The book of Numbers begins with the Israelites preparing for their journey and entry into the promised land. This is the same land that was promised to Abraham back in Genesis.
Moses began by taking a census of all the tribes, mainly to see how many men were available for military service. He established the Levites in control of the tabernacle. God also established an arrangement of the tribal camps around the tabernacle. During this time, the Israelites celebrated the second passover meal.
The Israelites traveled from the wilderness near Sinai to the promised land. They grumbled again about the food they had to eat. They were tired of manna. God sent them quail (It was 3 feet deep on the ground.) God sent a plague on the people for their complaining and greediness (Numbers 11:4-35). Miriam and Aaron talked against Moses. The Lord became angry and Miriam was struck with leprosy. She spent 7 days outside the camp before she was brought back in (Numbers 12:1-16).
So Moses sent men to check out Canaan. (See Numbers 13:17-20). He sent 12 spies out, one leader from each tribe to explore the promised land.
At the end of 40 days, the men returned from checking out the land and reported on what they found to Moses, Aaron and the whole community of Israel. The people were at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There the men reported to Moses and Aaron and all of the people. They showed them the fruit of the land. They gave Moses their report. They said, "We went into the land you sent us to. It really does have plenty of milk and honey! Here's some fruit from the land. "But the people who live there are powerful. Their cities have high walls around them and are very large. We even saw members of the family line of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev Desert. The Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the central hill country. The Canaanites live near the Mediterranean Sea. They also live along the Jordan River." Then Caleb interrupted the men who were speaking to Moses. He said, "We should go up and take the land. We can certainly do it." But the men who had gone up with him spoke. They said, "We can't attack those people. They are stronger than we are." The men spread a bad report about the land among the people of Israel.
10 of the spies were afraid of taking the land. Caleb and Joshua had faith that God would help them do it. But the 10 spies convinced the rest of the Israelites that certain doom was ahead for them. In chapter 14, we see the entire people of Israel afraid that they will be killed in the land God specifically told them they were going to inhabit. "We wish we had died in Egypt or even in this desert. Why is the Lord bringing us to this land? We're going to be killed with swords. Our enemies will capture our wives and children. Wouldn't it be better for us to go back to Egypt?" (Numbers 14:2-3).
Moses then spends the rest of the chapter reminding them of what God had already done for them, and chastised them for their lack of faith. In fact, the 11 spies who gave the bad report of the land were killed by a plague. And Moses informed them that all men 20 years or older would die before they entered the promised land. Only Joshua and Caleb were allowed to enter. Because the people rebelled against the Lord and lacked faith in his ability to help them take over the land, they were subjected to 40 years of wandering in the desert, one year for each day they explored the land.
The term flowing with milk and honey builds on the idea of the land producing food that the Israelites can freely enjoy. Up until now, they have been given manna in the desert. They are only allowed to have enough for each day. The promised land has abundant food for them to enjoy.
get your kids talking and engaged
Do you like to wait? Where do you dislike waiting the most (line at store, dr. office, waiting for the bathroom, waiting for recess time or dessert time, etc)?
Can you imagine waiting 40 years for something? Think of someone you know that is 40 years old. That would be their entire lifetime! Listen in the story where the Israelites had to wait 40 years, as a result of their lack of faith in God.
teach a holistic story
Provide a brief summary of the Israelites on the move from Mt. Sinai to the promised land (Canaan).
Read story from a Children's storybook Bible for younger children.
For older children, read story from an age-appropriate Children's storybook Bible or tell the story yourself.
give them basic Bible skills
Scripture for Kids to Read Aloud: Numbers 13:17-20, 13:26-30, 14:1-8
make sure they understand the story
First, ask the children if they have any questions about the story. What to do if you don't know the answer?
help them apply the story to their lives and open up a conversation about faith and the gospel; close with prayer
hide God's Word in their heartI can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 (NIV)