Oak Grove Baptist Church

Striving to become the church of choice for this generation.

“Faithful During Grief”


  • Lesson Text: 1 Samuel 1:9-20
  • Background Scripture: 1 Samuel 1:1-2:10
  • Devotional Reading: Psalm 99


1 Samuel 1:9–20 (KJV)

9 So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the Lord.

10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore.

11 And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.

12 And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli marked her mouth.

13 Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.

14 And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee.

15 And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord.

16 Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto.

17 Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him.

18 And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.

19 And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the Lord, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the Lord remembered her.

20 Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord.

TODAY’S LESSON AIMS

Learning Fact: To summarize the account of Hannah’s desperate plea for a son.

Biblical Principle: To tell why prayer is a vital resource in times of grief and sorrow.

Daily Application: To provide examples of individuals who have demonstrated trust in God during times of grief.

HOW TO SAY IT

Belial        Bee-li-ul.

Elkanah    El-kuh-nuh or El-kay-nuh.

Peninnah  Peh-nin-uh.

Nazarite   Naz-uh-rite.

Shiloh      Shy-low.

INTRODUCTION

A Hymn Written Through Tears

Many well-known and well-loved hymns celebrate God’s faithfulness and provide a sense of comfort and peace to the grieving. In many cases, the hymns themselves were produced in the aftermath of great sorrow on the part of the writer. One of these is “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

Joseph Scriven (1819–1886) wrote the words that were later set to music. He was living a very contented life in his native Ireland. Then, on the night before his wedding was to take place, his fiancée drowned. Not long after this, Scriven moved to Port Hope, Canada, determined to devote his life to helping others in need. When his mother became ill in Ireland, he wrote a letter to comfort her and included in it the words to “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Sometime later, when Scriven himself fell ill, a friend who came to visit him happened to see a copy of the words scribbled on a piece of paper near his bed. The friend asked who wrote them. Scriven replied, “The Lord and I did it between us.”

Through the years, the Lord has provided comfort to the disheartened and the grieving. He has done so sometimes through words of hymns or poems, sometimes through the words of Scripture, sometimes through the simple caring presence of concerned Christian friends, and through other means at other times. And while we often associate grieving with death, in a world broken by the curse of sin there are many other circumstances in which genuine grief can occur. One of these is seen in our Scripture text for today. A childless woman became so distraught over her condition that she determined she would “take it to the Lord in prayer.”

LESSON CONTEXT

The events in the early chapters of 1 Samuel occur toward the end of the period when the judges provided leadership for the nation of Israel. The book of Judges is filled with turmoil and chaos due to Israel’s pattern of disobedience and rebellion against God. This trend continues into 1 Samuel with a misbehaving priestly family (1 Samuel 2:12-17).

Hannah’s turmoil is of a different kind: the strife that exists within a family and the heartbreak of a barren woman in that family. Hers was the grief of a hope unfulfilled, a desire for the joys of motherhood that she could see other women experiencing but which had been denied her. Hannah felt cruelly separated from those women and in some cases was likely ostracized by them. In a society in which a woman’s primary vocation was to be a mother, infertility was often taken as a sign of God’s displeasure and resulted in a loss of status. Hannah experienced the disdain of society and likely wondered whether the Lord saw her in a similar light.

Aside from the societal stigma attached to barrenness in biblical times, the surroundings in Hannah’s home made her condition even more excruciating. Elkanah, Hannah’s husband, had another wife besides Hannah, named Peninnah. Not only did Peninnah have children, but she taunted Hannah mercilessly for her inability to bear children (1 Samuel 1:6, 7). Peninnah was downright cruel in reminding Hannah of her barren condition. It is hard to imagine how deeply Hannah was hurt by such malicious words from a woman she could not simply cut out of her life.

Elkanah was a well-intentioned man and sympathetic toward Hannah, but he did not grasp fully the extent of her anguish. When Hannah would become so upset during their annual sacrifice that she refused to eat (1 Samuel 1:3, 7), Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?” (1:8). In truth, being a mother of just one son would have satisfied Hannah, so great was her grief at being childless.

Hannah’s Sorrow: 1 Samuel 1:9–11

To his credit, Hannah’s husband, Elkanah, is one of those individuals who desires to raise his family to honor the Lord. Each year Elkanah takes his family to worship and perform a sacrifice at the tabernacle at Shiloh. It appears that families can plan special gatherings of worship together, perhaps along the line of family reunions (1 Samuel 20:6, 28, 29).

1. What did Hannah do after the family had eaten in Shiloh? (1 Samuel 1:9a)

During one of the festive meals at Shiloh, Hannah left the family and went to the tabernacle to pray. The fact that Hannah rises after they had eaten the fellowship meal meant that she herself has not eaten anything because she was so upset (see 1 Samuel 1:18). This was meant to be a joyous time, but it was certainly not joyful for Hannah since her “adversary” Peninnah was constantly ridiculing her barrenness (1 Samuel 1:6).

Hannah had determined in her heart that the Lord wanted her to pray for a son so that she might give him back to the Lord to serve Him all his life, so she went to the temple to pray.

2. Who was at the temple where Hannah prayed?  What did Hannah vow in her prayer? (1 Samuel 1:9b-11)

“Eli the priest” was sitting on his chair by the doorpost “of the temple” to oversee the ministry, and it was there that Hannah went to pray.

Hannah’s despair drove her closer to the Lord; in her misery she trusted in God’s true grace. Three times in Hannah’s prayer she refers to herself as the Lord’s handmaid, a polite way of speaking of herself and emphasizing her lowly status in presenting her request.

