I have had the privilege of teaching Pre-K Sunday School at our church since it began 5 years ago. The curriculum that we use alternates each year between the Old and New Testament. This year, it’s time for a trek with 3 and 4 year olds through the Old Testament.
It was my turn to teach yesterday morning, and our year long journey through the Old Testament is drawing nigh. However, we are only in the book of Numbers. 😉 Yesterday’s lesson came from Numbers 20 and 21.
 Now there was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.  And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD!  Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle?  And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.”  Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them,  and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.”  And Moses took the staff from before the LORD, as he commanded him.  Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?”  And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.  And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”  These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the LORD, and through them he showed himself holy. (Numbers 20:2-13 ESV)
 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way.  And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.”  Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.  And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.  And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.”  So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. (Numbers 21:4-9 ESV)
When I was telling the story to my captive 3 and 4 year olds, I did my BEST “whiny” voice to mimic what the Israelites asked Moses and, indirectly God, “Did you bring us out into the desert so that we would die HERE instead of Egypt?” I rolled my eyes at the Israelites (not my preschoolers). Why were they constantly complaining? They called the manna that God daily provided–worthless (Numbers 21:5). I shook my head at the Israelites (again, not at my preschoolers). Worthless? Really? God provided manna, in abundance, for the children of Israel. Every.single.day. Would they have had adequate food apart from the manna, apart from God’s provision? No way, Jose. Why did they complain about coming to the wilderness? Didn’t they remember that God’s purpose of the trip through the wilderness was to get to the Promised Land? Didn’t they remember God’s covenant with their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He was establishing a people for His name? God would not be the covenant keeping God that He is if He let them die in the wilderness. Palm to the forehead.
Even my mesmerized preschoolers “got it.” Didn’t God promise to take them to the Promised Land. “Yes,” they confidently answered. Was He going to ignore them, abandon them? “No!” they emphatically yell. Was it gracious of God to provide a way to be saved from the bites of the fiery snakes? “Yes,” they reply in sing-song utterances.
As I was having this conversation with these up and coming Bible scholars, I had a conversation in my brain, “Whew. Those Israelites. They were so ungrateful. I can’t believe they complained! They had it made!” Saintly Sister Suzanne mulled over these thoughts.
God, always gracious, instantly brought questions to my mind. Do I frequently complain about life circumstances? Do I fail to thank God for His provision, moment by moment, for myself, my family?
“Wow! I’m like the Israelites.” I almost ran out of our classroom so that I could have a good cry–like, an UGLY cry. Those same things that I was accusing the Israelites of forgetting, well, let’s be honest, I forget too. God’s promises. God’s faithfulness. God’s constant provision and watching over my life. Instead, most days I link arms with my brothers and sisters from Numbers. I complain. I forget. I whine.
However, I was reminded of that bronze snake. (I never knew a snake would bring me comfort!) I was reminded that God willingly provided a way for the Israelites to be healed, saved from the bites of those fiery snakes. (The 3 and 4 year olds REALLY enjoyed knowing that the Bible includes a story of fiery snakes!) He promised that if they looked upon the bronze snake, they would be healed. They would be healed, not because of metal hewn in the shape of a serpent. They would be healed because they were believing in faith that He would do what He promised–provide healing. They evidenced faith.
Numbers 21:7 says that the Israelites came to Moses and repented before God. Yesterday morning in Pre-K Sunday School I repented too. I repented of my whining and complaining. I repented for an ungrateful heart towards my Father who has saved my life, through His perfect Son, who also died on a wooden pole fashioned in the shape of a cross. I looked to Him 28 years ago this summer, and I was given life. I looked upon Him again this morning among a myriad of 3 and 4 year olds. My whiny, complaining heart was exposed, laid bare. I repented and asked Him to help me remember His works each day. I asked Him to help me be a more grateful person. I walked out of my Pre-K Sunday School class convicted and encouraged to cultivate gratitude in my heart. I left realizing that I have more in common with those Israelites wandering throughout the book of Numbers than I ever imagined (or care to afmit). Thankfully, He guided my paths by lovingly convicting me of my pride and arrogance. He will help me cultivate a grateful heart. It’s hard to whine if I am thinking about God’s provision in my life. 😉
A new day dawned a few hours ago, and my goal is a grateful heart, not endless complaints. I am thankful that He will be with me along this journey. Lord, I can only do this in your power. Please help. One last thing, Lord. Thank you for 3 and 4 year olds who are oh-so-entertaining, but who give me a reason to dive into your Word each Sunday. I am thankful that You have much more for me, their teacher, to learn. That is one thing that I am grateful for this morning.