“Drama in the Desert”
Click below to download the Cornerstone Connections leader’s guide and student lesson. This week’s resources also include two lesson plans and a discussion starter video which offer different ways of looking at the topic. Each lesson plan includes opening activities, scripture passages, discussion questions, and real-life applications.
God’s ultimate act of grace at the cross is foreshadowed by the serpent of bronze to whom the Israelites are to look for healing.
Beginning of the End
(Patriarchs and Prophets), ch. 37
Moses Fails on the Border of Canaan
Beginning of the End
(Patriarchs and Prophets), ch. 38
Why the Long Journey Around Edom
OVERVIEW: A SIMPLE LESSON
The Israelites seemed to have a chronic case of whining. They were very fussy about their needs and were often complaining and grumbling about why they did not like where they were or what was going on. Thankfully, Moses knew that when problems came up, the first thing he should do was go before the Lord and ask Him for help and guidance. Unfortunately, although Moses was faithful to God and he did many amazing things for God, he also stumbled and his pride and frustration caused him to strike the rock and claim that he had gotten the water to come out instead of following God’s specific command to speak to the rock. This was a costly mistake, because after that God said he would not get to live in the promised land.
When we read about the Israelites, it is easy to look at their mistakes from to judge their many bad choices. But, if we really give our own hearts and our own choices an honest look, we might realize that we too are not that different from those desert wanderers. But really, trusting in God, how hard could it be? In a sin-damaged world with unending problems, pain, difficulties, and delicious-looking temptations it can be a difficult lesson to learn. But we must learn to trust God and take Him at His Word, because He is our Creator and Savior.
Supplies: Single subject notebook for each teen, stickers, markers, and gel pens in various colors.
Give each class member a notebook. They will spend 5 minutes or so decorating the outside of their notebook with the title “Gratitude Journal” and whatever designs they want to add. Next, give them each a pen to keep. Ask them to write today’s date on the first page, and then write as many things they are thankful for as they can think of in 2 minutes. Set a timer for 2 minutes, and when the timer goes off, ask for volunteers to share what they wrote. Encourage the teens to continue using this gratitude journal in their personal time at home to keep a thankful and uplifting attitude.
BIBLE STUDY GUIDE
Read each Bible passage, then discuss.
Look to the Lord
Read Psalm 105:4.
4 Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.
Read Exodus 16:8.
8 Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.”
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Trust & Courage
Read Joshua 1:9.
9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
God has called us to a journey of faith in this world. Every day is a chance to know Him more, love Him more, and trust Him more. He is preparing a heavenly home for us, which gives us perspective, joy, peace, and hope. The best part is God’s promise to always go with us and never leave us nor forsake us. Just like He never left the Israelites alone, and He faithfully provided for their every need, God will continue to take care of us. We can trust in God, because He is our mighty and loving Father.
Remember this week to continue writing thank-you notes to God in your Gratitude Journal.
For a Relational Bible Study (RBS) you’ll want to get into the Scripture passage and encourage the youth to imagine participating in the story while it’s happening. Then you will be able to better apply it to your own situation today.
You will need to ask God for the Holy Spirit to be present as your small group discusses the questions (no more than 3-6 people in a group is recommended). Start with the opening question. It is a personal question and the answer is unique for each individual. There is no right answer and nobody is an expert here, so don’t be surprised when you hear different responses. You are depending on the Holy Spirit to be present and to speak through your group. Say what God prompts you to say, and listen to what others share.
Take turns reading the chapter out loud. Follow that with giving the students some time to individually mark their responses to the questions (a PDF version of the handout is available as a download). This gives each person a starting point for responding when you start to share as a group. Next, begin the discussion by asking the students to share what they marked and why on each question as you work your way through. Feel free to take more time on some questions than others as discussion warrants.
Encourage each person in the group to apply what is discussed to their personal lives and to share with the group what they believe God wants them to do. Then ask them to pray that God will help each of them to follow through in doing so. Remind them to expect that God will show them ways to live out the message of this passage in the coming week, and that they are free to ask others in the group to help hold them accountable.