What Do You Think?

  What are some good habits to form to increase your patience in prayer?

Digging Deeper

  Why is it important to continue to worship God even when waiting for answers to prayer?

Hannah’s prayer was accompanied by the vow that if God would give her a son, she would dedicate him “unto the Lord” for the rest of his life. Hannah vowed further that the child for which she was asking would be a Nazarite (see Numbers 6:1-4), thus making her vow even more intense and promising a more complete degree of separation from sin and special dedication to God for special service. Samson had been a Nazarite.   

What Do You Think?

  How can we determine when it might be appropriate to make an oath to God, if ever?

Digging Deeper

  How do you harmonize the following passages in this regard: Deuteronomy 6:13, Ruth 1:16-18; Jeremiah 4:1,2; Matthew 5:33-37; 23:16-22; Hebrews 6:16; 7:20-22; James 5:12?

Eli’s Suspicion: 1 Samuel 1:12–16

3. What was Eli’s reaction when he saw Hannah praying? (1 Samuel 1:12-14)

  Hannah continues praying … in her heart, or silently. That Eli marks her mouth means that he observes the movements of her mouth, but she is not speaking aloud. He assumes, mistakenly, that Hannah is drunk.

What Do You Think?

  What are some ways to avoid inaccurate conclusions from the actions of others?

Digging Deeper

  What Scripture supports your ideas?

Eli’s accusation of drunkenness on Hannah’s part and his inability to recognize her genuinely deep sorrow may say something about his spiritual sensitivity or lack of such (compare Eli’s ignorance in 1 Samuel 3). It may also reflect the sad state of spiritual life at the tabernacle, something that unfortunately Eli has seen demonstrated all too often in the conduct of his own sons, Hophni and Phinehas.

These two men, priests though they are, have become widely known for their scandalous behavior within the sacred space of the tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:12–17, 22–25). While Eli rebukes Hannah for what he views as shameful behavior, it is Eli who will receive the Lord’s rebuke and judgment from Hannah’s son Samuel for his own shameful behavior regarding the conduct of his sons (3:10–18; compare 2:27–36; 4:4, 11–18).

4. What was Hannah’s response to Eli’s accusation? (1 Samuel 1:15, 16)

Hannah is quick to counter Eli’s accusation of drunkenness, but she did not counter the charge and criticize Eli. When we are at any time unjustly censured, we have need to set a double watch before the door of our lips, that we do not return censure for censure. Hannah thought it enough to clear herself and stated that her agitated state is not the result of hard liquor but of a hard life. She has not poured wine nor strong drink into her body; instead she has poured out her distressed soul before the Lord.

The term Belial can take a range of meaning from “worthless” to “wicked.” Ironically (and sadly) it is the label later attached to the sons of Eli (1 Samuel 2:12). Hannah is no such person. Out of the abundance of her sadness comes the anguished, earnest prayer she has just prayed and the vow she has made.

Eli’s Pronouncement: 1 Samuel 1:17, 18

5. What did Eli do for Hannah? (1 Samuel 1:17, 18)

  Eli accepts Hannah’s explanation. To send her away in peace suggests that Eli hopes Hannah will find wholeness and healing from her distress. He declares a blessing on Hannah (v. 17), so that she is able to go back and finish the meal. Hannah’s faith in God is obvious from the fact she “was no more sad.” 

What Do You Think?

  How can we support and counsel those who seem unable to find comfort through prayer?

Digging Deeper

  What are some appropriate and inappropriate ways to use Romans 8:28 in such a time?

The Lord’s Provision: 1 Samuel 1:19, 20

6. How did God do for Hannah? (1 Samuel 1:19, 20)

  Because Ramah (their home) could be one of several different locations, the trip from Shiloh could be anywhere from 3 to 13 miles. The next morning Elkanah and his family had a journey before them, and a family of children to take with them, yet they would not move till they had worshipped God together.

  At some point after the return home, Elkanah and Hannah become intimate. But this time it was different, for the Lord remembered her. The birth of this child was not chance, but the deliberate action of God as He responded to Hannah’s faith in order to accomplish His own will for His people.

  The result of the Lord’s remembrance of Hannah is the birth of a son, whom Hannah names Samuel. She states her reason for doing so: because I have asked him of the Lord. The name Samuel has been understood to mean “asked of God” or “name of God.” Either meaning emphasizes the Lord’s provision in answering Hannah’s prayer.

What Do You Think?

  What steps can we take to ensure that we fulfill our vows to the Lord?

Digging Deeper

  How might our resolve to keep vows be challenged if God answers our prayers in ways we didn’t expect or desire?

CONCLUSION

Grace for the Grieving

Women today have different means available for dealing with matters of infertility, means not known in Hannah’s time. Still, infertility is not always within the financial means of the would-be mother or even within the possibilities of medicine. The sorrow of infertility remains a particularly burdensome form of grief. A woman’s heart is broken; her despair is immeasurable. She can relate to the words in today’s Scripture such as “bitterness of soul,” “affliction,” “sorrowful spirit,” and “complaint and grief.” She feels she has been denied one of life’s most precious experiences. Why? she asks repeatedly. Why me?

Hannah’s barrenness became so excruciating for her that she finally vowed to the Lord that if He gave her a son, she would then give him right back to the Lord. The making of vows is something more in keeping with Old Testament law and practice than with New Testament practice (contrast Matthew 5:37). Prayer, however, continues to provide a means for anyone with a bitter soul or a sorrowful spirit to lay bare their grievance before the Lord as Hannah did.

