1. Does this suggest a deeper meaning to God’s “statute and rule?” (Yes! God’s commandments and rules are all about trust. Want to live a better life? Want to avoid terror and enjoy green pastures and still waters? Don’t resist God. Just obey Him. God is not testing you, He is giving you shelter. Watch how God wins!)
    2. Read 1 Peter 1:6-7. In light of what we have just discussed, what does it mean to have the “genuineness” of our faith tested? (Will we trust God? Will we watch in confidence while He wins the victory?)
      1. The way I’ve looked at this text in the past is that I’m being beaten up and I barely hold on with my last ounce of strength to prove my faith. In our stories the people faced real terror and serious problems. It would have been so much better for them if they simply trusted God and watched Him work. That is the place God wants our faith to be.)
    3. Read 1 Peter 1:8-9. What attitude results from this kind of faith? (Joy! Rejoicing! A confidence in our salvation.)
      1. Does this seem completely counterintuitive? That we face problems with joy and rejoicing? (We can understand how this works through these stories.)
    4. Friend, so you want joy, happiness, and rejoicing to be the tone of your life? The Bible teaches us that this is possible (indeed the goal) even when we face terrible challenges. Will you accept Jesus as your Shepherd and Savior right now so you can live in joy?
  3. Next week: Seeing the Goldsmith’s Face.