Grades 3-6 for Sunday School:
Moses: We Need Water…Living Water!
Teacher’s Notes: Last week we learned about one of the best known miracles from the life of Moses…the parting of the Red Sea. We read about how God led the nation of Israel right through the walls of water, on dry ground; then released those walls onto the Egyptian army, to deliver the Israelites from them for good. We also learned that the Israelites hadn’t trusted God to deliver them, but had complained to Moses, instead. Today’s lesson takes us down the wilderness road only three days, and to the next test for the Israelites. We’re going to find out, today, how the Israelites responded to not having water to drink. Then we’re going to see how the Lord provided sweet water for them… and Living Water, for us.
(If possible, bring to class with you a large clear cup or pitcher filled with water, and place it in front of the class. Ask the students if any of them are thirsty. Then remind them how wonderful and refreshing cold, clear water tastes on a hot and dusty day. Let them just look at the water for a few moments. Perhaps move the cup or pitcher around so that the water makes some noise. Then ask, again, if anyone is thirsty, now. And if you’d like, bring cups to share your water with the students as you share these opening comments.)
According to Encarta’s online encyclopedia (see the note at the end of the lesson for more information), water is THE most important nutrient our bodies take in. While we can survive weeks without eating any food, without any water we would die within eight to ten days.
Water serves a very important function in our bodies, as it moves through our blood stream, carrying oxygen to our cells, and taking away the wastes that are there. Water also helps keep the fluids inside and outside our cells properly balanced, and even provides some cushioning for our joints (those places where our bodies bend in different directions). And, lastly, water helps our bodies absorb the food we eat.
God has created our human bodies to rely on water. And yet, we’re going to see in our lesson today that after the Israelites left the Red Sea, following the pillars of cloud and fire, God led them to a place that had no water for them to drink. Would anyone like to take a guess at why God would do such a thing? We’re going to talk about “why” in our lesson. But first, our memory verse for today may give you a clue. It’s a verse we’ve seen in our lessons over the last few weeks. Now it’s time to hide it in our hearts.
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.)
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
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 life of Moses, 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: We Need Water…Living Water! from Exodus 15:22-27)
Today’s lesson starts off right where last week’s lesson ended. The Israelites had just walked through the middle of the Red Sea on dry ground. Then they watched, from the shore on the other side, as God released the water back down onto the Egyptian army, drowning every last one of them. What a powerful lesson of the power of God, to provide for His chosen people. The beginning of Exodus chapter 15 shares a song that Moses wrote, celebrating the great victory:
Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.
2The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him.
That sounds like a song a gratitude to the Lord for what He had done! And like words of faith in a God who had shown Himself faithful and true to His people. The song goes on for nineteen verses, then, in verses 20 and 21, his sister Miriam led the women in dancing and singing to praise God for what He had done for them.
But in the very next verse, the Israelites have resumed their journey toward the Promised Land. And they quickly find themselves in the midst of another trial. Let’s find out what happened next to God’s people.
22So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water.
23And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah.
How long had it been since the Israelites saw the Egyptian army washed away, by God’s hand, in the Red Sea? (only three days!) How long had it been since they danced in celebration, and sang songs of praise to God for His glorious victory? (only three days!) Yes, only three day ago the Israelites had seen one of the biggest demonstrations of Godly power of all time.
And now, they had been faithfully and obediently following His pillar of cloud by day, and His pillar of fire by night, through the wilderness. But where had God led them? He had brought them to a wilderness where they couldn’t find any water. Then, once they finally found some, it was bitter and they couldn’t drink it. Can you imagine how disappointed the Israelites must have been? We talked earlier about how important water is to our bodies. We desperately need it. And after three days of walking through the hot and dusty wilderness, the Israelites surely were in dire need of it! But when they finally found some water, it wasn’t even drinkable!
Do you think that God forgot that they would need water? No. God had created them, and knew very well what they needed.
Do you think He didn’t see them moving slower and slower as their bodies cried out for a drink? That was not the case either. God was right there with them all the time. He could see their thirsty bodies, and hear their pleading cries.
So why do you think God would lead His own special people to a place that didn’t provide for their basic needs? Perhaps God was testing them to see if they really meant what they said when they were celebrating only three days earlier. Did they really see Him as their glorious strength and song, and their salvation? One way to find out was to see if they felt the same way when things weren’t going so well. Would anyone like to guess how they did?
Do you remember how we talked, last week, about how we respond to tough situations? We mentioned three possible reactions. Let’s see if we can remember them:
Which of these reactions did the Israelites have when the saw the Egyptian army coming after them by the Red Sea? (the second…they became angry, and blamed Moses)
Now the Israelites were in another tough spot. They were out of water. Their children were probably crying from thirst. And they are probably very discouraged because they had followed God’s leading. Where was God’s mighty hand that had rescued them before?
Would anyone like to guess whether they had learned anything, and chose to have faith this time? Let’s read on in our text and find out.
24And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?
Apparently, God’s last rescue (and how long ago was that…three days ago) had already faded from their memories. Because just like the last time they were in a bind, the Israelites response was the same…they complained to Moses. They did not turn their eyes toward Heaven and ask God for help. They listened, instead, to their thirsty bodies, and once again complained.