The God to whom Hannah poured out her soul in her anguish is the God who hears our prayers today. He remains our rock, our fortress, our deliverer (Psalm 18:2), our strength and shield (28:7), our hiding place (32:7), our shepherd (23:1; John 10:11). He is the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3), and the God who will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). What Paul advises in Philippians 4:6 still applies, and he was under arrest when he wrote it: “In every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”

Hannah demonstrated her faithfulness long before Paul wrote. She did so by taking her deepest hurt to the Lord. He, in turn, demonstrated His faithfulness by taking away her pain by providing the blessing she desired.

We keep in mind, however, that we are not guaranteed to receive what we ask of God. And His answer of yes, no, or wait always is in line with His bigger plans. In Hannah’s case, her son became a pivotal figure in being the last of the judges and the first of the prophets (Acts 3:24; 13:20). We don’t know the future and neither did Hannah. But with her we can say, “My heart rejoiceth in the Lord … There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God” (1 Samuel 2:1, 2).

PRAYER

  Heavenly Father, we see that “bitterness of soul” abounds every night on the news. It abounds everywhere. Empower each of us to bring Your grace, peace, and hope to people around us who need comfort from Heaven amidst their brokenness. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER

  God listens to our prayers because He loves us.

ANTICIPATING THE NEXT LESSON

  Next week’s lesson is called “Faithful During Uncertainty” and tells why the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron and how the Lord addressed their discontent. Study Exodus 16.

LESSON SUMMARIZED BY

Senior Editor Gabrielle Ferrell

Jesus Is All Ministries

https://www.jesusisall.com

WORKS CITED

Life Application Bible—New Revised Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Matthew Henry Concise Bible Commentary.

The Teacher's Commentary.

Scofield, C.I., ed.  The New Scofield Study Bible—King James Version. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Summary and commentary derived from Standard Lesson Commentary Copyright 2019 by permission of Standard Publishing.

The KJV Parallel Bible Commentary, by Nelson Books.

The Pulpit Commentary, Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Hrsg.), Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Cook

Adult Sunday School Lesson Summary for September 15, 2019

Released on Monday, September 9, 2019

“Faithful During Uncertainty”

Lesson Text: Exodus 16:1–15

Background Scripture: Exodus 16

Devotional Reading: 2 Corinthians 8:9-15

Exodus 16:1-15 (KJV)

1 And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt.

2 And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness:

3 And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

4 Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.

5 And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.

6 And Moses and Aaron said unto all the children of Israel, At even, then ye shall know that the Lord hath brought you out from the land of Egypt:

7 And in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the Lord; for that he heareth your murmurings against the Lord: and what are we, that ye murmur against us?

8 And Moses said, This shall be, when the Lord shall give you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full; for that the Lord heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord.

9 And Moses spake unto Aaron, Say unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, Come near before the Lord: for he hath heard your murmurings.

10 And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.

11 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

12 I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God.

13 And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host.

14 And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground.

15 And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat.

TODAY’S LESSON AIMS

Learning Fact: To tell why the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron and how the Lord addressed their discontent.

Biblical Principle: To show that God’s Word provides the assurance needed in uncertain times.

Daily Application: To remember God’s faithfulness in our troubled times, and to keep a prayer journal to record one’s spiritual journey.

HOW TO SAY IT

Elim Ee-lim.

INTRODUCTION

Held from Heaven

A group of botanists traveled to the Alps to search for rare specimens of flowers. At one point they came across a beautiful flower down on a rock ledge that they could not reach. They saw a shepherd boy not far away, so they called him over and offered him some money if he would allow himself to be let down by them with a rope in order to get the flower.

The boy wanted very much to earn the money. He looked down at the ledge. Then he looked at the strange men—and he said no. They offered him a little more money, and he was tempted to say yes. Still, he wasn’t sure about trusting those strangers. Then all of a sudden his eyes lit up. “Wait here,” he told them and ran off. About 10 minutes later he was back with another man. “I will get the flower for you,” he told the men, “if you will let my father hold the rope.”

In times of uncertainty and doubt, when we feel as if we are “at the end of our rope,” we need the assurance that someone is holding the rope—or better still, holding us! David expressed his own confidence in the Lord that no matter where he might travel, on earth or in realms beyond the earth, “even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:10).

LESSON CONTEXT

After the Lord had brought forth the Israelites from 400 years of bondage in Egypt, Moses told the people, “Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out from this place” (Exodus 13:3). That “strength of hand” had been displayed in a series of plagues that provided clear and dramatic evidence that the Lord was superior to any of the gods of the Egyptians (chapters 7–11).

But after leaving Egypt, the Israelites forgot the Lord’s “strength of hand.” When they were camped by the Red Sea and saw Pharaoh and his horsemen and chariots approaching, immediately they panicked. They accused Moses of bringing them out into the wilderness to die (Exodus 14:10–13).

Moses spoke words of faith and assurance to the people, “The Lord shall fight for you” (14:14), and then proceeded to back up his words with the miraculous parting of the Red Sea (14:15–18, 21, 22). The Israelites safely crossed on dry land, after which the waters were brought back onto the Egyptians when they tried to give chase (14:23–28). Exodus 14 concludes with the statement that “the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses” (14:31).

But that trust was also short-lived. As the people came to the wilderness of Shur, just east of where they had crossed the Red Sea, they traveled for three days and could find no water. When they finally did find water at Marah, they could not drink it because it was bitter. The people once more complained to Moses, whereupon the Lord once more provided for His people’s needs (Exodus 15:22–25).

