August 22, 2021 – Numbers 22 – 25

Lesson Date: August 22, 2021

Focal Scripture Passage: Numbers 22:1-6, 12, 20-22, 27-32; 25:1-9

AIM: To lead students to discover the evil influence one man had on thousands of Israelites along with the terrible result of his influence, and to examine their behavior to determine if they are exerting evil influence or godly influence on others.

 

Before class: Read the notes on Number 22 – 25 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book. Locate a strong magnet and some nuts, bolts, or other small pieces of metal you can bring to class. If possible, set up a small table in front of the class. Spread the nuts, bolts, or other pieces of metal out on the table. Keep the magnet out of view until class begins.

 

INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Tell the students you are going to show them something interesting. Bring out the magnet. Pass it over the table so that it picks up the metal objects. Ask: “Why does the object in my hand pick up the objects on the table?” (because it is a magnet). Ask: “Why does a magnet attract and draw metal objects to itself?” (someone may be able to explain this scientifically; if not, suffice it to say that’s what magnets do).

Tell the class the magnet exerts an influence on the metal objects. That influence is so strong that it actually moves the metal objects through the air without touching them. A similar thing happens in our solar system with the force of gravity. The sun’s gravity exerts an influence on the planets and holds them in their orbits. If not for the sun’s gravitational influence, the planets would go flying off into space.

Write the word “Influence” on the marker board or chalkboard. Tell the class influence can be defined as a force or power exerted over something that may change that object’s behavior. Magnets have influence over metal objects and the sun has influence over the planets. Ask: “Do people ever have influence over other people?” (yes).

Tell the students the title of today’s lesson from Numbers 22 – 25 is Evil Influence.

 

HEART OF THE LESSON (Bible Study):

  1. Review.
    • Ask: “What was last week’s lesson about?” (the new generation of Israelites imitated the behavior of their rebellious parents; they were “chips off the old block”).
  2. King Balak’s Problem.
    • Read Numbers 22:1-6.
    • Explain the following:
    • Ask: “How did Balak feel about this?” (he was afraid; he knew he wasn’t strong enough to either defeat the Israelites or run them out of his land).
    • Tell the students that the Moabites and Midianites evidently had some sort of mutual defense alliance, so Balak sent word to the elders of Midian about his problem.
    • Ask: “According to verse 5, what did Balak do next?” (sent messengers to Balaam).
    • Ask: “What did he want Balaam to do?” (come and curse the Israelites).
    • Explain the following:
      • Balaam was a “prophet for hire” who lived about 100 miles away.
      • He was known for his ability to curse or bless people.
      • The elders of Moab and Midian carried money to pay Balaam to curse Israel.
      • Balaam asked God what to do.
      • This does not mean Balaam was a true prophet of Almighty God. Rather, he was familiar with many different gods and could easily use the proper name or terminology for whichever was appropriate for the situation.
    • Summarize: King Balak did not want the Israelites camped in his land, so he tried to hire Balaam to curse the Israelites.
  3. Balaam’s Disobedience.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Numbers 22:12.
    • Ask: “What did God tell Balaam?” (He told him not to go with the men to curse the Israelites, because Israel is blessed).
    • Tell the class Balak sent even more money and more honorable princes to try to persuade Balaam. Balaam asked the men to spend the night while he asked God what to do.
    • Read Numbers 22:20-22a.
    • Ask: “What did God tell Balaam to do?” (He said IF the men came and called Balaam in the morning, asking him again to go with them, then he should get up and go – BUT he must only speak what God said).
    • Ask: “Is that what Balaam did?” (no; he got up, saddled his donkey, and rode off with the men to Moab – without being asked again).
    • Ask: “According to the 1st phrase of verse 22, how did God feel about Balaam’s action?” (He was very angry with Balaam).
    • Summarize: Greedy Balaam disobeyed God by going to curse Israel.
  4. God’s Intervention.
    • Read Numbers 22:22.
    • Explain the following:
      • The angel of the Lord (a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ) stood in the way to block Balaam’s path.
      • Balaam’s donkey saw the angel and twice tried to turn aside.
      • Each time Balaam beat the donkey.
      • The angel of the Lord blocked the way a third time in a narrow place.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Numbers 22:27-28.
    • Ask: “What did God do?” (He miraculously enabled the donkey to speak; the donkey rebuked Balaam and asked why he had beaten her three times).
    • Ask a volunteer to read Numbers 22:31-32.
    • Ask: “What did God do?” (He opened Balaam’s eyes so he saw the angel of the Lord).
    • Ask: “What did Balaam do?” (bowed down and fell on his face).
    • Tell the students this false prophet was stunned by the appearance of a genuine angel of the true God.
    • Ask: “What did the angel of the Lord say about Balaam’s course of action?” (it was perverse, reckless, and disobedient).
    • Explain the following:
      • The Lord told Balaam to go to Moab, but only to speak the words He put in his mouth.
      • Balaam was too scared to do otherwise.
      • King Balak took Balaam to three different locations overlooking the camp of Israel, where he asked the false prophet to curse Israel.
      • Each time, the Lord caused Balaam to pronounce a blessing upon Israel, instead of a curse.
      • King Balak was very upset about this, so he sent Balaam away.
    • Summarize: God miraculously prevented Balaam from pronouncing a curse upon the Israelites.
  5. Balaam’s Evil Influence.
    • Tell the class Numbers 25 is about a seemingly unrelated incident, but we will soon discover that there is a connection.
    • Read Numbers 25:1-9.
    • Tell the students the Israelites were still camped on the plains of Moab.
    • Ask: “According to verses 1 and 2, what did the Israelites do?” (the men committed fornication with the women of Moab and Midian, and then they joined them in feasting and worshiping their false gods).
    • Stress the fact that these sinful actions were in direct violation of at least two of the Ten Commandments.
    • Ask: “According to verse 3, how did God feel about this?” (He was very angry).
    • Explain the following:
      • God told Moses to execute every Israelite man involved in these terrible sins.
      • One Israelite was even so bold in his sin that he brought a Midianite woman into the Israelite camp, in sight of the tabernacle.
    • Ask: “What did Aaron’s grandson Phinehas do?” (he went into the tent and killed the man and the woman, stopping the terrible plague God had sent among the Israelites.
    • Ask: “How many Israelites died because of immorality and idolatry?” (24,000).
    • Tell the students that next we will discover the connection between this terrible incident and the false prophet Balaam. Chapter 31 is about a war between the Israelites and Midianites.
    • Read Numbers 31:16.
    • Ask: “Who advised the Midianites to lure the men of Israel into immorality and idolatry?” (Balaam).
    • Read Revelation 2:14.
    • Ask: “What did Balaam do?” (told King Balak how to cast a stumbling block before the Israelites, by luring them into fornication and idolatry).
    • Explain the following:
      • Even though Balaam couldn’t curse Israel, he advised King Balak to send immoral Midianite women to entice the men of Israel into fornication and idolatry.
      • The king followed Balaam’s advice, resulting in the sin and death of 24,000 Israelites.
      • Balaam had an evil influence on the Israelites.
    • Summarize: Balaam used his evil influence to lure thousands of Israelites into terrible sin, for which God killed them.

