Grades 3-6 for Sunday School:
Moses: Seeing and Doing Things God’s Way…Or Suffering the Consequences!
Teacher’s Notes: We’ve been following the Israelites’ trip through the wilderness toward the Promised Land for many weeks. Today’s lesson finds them finally getting close to their destination; close enough that spies are sent out to see what the Promised Land looks like. But when the spies come back with their report, will they see the Promised Land as God does, and follow Him in? Or will they see things differently, and lose out on the blessings God had in store for them?
(if you’re doing this lesson at the start of the year, then begin here)
We’ve just started out at the beginning of a brand new year! This is a great opportunity to look back on the year that just ended, and count our blessings. Have you thought about the many wonderful things God has done for you this past year? Let’s each think of at least one thing God has done for us and share it with the class.
A new year is often the time people set new goals for themselves, too. We sometimes refer to them as New Year’s Resolutions. Have you made any New Year’s resolutions? Would anyone like to share their resolutions with the class?
(if you’re doing this lesson in the middle of the year, begin here)
But we don’t have to wait until New Year’s to make resolutions, especially when it comes to getting rid of old habits that are not pleasing to God, or starting new ones that are obedient to His will.
The Israelites are on the edge of a new beginning. Moses, with God’s help, has led them out of slavery in Egypt to the edge of the land of Canaan, the land God had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They had even made their own resolution back at Mount Sinai, when Moses told them about the Ten Commandments. Does anyone remember what they had said about obeying God?
In Exodus 24:7 the Israelites had said, “All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient.” That is a great resolution; one that the Lord would, no doubt, like to hear from each one of us. But the Israelites had the same problem that many people do, when they make New Year’s Resolutions: they didn’t follow through with their promise. And they were about to learn just how important it is, to be obedient to God and do things His way. We’re going to find that the Israelites didn’t see things the way God did, and turned away from His will. And the consequences were devastating!
Today’s memory verse talks about how God feels when we act as the Israelites did: He has great blessings in store for us, and has great patience with us. But when we turn away in disobedience, then we are guilty and will have consequences to face.
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.)
“The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty…” Numbers 14:18
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for Your precious Word, where we can read and learn from the examples we see there. Help us, today, to have our eyes and ears open the lesson You would have us learn from the Israelites’ example. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: (Moses: Seeing and Doing Things God’s Way…Or Suffering the Consequences! from Numbers 13-16 )
(Seeing things God’s way – or suffering the consequences)
For those of you who have been with us for our other lessons on Moses’ and the Israelites’ journey from Egypt, we are jumping, today, to the book of Numbers. And we’re going to find Moses and the children of Israel coming very near to the Promised Land. There was probably a great deal of excitement as their long journey was coming to an end. And they could almost see the lush green grass and shimmering blue waters of their new home.
Numbers chapter 13 finds them encamped at a place called Kadesh-barnea, just outside of Canaan, the Promised Land. And as the Israelites settled there, God wanted to show them the blessings He had in store for them, in their new home. So He suggested that Moses send some men into Canaan, to search it out and bring back a report to the people of Israel.
1And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them.
3And Moses by the commandment of the LORD sent them from the wilderness of Paran: all those men were heads of the children of Israel.
God had promised Moses, all the way back at the burning bush, that He would lead His people to “…a large and good land, unto a land flowing with milk and honey…” (Exodus 3:8). And now it was time for His people to see the land for themselves, and see that all He had promised them was really there.
So Moses did as God said, and chose twelve men to go ahead of them, into Canaan. One of the men he chose was someone we’ve met, before. Does anyone remember the name of the young man who led Israel into battle, as Moses, Aaron, and Hur held up their hands in prayer? The same young man also went up, partway, into Mount Sinai with Moses, when he went up to get the Ten Commandments. Numbers 13:8 tells us his name is “Hoshea, the son of Nun.” But in case you don’t recognize that name, verse 16 clears it up by telling us that “Moses called Hoshea, the son of Nun, Joshua.” Yes, that same Joshua was one of the twelve men chosen to spy out the land of Canaan.
So Moses gathered the twelve men together, and gave them these instructions:
17And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them, Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain:
18And see the land, what it is, and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many;
19And what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds;
20And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the firstripe grapes.
Moses gave them some pretty specific instructions. What were they supposed to look for, according to the verses we just read?
Then Moses also told them to be courageous, and bring back some of the fruit of the land, so the rest of the people could see it, for themselves.
Have you ever watched a spy movie, or read a book about spies? Let’s try to imagine what it might have been like for these men, as they headed out with this mission to spy out the land. First, let’s find out how far they had to go. The next few verses give us the route the spies took, as they went through the land:
21So they went up, and searched the land from the wilderness of Zin unto Rehob, as men come to Hamath.