As they moved down the western edge of the Sinai Peninsula, the people’s travels brought them to a place called Elim, where they came upon an oasis consisting of 12 wells of water and 70 palm trees (Exodus 15:27). The lesson text begins with the people’s departure from Elim.

The People’s Accusation: Exodus 16:1-3

1. What is the timing and setting of the events in Exodus 16? (Exodus 16:1)

It is probably difficult for the Israelites to leave a place like Elim with its abundance of water and beautiful scenery. This is especially so given that their journey brings them to the wilderness of Sin, located between Elim and Sinai. For the first time in the Bible, the name Sinai appears. It can refer to both the mountain where God will reveal himself to Israel and to the surrounding region (beginning in Exodus 19).

Also noted is the people’s arrival on the fifteenth day of the second month after the exodus (only two and one-half months since the Israelites left Egypt). The exodus, along with all the miraculous demonstrations of the Lord’s power both before and after it, should still be fresh in the people’s minds.

2. What were the reasons for the children of Israel’s murmuring against Moses and Aaron? (Exodus 16:2, 3)

The Israelites had murmured against Moses previously at the Red Sea and at Marah (see Lesson Context; compare Exodus 16:7–9, 11, 12). Now they begin to murmur against both Moses and his brother, Aaron.

One should contrast the words of the people here with the description of how they “sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God” (Exodus 2:23). Now, faced with the hardships of journeying through the wilderness, they see their past bondage in a whole new light: “Life was so much better in Egypt; we had all the food we could eat!” Flesh pots are the pots of meat that now seem so appealing to a discontented people whose thinking has become distorted by unbelief.

Their murmurings, however, come close to blasphemy when they express the wish that they had died by the hand of the Lord in … Egypt. That same hand had performed wonders and signs that brought the Egyptians to their knees and made them beg the Israelites to leave Egypt (Exodus 3:20; 7:5; 12:33; 13:9, 14).

Ironically, not long before this murmuring, the people had sung praises to the Lord for what the power of His “right hand” had accomplished on their behalf (Exodus 15:12). They had proclaimed that “fear and dread” would fall on other nations when they heard of the Lord’s mighty works (15:16). But now fear and dread fall on God’s own people as they allow their circumstances to control their faith instead of trusting the Lord to continue to care for them as He has promised.

What Do You Think?

How can we discern when or to what extent it is appropriate to express dissatisfaction with our circumstances?

Digging Deeper

In addition to Exodus 2:23, 24; Numbers 11:1; Psalm 142:1, 2; Job 1:13–22; Jonah 4:1–11; Matthew 6:28–34; and 1 Peter 5:7, which passages most influence your perspective?

The Lord’s Answer: Exodus 16:4-8

3. What was the Lord’s response to the people’s murmuring? What instructions were given to the people? (Exodus 16:4, 5)

Previously the Lord had responded to the people’s cries of dissatisfaction by guiding Moses to perform a miracle that provided what the people needed (Exodus 14:15–18; 15:22–25). Here the Lord describes to Moses something that the Lord himself will do, without the need for an intercessor. The Lord will provide a response for His people in order to refute their claims that they were filled with bread in Egypt and left to die since leaving. Bread will be given to the people, but not from wheat harvested from the ground; instead, it will come down from heaven.

The instructions for this gathering will constitute a test for the Israelites, to reveal how faithfully they will adhere to what the Lord commands them to do. The people will be responsible for going out and gathering the bread every day. This requirement will test the people’s willingness to obey the Lord.

What Do You Think?

What are some ways our church can become a vehicle for revealing the Lord’s glory to those who are in difficult circumstances?

Digging Deeper

Why is it important to do so?

Furthermore, in verse 5 of today’s lesson God instructs the people “on the sixth day” to “prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

4. What did Moses and Aaron relay to the people? (Exodus 16:6-7a)

“Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt.” Nothing is said specifically about what the evening will bring that will cause the people to know that the Lord has brought them out of Egypt. The context suggests some form of miraculous provision. The people will learn that the Lord has not brought them out to kill them, as they claimed previously (Exodus 16:3), but to care for them throughout their travels.

Though no one can see God and live (Exodus 33:20; contrast 1 John 3:2), He chooses to reveal His glory in various ways to give people confidence. This is the first specific reference in Exodus to the glory of the Lord appearing to the people, though they have certainly witnessed manifestations of the Lord’s power and glory through events such as the plagues and the deliverance at the Red Sea.

The Lord’s glory will be more dramatically and intensely manifested at Mount Sinai when He establishes His covenant with the Israelites and calls Moses to come to Him on the mountain (Exodus 19:16–19; 20:18–21; 24:15–18). God’s glory will also fill the tabernacle when it is completed (40:34, 35).

What Do You Think?

What steps can we take to prepare ourselves to see God’s glory in situations when we feel abandoned by Him?

Digging Deeper

What may happen if we fail to do so?

5. How did Moses feel about the Israelites’ murmurings against him and his brother Aaron? (Exodus 16:7b-8)

Even though the murmurings have been voiced to Moses and Aaron, in truth they are ultimately against the Lord. Moses and Aaron have not brought the people out of Egypt; that is God’s doing (Exodus 16:6). Moses and Aaron are only the human tools in His hands.

Bread to the full, which is the same term the people previously used to describe how abundantly they had been fed in Egypt (Exodus 16:3). God assures His people that no one will go hungry when He feeds them.

Once again Moses points out that the people’s complaints are being directed against the Lord, not Moses and Aaron. Though the people think they are witnessing a failure of human leadership, Israel cannot see that the Lord is leading Moses and Aaron and has never left His people.

