What is this?
These Sabbath School lesson outlines aid Sabbath School teachers & members in their weekly study
& preparation for Sabbath School classes.
Join the Discussion
Use the form at the bottom of the page to share with other readers your thoughts about this lesson.
Sabbath School Lessons on Numbers
Read the Quarterly Online
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.
What about Ellen White?
to learn why I generally do not cite Ellen G. White in the lessons.
Looking for old Sabbath School lessons?
Sabbath School lesson study outlines from previous quarters are saved in the Sabbath School lesson archive
Got questions or comments?
Go to our contact form
and drop us a note.
SabbathSchoolLessons.com operates like grace: it is free, but not without cost.
We're counting on your ongoing financial support to help us continue providing these
lessons to Sabbath School teachers and members around the world. You may cancel your monthly contribution at any time.
Get these Sabbath School lessons by e-mail! Subscribe to the Bible Study of the Week mailing list:
Subscribe in a reader
Lesson 6: Planning Ahead *
Introduction: What a change in life! Imagine that you had built
your hopes and dreams on a new and wonderful land. You planned to
have your dream house and your dream farm. Now you know that will
never happen because you distrusted God. You will live and die as a
nomad in the desert. The good news is that you are no longer a
slave. You live in the presence of God. How should you act now?
What does God require of you now that you have broken your trust
with Him? Let's continue our journey with the Israelites as they
turn away from the promised land!
- Unintentional Sins
- Read Numbers 15:27-28 and Matthew 5:27-28. Is sin in the
Old Testament like sin in the New Testament?
- Consider these two texts. Numbers tells us that we
can sin without even knowing it. Jesus tells us in
Matthew that we can sin without even doing it.
- There are many crimes in the United States which
require "intent" in order to be a crime. Does
Numbers 15:27 tell us that we can sin without
intent? (Probably not. No doubt the "unintentional
sinner" intended to do the act. The sinner just did
not realize it was a sin.)
- Has this ever happened to you - that you sinned
because you did not know better? You thought
(hoped) it was not sin, but later decided it
was? (All of us should desire to know God
better. As our understanding of God and of
life increase, we realize that some of our past
actions and attitudes were wrong.)
- If you are like me, you try to justify your
sins. You tell yourself "this is not really
sin." Then God does something that gives you a
very clear view of your sin. Does this sound
- Read Numbers 15:29. What does this say about God's
attitude towards His law? (God believes in "the rule of
law." The law does not change with different people.
One law for the rich and famous. Another law for the poor
and uneducated. Another law for aliens. Everyone is
equal under God's law.)
- Defiant Sins
- Read Numbers 15:30-31. Remember the context of this text:
these people just got through defiantly sinning. They
held God in contempt, they seriously discussed stoning
Moses, and they refused to enter the promised land. Why
are they not "cut off?" How can they have any future?
- The Hebrew for "defiantly" should be translated
"high hand." Wycliffe's Bible Commentary says, "with
a raised, clenched fist." Was Israel's refusal to
enter the Promised Land a "clenched fist" refusal?
(We just learned that God believes in the "rule of
law." We can only conclude that the refusal to
enter Canaan, the contempt shown to God, as bad as
it was, was not a "clenched fist" sin. It was
weakness and stupidity, and not such defiance that
it crossed the line.)
- When the text refers to being "cut off" from his
people, does that mean being killed? (I don't think
so, but this will be far from clear as we continue
- What do you think is God's purpose in the "cut
off?" (Consider the story of the "prodigal son"
in Luke 15:11-32. This young man intentionally
sinned. He was defiant towards his father's
rules. Being "cut off" from family, friends and
resources brought him to his senses. He
returned to his father who forgave him. I think
that is the goal in Numbers.)
- After this discussion, what kinds of sins should concern
us? (We learned that we can unintentionally sin, that we
can intentionally sin (even without doing the deed) and
that we can defiantly sin. Defiant sin gets us "cut off"
in the hope we will come to our senses.)
