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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 9: The Sin of Moses and Aaron *
Introduction: Have you had a time in your life when you felt you had
an excuse for sinning? You had so many things going wrong that it
was easy to slip and fall? Have you been disappointed when a
spiritual leader you trusted fell into sin? Do you have a different
standard for yourself than for your leaders? Should you? Our lesson
this week is about a leader who fell during a difficult time in his
life. Let's dive into our lesson and learn more!
- Family Trouble
- Read Numbers 20:1. The text starts out "in the first
month." The first month of what? They had been in the
desert for decades! (Recall that in Numbers 14:32-34 God
sentenced those who did not trust Him and who refused to
enter Canaan to wander for forty years in the desert and
die there. Numbers 33:38 suggests that the forty years
that they had been told they would wander in the desert
was at an end. This is probably the first month of their
fortieth year of wandering.)
- Do you think Moses expected his sister Miriam to
die? (We know she was older than Moses because she
watched over him when he was placed in a basket in
the Nile river to save his life. Exodus 2:1-4.
Perhaps she was included in those who were sentenced
to die in the desert because of their rebellion.)
- How would you feel if you were Moses? (She was not
only his older sister, she was part of the
"administration team" for the Israelites.)
- Read Numbers 20:2-5. These would be the new generation of
people. Has their faith improved? Has their attitude
gotten any better?
- What do you think about their suggestion that they
would have been better off dying with the older
- Why is Egypt the point of reference? Why not plead
to have God take them quickly into Canaan? (They had
no vision and no trust. They thought going back to
slavery was preferable.)
- Read Numbers 20:6-8. In your opinion, are Moses and Aaron
doing the right thing? (Yes, they immediately turn to God
to solve the problem.)
- What do you think about God's message that Moses
should "speak" to the rock?
- Read Genesis 1:3 and Exodus 17:5-6. Do you
think it is significant that God now tells
Moses to speak to the rock rather than strike
the rock? (It more closely parallels the power
of God shown in the Creation. No physical act
is required, only a verbal command. A new level
of power is given to Moses.)
- Why does Moses need to take his staff (Numbers
20:8) if he only needs to speak?
- Read Numbers 20:9-11. What do you find troubling about
Moses's statement to the people? Or, is Moses just
telling them the truth - that they are rebels?(The first
problem is that Moses seems to claim that Aaron and he
will produce the water, not God. Second, in the past God
has declared the people to be rebelling and Moses has
interceded for them. Now, Moses is condemning them.)
- Even though Moses strikes the rock instead of
speaking to it, the water comes out anyway. Why is
that? Why would God perform the miracle even though
Moses has not followed directions? (God honors Moses
even though Moses is not honoring God.)
- Read Numbers 20:12. What is the error of Moses and Aaron?
When God says "You did not trust Me enough to honor Me,"
to what, exactly, is God referring? What trust, what
honor? (God can create by merely speaking. He delegated
that to Moses - a very high honor. Instead of giving the
glory to God, Moses not only claims the power for
himself, but he strikes the rock - as if he needed to
perform a physical act to perform the miracle. Moses
claims the credit and he does it his way.)
- What do you say about the punishment? Does it seem
- Put yourself in Moses' place. What would you
argue in your defense? (I'm still upset because
of the death of my sister. These people are
driving me crazy - they never seem to learn. It
was a very small error.)
- Put yourself in God's place. What would you say
to Moses? (The whole issue is about trust in
Me. How can the people ever learn to trust Me
if you will not trust Me (by simply speaking)?
How can the people trust Me if you claim My
- Does the punishment have any practical impact
on the trust question? (To the extent that the
people trust (and blame) Moses, if they are
required to go into Canaan without him, they
will more clearly realize God is the source of
- Aaron's End
- Read Numbers 20:23-29. Put yourself in Moses' place. His
sister dies and four months later ( Numbers 33:38) your
brother dies. What are your thoughts about God? What are
your thoughts about your impending death?
- Why does Moses take the garments off Aaron? (This
was the symbolic passing of the authority of the
High Priest from Aaron to Eleazar.)
- What kind of emotion can you see in this
process for the three of them? (Moses may feel
that some of this is his fault for striking the
rock. Moses has now lost his brother and co-leader. Aaron is dying because of his sin - and
without entering the promised land. The son
realizes that the end has come for his beloved
- When people come to the end of their life, they
look back and make a judgment about it. What
judgment would Aaron make?
- Have you had some hard things come into your
life? Things that, if you are honest, have to
do with a failure on your part? How should you
- Read Jude 1:9 and Matthew 17:3. I'm getting
ahead here, but what does this teach us about
God's love and care for us when we experience
hard things because of our sins? (We don't know
what happened to Aaron, but it has been
revealed to us that God was more than fair when
it came to Moses. He was taken to the ultimate
promised land - and immediately.)
- What is the lesson for us? (Both Aaron and
Miriam (Moses' sister) were involved in
rebellion. Aaron was old and this was a good
way to die. However, to the extent that he died
before entering Canaan, it is a warning to us
to trust God and not rebel against Him. Do not
take credit for God's power.)
- Read Numbers 21:4-6. Should the people have learned
something from Aaron's death?
- Would it be reasonable for them to believe that
their last round of complaining had led to the death
of Aaron and the judgment against Moses?
- Read Numbers 21:7-9. We just learned that when God says
to do something we should do it. Why do you think God had
Moses make a snake image to save them?
- Read John 3:14-15. If Jesus is like this serpent,
why not make a lamb and put it on a pole? Doesn't a
snake represent sin? How can Jesus be like the
snake? (The snake does represent sin. The sins of
the people were killing them. The first step to
salvation is to acknowledge your sin - to admit that
you are a sinner in need of grace. Thus, looking at
the snake is the acknowledgment of your sin.)
- Read 2 Kings 18:3-5. Why did Hezekiah destroy the
snake that Moses made? (The people had been
worshiping it. They were treating it like an idol.)
- Is there a lesson in this for us today? (We
need to face and confess our sins. However, we
should not later be "worshiping" our sinful
past by bragging to others about it. Our goal
is to confess and turn away from sin, not bask
- Friend, we all go through difficult times. Instead of
using those as an excuse to distrust God, in tough times
we need to trust Him more. Will you ask God right now to
give you a spirit of trust and gratitude and take away
your spirit of rebellion?
- Next week: The "Madness" of the Prophet.
* 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.