22And they ascended by the south, and came unto Hebron; where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak, were. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)
This route would likely have taken them up to the northern part of Canaan generally following the path of the Jordan River. Then, they would have returned more toward the center of the land, passing through Hebron (which is where their ancestor, Abraham, lived). This would require them to travel through many different types of landscape, including desert, mountains, flooded plains, and wooded areas.
Our passage doesn’t tell us what they did for food and water on their journey. Perhaps they carried some with them. Or maybe they just ate what they could find growing along their way. We also don’t know if they encountered anyone in their travels, or if they stayed completely hidden. The only details we have of their mission through Canaan are these:
23And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs.
24The place was called the brook Eshcol, because of the cluster of grapes which the children of Israel cut down from thence.
25And they returned from searching of the land after forty days.
What do these verses tell us they found? Can you imagine how big those grapes must have been; to have to carry a single cluster of them on a pole, between two grown men? And what a scene that must have been, as they returned after forty days away, parading into the camp with the proof of the bounty of their new home!
And just listen to how the spies began the incredible report of their mission through the Promised Land:
26And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land.
27And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it.
Did you notice that what they had found was just what God had promised to Moses? It was, indeed, a land that flowed with milk and honey. Can you image how wonderful such a place would be? God wanted to provide only the very best for His people.
But before you get too excited, along with the Israelites, we first need to listen to the rest of the report these spies brought back. Because while the physical fruit of the land was enticing, the rest of the report turned out to be a crushing blow.
28Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.
29The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.
31… We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.
32And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.
33And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.
So there it was. The land lay just before them. It held all that God had promised. But instead of looking at it through God’s eyes, and seeing all the potential bounty that was there, just waiting for them, these spies had developed “grasshopper vision.” Now, what do you suppose that would mean? (It comes from verse 33, where the spies said they felt like grasshoppers, compared to the giants in the land.)
Did God know how big the Canaanites, the Jebusites, the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Amalekites were? Did He realize that the sons of Anak were giants? Of course He did! But He also knew that He was bigger and stronger than all of them.
There were a couple of others who realized that as well. The passage quoted above left out a conflicting report of one of the spies. His name was Caleb, and in verse 30, he tried to suggest a different conclusion from the report:
And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.
Caleb had been to exactly the same places and seen exactly the same things as all the other spies. Yet he, along with Joshua (according to verse 6 of chapter 14), had come to a very different conclusion. They were able to see things as God did… a land flowing with milk and honey, and an enemy that God would be able to help them overcome.
Now it was up to the Israelites. There was no disputing the facts. What did they now know about the land God had promised to them? What were its good points? It was a land that they could see produced a bountiful crop, and had plenty of water and wood. It did not lack anything they would need to make a comfortable life, there.
But what was the problem? There were many enemies in the land, some of which were giants. So the question for the Israelites came down to this: did they trust their God to be big enough and powerful enough to overcome any enemy they might face? They had now been following Him for nearly two years, and had seen Him provide for them, miraculously, on many occasions. And when they had faced enemies (the Egyptian and Amalekite armies), God had certainly delivered them, and given them great victories. God had proven to them, over and over, that He was willing and able to take care of all of their needs.
And yet, when they faced the biggest moment of their lives, the moment where they needed to place their complete trust in Him and take that step into the Promised Land, the Israelites refused to look at the situation the way God did. They gave in, instead, to a spirit of fear, and refused to follow Him any further. The sad account of their response is in the next verses:
1And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.
2And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!
3And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?
4And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.
It sounds like the same old Israelites – complaining and murmuring against Moses, and God, when things began to get a little difficult. And once again, looking back to Egypt with clouded vision; remembering what they thought had been good, and choosing to forget all the hardship.
What an utter disappointment that must have been for Joshua and Caleb, and Moses and Aaron. They were on the brink of something fantastic. God was ready to lead them, victoriously, into the land He had promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and even to Moses. He had shown them its bounty. Yet the people refused to go on.
Let’s read the reactions of these godly men, who had been ready to follow God, despite the dangers:
5Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.
6And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes:
7And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land.
8If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.
9Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not.
These four men were devastated by the Israelites lack of faith. They tried to remind them that the LORD would be right there with them, to protect them. But the people would not be persuaded. In fact, they became so angry with these four for continuing to try to persuade them, that they threatened to kill them. Verse 10 says, “all the congregation bade stone them with stones.”
And they would have done just that, if God, Himself, had not intervened. Had God heard all that had been said? Did He hear the Israelites once again complaining, and threatening the men who were trying to obey Him? He certainly had. And He was angry! Listen to the verses with God’s response to the Israelites:
11And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?
12I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.
What was God ready to do, to punish the disobedience of the Israelites? He was going to send disease among them, and cast them off from being His people. But once again, as he had done on so many occasions before, Moses intervened on their behalf; and begged God to spare them – if for nothing else, the sake of His own reputation. This was his argument:
15Now if thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying,
16Because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness.
