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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!

  1. The Omnivore's Dilemma

    1. 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.)

      1. Are the people just complaining about their diet? (No, they are longing for Egypt.)

        1. Were the fish free in Egypt? (If you forget about the fact that they were unpaid slaves.)

      2. 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!)

    2. Read Numbers 11:7-9. What is good about the manna?

      1. If you were God, what would you think about the request for more variation in the menu?

      2. How difficult would it be for God to send down a different food every day of the week?

      3. 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?)

    3. 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.)

      1. 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.")

        1. Consider the last time you complained to God. Were you worried about your reputation? Were you trying to carry the burden yourself?

      2. 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.)

    4. 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.)

      1. What has Moses lost? (His authority is now diluted.)

      2. What is the key to leadership? (God's Spirit!)

      3. 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.)

        1. Why did they not prophesy again? (God wanted them to know they had His Spirit. But, a continued physical manifestation was not necessary.)

    5. Read Numbers 11:31-34. What role did the 70 elders play in this? (None. God could have worked through Moses alone.)

      1. Should we be careful what we ask for?

      2. 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 complaints.)

  2. Promised Land

    1. 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.)

    2. 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 possess it.)

      1. Is there any parallel for us today when it comes to heaven?

    3. Read Numbers 13:30. Why did Caleb have to silence the people? (The report caused instant discussion. Apparently loud discussion.)

      1. 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.)

    4. Read Numbers 13:31. Is this true? (Yes. If they removed God from the equation.)

    5. 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?)

      1. Have you ever been guilty of this kind of attitude when you faced a major life problem?

    6. 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.")

      1. Were they certain that God was with them? (Notice verse 8: "If the Lord is pleased with us, He ... will give it to us.")

      2. 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.)

    7. 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.)

    8. 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?

      1. When we are encouraging faith in others (or ourselves) should we state it in terms of holding God in contempt?

      2. 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.)

    9. 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?

    10. 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?

    11. Read Numbers 14:21-25. Is God giving the people what they requested? (Compare Numbers 14:2 and Numbers 14:28-29.)

      1. If God has forgiven them, why are they consigned to death in the desert?

    12. 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.)

      1. Is there a lesson in this for us today? What does this suggest about the "Left Behind" theory of second chances for heaven?

        1. 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 ten chances!)

        2. What does the failure to enter the promised land teach us about distrusting God when it comes to the major decisions in life?

    13. 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?

  3. 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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