- Should these rules apply to membership in our local
church? Should we help each other in our
unintentional and intentional sins, but "cut off"
those who engage in defiant sin?
- Many Christians live in what I would call a "danger
area." They believe they are saved by grace (they are),
they believe they cannot earn salvation (right), and
although they believe in doing the "right thing," down
deep they believe that their actions don't matter. God
will forgive them whatever they do. How do you think God
views someone who sins, knowing it is wrong, but thinking
that God will forgive? Is that defiant sin?
- Sabbath Breaking
- Read Numbers 15:32-34. What is the relationship between
what we have just discussed and this concrete example?
(The example helps us decide whether the conclusions we
just reached are valid. The example and the instructions
give us a fuller picture of God's attitude towards sin.)
- In light of the rules we have just discussed, why is it
fair to say "it was not clear" what should be done to
this Sabbath-breaker? (The intent and attitude are
critical to deciding how to deal with sin. The people
were not certain of this fellow's intent.)
- What do you think should have been done to this man?
- Read Exodus 31:14-15. What is the established
penalty for Sabbath-breaking?
- Did you notice that "cut off" and death are
- Read Exodus 16:23. Let's put ourselves in the wood
gatherer's shoes. Is he sneaking around in the dark
gathering wood? (No. He is apparently doing it in
- What do you think he had in mind for his wood?
Was he just tidying up the wilderness? (No
doubt his next plan was to build a fire and
start cooking his manna - in plain sight of
- Based on these facts, do you think this is
unintentional, intentional or defiant sin? (Since
this guy was part of the group, it seems impossible
that it was unintentional. Given his likely course
of action, it seems that this is defiant sin.)
- For many years we would take camping vacations in
our motor home. Many times I've built fires on
Sabbath so we could sit around the fire. Each time I
would think about what the Bible says about Sabbaths
and fires. Have I been like this fellow? (I hope
not. What was the "work" of the average Israelite?
Wasn't it only to gather wood and make food? Since
food was provided, I cannot think of much else they
could have been doing. No part of my work is to
gather wood or build fires. It was pure rest and
recreation for me.)
- Read Numbers 15:35-36. What does this tell you about the
nature of the man's sin? (That it was defiant. In this
case, being "cut off" meant that he was cut off from
- Does this seem a little harsh to you? (The Exodus
text we read shows that it was known that death was
the penalty. I suspect that this fellow, knowing
that they were consigned to the desert, was still in
open rebellion against God. "Won't let me into the
promised land? I refuse to serve or obey God!")
- Why were all the people part of the execution team?
(It helped to make the point about obedience.)
- Is this Jesus? Is this our same God? (Yes. We need
to consider both the story of the prodigal and the
story of the wood gatherer. We have a God of love
and a God of judgment. Saying "I'll willingly sin
because I'll be forgiven" is not a good approach.)
- Reminder Notes
- Read Numbers 15:37-41. Do you think this instruction has
anything to do with the story of the wood gatherer or the
prior instructions? (Yes. God says "I want you to know my
laws, I want you to avoid unintentional and intentional
sins." God says, "I don't want you to end up like the
- Focus on the phrase in Numbers 15:39 "going after the
lusts of your own hearts and eyes." Have you ever said
"God made me this way?" "God made me to desire
[women/men]?" (The fact that all of us (yes, all of us)
desire something that is inconsistent with God's will
does not justify a violation of God's law.)
- Should we be attaching notes to our clothes today? If
not, what is the modern equivalent of this? (Wearing a
cross? Reading the Bible? I doubt that most of the people
being addressed were literate. This was a practical
substitution for the written text. Notice that God seeks
constant reminders of His will.)
- Friend, sin is a serious matter. The people were denied
entrance into the promised land because of it. God did
not leave them as a result of their contempt of Him, but
He did not abandon His high requirement of obedience.
Will you determine today to obey God - regardless of what
your heart and eyes might want?
- Next week: Power Struggle.
* 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.