The Lord’s Presence: Exodus 16:9-12

6. When the people gathered, how was the Lord’s presence revealed? (Exodus 16:9, 10)

At this point, Moses instructs Aaron to have the people gather before the Lord. This will prepare the people for His response to their murmurings.

The people have seen the Lord’s presence in a cloud previously, guiding them when they left Egypt (Exodus 13:21, 22) and protecting them from the Egyptians at the Red Sea (14:19, 20). Given their earlier complaining, it seems they have assumed that the Lord has abandoned them in the wilderness. They are wrong.

The important thing was that Israel focus on the glory of God and not on their own appetites. If they walked by faith, they would glorify the Lord and bring honor to His name. It isn’t important that we’re comfortable in life, but it is important that God is glorified.

7. What did God’s presence remind the people? (Exodus 16:11, 12)

Now the directions previously given by Moses and Aaron to the people are backed up with divine authority (Exodus 16:4, 8). Once again the people’s murmurings are cited. The Lord’s providing food for the people is intended to impart the knowledge that the Lord is Israel’s God. Similar words were used previously in Exodus to highlight the impact of the Lord’s deliverance of His people on both the Israelites themselves (6:6, 7) and the Egyptians (7:5), specifically Pharaoh (7:14–17; 8:8–10). This is the same God who has brought the Israelites out of their bondage; He has not changed, and He will not abandon His people in this wilderness.

What Do You Think?

How can we ensure that any concerns about our leaders do not become complaints about God’s provision?

Digging Deeper

How should the command to pray for and love our enemies (Matthew 5:43–48; Luke 6:27–36) change our hearts toward leaders we find ourselves disagreeing with consistently?

The Lord’s Provisions: Exodus 16:13-15

8. What kind of meat did God provide for the Israelites’ camp? (Exodus 16:13a)

Here the flesh, or meat, promised earlier by Moses (Exodus 16:8) and by the Lord (16:12) is provided in the form of quails (see Numbers 11:31; Psalm 78:27, 28; 105:40). The fact that the birds are found throughout the camp clearly indicates that there is a sufficient amount to feed the people. Apparently, the quails come early enough in the evening that the people have time to prepare them for consumption.

9. How was the bread from the Lord provided for the people? (Exodus 16:13b-15)

God has promised the people that there will be bread in the morning (Exodus 16:12), and as they wake up, they see the dew that normally appears on the ground. As soon as the dew dissipates, they saw a small round thing …on the ground. They knew what quails were but have never seen anything like this! And being in a wilderness (desert) environment, we wonder when was the last time they saw frost. They are at a loss for what to name the small round thing because it is completely new to them. The name they finally give it, manna, signals this confusion since the word is from a Hebrew phrase meaning What is it?

Even so, there is no question regarding who provides it: only the Lord can distribute bread from Heaven. Later its taste is likened to “wafers made with honey” (Exodus 16:31). Perhaps the people are uncertain regarding what they are to do with this substance until Moses says, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat. Psalm 78:24, 25 characterizes it as “the corn of heaven.”

What Do You Think?

What are some ways to prepare ourselves to recognize God’s blessings when they come in unexpected forms?

Digging Deeper

Considering passages such as Matthew 17:12 and Luke 10:10–15; 13:34, what dangers can there be in failing to do so?

POINTS TO PONDER

God hears our murmurings, and in His grace and mercy meets our needs.

In our Christian pilgrim journey through life, we live on promises and not explanations (see Exodus 16:3, 4). When we hurt, it's a normal response to ask “Why?” but that is the wrong approach to take. For one thing, when we ask God that question, we’re assuming a superior posture and giving the impression that we’re in charge and God is accountable to us. God is sovereign and doesn’t have to explain anything to us unless He wants to. Asking “Why?” also assumes that if God did explain His plans and purposes to us, we’d understand everything perfectly and feel better.

As you read the Book of Job, you see Job frustrated with God and repeatedly saying, “I’d like to meet God and ask Him a few things!” But when God finally comes to Job, Job is so overwhelmed he doesn’t ask God a thing! (See Job 40:1-5.) Can we begin to understand the ways and plans of God when His ways are far above us and His wisdom unsearchable? (Isa. 55:8-9; Rom. 11:33-36) Explanations don’t heal broken hearts, but promises do, because promises depend on faith, and faith puts us in contact with the grace of God.

CONCLUSION

Faith for Times Like These

As the children of Israel entered a desolate territory following their exodus from Egypt, they became insecure about their food supply. Despite their collective discontent and grumbling, the Lord provided unmistakable visual aids to show that He would supply for their needs. He had not “let go of the rope”—or of them.

In truth, humanity has always lived in uncertain times. Every generation has viewed its times as unsettled or perilous in one way or another. One has only to read from the words of a passage like Psalm 74 to get a sense of the author’s personal anguish and frustration with God over why He does not act more quickly to rescue His people from the desperate times that surround them: “O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever? why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture?” (Psalm 74:1). “O God,” he pleads, “how long shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever?” (74:10). The psalmist’s times were very uncertain!

Our times are no different; there is an abundance of turmoil in so many areas of life. We frequently express our anxiety over uncertainty much as the Israelites did: through murmurings against leadership, from the local to the national level.

The response to living in such times is to return to the truth that is the focus of today’s lesson title: God remains faithful, even during times of uncertainty. His promises remain true; His Word provides the assurance that we need—that when human hands are weak and untrustworthy, God’s hands remain strong. The aforementioned psalmist, who was so distraught by the chaos around him, came back to this truth himself: “For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth” (74:12).

