July 25, 2021 – Numbers 10 – 11

Lesson Date: July 25, 2021

Focal Scripture Passage: Numbers 10:11-13, 33-34; 11:1-6, 18-20, 31-35

AIM: To lead students to discover the trouble and judgment the ancient Israelites experienced when they complained about God’s provision and longed for the pleasures of the world, and to confess and turn from their desires for the things of the world.

 

Before class: Read the notes on Numbers 10 – 11 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book. Bring a mirror to class. If possible, bring an automobile rearview mirror, but if not, any type of hand mirror or small wall mirror will do. Write the lesson title, “Moving Forward, Looking Back” on the marker board or chalkboard. Enlist a class member who is comfortable reading aloud to look up 1 John 2:15-16 and be prepared to read it to the class when called upon.

 

INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Show the mirror to the class and ask them what it is. Ask them what it is used for. Tell the class a hand or wall mirror is useful for looking at yourself, such as when you comb or style your hair in the morning. Tell them an automobile rearview mirror is useful for seeing what is behind you; it is especially helpful when backing up or changing lanes.

Ask: “Can you imagine trying to drive while only looking in the rearview mirror?” The result would be chaotic and certainly end in a crash. The same is true for a handheld mirror. Ask: “Can you imagine trying to walk through your house or office while only looking backward in the mirror?” You would certainly trip and fall or run into a wall or other obstacle. Stress the fact that looking backward and looking at ourselves can be very helpful at times, but if we are going to successfully move forward we must focus our attention ahead.

Tell the students in today’s lesson we will learn that the ancient Israelites tried to move forward and follow God leading while keeping their attention focused backward on the things they had left behind. We will also have an opportunity to examine ourselves to see if we are looking backward (focusing on the things of the world) or forward (focusing on the path on which the Lord is leading them). The title of today’s lesson from Numbers 10 and 11 is Moving Forward, Looking Back.

 

HEART OF THE LESSON (Bible Study):

