Sunday School Preview: April 12, 2015

God is faithful to his people and his promises. Therefore, we should be faithful to him.

You may remember that in the book of Genesis, God selected Abraham to be the father of the nation.  And his descendants would become God’s chosen people. God promised Abraham that he would bless him, and that through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed.

Now, you may ask, “Why did God choose Abraham?” Was it because Abraham was more special or more righteous than any other person on the face of the earth.  Not necessarily.

It was because God is sovereign and he chooses whom he chooses. But when God makes a promise, you better believe that he is faithful to that promise.  And in this week’s Sunday School lesson from Numbers 22-24, we see God faithfully caring for his chosen ones.

In our last lesson from the book of Numbers, you’ll remember that the Israelites were on their way to the Promised Land.  And as they traveled on the east side of the Jordan River, some of the peoples there became nervous about the presence of the Israelites.  They even attacked the Israelites, and God showed favor to his people by helping them to defeat their enemies and by giving them a large section of land on the east of the Jordan.

But that wasn’t the end of Israel’s nervous neighbors. The King of Edom, a man named Balak, wasn’t comfortable with their presence there either.  He had probably seen what happened to the other nations that had attacked the Israelites, so he decided to take a different tack.  Instead of attacking the Israelites, he decided to curse them.

Balak sent emissaries to a pagan prophet named Balaam, who initially refused to go with them because the Lord spoke to him, and told him that cursing the Israelites would be impossible because He had chosen to bless them.  But after Balak sent another group of delegates to Balaam—this time with an offer of honor and riches—the Lord allowed Balaam to accompany them…with the understanding that he was not to curse the Israelites.

Apparently, on the journey, Balaam had a change of heart.  Maybe the offer of honor and riches was too enticing for him to bypass. We aren’t told what Balaam’s motivation was. We’re only told that his way was perverse, and the Lord became angry with him. God sent an angel to confront Balaam while he was traveling.

Strangely, though, Balaam wasn’t able to see the angel that stood in his path. And perhaps even more strangely, his donkey could. And when the donkey saw the angel, he turned aside from the road. This displeased Balaam, so we beat his donkey three times.

When you consider that the donkey had just saved Balaam’s life, the donkey must have consider the beatings to be completely unjustified. And in what is perhaps the strangest part of this entire story, the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth so that she could rebuke her master.  Finally, when Balaam was able to see the angel, the angel told him that the donkey had just saved his life and reminded Balaam of the Lord’s instructions that he should not curse the Israelites.

When Balaam reached Balak, he delivered some disappointing news to the king.  He told Balak that he would be unable to curse the Israelites, and that he would only be allowed to speak the words that the Lord would give him.

Obviously displeased by this news, Balak took Balaam to a place of pagan worship where he hoped they would be able to offer sacrifices that would persuade the Lord to change his mind and curse His people. (It’s obvious that they had no understanding of the character of God.)  This attempt failed, and instead of cursing the Israelites, God used to bail him to bless them.

This outraged Balak, who took Balaam to a different location, where they offered another series of sacrifices. Again, God used to Balaam to bless the Israelites. And Balak was nothing if not tenacious. (If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, right?) He took Balaam to yet another place to offer still more sacrifices, but the result was the same. Three times they had tried to curse the Israelites, and three times God chose to bless them.

After the third blessing, God gave Balaam a prophecy. In this prophecy, God foretold the coming of a king whose “scepter would not depart from Judah,” who would “have dominion over Moab, Edom, and Seir.”  Of course, we understand this prophecy to refer to the Lord Jesus Christ.

This was not the last we hear of Balaam.  Scripture tells us that despite his failure to assist Balak in cursing the Israelites, Balaam taught Balak how to undermine the Israelites relationship with their God. Balaam’s instruction would lead the Israelites into sexual immorality and spiritual idolatry.  The Israelites would involve themselves with Moabite and Midianite women who invited them to worship false gods.

Despite the fact that God had acted to not only protect, but also to bless is people, the Israelites rejected him. And because of their rebellion, God sent a plague among them, which killed 24,000 Israelites.

God is faithful to his people and his promises. Therefore, we should be faithful to him.

So, what are the lessons for the kids were discipling—whether the kids in our homes or the kids in our Sunday school classes?

I think we need to help our kids understand that when God enters into a covenant relationship with someone, he takes that relationship very seriously. He had entered into such a relationship with the Israelites, and he refused to allow anyone to curse them. They were a people for his own possession, and he proved that he would fulfill his role as their protector and provider.

God also offers us the chance to participate in a covenant relationship with him. Through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, we can take part in the new covenant and receive salvation as a free gift of God’s grace. And if any of the kids were discipling haven’t yet chosen to trust Christ as Savior, we need to encourage them to do so right away.

But what about the kids that have already trusted Christ? What are the lessons for them? In 1 Corinthians 10:11, Paul reveals Israel’s sin in their punishment recorded “for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”  God’s faithfulness to us and his judgment for sin ought to motivate us to faithfully submit ourselves to him.  We need to flee temptation because God takes rebellion against him seriously.

I would encourage you to have a frank conversation with the kids you’re discipling about the things that tempt them to rebel against God. Find out what tempts them. Ask them where they struggle. Do they regularly disobey their parents? Do they show disrespect to their teachers? Are they unkind to their siblings and friends? Are they more apt to sin when they’re tired?

Try to get them to identify patterns and triggers that are present when they sin the most. Then, encourage them to prepare for the next time they find themselves in a situation like that. Urge them to stop, to take stock of what they’re wanting in those moments, to pray for God’s help, and to run away from temptation.

God is faithful to his people and his promises. Therefore, we should be faithful to him.

Trey Garner
Trey Garner is the Pastor of Children's Ministries at Faith Church. He has been married to his wife Deb since 2001. They have two children named Noah and Lauren. Originally from Texas, Trey appreciates barnwood, armadillos, and Blue Bell Ice Cream.