David acknowledged, “My times are in thy hand” (Psalm 31:15). So are ours.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, in troubled and uncertain times, may we turn ever and only to You. We thank You that You remain our rock and our refuge—help us remember that! May our hearts be untroubled and find peace from this assurance. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER

In uncertain times, God certainly remembers His promises!

ANTICIPATING THE NEXT LESSON 

Next week's lesson is “Faithful Despite Unfaithfulness” and relates the events surrounding the sending out of the spies into Canaan and the Israelites’ response. Study Numbers 13:1 -14:10.

LESSON SUMMARIZED BY

Deputy Editor Renee Little

Jesus Is All Ministries

https://www.jesusisall.com

WORKS CITED

Life Application Bible—New Revised Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Scofield, C.I., ed. The New Scofield Study Bible—King James Version. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Summary and commentary derived from Standard Lesson Commentary Copyright 2019 by permission of Standard Publishing.

The KJV Parallel Bible Commentary, by Nelson Books.

The Pulpit Commentary, Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Hrsg.), Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Cook

Adult Sunday School Lesson Summary for September 22, 2019

Released on Monday, September 16, 2019

“Faithful Despite Unfaithfulness”

Background Scripture: Numbers 13:1 – 14:10a

Devotional Reading: Psalm 106:1-12, 48

Bible Land Map: Set 6, Map#31, Journey of the Spies (log in for maps at https://www.jesusisall.com/amember3/)

Numbers 13:1, 2, 17, 18, 25-28 (KJV)

1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

2 Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them.

……………………………

17 And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them, Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain:

18 And see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many.

……………………………

25 And they returned from searching of the land after forty days.

26 And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land.

27 And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it.

28 Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.

Numbers 14:1, 2, 5-10a

1 And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.

2 And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!

……………………………

5 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.

6 And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes:

7 And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land.

8 If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.

9 Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not.

10a But all the congregation bade stone them with stones.

TODAY’S LESSON AIMS

Learning Fact: To relate the events surrounding the sending out of the spies into Canaan and the Israelites’ response.

Biblical Principle: To explain the consequences that could accompany taking a stand based on faith in the Lord in Moses’ day.

Daily Application: To evaluate personal and communal fears that make walking by faith especially challenging, and consider ways to address these fears.

HOW TO SAY IT

Anak Ay-nak.

Anakims An-a-kims.

Hamath Hay-muth.

Jephunneh Jih-fun-eh.

Kadeshbarnea Kay-desh-bar-nee-uh.

Negev Neg-ev.

Paran Pair-un.

Sinai Sigh-nye or Sigh-nay-eye.

INTRODUCTION

What Do You See?

Dale Carnegie (1888–1955) is probably best known for his self-help book entitled How to Win Friends and Influence People. Carnegie authored another book of the same style; its title is How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. In it he included this brief but thought-provoking illustration: “Two men looked out from prison bars / One saw the mud, the other saw the stars.” Two individuals can be in the same challenging, perhaps even desperate, situation and see it quite differently.

The children of Israel faced the challenge of conquering the Promised Land. Two outlooks emerged on whether this feat was possible. This was not a matter of mud vs. stars; it was a matter of unbelief vs. faith.

LESSON CONTEXT

The previous study covered an incident that occurred on the fifteenth day of the second month after the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt (Exodus 16:1). On the first day of the third month, the Israelites entered the wilderness of Sinai (19:1). There they camped before the mountain where the Lord established His covenant with the Israelites and gave His Ten Commandments and other laws to them.

The Israelites stayed at Mount Sinai for a little less than a year (comparing Exodus 19:1 with Numbers 10:11), in what should have been a sacred time of dedicating themselves to be God’s covenant people. But the attitude of rebellion and discontent that we saw demonstrated in Exodus 16:2, 3 reappeared at the foot of the mountain. Sadly, while Moses was on the mountain receiving God’s laws, the people were breaking them (specifically the first two of the Ten Commandments) by building a golden calf and attributing God’s mighty act of deliverance from bondage to the gods the calf represented (32:1–4).

Thus, perhaps it should come as no surprise that as the people traveled from Mount Sinai toward the promised land, their grumbling and discontent were right by their side. Once the Lord sent a fire to burn among the people, which consumed the fringes of the camp. Moses interceded on the people’s behalf, and the fire died down (Numbers 11:1–3). Then the “mixt multitude” (11:4; likely comprised of non-Israelites who had chosen to journey with the Israelites; compare Exodus 12:38) initiated a complaint about growing tired of the manna provided by God. They claimed as they had done previously that living in Egypt was so much better than journeying through the desert (11:5).

At this point, Moses became extremely frustrated with the people’s behavior and voiced his frustration to the Lord. The Lord provided 70 men from among the elders of Israel to assist Moses with leading the people for a time (Numbers 11:25). The Lord also responded to the people’s complaint with a provision of quail (11:31, 32), similar to what He had done in the wilderness of Sin (Exodus 16:1, 12, 13, last week’s lesson).

Still, the grumbling did not end. Moses’ brother Aaron and sister Miriam lodged their own protests against Moses, expressing an envy of Moses’ position of authority (Numbers 12:2). The Lord responded by afflicting Miriam with leprosy. She was quarantined for seven days, during which time the people paused their travels. When their journey resumed, they reached the wilderness of Paran (12:16) and specifically Kadeshbarnea (Deuteronomy 1:19), where today’s lesson text begins.