And once again, we can see the incredible patience of God. There is no indication that He became angry with them for not trusting Him. We do not see Him punishing them for complaining, again, to Moses. Instead, we see God’s provision for their escape from the test…just like our memory verse tells us there would be. Over and over again, the Israelites have seen God provide a way out of their trials. He provided them with ways to escape the plagues in Egypt. And He got rid of the Egyptian army when it looked as if the Israelites were trapped. And now, God had a plan to provide the water they so desperately needed.
25And [Moses] cried unto the LORD; and the LORD shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,
What did God do to change the water? (He had Moses cast a tree into the water.) Not only did God make the bitter water drinkable, how does this verse describe the water once God changed it? He made it sweet! When God provides us with something, He always gives us His best. He wanted to show the Israelites that not only would He meet their needs, He would do it in wonderful way.
What do you suppose it means at the end of the verse when it says that He “proved” them? In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the first definition of the word “proved” is learned or found out by experience. And that’s exactly what God was trying to do in the hearts of the Israelites. He was trying to bring them through some tough tests, so they would learn how faithful and powerful He is, by experiencing His awesome deliverance. He wanted to prove Himself to them, but He also wanted to prove to them and to Himself that their trust in Him was real.
The next verse goes on to explain to the Israelites how they can keep proving to God that they are sincere in their desire to follow Him.
26And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee.
God wanted to take special care of His chosen people. He wanted them to know that they would receive special treatment from Him, and that He always wanted to provide for them. But His provision would come with some conditions. Did anyone hear the conditions God gave in this verse?
If the Israelites would do these things, they would prove their love for God. And He, in turn would bring them to His Promised Land, and bless them.
And once God had brought the Israelites through this test, He had something special prepared for them. He had already chosen their next campsite. And it would have all the water the Israelites could hope for.
27And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters.
God delighted in providing for the needs of the Israelites. And He especially enjoyed going above and beyond what they might expect, to prove His love to them. And God wants to do the same for us, today.
He may not send someone to throw a tree into some bitter water for us. But God has provided an even better kind of water for us. Listen to these words from John 4:10 and 14. Jesus was talking, here, to a woman from Samaria who was alone at a well…
10Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
14But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
God loved the Israelites so much, that He provided cool, sweet water in the middle of the wilderness, to quench their desperate thirst. But that water only quenched their thirst for a little time. Then, they were thirsty, again. God loves each and every one of us so much that He has provided us with some special water, too. But the water He offers us will help us to never thirst again. That water, the Living Water, comes from Jesus Christ, Himself. When we invite Him into our hearts, He quenches the burdens of our sinful souls, and gives us eternal life.
Have you taken this Living Water into your heart? If not, you can do so today. And if you’ve already had that thirst quenched forever, then next time you take a drink of water, stop and thank Your Heavenly Father for the Living Water He provided for you.
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, what a wonderful God You are. You never fail to meet our needs. And when you allow us to face a new trial, You promise to be right there with a way to escape, in Your time. And Lord, we thank You, too, for the Living Water You offer us through Your Son, Jesus Christ. We know He is all we’ll ever need to satisfy our thirst to be forgiven of our sins, and have eternal life. You are still the God the Israelites sang of. And we praise You! In Jesus name, Amen.
Class Discussion/ Activity:
Have the class discuss the following Fill in the Blank and True or False questions to review today’s lesson.
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. Miriam led the women in song and dance to praise God. (true)
2. When the Israelites arrived at Marah, they found no water. (false – they found water, but it was bitter.)
3. The Israelites trusted God to provide all they needed. (false – The Israelites murmured against Moses.)
4. God punished the Israelites for their lack of faith. (false – God told Moses what to do to change the water, then reminded the Israelites of their need to follow God.)
5. Jesus claimed He had water that would make us never thirst again. (true)
Think back to the beginning or our lesson, when we talked about what water does for our bodies. It carries life-giving oxygen through us, while taking away the wastes in our blood. It provides a cushion of protection for our joints. And finally, water helps our bodies to digest and absorb the food we eat.
How might Jesus’ “living water” compare to the physical water our bodies need? (Allow the students to answer first.) God’s “living water” does not carry oxygen, but it does provide something far more important…eternal life. And like the water washing wastes from our bodies, Jesus’ “living water” cleans our hearts, washing our sins away. The “living water” provides us with protection when Satan attacks. And if we look at God’s Word as spiritual food, then Jesus, Himself, can help us spiritually absorb what we read about God. He is the physical representation of God, on this earth. And made it possible for us, as the human race, to gain a little bit better understanding of the grace and love of God, through knowing Him.
God is still offering us that same “living water.” Have you taken that very important drink?
Oh precious Living Water,
Pour over me, today.
And quench this thirsty soul of mine
Forever, Lord, I pray.
Not like the bitter water
That Moses turned to sweet.
For that was temporary;
a thirst doomed to repeat.
But oh, Your Living Water
Can cleanse me from my sin.
It is the cure I long for,
To never thirst again.
[*Information for opening comments was obtained at http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761556865/human_nutrition.html]
Lisa DeVinney, September 23, 2022