Lesson 14 – The Tabernacle and Wilderness Wanderings

In our last lesson we studied how God gave Israel His Law (10 Commandments).  God agreed with Israel that, if they obeyed His laws, then He would be with them, protect them, and give them all that they needed. 

However, if they disobeyed His laws, then the punishment was death.  God knew that the Israelites were sinners and would not be able to always obey his commands.  God knew that they would disobey Him and He would have to punish them.

However, God also loved them and so He provided a way for them to escape punishment. God told them to build a special place where He would live and communicate with them.

A Place to Meet With God

God gave Moses specific instructions on how to build a tabernacle (tent) where God’s presence would be shown to the Israelites.  We won’t take the time to study all the details about the Tabernacle.  However, it is worth studying, because we learn many things about God. 

When a person wanted to approach God, his first step was to bring an animal sacrifice to God.  He was to place his hand on the head of the animal and then kill it.  By doing this, he was admitting to God that he was a sinner and deserved to die.  By placing his hands on the animal, he was identifying himself with this animal that was to die in his place.

God allowed sheep, goats, bulls, and birds as sacrifices.  The animals were to be perfect males, and the blood was to be shed.  The blood of animals did not cleanse their sin, but it was a reminder that death was the punishment for sin.  The sacrifice was a picture of the Savior who was promised by God to defeat sin and Satan. 

The animal was then burned on an altar.  God promised to hold off the punishment they deserved and to forgive their sins if they believed Him and came to Him in the way He commanded.

At the Edge of the Promised Land

After the Tabernacle was completed, God led the Israelites to the edge of the “Promised Land”.  This was the land God promised to give Abraham over 430 years before. 

God told Moses to choose one man from each of the twelve tribes of Israel to go out and spy out the land.  When the spies returned, ten of them brought back an evil report and two of them brought a good report.  The ten were telling the Israelites about the giants that were living in the land and the strong walls that surrounded the cities.  They did not believe God was strong enough to overcome the people of Canaan (Promised Land) and give them the land. 

Two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, had also seen the strong walls and the size of the people, but they believed that God would keep His promise, and give them the land.

The Bible says in Numbers 14:1-3, “And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. 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! And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?”

The Israelites chose to agree with the ten men and did not believe that God would give them the land.  They believed God was a liar.  God said he would give them the land, but they did not believe him.  They were fearful because the people of Canaan were bigger and stronger than the Jews.

God became angry with the Israelites, because they did not believe Him.  God told them that every person twenty years old and older who did not believe God would die in the wilderness.  Joshua and Caleb were the only ones who believed God.  God said that after forty years, after those people died, then he would lead their children, Joshua, and Caleb into the land and give it to them.

Wandering in the Wilderness

It is an evil thing not to believe God.  God wanted to bring Israel into the land of Canaan.  However, God made them wander in the wilderness for forty years because they chose not to believe Him.  All those unbelieving adults from twenty years and upward died in the wilderness over the forty years.

God’s Word tells us many things that happened to Israel during these forty years of wandering in the wilderness.  We will cover one of those events in this lesson.  As usual it did not take long for Israel to start complaining and murmuring when difficulties came. 

God provided food and water for Israel after they began their journey from Egypt, but they still did not trust and depend on Him.  They forgot what God did for them and began to complain, because they ran out of water once again.

The Bible says in Numbers 21:5-6, “And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.”

Many of the Israelites died because they were bitten by the snakes. From the very beginning, God said sin would lead to death – physical, and eternal.  Now the truth was graphically illustrated as many people died.  This was God’s judgment on them because of their sin. 

Just like they were bitten by the snakes and died, so every person has been bitten by the “serpent of sin”.  As a result, we are separated from God and will one day die physically.  Those who die separated from God will be eternally separated from God in the Lake of Fire. 

Those who are accepted by God before death, will after death, live with God forever in Heaven.  You may ask yourself, “How can I be accepted by God?”  That is what the message of the Bible is all about.  The purpose of these lessons is to help you understand this message so that you can be accepted by God and live with God in Heaven forever.

The Jews could not escape the poisonous snakes sent by God. When God decides to punish sinners, there is no place where they can hide.  In the days of Noah, after God shut the door to the ark, there was no escape for those outside the ark.  The people of Sodom and Gomorrah could not escape the judgment of God when he sent fire and destroyed those cities.  When God decides that it is the time to punish people, there is no place where they can go to escape.

The Bible says in Numbers 21:7, “Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.”

God’s purpose in judgment is to bring about a change of mind for those who have sinned.  The Bible describes this word as repentance.  The Israelites quickly changed their attitude toward God and acknowledged their sin.  They realized now that only God would save them from their punishment.  They could not save themselves from the snakes.

The Bible says in Numbers 21:8-9, “And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.”

God is loving, merciful and gracious.  He decided to make a way to save those who believe Him. They did not deserve God’s help, but he saves all those who trust in Him. 

God did not tell the Jews to find their own way to be healed, but he told Moses to make a serpent of brass and put it on a pole.  God said if any person believes Him that all they had do was look at the serpent and then they would not die.  God provided a way for them to escape death, but it had to be done God’s way and not their own.

Do you think the people would have lived if they only prayed but did not look?  No.  What if they did not look at the serpent but offered God a gift or money instead?  Would they have lived?  No. They had to look, just as God said.

Written For Our Learning

This event happened about 3,400 years ago.  God put this event in the Bible for us to learn that we need to listen to God and believe him. 

The Israelites wandered around the wilderness for forty years, and all those people who refused to believe the God would give them the Promised Land died.  This was God’s punishment on them because they refused to believe God’s Word.

Just as the Israelites were given God’s words by Moses, so we are given God’s Word (Bible).  God holds us responsible for what we know about Him. God gave us His Word so that we might believe Him.  If we refuse to believe God, then we like the Israelites will die in our sins.

Moses died shortly before God was ready to send Israel into the Promised Land.  God appointed Joshua to be the new leader.  He used Joshua to lead His people into the land of Canaan.

The people of the land fought against Israel, but God protected the army and defeated the people of the land.  God promised to give Israel the land of Canaan. 

Although Satan and the king of Egypt had tried to stop the Israelites from leaving Egypt and although the Israelites had doubted God many times, God still did what he had promised to do.  He led them, protected them, and gave them water and food for forty years while they wandered in the wilderness.  God did not fail to do any of the things he promised.

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Lesson 14 Questions

1. The Tabernacle is the place where God’s ___________ was shown to Israel.

2. The purpose of the animal sacrifices was ……
a. To earn the favor of God.
b. To wash away the sins of the one who brought the sacrifice.
c.  To picture the coming Savior.

3. Moses sent 12 spies into the promised land, and they all came back with an evil report.  (True or False)

4. God became angry with the Israelites, because they did not _________ Him.

5. Joshua and Caleb were allowed to enter the promised land because they believed God.  (True or False)

6. God made Israel to wander in the wilderness for ______ years because they did not believe Him.

7. God’s purpose in judging our sin is…
a. To bring us to a place of repentance.
b. God doesn’t really judge sinners.
c. To get rid of His anger by inflicting punishment on us.

8. God will save anyone who puts their trust in Him alone to rescue them from their sin.  (True or False)

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