Responsibility: Numbers 13:1, 2, 17, 18

1. What did the Lord command Moses to do as the Israelites prepared to enter the land of Canaan? (Numbers 13:1, 2)

The Israelites are on the verge of a great turning point in their history. The time has come for preparing to enter the land of Canaan, which God had promised centuries before to give to Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 13:14–17; 15:18–21). The land as a gift from God is emphasized throughout the history of God’s dealings with the Israelites (Exodus 6:4, 8; Leviticus 23:9, 10; 25:38; Numbers 10:29; Deuteronomy 6:23; 28:11; etc.). The people themselves have certainly done nothing to earn such a gift, but the Lord is committed to fulfilling His promise to Abraham.

The Lord tells Moses to send … men, one for each of the 12 tribes, who will search out the land of Canaan prior to the nation’s entry. Each man is to be someone who is trusted and respected by his tribe. However, when Moses refers to this process later while speaking to the second generation of Israelites, he says that the Israelites came to him and suggested sending men to spy out the land (Deuteronomy 1:22). Therefore, most likely the people offer their proposal, then the Lord gives His approval to what they have suggested. Numbers 13:3–16, not in the printed text, lists the 12 men who are chosen for this task.

2. What were the spies to do and look for on their mission? (Numbers

13:17, 18)

When one examines a map of this territory, it would seem that the command to go southward will lead the spies in the opposite direction from the promised land. The term southward, however, designates the territory known as the Negev, which is south of the territory that eventually will make up the land possessed by Israel.

Moses also instructs the 12 men to go up into the mountain. In some cases, the Hebrew word translated mountain describes what is more accurately “hill country” or “hills.” The word is rendered “hills” in Deuteronomy 8:7; Joshua 9:1; and Joshua 10:40. That is likely the sense that is intended here. The instruction to explore southward and into the mountain will result in the spies’ exploring the entire land (See Set 6, Map#31, Journey of the Spies. Log in for maps at https://www.jesusisall.com/amember3/).

Moses specifies what the 12 men are to look for as they carry out their mission. They are to examine what the terrain is like. Then they are to observe the people that dwelleth therein. Are they strong or weak, few or many? Though God has allowed their proposed espionage mission (see commentary on Numbers 13:2b), 20/20 hindsight indicates that it would be better for the people to trust God to give them the land without their scouting it out, given the fear their mission ultimately causes (as we will see, Numbers 13:28; 14:1, 2, 9, 10).

Numbers 13:19, 20 (not in our printed text) record additional instructions to the spies, concluding with the exhortation, “And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land” (Numbers 13:20). Verses 21–24 record the itinerary of the group, noting that they gathered some of the fruit of the land (grapes, pomegranates, and figs). Their travels took them as far north as Hamath (13:21), which eventually became the northern boundary of the promised land (34:8).

What Do You Think?

What factors should we consider before setting out to fulfill something we sense God has called us to do? Why?

Digging Deeper

What evidence should we require when reevaluating work we think God called us to do? How is this process different from secular models of decision-making?

Report: Numbers 13:25-28

3. How long did the spies mission take? What did they bring back to Moses and the congregation? (Num. 13:25, 26)

The territory the spies have covered was approximately 250 miles, and a time of forty days had passed. The number 40 in the Bible is often associated with testing (c.f. Gen. 7:4, 12; Ex. 24:18; 1 Sam. 17:16; Psalm 95:10; Jonah 3:4; Matt. 4:2).

Upon the spies return, the 12 display their sample of the fruit of the land, including a single cluster of grapes so large that it requires two people to carry it on a staff (Numbers 13:23).

Canaan was so fertile in the Exodus era that it took two men to carry a single cluster of grapes.

The initial reaction of the people must have been one of wide-eyed amazement.

4. What positive report did the spies bring back? (Numbers 13:27)

Most likely the him refers to Moses, since he had given the spies their instructions. Moses had told the spies to report on essentially two items: the land and the people.

The phrase floweth with milk and honey signifies an abundance of good things. When the Lord first called Moses to lead the Israelites out of bondage, He told him that the land was “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8). Moses gave that same description to the people as they departed from Egypt (13:3–5). The people can see for themselves, judging from the fruit before them, that the words are no exaggeration.

5. What negative report did the spies bring back? (Numbers 13:28)

While the land offers much to be desired, the people there are another matter altogether. They are strong, and their cities are large and well-defended. The children of Anak—called Anakims—are a people group known for being exceptionally “great and tall” (Deuteronomy 9:2). The spies who do not believe the land can be taken will refer to them as “giants” (Numbers 13:33). These are the very people whom courageous Caleb, one of the 12 spies, will drive out of Hebron 40 years later so that he can possess that portion of the promised land (Joshua 15:13). In fact, the three sons of Anak named in Numbers 13:22 are the ones Caleb will defeat (Joshua 15:14)!

In Numbers 13:30 (not covered in today’s text), Caleb responds to the claims about the formidable inhabitants of Canaan. He remains confident that the Lord will defeat these foes. But Caleb quickly finds himself in a minority; out of the 12 spies, only he and Joshua (not noted as part of the minority until Numbers 14:6) believe that the Lord will keep his promise. Their faithful voices are outweighed by the other 10 spies, who are intimidated rather than inspired (13:31–33).

What Do You Think?

How should we prepare for opportunities and obstacles as we set out to fulfill God’s calling to complete a task?

Digging Deeper

Considering especially Proverbs 3:5, 6; 15:22; Matthew 6:25-34; and Luke 14:28-33, how do we know at what point a fact-finding mission is really just a failure to trust?