According to Jewish tradition this was the last and the worst of Israel’s apostasies in their wilderness wanderings. The plague of serpents was a most terrible curse from the Lord. The people’s “spirit was shortened.” Having a “short spirit” means being impatient, unable to keep one’s temper in check, unable to keep one’s self-discipline. It is the opposite of being “long-suffering”: “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (Proverbs 14:29). This same gracious gift of God is to be found in Paul’s list of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). Having a “short soul” really means more than being impatient, it means being thoroughly discouraged. The people were depressed and cheerless.
They had been rejected by the kings of Edom and Arad, and had lost their High Priest, Aaron. So they bitterly complained again to Moses, but the text makes it clear that in so doing they were “speaking against God.” They complained that there was no daily provision of food and water, only “worthless food” and the food they called this was the manna, a gift from God! Such a blatant contempt for God’s gift and purpose for them evoked his great anger. The punishment took the form of deadly “fiery serpents,” so-called not from their physical appearance but from the burning sensation of their venom in the body.
God provided an unexpected antidote to the serpents, not by means of a serum based on their venom, but by means of an artificial serpent set up high on a pole, which need be only looked at for recovery and presumably immunity thereafter.
Can you share about a time you were bitten by an insect/bug?
Read Numbers 21:4-9.
4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”
6 Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
8 The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.
1. What makes it so easy to complain?
2. Why were the people complaining in Numbers 21:5?
3. What was God’s response to Israel’s complaining?
4. What unusual antidote did God provided for the snake bites?
5. What is your one-word reaction to this Bible story?
6. What is the greater meaning of the bronze serpent in this story?
7. How are you responding to Jesus’ grace from Calvary right now?
8. What steps can you take to praise when tempted to complain?
These verses describe the last recorded occasion on which Israel expressed their grumbling discontentment about their desert food and their yearning for the fleshpots of Egypt, describing the divine provision of manna as “this worthless bread.” On this occasion it did not lead to a further divine provision of food and water, but instead precipitated an act of divine judgment. Fiery serpents were sent among the people, and many suffered fatally from their bites. A confession of sin on the part of those who had spoken against the Lord and against Moses enabled Moses to make intercession for them. God provided for their healing in a manner that typified Christ’s cross. Even today, we can look to Him and live!
The particular and special value of this story lies in the fact that our Lord Himself chose it to illustrate perhaps the greatest utterance in the whole of Scripture about the gospel, in John 3:14-16, where the correspondence is made in unmistakable terms: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Below, find some application activities to interface with this lesson. These are simply to provide ideas for your use, or to invite you to imagine and create some of your own, as you impact the lives of teens for God’s glory.
What if the Miracles of Jesus are more than meets the eye?
What if there is so much more to each story than we see?
What if each time Jesus did something supernatural, He was inviting us to look deeper?
Beyond the healing.
Beyond the deliverance.
Beyond the acts that defied the laws of nature.
What if Jesus were inviting us to see something bigger?
Something more amazing about the love of God.
What if the ultimate Miracle is that God can transform us?
The Miracle Series is an interactive study of 15 of Jesus’ awe-inspiring encounters while here on earth. These lessons, and messages are designed to connect with teens and youth and take them on a journey of discovery. Included in this kit is everything you need:
We invite you and your youth to not just study the Miracles of Jesus but to experience The Miracle.
1. Activity / Busy Bags for Kids
Help parents stay sane. Assemble bags with activities to keep small children busy.
Cost: Less than $5.00
2. Placemats For Meals On Wheels
Cheer up the homebound. Thoughtfully decorated placemats are a lovely extra to bring to meal recipients. If you’re able to laminate the placemats, all the better!
Cost: Less than $5.00
3. Deliver Meals For Meals On Wheels
Help fight hunger. Pick up and deliver meals to seniors and people with disabilities.
Cost: Less than $5.00