 

PERSONAL APPLICATION: Direct the students’ attention again to the word “Influence” on the board. Hold up the magnet and remind them of the influence it has over small metal objects. The magnet draws the metal to move in a way it does not choose. Just as a magnet has influence over metal objects, people have influence over other people. They influence them to do things; sometimes those are good things and sometimes they are bad things.

Remind the students that Balaam was a false prophet. He wanted to curse the Israelites for a monetary reward, but the Lord would not let him. If the story stopped at the end of chapter 24 we would have a pretty good feeling about Balaam because he ended up obeying God and (as God directed) he blessed Israel rather than curse them. BUT, the story doesn’t stop at the end of chapter 24. In chapter 25, chapter 31, and the book of Revelation we learned more about Balaam; as Paul Harvey used to say, we learned “the rest of the story.”

Ask: “In what way did Balaam influence the Israelites?” (by telling King Balak how to seduce them into immorality and idolatry). Ask: “Was Balaam’s influence on the Israelites bad or good?” (definitely bad).

Tell the students that there are only two forces in the universe: God, who leads people toward good behavior, and Satan, who influences people toward evil. Everyone we know belongs either to God or to Satan, so everyone we know is either seeking to influence us for good or for evil.

Tell the class that we have influence on others. Ask: “What kind of influence do you think you have on others? Do you inspire them to live for God or to engage in sin?”

Ask everyone to bow their head and close their eyes. Ask them to examine their behavior to determine if they are exerting evil influence or godly influence on others. Tell them if they have been an evil influence on others they should confess that sin and start pointing people to God. Tell everyone to ask God to help them have a good and godly influence on others. Voice a closing prayer.

 

CONCLUSION: Urge the students to pay attention to their words and actions this week with this question in mind: “Am I being a good influence or an evil influence on those around me?” Be sure to give everyone a copy of the new Sunday School Member Quarterly for the Fall quarter. Tell them in two weeks we will begin a six-month study of the Gospel of Matthew.

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