(Background Reading: Leviticus 10, Numbers 10-17; 21)

Psalm 106:13 They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel:

14  But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert.

15  And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.

16  They envied Moses also in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the LORD.

17  The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram.

18  And a fire was kindled in their company; the flame burned up the wicked.

24  Yea, they despised the pleasant land, they believed not his word:

25  But murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the LORD.

26  Therefore he lifted up his hand against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness:

27  To overthrow their seed also among the nations, and to scatter them in the lands.

28  They joined themselves also unto Baalpeor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead.

29  Thus they provoked him to anger with their inventions: and the plague brake in upon them.

30  Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment: and so the plague was stayed.

31  And that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore.

32 They angered him also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes:

33 Because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips.

I Corinthians 10:5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

7 Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.

9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.

10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.

11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

14 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.

MEMORY VERSE: Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. —Hebrews 3:7-9

CENTRAL THOUGHT: During their journey in the wilderness, the Israelites were led by God through many tests, temptations, and chastenings; to humble them, try them and prove them, and bring them triumphantly to the land of promise.


Psalm 106:13 “They waited not”: or, “did not wait for the development of God’s plans.”

Psalm 106:16 “Saint”: one set apart to be holy unto the Lord; priest. This was applied more to his official sanctity rather than his personal holiness.


In today’s lesson we will consider notable times of Israel’s murmuring or disobedience, and God’s chastening which followed.

In Leviticus 10, after the tabernacle and its system of worship had been established and the fire from the Lord had fallen as a sign of His blessing, two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, recklessly and presumably offered strange fire on the altar. They were immediately consumed with fire from the Lord. In the word from the Lord which followed, Aaron and his sons were commanded not to drink wine or strong drink when they went into the tabernacle, which leads us to believe that Nadab and Abihu had behaved so recklessly because they had been drinking. When we consider that shortly before, they had been present with the elders who saw a rare and beautiful vision of the throne of God, it makes us realize how responsible they were in God’s sight.

The next example we will note is in Numbers 11. The people complained, angering the Lord, and again He sent fire to consume them until they repented. Shortly afterward they complained again, this time about the manna they ate every day. “Our soul is dried away,” they wept. God’s anger was kindled again, and Moses was so despondent he prayed to die. God answered in two ways. First, he put the spirit of prophecy upon the seventy elders, ordaining them to help bear Moses’ immense burden.

The other way God answered was to send a windfall of quail, “Until it come out at your nostrils,” the Lord said. Even while the meat was in their mouths, God sent a plague upon them. They memorialized the place where so many died in their greed, “Kibroth-hattavah,” or “The Graves of Lust.” “He gave them their request, but sent leanness (or, ‘a wasting’) to their souls”—the same souls which they had bitterly insisted were “dried up” from the daily manna!

The 12th chapter of Numbers records the envy and racial prejudice Miriam and Aaron demonstrated against Moses and his wife, Zipporah, and how God judged them. In His ever-present mercy, when Moses fervently prayed for her, He healed Miriam of the leprosy with which He had cursed her.

In the 13th chapter Moses sent out twelve chosen men to spy out the land of Canaan. Ten spies returned with an evil report. “We are not able to go against them!” Moses’ servant, Joshua, and one other man, Caleb, had “another spirit” about them. They had “fully followed” the Lord. “We are well able to overcome!” they shouted. The people grew so angry they organized a revolt and a return to Egypt, threatening to stone Joshua and Caleb, who passionately tore their clothes and urged the people, “Fear them not!” At this the Lord God determined to wipe them out. Once again, Moses interceded for the people and for the Name of the Lord which would suffer if He exterminated His people now, and God relented in answer to Moses’ plea. The judgment He did bring upon all the congregation of people over twenty years old was to sentence them to forty years of wandering in the wilderness because of their faithless refusal to go into Canaan. Only Joshua and Caleb would be allowed to go into Canaan with the younger generation at the end of this long period.

Well, now that God had said they could not go, they decided to go! “Go up!” Moses said, “But God will not go with you! It won’t prosper!” Sure enough, they were defeated.

Not long afterward, an uprising against Moses and Aaron began with Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, who, together with 250 famous princes of Israel, falsely accused them of being lifted up and usurping the authority over the congregation. Moses did what he always did: he fell on his face to God. He then pled with Korah, “Do you count it a small thing to be called to the special office of a Levite who serves the congregation in the tabernacle? Don’t you see the honor God has placed on you to be near to Him in that way?” Indeed, they had been honored above most men to have been able to see the vision of God’s magnificent throne, and that made them doubly responsible.

