Monday, August 3, 2009

People Rebel Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending August 9, 2009

Purpose: To explore how dissatisfaction and complaint lead to rebellion and disobedience.

Scripture Text: Numbers 14:1-12 (NRSV)

Numbers 14:1-12
(1)Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. (2)And all the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron; the whole congregation said to them, ‘Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! (3)Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become booty; would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?’ (4)So they said to one another, ‘Let us choose a captain, and go back to Egypt.’ (5) Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the Israelites. (6)And Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes (7)and said to all the congregation of the Israelites, ‘The land that we went through as spies is an exceedingly good land.

(8)If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. (9)Only, do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they are no more than bread for us; their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.’ (10)But the whole congregation threatened to stone them. Then the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites. (11)And the Lord said to Moses, ‘How long will this people despise me? And how long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? (12)I will strike them with pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.’

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

I would like to give you a little time line for today's text. It was about two month’s time from Egypt to Sinai, an additional nine months ten days were spent at Sinai receiving the law and instructions. Once the Israelites broke camp and headed to Kadesh-Barnea the travel time was about two months. So from Egypt to Kadesh-Barnea was a total of one year one month and ten days. That brings us to Numbers 10:11. Last week’s lesson and this lesson both take place in the Wilderness of Paran. God had promised the Children of Israel a new home, one with milk and honey, now they were in a position to claim it, but first they wanted to spy out the land. They selected a tribesman from each tribe and sent them ahead to spy out the area. The majority of the spies came back with a confirmation that indeed the land was full of milk and honey as God had said, but it was also full of fortified cities and armies and even giants, so the majorities' advise was to not go into the land God had promised. That is where today's text begins.

How strong is your faith and how much do you trust God to do what he has promised? This was the same group that had witnessed God's plaques/signs against Egypt, experienced the Passover, walked on dry ground through the sea, and received God's law at Mount Sinai. In addition they had seen the cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, they received manna, thousands of doves and more meat than they could eat. In 13:27 they acknowledged that indeed the land flowed with milk and honey just as God said. This leads us to think if we only believe the good part (God is love, and He loves us) but don't have enough faith to claim what God has promised, where does that place us in the relationship?

Last week we talked about “cheap grace”, God's grace deserves our response, I agree the concept of grace may have not been understood by the children of Israel, but then it becomes about trust. Could they trust God? The children of Israel did not trust God, and they made it very plain as they began the chorus of “if only”. The “noise in the system” as a former UF football coach put it, reached a crescendo when they directly questioned God's motives in verse 3. It should be pointed out that God did not ask this group of people to be perfect, He had established within the law the means for forgiveness if they messed up. What God wanted was faithful obedience, which He considered a reasonable response, which included repentance and forgiveness. Israel's future was secure as long as they were in relationship with the Lord. God had promised to do all the fighting, if they would respond to His love/grace by just showing up and being His select group. “I will be your God, and you will be my people”.

It appears from God's remarks to Moses, that He was willing to abandon His original idea and establish a new covenant with Moses that would be Moses’ descendants not necessarily Abraham’s, Isaac’s and Jacob's. This shows us that God's work will get done whether by us or others that God chooses. How great to have a Joshua and a Caleb in your camp, they were ready and willing to move forward and collect the prize that God had promised. After God heard Moses prayer he was willing to forgive the people, but, also to pronounce judgment. All of those except Joshua and Caleb would not see the Promised Land, including Moses and Aaron. And God adds a stinger at the end, saying in verse 31 “But your little ones whom you said would be victims I will bring in”. That is the grace of God at work, willful disobedience and rebellion against God has consequences.

It is interesting that two out of the twelve spies seemed to have an understanding of God and a relationship with Him. Today there are over 113,000,000 men over the age of 15 in America, only 1 out of 18 are involved in an active relationship with Jesus Christ. In our lesson 1/6th had an active relationship with God; today it is 1/18th or 3 times worse than those in our text.

In what ways are we like Israel? What obstacles hinder us from living as part of the people of God? What fears do we have about trusting God?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm teaching Sunday School tomorrow morning. Thank you for your blog.

Dick Johnston
Wilkesboro, NC