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Sabbath School Lessons on Numbers
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 5: From Complaints to Apostasy *
Introduction: Do you feel God has let you down? Are you unsatisfied
with the life God has given to you? Have you complained that God did
not do more for you? Our lesson this week shows that God is receptive
to complaints, and that He responds to them, but when complaints turn
to rebellion and distrust of God, watch out! We talk about faith. Our
Bible texts suggest that we might better focus on contempt. Let's
jump into our study of the book of Numbers and learn more!
- The Omnivore's Dilemma
- Read Numbers 11:4-6. Do you like variety in your diet?
Are you sympathetic to the complaint of the people? (I
like to visit new restaurants to see if they have
something different and good to eat. On the other hand,
when I was growing up I ate the same lunch for at least
five years. During the work week I've eaten the same
breakfast for more than ten years. This is my choice.)
- Are the people just complaining about their diet?
(No, they are longing for Egypt.)
- Were the fish free in Egypt? (If you forget
about the fact that they were unpaid slaves.)
- How long a time period are we talking about for this
same diet? (Read Deuteronomy 1:2. While I do not know
the total time, the Bible tells us that from the
giving of the Ten Commandments to the their current
location was a trip of 11 days!)
- Read Numbers 11:7-9. What is good about the manna?
- If you were God, what would you think about the
request for more variation in the menu?
- How difficult would it be for God to send down a
different food every day of the week?
- As God, you can do anything. If you were God, what
would your reaction be to all of this? (Where is the
gratitude for all that I did?)
- Read Numbers 11:10-15. Consider Moses' complaint to God.
What do you consider to be the root problem with Moses'
attitude? (In verse 13 Moses says, "Where can I get meat
for all these people?" His attitude is that he is
responsible. His efforts will cure the problems.)
- Does Moses look to God for help? (In verse 14 Moses
seems to ask for help, but again he seems to be
mostly concerned about himself - "do not let me face
my own ruin.")
- Consider the last time you complained to God.
Were you worried about your reputation? Were
you trying to carry the burden yourself?
- If you were coaching Moses in his discussion with
God, what would you suggest that he say? (Don't make
the issue about you. Let God know about the problems
and let Him decide how to handle it.)
- Read Numbers 11:16-17. We read earlier that God was angry
with the people. How would you characterize God's response
to Moses? (It seems most reasonable.)
- What has Moses lost? (His authority is now diluted.)
- What is the key to leadership? (God's Spirit!)
- Let's skip down a few verses. Read Numbers 11:24-25.
This is not the book of Acts. What does this teach us
today about the Holy Spirit? (That we can expect
literal manifestations of it.)
- Why did they not prophesy again? (God wanted
them to know they had His Spirit. But, a
continued physical manifestation was not
- Read Numbers 11:31-34. What role did the 70 elders play in
this? (None. God could have worked through Moses alone.)
- Should we be careful what we ask for?
- Why do you think the people died? What is the lesson
for us? (I don't think the people died because they
asked for a variation in their diet. I think they
died because of their attitude. They had no
gratitude for being freed from slavery. They had no
gratitude for the food provided. They simply had
- Promised Land
- Read Numbers 13:1-2. What do you think were God's motives
in this? (If you are giving your spouse a wonderful
present, you are anxious to have them see it.)
- Read Numbers 13:26-29. What are the essential elements of
the report of those sent to explore the land? (It is
everything that was promised. But, it will be difficult to
- Is there any parallel for us today when it comes to
- Read Numbers 13:30. Why did Caleb have to silence the
people? (The report caused instant discussion. Apparently
- What caused Caleb to say this? (He was concerned that
the people would be discouraged by the report of the
difficulty of taking the land.)
- Read Numbers 13:31. Is this true? (Yes. If they removed
God from the equation.)
- Read Numbers 14:1-4. Is there any logic to the response of
the people? (If they wanted to die, why not die on the
field of battle? What not die trying to make a better
life for yourself?)
- Have you ever been guilty of this kind of attitude
when you faced a major life problem?
- Read Numbers 14:5-9. Why did Joshua and Caleb think they
could take the land? ("Their protection is gone, but the
Lord is with us.")
- Were they certain that God was with them? (Notice
verse 8: "If the Lord is pleased with us, He ... will
give it to us.")
- If you had that uncertainty, would you move forward?
(Remember that it is about God and not about them.
You move ahead knowing that whatever the outcome, God
is in charge.)
- Read Numbers 14:10. What have the people decided? (That
Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb have failed them. They are
guilty of something, perhaps something worthy of death.)
- Read Numbers 14:11. Notice that God does not talk about a
lack of faith, He talks about contempt. What do you think
about God's reaction?
- When we are encouraging faith in others (or
ourselves) should we state it in terms of holding God
- Do you think the people were really holding God in
contempt? Was it simply that they did not think they
could do it, and the problem was that they left God
out of the equation? (If you are part of God's
people, you can never leave Him out of the equation.
From God's point of view it is contempt.)
- Read Numbers 14:12-19. Isn't this an extraordinary dialog?
Why is this in the inspired record? Why does God want us
to see this? Is Moses manipulating God?
- Read Numbers 14:20. Have these people asked for
forgiveness? Recall that when we discussed the epistles of
John ( 1 John 5:16-17) we considered whether we can pray
for the forgiveness of the sins of others. In Matthew
18:18 Jesus tells the disciples that they can "bind" and
"loose" things in heaven. Should you pray for the
forgiveness of the sins of others (like your children) or
do you have to be Moses or a disciple to do this?
- Read Numbers 14:21-25. Is God giving the people what they
requested? (Compare Numbers 14:2 and Numbers 14:28-29.)
- If God has forgiven them, why are they consigned to
death in the desert?
- In Numbers 14:36-38 we learn that all those who gave a bad
report died, only Joshua and Caleb survived. This was
reported to the people. Read Numbers 14:40, 44-45. Were
the people given a second chance? (No. They had plenty of
"chances" before, but when it came to entering the
promised land they had one chance.)
- Is there a lesson in this for us today? What does
this suggest about the "Left Behind" theory of second
chances for heaven?
- What does this suggest about any differences
between God's attitude toward forgiveness of sin
and God's attitude about the practical results
of sin? (We skipped over Numbers 12, which
reveals second (or more) chances for Aaron and
Miriam. In Numbers 14:22 God says He gave them
- What does the failure to enter the promised land
teach us about distrusting God when it comes to
the major decisions in life?
- Friend, many times in these lessons I have invited you to
be a follower of God. Accepting that invitation carries
with it the obligation to trust God and not hold Him in
contempt. Will you determine to trust God today - even
when you face giants?
- Next week: Planning Ahead.
* Copr. 2009, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.