Grades 3-6 Lesson for Sunday School:
Moses: The Ten Commandments (Part 1)
Teacher’s Notes: This week we’re going to find the Israelites camping at the foot of Mount Sinai. We’re also going to see a God who loves His people very much! He will call them His “peculiar treasure.” But we’re also going to find that this incredibly loving God is also a very holy God. And in order for Him to be close to His people, they need to learn how to be holy, too. So God is going to give Moses some guidelines for the Israelites to follow on their journey to holiness. Many know these guidelines as “The Ten Commandments.”
Does the part of the world we live in experience any natural disasters; perhaps earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis. Many natural disasters involve the weather: typhoons, hurricanes, tornadoes, lightening-sparked fires. Have you lived through a natural disaster? If you have, share with the class how you felt as you listened to the sounds around you, and watched as things around you were broken or destroyed.
Even a regular thunderstorm can, at times, be very frightening. Sometimes lightening will strike the ground, destroying whatever happened to be in its way. Many people have been seriously injured or killed by lightening. And sometimes the thunder, itself, can be so loud, and so sudden that it leaves us shaking in our shoes! Other times, a thunderstorm can bring hail with it. And if the hail is very large, it can ruin plants and damage our possessions.
There are several thunderstorms mentioned in the Bible. We talked about one several weeks ago, when we were looking at the plagues in Egypt. God sent a thunderstorm then, with hail and fire. It had ruined plants and trees, and even killed any animals and men who had not heeded God’s warning to come in out of the fields.
In today’s lesson, we’re going to find the Israelites at the foot of Mount Sinai. And there’s going to be another thunderstorm. But this one won’t be just any thunderstorm. This one is going to be God, Himself, coming down out of Heaven to talk with Moses on the mountain. There’s going to be lots of thunder, and lots of lightening. And even the sound of a trumpet blowing very loudly. How do you think the Israelites are going to respond? Do you think they’ll be scared? Do you think you would be if you were there?
God will use this storm to teach the Israelites about His holiness, and their need to come before Him with reverence and awe. He wanted them to understand how holy He is. But not because He wanted to scare them away. Instead, He wanted to be close to them, because He loved them so much. And in order for them to be close, they, too, needed to be holy.
And God wants the same for us today. Our memory verse tells us just that. Let’s look at the way God describes those who “…have tasted that the Lord is gracious;”(1 Peter 2:3)
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;” 1 Peter 2:9
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for the many lessons we can learn through studying the examples of Moses and the Israelites, in Your Word. Please help us today, Lord, to have ears ready to listen and hearts ready to learn about You. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: (Moses: The Ten Commandments – Part 1 from Exodus 19-20)
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words “Ten Commandments?” (allow the students to respond, first) Do you immediately think of strict rules that need to be followed? Do you perhaps even think of a God who is harsh, and always waiting for you to mess up? Do you feel a little guilty, knowing there are instructions in them that you don’t always obey?
Why do you think God gave that list of commandments in the first place? (again, allow the students to respond, first) Do you think He wanted to make our lives harder? Or prove to us just how bad we sometimes are?
We’re going to try to answer some of these questions in today’s lesson. But before we jump into what the Ten Commandments have to say, I want you to listen to some verses that come just before the Ten Commandments:
5Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
6And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
Those don’t sound like words coming from a harsh tyrant. They sound like promises from a loving God. If we were to go back many generations, back into the book of Genesis, we would find there a man named Abraham. He was the father of the Israelite nation. And God promised him that his descendants would be a people chosen by God as His own special people. It would be through them that His promised Messiah would someday come. God had chosen the Israelites, and loved them very much! And that is part of the reason why He gave them the Ten Commandments.
You see, God is a very loving God. But He is also a very holy God. And for anyone to be close to Him, they must be holy, too. God wants, more than anything, for you and me to spend time with Him. But like it was for the Israelites, this means we must be holy, too. And that involves obedience to God’s commandments. Jesus says, in John 4:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
And that’s exactly what the Israelites wanted to do. Exodus 19:7-8 records the reaction of the leaders of Israel when Moses shared God’s message with them:
7And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him.
8And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.
How do you think God felt when He heard the reaction of the elders? Do you think He was pleased? He must have been, at least for a time, to hear that they wanted to love and obey Him. But He also knew their hearts, and how only a short time later they would forget this day, and once again become selfish and disobedient.
But for now, the Israelites understood just how much God loved them and wanted to be close to them. So God needed to also make them understand just how holy He is. And that’s where our thunderstorm comes in.
God told Moses He was going to come right down out of Heaven, to the top of Mount Sinai, and that His visit was going to require some very specific preparations. Everyone in the camp would have three days to get themselves ready for this visit from God.
10And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes,
11And be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai.
Have you ever had an important person come to visit your town…perhaps someone from the government, or even from a royal family? If so, did your town do anything special to prepare for their visit?