Responses / Cries of Anguish: Numbers 14:1, 2

6. What was the congregation’s response to the report of the spies? (Numbers 14:1, 2)

It does not take long at all for the negative outlook of the 10 spies to dampen the enthusiasm of the entire congregation. Cries of despair are heard that very night throughout the Israelite camp.

As they did in last week’s study, the people begin to murmur against Moses and against Aaron (compare Exodus 16:1, 2). They also voice their wish that God had taken their lives, either in the land of Egypt or in this wilderness (compare Exodus 16:3; Numbers 14:22–24). It is sobering to consider how the nation has managed to push out of their collective memory the mighty works that God has done for them in their own experience, going back to the 10 plagues in Egypt. To claim that the Lord has brought them into the promised land to die is total disrespect towards God, and a very sad and weak excuse for their own shabby unbelief.

Concerned Leaders: Numbers 14:5

7. What was the response of Moses and Aaron to the congregation’s reaction? (Numbers 14:5)

In verse 4 (not in today’s printed text), the people propose that they mutiny against the leadership of Moses and Aaron and return to Egypt. Moses and Aaron sense the gravity of the people’s demand and fall on their faces. Perhaps this reflects a combination of emotions: fear of the Lord, alarm at the possible outpouring of his wrath against the people, and shock at such a brazen act of defiance.

That Moses and Aaron fell on their faces and interceded with God, would be something they would do often in the years ahead (see Num. 16:4, 2, 45; 20:6; 22:31).

Courageous Leaders: Numbers 14:6-9

8. How did Joshua and Caleb (two of the spies) respond to the negative report of the other spies? What did they encourage the people to do? (Numbers 14:6-9)

The two courageous, faith-inspired spies, Joshua and Caleb, express their anguish at what the people are doing: turning against Moses and Aaron and ultimately against the Lord.

The other 10 spies have caused the people’s attention to dwell on and be discouraged by the residents of Canaan and the size of their cities. Joshua and Caleb now remind the people of the exceeding good land that lies within their grasp.

Joshua and Caleb highlight the most important factor in taking the land: The Lord. He has not brought the Israelites this far to let them die (contrast Numbers 14:3). He takes delight in them; He has made a covenant with them; He has shown them His favor on repeated occasions (Exodus 12:1–13; 14:21–29; 16:4, 5; 17:5–7; etc.). He will bring them into this land and give it to them.

The emphasis on the promised land as God’s gift to the people is clear. The giver will not desert His people or break His promise to them. Joshua and Caleb also remind the people again of the exceptional abundance of the land.

Joshua and Caleb plead with the people not to rebel or fear. The people have grumbled, murmured, and rebelled against the Lord, testing His mercy and patience.

Joshua and Caleb also describe the residents of the promised land as bread for us. The expression means that the Israelites can easily defeat them, or “have them for lunch.” Their size, the strength of their cities, and whatever weaponry or defenses they possess are non-factors. All of that is totally worthless when the Lord is with His people. If He is, and there is no question of that for Joshua and Caleb, then there is no need to fear the inhabitants of the land (compare Isaiah 8:12, 13).

What Do You Think?

What can a church do to ensure that no one is denied having his or her voice heard while also ensuring that a spirit of divisiveness does not result (Titus 3:10).

Digging Deeper

How would the fact that divisiveness is coming from the biggest financial givers change the approach, if at all? Why?

Cries of Anguish: Numbers 14:10a

9. What did the Israelites want to do to Joshua and Caleb because of their message? (Numbers 14:10a)

One would hope that the Israelites would take heart from Joshua and Caleb’s challenging words. Their response, however, is the very opposite; they prepare to stone the two men.

The nation’s contempt for the faithful men’s message is so great that they would rather silence the messengers than listen any longer. But the people’s real offense is committed against the Lord.

What Do You Think?

When leaders within a congregation disagree, what are some productive ways to deal with extreme reactions by church members?

Digging Deeper

Considering that Jesus, John the Baptist, Paul, and others could rightly be called extremists, under what conditions would extreme reactions be appropriate?

CONCLUSION

Words Printed in Yellow

Some Bibles print Jesus’ words in red so that they stand out to the reader. Perhaps today’s lesson text should be printed in yellow as a cautionary signal. The Israelites rebelled against God and His chosen leaders, refusing to trust that the Lord would lead them into the promised land. When Paul recounts the examples of the Israelites’ disobedience, he emphasizes that these incidents are not just ancient history: “All these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition” (1 Corinthians 10:11).

We can easily read an account like the one in today’s text, shake our heads, and wonder how the Israelites could have forgotten so quickly all that the Lord had done for them. Instead of becoming haughty, reading today’s account should humble us (see 1 Corinthians 10:12). We can learn much from the Israelites’ negative examples. We should not treat their failures lightly as we journey toward our own “promised land.”

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, examine, convict, and strengthen us so that we do not become guilty of faithlessness. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER

In the midst of unfaithfulness, God remains faithful.

ANTICIPATING THE NEXT LESSON 

Next week's lesson is “Faithful in Consequences” and tells of Moses intercession on behalf of the rebellious Israelites. Study Numbers 14:10b-23.

LESSON SUMMARIZED BY

Deputy Editor Renee Little

Jesus Is All Ministries

https://www.jesusisall.com

WORKS CITED

Bible Reader's Companion. Illustration. Numbers 13:23.

Life Application Bible—New Revised Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Scofield, C.I., ed. The New Scofield Study Bible—King James Version. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Summary and commentary derived from Standard Lesson Commentary Copyright 2019 by permission of Standard Publishing.

The KJV Parallel Bible Commentary, by Nelson Books.

The Pulpit Commentary, Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Hrsg.), Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Cook