  1. Review.
    • Ask: “What was last week’s lesson about?” (the orderly arrangement of the camp of Israel and the organized way they were to travel; being in our place of service).
    • Ask if anyone would recite last week’s memory verse (1 Cor. 12:18).
  2. God Led the Israelites to Leave Mount Sinai.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Numbers 10:11-13.
    • Explain the following:
      • The 20th day of the 2nd month of the 2nd year was probably early May of 1444 BC.
      • The Israelites had been out of Egypt for 13 months
      • They had been camped at Mount Sinai for 11 months.
    • Ask: “How did the Israelites know it was time to move on?” (the cloud was taken up from above the Tabernacle).
    • Explain the following:
    • Ask a volunteer to read Numbers 10:33-34.
    • Ask: “How far did they go into the wilderness?” (3 days’ journey).
    • Ask: “How did they know God was guiding their steps?” (the cloud of the Lord was with them as they traveled).
    • Explain the following:
      • After generations of waiting for deliverance from Egyptian bondage and almost a year of waiting at Mount Sinai, the Israelites were finally on their way to the Promised Land!
      • God directed them every step of the way, He gave them a capable leader to guide them, He gave them food and water every day.
      • They had no enemies and no troubles. All they had was each other and God. What more could they want?
      • Surely these must have been the happiest, most contented people on earth!
    • Summarize: After eleven months at Mount Sinai, God led the Israelites to begin their journey toward the Promised Land.
  3. The Israelites’ Complaint and God’s Response.
    • Read Numbers 11:1-3 (note: always read the verses that contain strange names; it is much better for you to pronounce strange Bible names the best you can than for a class member to be embarrassed by not knowing how to pronounce them).
    • Ask: “What did the people do?” (complained).
    • Tell the class that we don’t know what the Israelites complained about: perhaps the heat, the arduous journey through the wilderness, or setting up and taking down their tents every day. Whatever the cause, the Israelites demonstrated that common human characteristic: they complained.
    • Ask: “How did God feel about their complaints?” (He was displeased and angry).
    • Ask: “What did God do in response to their complaints?” (He sent fire to burn among them and kill some of those at the outer edges of the camp).
    • Ask: “What did the people do?” (they cried out to Moses for help).
    • Ask: “What did Moses do?” (He prayed to the Lord, who stopped the fire).
    • Tell the class the Israelites named the place Taberah, which literally means, “burning.”
    • Ask: “Why do you think their complaints displeased the Lord?” (He had given them everything and they still were not happy).
    • Explain that when we complain about our circumstances we are actually complaining about God’s provision and direction in our life. Our complaining shows that we are not satisfied with what He has done for us.
    • Ask: “Do we ever complain?” (yes, we complain about the weather, our work, the price of gas, the government; in short, we complain about everything).
    • Ask: “Do you think God is pleased with our complaining?” (no).
    • Summarize: The Israelites complained about their circumstances, so God sent fire to kill some of them.
  4. The People Wanted Meat and Longed for Egypt.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Numbers 11:4-6.
    • Explain the following:
      • The “mixed multitude” consisted of people of other nationalities who chose to leave Egypt with the Israelites (see Ex. 12:38).
      • They became lustful for food other than the manna God provided.
      • The children of Israel joined in this complaining.
    • Ask: “Have you ever noticed that most of us are ‘joiners’ when it comes to complaining?”
    • Tell the students when other people complain we often join in. We can be having a great day, but when someone complains about their health, the weather, or the boss, we often join in and end up discouraged and dissatisfied.
    • Ask: “What did they want?” (meat to eat).
    • Ask: “What did they remember?” (the food they ate in Egypt).
    • Ask: “What did they say was their current condition?” (they said their souls had become dried up because they had nothing to eat but manna).
    • Explain the following:
      • The manna God provided was exactly what they needed.
      • God’s amazing food evidently provided a perfectly balanced diet containing all the vitamins and nutrients required to sustain them in the wilderness.
      • They had what they needed but longed for what they wanted.
    • Ask: “Have you ever given something to someone who seemed unappreciative? Have you ever provided for someone’s need, only to find that they were not satisfied with what you did? How did that make you feel?”
    • Explain the following:
      • In the Bible Egypt always represents the world.
      • God provided the Israelites free food every day, but they weren’t satisfied with His provision.
      • They longed instead for the alluring offerings of the world.
    • Ask: “Do we ever long for the pleasures of the world instead of the gracious provision of God?” (unfortunately, yes).
    • Ask: “Do you think this pleases God?” (no).
    • Tell the class it is a dangerous thing to disdain and reject the Lord’s provision, desiring instead the things the world has to offer.
    • Summarize: The Israelites were not satisfied with God’s provision, so they longed for the worldly pleasures of Egypt.
  5. God’s Response to Their Dissatisfaction.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Numbers 11:18-20.
    • Ask: “What did God say He was going to give them?” (meat to eat).
    • Ask: “How long did He say they would eat it?” (for a whole month).
    • Ask: “How did He say they would feel about it then?” (they would hate it).
    • Ask: “Why was God going to do this to them?” (because they despised the Lord and longed for the things of the world – the things they ate in Egypt).
    • Stress the fact that when we despise and reject God’s provision we are actually despising and showing contempt toward Him.
    • Tell the class it is not always a good thing for God to give us what we want.
    • Read Numbers 11:31-35.
    • Ask: “What did God do?” (sent a strong wind that blew millions of quail into their camp; – see the notes on verse 31 in the Sunday School Teacher Book).
    • Tell the students that the Israelites gathered the quails throughout that day, that night, and all the next day.
    • Ask: “What happened when they ate the quails?” (God’s wrath was kindled against them and He afflicted the people with a terrible plague).
    • Ask: “Why did they name the place ‘Graves of Lust’?” (because they buried those who lusted for meat: those whom God killed in the plague.
    • Explain the following:
      • This is the first mention of graves on their journey toward the Promised Land, but it won’t be the last.
      • Literally millions of graves marked their path through the next 39 years until they entered the Promised Land.
      • Desiring the things of the world always leads to death.
      • The ancient Israelites stirred up God’s wrath by desiring the things of their old life in Egypt instead of the good provision He made for them.
    • Ask: “Are we ever guilty of doing the same thing?” (yes).
    • Ask: “Do you think this pleases God?” (no).
    • Summarize: The Israelites were dissatisfied with God’s provision, so He sent them millions of quails. He also killed the complainers with a plague.

 

PERSONAL APPLICATION: Hold up the mirror once again. Tell the students the ancient Israelites were moving forward under God’s leadership, but they were looking back to what they left behind in Egypt. Just as you can’t drive or walk forward while only looking backward, the ancient Israelites couldn’t really follow God while they were focused on the past.

Explain that Christians often do the very same thing. After God saves us and sets us free from bondage to sin, we often focus on our old way of life and long for the things of the world. We must remember that the ancient Israelites were slaves in their beloved Egypt. When we look back longingly to the things of the world we are actually desiring the very things that enslaved us before we came to Christ.

Ask the previously enlisted volunteer to read 1 John 2:15-16. Ask: “What do these verses warn us not to do?” (love the world or the things of the world). Ask: “What do they say about the man who loves the world?” (he does not love the Father). Tell the students that we cannot love the world and love God, too. We must make a choice. Ask: “What do these verses say about all the things of the world?” (they are not of God).

Ask everyone to bow their head and close their eyes. Ask them to think about their Christian life. Ask: “Is your Christian life marked by looking forward – focusing on the Lord and the path on which He is leading you, or is it marked by looking backward – focusing on the things of the world.” Encourage the students to confess their desire for worldly things. Urge them to turn away from those things and follow God forward toward godliness and holiness. Voice a closing prayer of confession and commitment.

 

CONCLUSION: Ask everyone to memorize 1 John 2:15. Encourage them to resist the temptations of the world and to keep their eyes focused on the Lord and His Word.

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