17And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying,
18The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
19Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.
Moses reminded God that the people of the world would be watching. And that if He destroyed His own people, His ability to accomplish His own plan might be questioned. Did God need Moses to remind Him of this? No. But He did respond to Moses’ plea for the people. He agreed to not destroy them. But, in His holiness, He could not let their sin go unpunished.
Our memory verse speaks of this. God is loving and patient. But He is also holy, and cannot, apart from the blood of Christ, clear the guilty from the consequences of their sins. So in His mercy, God spared their lives. But there was to be a severe punishment. We can find it in verses 22-23.
22Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice;
23Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it.
Because the people had refused to obey, God would refuse to bring them into His Promised Land. He would give it, instead, to their children. Only Joshua and Caleb, because they had desired to go ahead into the Land, were promised that they would live to enter in. Everyone else, twenty years old and older, would die in the wilderness before Israel would be able to enter into the Land they had rejected.
Now the people were sorry. Now they wanted to take back their decision and go into the land. They wanted to make things right. But there was still a very big problem. They wanted to set things right on their own terms. So more consequences lay ahead for this already sorrowing nation.
(Doing things God’s way – or suffering the consequences)
The Israelites were sorry, perhaps more sorry that they were being punished than sorry for what they had done. Whatever the reason, they wanted to fix things. So they told Moses that now they were ready to go in. The problem was, this was no longer God’s plan.
39And Moses told these sayings unto all the children of Israel: and the people mourned greatly.
40And they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top of the mountain, saying, Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the LORD hath promised: for we have sinned.
41And Moses said, Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the LORD? but it shall not prosper.
42Go not up, for the LORD is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies.
43For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and ye shall fall by the sword: because ye are turned away from the LORD, therefore the LORD will not be with you.
44But they presumed to go up unto the hill top: nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and Moses, departed not out of the camp.
In their desperation, the Israelites chose to take matters into their own hands, and go into the Land on their own. Notice that Moses reminded them that God would not be with them. Yet they chose to go, anyway. And just as you might have guessed, there were terrible consequences for their presuming on God’s protection as they went ahead into Canaan.
45Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah.
Do you think that this is what God wanted for His chosen people; to see them slaughtered at the hands of their enemies? Surely not. Yet they had been warned that God would not be with them. And He knew they needed to learn an important lesson: that obedience is only obedience if we do it God’s way, and in His time.
This is true for us, as well. God has promised many times throughout Scripture, that He will be right there with us at all times, to guide and protect us. But when we intentionally move outside of His will, we are moving on our own, and God may allow us to suffer the consequences of our chosen actions.
These were some very harsh lessons for the Israelites to have to learn. They needed to understand the importance of seeing things God’s way, and trust His leading. Then, they had to learn the importance of doing things God’s way, and in His time. The Israelites had to suffer the consequences of their disobedience. But they were also the recipients of God’s great mercy.
And that’s why God included the accounts of their disobedience in His Word; so we could see their example, and, in this case, not follow it, but learn from it.
So the challenge for us, this week, is twofold:
So let’s go out this week and be Joshua’s and Caleb’s… ready to follow God, wherever He may lead us!
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, we have seen, this week, the importance of faith and obedience. So as we go out into our homes, schools, and neighborhoods, give us the courage we need to follow You, wherever You may lead us. And help us not to listen to the voices that would discourage us, but hear only Yours. Amen.
Class Discussion/ Activity:
Peer pressure is a hard thing to overcome. Everyday there are many people around you who will offer advice on what you should do, where you should go, or how you should act. In today’s lesson, we saw a group of twelve. Ten of them agreed, but were wrong. Only two were making godly choices. If you were a member of the nation of Israel, and had heard the report the spies brought back, which do you think you would have listened to? Do you think you would have been able to withstand the peer pressure? Do you think you would have been able to stand with Joshua and Caleb?
And what if you had been one of the twelve? Would you have had the courage to stand up for what you believed? That courage can only come from God. And He’s ready to give it, if we’re willing to ask. Ask Him today to make you into a courageous, godly servant for Him!
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. After leaving Mt. Sinai, the Israelites encamped at Kadesh-barnea. (true)
2. The spies were told to bring back captives from the land. (false – bring back the fruit of the land)
3. The spies claimed to have seen giants in the Promised Land. (true)
4. Ten of the spies were ready to go into the Promised Land with Moses. (false – only two)
5. God said everyone 20 years old and older would die in the wilderness. (true)
They felt like mere grasshoppers, in their sight.
And hadn’t faith enough to go and fight.
They chose, instead, to go the safest way;
And that was to turn back, and run away.
That’s not the way that God wants us to be -
Afraid to follow Him to victory.
How very sad, for those who choose to doubt;
And from God’s blessing, find they’ve been left out.
Lisa DeVinney,July 2015