Title: God Provides for the Israelites in the Desert
Scripture: Exodus 16-17
Target Age Group: 3rd-5th grade
Main Point: God provides for us even when we grumble
Supplies: Cut outs of hearts, crayons, bandanas or other small objects
Lesson Opening: God Provides for Complainers
Ask: What is something you’ve complained about in the last week?
Ask: Does complaining ever really get us anywhere?
Say: When we complain, it shows that our hearts are not grateful for the things we have. God wants us to have grateful hearts, and He also wants us to come to Him with our requests rather than grumbling when we don’t get our way. That doesn’t mean that God will always give us exactly what we want, but we can trust God to give us exactly what we need.
Say: Today we will hear the story of the Israelites grumbling in the desert.
Ask: Does anyone remember why they were in the desert? (God had rescued them out of Egypt.)
Say: God’s people had seen Him do amazing things, yet they still managed to find things to complain about. We will hear how God was gracious to them and provided for them even though they were ungrateful.
Pray that God would open our hearts to His Word today and that He would give us grateful hearts that thank Him for what He has given us.
Tell the Story
Say: lesson is from the second book of the Bible. Who knows what the second book of the Bible is? (Exodus.)
Say: God worked many miracles in Egypt and had brought His people out of slavery. Last week we learned how He parted the Red Sea and allowed the people to walk through on dry land. That’s where our story picks up today.
Say: Once the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea they found themselves in the desert. Try to imagine traveling through a hot, dry desert. Eventually the Israelites became hungry. [Have the kids grumble and pretend to be hungry.] They began to complain to Moses. Let’s read from God’s Word to find out what they said to him.
Read from Your Bible: Exodus 16:3
Ask: Were the Israelites grateful for what God had done for them in the past? (No) Instead, they complained!
Ask: What do you think God will do to His people for complaining like that? (Allow time for responses.) Let’s keep reading and see what God does.
Read from Your Bible: Exodus 16:4-5
Say: God provided bread from heaven, which the people called manna. Manna is a word that means, “what is it?” because the Israelites had never seen anything like it. Each day they would collect enough for that day. If they collected more, it would be rotten by the next morning! God wanted to teach His people to trust Him to provide for them. God also provided quail for the people so they would have meat to eat. Do you remember our main point?
Main point: God provides for us even when we grumble.
Say: Moses warned the people that when they grumbled, they were really grumbling against God Himself! Do you think it’s right for us to grumble and complain to God? (Allow time for responses.)
Say: God wants us to come to Him with our wants and needs, but when we complain, that shows that our hearts are not grateful for what He has already done for us. God wants us to have thankful hearts!
Ask: Do you think the people were content with the manna and quail that God provided? (Nope.)
Say: The Israelites continued to travel through the desert and soon started complaining to Moses again that they were thirsty. [Have the kids grumble and pretend to be thirsty.] The people said to Moses, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”
Ask: How do you think God will respond to His people this time? Let’s read and find out.
Read from Your Bible: Exodus 17: 5-6b.
Ask: Do you remember our main point? Let’s say it together.
Main Point: God provides for us even when we grumble.
Say: The Israelites continued to be ungrateful for what God had given them. Instead of thanking Him they complained against Him! But instead of punishing them, God graciously provided for them. Moses took his staff and struck the rock that God had told him, and water flowed from it, enough water to provide for all the people and their livestock.
Ask: Who was it that provided the water? (God.)
Say: God worked this miracle through Moses, but it was God Himself who provided for His people. God wanted His people to learn to trust Him for everything, but that wasn’t always easy for the Israelites, and it’s not always easy for us today.
Say: The Israelites had seen God do all sorts of miracles when He brought them out of Egypt. They had seen with their own eyes as God brought down the plagues and parted the Red Sea. How quickly they forgot God!
Ask: God had every right to punish the Israelites for their sin, but what did He do instead? (God provided for His people, even though they grumbled.)
Say: God does the same for us today. We often grumble against Him thinking that He doesn’t care about us because we don’t always get our way. Instead of punishing our sin, God made a way for us to draw even closer to Him. Does anyone know how God did that?
Say: God saw how our hearts were so far away from Him, so He came down from heaven and lived a perfect life and died on the cross as the perfect sacrifice for our sin. Now, when we follow Christ with our hearts, we are forgiven for our sins and can live in fellowship with God! You see, God provides for us even when we grumble. Let’s practice saying our main point together one more time.
Main Point: God provides for us even when we grumble.
Pray Dear God, thank you for providing for us even when we grumble. Please forgive us for being ungrateful and give us hearts that love you more each day. Thank you for giving us Your Word where we can see Your faithfulness to Your people even long ago!
- What was the main point from our lesson? (God provides for us even when we grumble.)
- Why did the Israelites complain to Moses? (They were hungry and didn’t trust God.)
- How did God respond to the people’s complaint? (He provided food and water for them.)
- What miracle did God do for His people? (Manna came down from Heaven and water came from the rock.)
- How do you think you would have felt if you had seen what the Israelites had seen?
Learning Activity 1: Thankful Hearts
Supplies: Heart templates (download here), crayons
- Explain that God wants us to have hearts that thank Him for the good things He has done for us. When we grumble and complain it shows that we are ungrateful for His gifts.
- Encourage the kids to think about the things that God has given them. What gifts (material things, talents, etc.) have they enjoyed from God?
- Pass out the heart templates and invite the kids to cut them out and write out the things they are thankful to God for. If there’s time, have the kids share what they wrote, then display the hearts on the board.
Learning Activity 2: Steal the Bacon
Supplies: Several bandanas or other small objects
- Divide the class into two teams and have each team line up on either side of the playing area. Count off the kids on each team, so that everyone has a number. There should be a kid with each number on each team.
- When the teacher calls a number, the kids on both team with that number will run towards the middle trying to grab the bandana (or other object) and be the first to get it back to their team without being tagged.
- Start by only calling one number but as play continues you can add a few more bandanas to the middle and call out several numbers at a time.