As they persisted, saying that Moses hadn’t fulfilled his promise to bring them to Canaan, and was probably intending to hurt them, Moses cried again to the Lord. He told Korah and his company to gather with their lit censers at the tabernacle the next morning. Here again, God gave a space for repentance. In stubborn defiance, the group gathered the next day. God threatened again to destroy all the people, at which Moses and Aaron fell on their faces for mercy. God commanded Korah, Dathan and Abiram and their families to be separated from the rest of the congregation and Moses said to the people, “If these men die a common death, then you will know God has not sent me. But if the Lord makes a new thing, and the earth swallows them up, you shall all understand that these men have provoked the Lord.” As the earth opened up and closed again upon them, and fire consumed the 250 princes, the people fled and cried. Yet the next day, many of the people murmured against the judgment of the Lord. A plague went out from God’s presence and struck many of them so that in the end, close to 15,000 people were consumed.

You would think there would be no more murmuring against God. But before they reached Canaan, they angered God in Kadesh where there was no water, and struck out at Him resentfully, “Would that we had died when our brethren died before the Lord!” Moses and Aaron fell on their faces, and God told them what to do next. Oh, Moses! With the shock and horror of Korah’s gainsaying and the resulting deaths of 15,000 people still so vivid in his mind—he picked up his rod to follow God’s instruction and something broke in him, resulting in hot words of desperation and two wrathful blows with his rod. God read his inward thoughts and judged him accordingly: he had seen the carnage and what happened when people were bitter, and now he had allowed the bitterness to seep into his own soul. His words of anger against the people were actually words of unbelief against God, causing him to dishonor the Lord and not lift Him up before the people, which cost Moses his chance to personally enter Canaan. They called that place Meribah, or the waters of strife.

Numbers 21 tells of the murmuring the people fell into “because of the way.” This time the Lord sent fiery serpents among them. As they prayed and repented, God had Moses make a bronze serpent and mount it on a pole. If the stricken people would look at it, they would be healed. Jesus later opened up the true meaning of the ensign. He was the one lifted up on the cross, and if souls would look to Him, they would be saved (John 3:14-15).

The last instance mentioned by the Psalmist is the great battle the Moabites and Midianites waged against Israel. The Moabite king, Balak, employed a prophet named Balaam to curse the Israelites. The Spirit of God came over Balaam when he would try to curse them, and he could only bless them. However, he counseled Balak how he could overcome Israel— by seduction (Numbers 31:16). Balak lured the Israelite men by placing his beautiful young women within sight of the battle. The Israelites not only fell into fornication but actual idolatry with the Midianites, one man boldly bringing a heathen woman into his tent. A zealous Levite, Phineas, executed God’s judgment upon the evil act, while another 24,000 perished because of God’s anger. Balaam later killed in the battle with the Midianites (Numbers 31:8). His covetousness, willingness to consort with Israel’s enemies and his evil counsel brought his name dishonorable mention in New Testament writings (II Peter 2:15 and Revelation 2:14); some writers have put him analogous to Judas Iscariot.

—Sis. Angela Gellenbeck


Share what can we learn from:

  1. The sin of Nadab and Abihu.
  2. The sending of the quail.
  3. The envy of Miriam and Aaron.
  4. The evil report of the ten spies.
  5. The uprising of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.
  6. The murmuring at Kadesh.
  7. The fornication with the Midianites.


What stands out the most to me as I finish this study is the grief and anger the Israelites brought to God’s heart when they murmured and complained after all He had done for them.

The miracle of manna—they should have been so grateful for this faithful, pleasant-tasting wonder food! We have so much food available at the grocery store, in our gardens and on our tables each day. How grievous it is when we complain! As fiery serpents took the lives of many ungrateful people in the camp, I believe fiery and sore afflictions—I’m thinking spiritual, but maybe physical as well—come into our lives when we gripe and complain. Murmuring can destroy a marriage when we do not appreciate and cherish each other. Our children will turn away from God if they see us being angry, resentful, discontented and covetous when we profess to love and serve Jesus. How much of the glory and presence of God in our worship services do we forfeit when we fail to offer up praises and jubilant thanksgivings to God? God help us to be more deliberate with our worship and praise!

—Sis. Angela Gellenbeck


The book of James has a good bit to say about lust: “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren” (James 1:16). “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:2,3). Discontentment is the seed of lust. When we study the people of Israel, God’s chosen people, it seems preposterous that they would have been so discontented. They were disappointed with being in the wilderness and had the audacity to long for the leeks and garlic of Egypt. They were unhappy with the manna and desired quail. They were dissatisfied with their leaders and wanted new ones. And the list goes on. Each new discontentment started them on a path of lust which always ended in disaster and death. It is easy to pass judgment on the Israelites, but are we so different in this day and time?

It seems to be a common thread we see these days. We see discontentment all around us. People dissatisfied with their occupations. Men unhappy with their wives; wives unhappy with their husbands. We have families unable to get along with other family members. Women who are discontented with their physical features. There is a strong division and discontentment with our government. But, beware! This discontentment can sprout into a lustful plant, bearing sinful fruit that, when eaten, causes certain death.

—Sis. LaDawna Adams