What do you think you might do if you knew that God, Himself, was going to be visiting your city or village in three days? (allow the students to respond)
For the Israelites, having God come down to the mountain meant they were to be clean, inside and out. Moses was told to “sanctify” them; and that means on the inside they were to be set apart, and free from sin. And on the outside, they were to wash their clothes.
At that time, when the Israelites sinned, an animal had to be sacrificed to cover their sin. So in order for them to be sanctified and ready for God’s visit, the priests were probably very busy for those three days, making sure everyone’s hearts were clean before God, and that their sins had been covered by a sacrifice.
Today, we don’t have to offer an animal, because Jesus’ death on the cross covers our sin. We aren’t sanctified because of what we do. We are seen as sanctified because of what Jesus did. And if we place our trust in Him, and the sacrifice He made on our behalf, then we can come to God as His peculiar treasure, and holy people. Listen to how the writer of the book of Hebrews explains the difference between Old Testament sanctification, and ours, today:
1For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
4For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
9Then said he [Jesus], Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.
10By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
The law required the Israelites to be sanctified through offering animals as a sacrifice. But those sacrifices didn’t take away their sin. They were just a picture of the sacrifice to come that would take away sin, once for all…Jesus Christ. Their sacrifices covered their sins until Jesus came to take them away.
Once the Israelites were declared clean, God was ready to make His appearance. But there was one more detail they needed to be aware of, and it probably had to do with the fact that their offerings were merely covering their sin, not taking it away. The people would be able to see where God was. But they would not be able to come close enough to actually touch the mountain.
12And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death:
13There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.
Those were some pretty strict instructions! What did God say would happen if one of the Israelites came too close to the mountain? They would “be surely put to death.” And just in case any of them doubted this fact, when God came, He did so in a way that had the Israelites shaking in their sandals. There would be no need to worry about them trying to come too close. Listen to the description of the moment God’s feet touched Mount Sinai.
16And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.
17And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount.
18And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.
Yikes! Earthquakes, smoke, thunder and lightening…and what about that trumpet? We aren’t told where that came from. But it sounds like it was coming right out of the storm! And verse 19 says, “the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder.” That must have been quite an awesome and frightening moment!
God was about to give Moses some of the most important instructions in the history of the nation of Israel. And you can be sure that God now had the Israelites full attention. Now they were ready to hear and obey the commandments of their God.
What about you and me, today? Are we ready to hear what the Lord has to say to us? We don’t have to wait, like the Israelites did, for Moses to go up into the mountain, then bring God’s message back. We live at a time where God’s Words are right in our hands. We can read or hear, right now, exactly what God wants us to be doing. But are our hearts ready to receive those instructions?
We can be ready, if we’ve trusted in that sacrifice that we talked about earlier – the one that was made once for all, so no more animal sacrifices would ever be needed again; the one that was so powerful that it was able to take away all sin for all time. But that doesn’t just happen for us automatically. We have a responsibility, kind of like the Israelites did. We have to make sure we are sanctified. And that means having our sins washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ. I Corinthians 6:11 says this, “…but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” When we acknowledge Jesus as our Savior, and ask Him to take away our sin, then He sends the Holy Spirit to sanctify us. Have you been sanctified by His Spirit? If not, you can do that today! (invite the students to pray with you, or to see you after the class time is over if they want to be saved)
God loved the Israelites very much. And He loves each and every one of us, too. That’s why He wants to be close to us, and have us spend time with Him. But that means we must keep His commandments. Not because it saves us, but because it shows Him that we love Him, too. Next week, we’ll begin looking at the Commandments that Moses brought back down the mountain. Remember, He gave them to us not to be harsh and demanding…but because He loves us!
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us so much that You would want to be near us. And thank You for making a way, through Your Son, Jesus Christ, that we can be clean before You. Help us, Lord, to keep following Your commandments, because that is the way we show You that we love You, too. Amen.
Class Discussion/ Activity:
Keep in mind, as you go through this coming week, that we are not sanctified by keeping God’s commandments. We are sanctified (or made clean before God) by the blood of Jesus Christ cleansing us from our sin. But we still should be keeping God’s commandments. Why? Because it shows God that we love Him, and want to be His peculiar treasure.
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. Part of the Israelites preparation included washing their clothes. (true)
2. The elders didn’t believe they could follow God’s commands. (false – they said they would do all of it)
3. The penalty for an Israelite touching the mountain was death. (true)
4. The Israelites were afraid when God descended on Mount Sinai. (true)
5. Today, we are sanctified by keeping the Ten Commandments. (false – by Jesus’ sacrifice)
Not by saying righteous words,
Not by being good,
Not by following the rules,
Doing things we should;
Although these are noble things,
Listen, please, my friend,
They are not what saves your soul,
Or gets you to Heaven.
Jesus gave His sinless life
So we can be saved.
It’s in trusting Him, alone,
That sin’s debt it paid.
Lisa DeVinney, June 2015