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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!

  1. Family Trouble

    1. 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.)

      1. 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.)

      2. 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.)

    2. Read Numbers 20:2-5. These would be the new generation of people. Has their faith improved? Has their attitude gotten any better?

      1. What do you think about their suggestion that they would have been better off dying with the older generation?

      2. 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.)

    3. 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.)

      1. What do you think about God's message that Moses should "speak" to the rock?

        1. 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.)

        2. Why does Moses need to take his staff (Numbers 20:8) if he only needs to speak?

    4. 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.)

      1. 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.)

    5. 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.)

      1. What do you say about the punishment? Does it seem harsh?

        1. 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.)

        2. 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 authority?)

        3. 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 their victory.)

  2. Aaron's End

    1. 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?

      1. Why does Moses take the garments off Aaron? (This was the symbolic passing of the authority of the High Priest from Aaron to Eleazar.)

        1. 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 father.)

        2. When people come to the end of their life, they look back and make a judgment about it. What judgment would Aaron make?

        3. 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 accept them?

        4. 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.)

        5. 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.)

  3. Nehushtan

    1. Read Numbers 21:4-6. Should the people have learned something from Aaron's death?

      1. 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?

    2. 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?

      1. 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.)

      2. 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.)

        1. 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 in it.)

    3. 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?

  4. 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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