Story of the Old Testament - Lesson 6

By Glen Pemberton

Title: Wandering & Conquest

Text: Numbers 11-Joshua 24

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. To help the student grasp the basic story line of the Old Testament as it develops in Numbers 11-Joshua 24.
  2. To impress upon the student the challenge of completely trusting the Lord to do what he has promised.
  3. To impress upon the student the faithfulness and reliability of the Lord - even when we are not as faithful as we should be.


  1. A Bible for each student.
  2. A chalkboard or marker board.
  3. Copies of Student Handout #6 (“Wandering & Conquest”)


As part of God’s plan to fix the problem of sin, the Israelites have been rescued and brought into a special relationship with God. Now, the challenge for the Israelites is to place their complete trust in the Lord. This challenge is developed in the journey from Sinai to the promised land and in the conquest of the land. In both events, the Israelites fail to completely trust the Lord. Nonetheless, the Lord is faithful to these people and determined to resolve the crisis of sin in their lives and in the world.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class:

Introduction: (about 5 minutes)

  1. Welcome visitors, make any necessary announcements.
  2. Spend time taking prayer requests & leading the class in prayer.

Learning Experiences: (about 25 minutes)

  1. Review and set the stage for today’s study.
    1. The Israelites have been rescued from slavery and have entered a relationship (covenant) with God at Sinai.
    2. You may recall that all of this is happening as the result of God’s determination to fix the problem of sin in the world through his promises to Abraham! (Review the status of the 3 promises from Gen 12.)
      1. Many descendents: The Israelites have grown into a mighty nation - just as God promised Abraham.
      2. Blessing to the world: The Israelites have accepted the task of being a “priestly nation” that spreads the good news about the Lord to the rest of the world - just as God intended.
      3. But there is one major element of God’s plan and promises that is still untouched. Q. What is missing? What has not yet happened? (Read Gen 12:1-3 if needed) A. The land!
    3. Our study today will focus on this promise of land and how God kept his word despite the unfaithfulness of his people.
  2. Body of the Lesson:
    1. [General overview & direction]
      1. Turn to Numbers 10.
        1. Q. When we left the Israelites, where were they? A. Sinai.
        2. Finally, after nearly a year at Sinai, the Israelites leave. (Read Num 10:11-13)
        3. Q. Where are they going? A. The promised land (see map).
      2. Hold your place in Numbers 10 and turn to Joshua 3.
        1. Read Josh 3:14-17. Q. What happens in Josh 3? A. The people cross the Jordan and enter the promised land (see map).
        2. It is not really very far from Mount Sinai to the Jordan.
          1. But everything between your fingers, from Num 10 to Josh 3, takes place between Sinai and the Jordan.
          2. In fact, it takes the people 40 years to go from Sinai to the Jordan!
          3. The big question, obviously, is why? Why does it take so long to make such a short trip?
    2. From the moment the Israelites leave Mt Sinai they struggle with one question: Will they trust the Lord who saved them from Egypt? Their lack of trust surfaces in a series of complaints about their conditions, God, and Moses.
      1. Several specific incidents are recorded in the book of Numbers:
        1. General Complaining (11:1-3)
        2. Complaining over food (11:4-34)
        3. Challenge of Moses leadership (12)
      2. This crisis of faith comes to a climax when the people are finally in a position to enter the promised land and conquer it. (Turn to Num 13.) They are faced with a specific crisis: Will they trust the Lord and enter the land or return to Egypt?
        1. The Lord commands Moses to send spies into the land (13:2, 17-20)
        2. Read the report of the spies in Num 13:25-14:4
          1. Q. What do they say about the land? A. Great land!
          2. Q. So what is the problem? Why do they want to kill Moses and go back to Egypt? A. They do not believe they can take the land! (13:28-29)
          3. Q. Why? Why do they not believe they can take the land? Read Num 14:5-9. Q. What is the real problem? A. They do not trust the Lord. They have forgotten that the Lord is on their side (14:9)
            1. Pause for Discussion: Why do you think it was so hard for them to trust God? God had made promises to them; God had saved them from Egypt with miracles; God had established a relationship with them. Why could they not trust God?
            2. Do we have the same struggle? Why do we have trouble really trusting God with our lives?
        3. There were some terrible consequences for their lack of trust.
          1. God threatens to destroy them and start over with Moses (14:10-12), but Moses begs for mercy on their behalf and God relents (14:13f,19).
          2. Although God forgives the people, they must still suffer consequences for their lack of trust. Read 14:20-23. Q. What will happen to that entire generation?
            1. A. Death to all 20 years old & up (14:28). Except the two spies who urged the people to trust God (Joshua & Caleb).
            2. A. Wander one year in the wilderness for every day the spies were in the land (14:34,37).
    3. Fast-forward to the end of the book of Numbers.
      1. Between Numbers 14 and 36 several things happen:
        1. The Israelites wander in the wilderness
        2. They continue to struggle with trusting the Lord. Several specific instances are recorded:
          1. Korah’s rebellion against Moses’ leadership (16-17)
          2. Complaint about the lack of water (20:2-13)
          3. Impatience with the journey (21:4-9)
        3. The Israelites begin to conquer and take possession of the land east of the Jordan river (see map). This was not originally part of the “promised land” but many of the people decide to live in this area rather than on the west side of the river.
        4. Moses conducts a census of the people. Read Num 26:63-65. Q. What else has happened? (see handout)
          1. A. The older generation who failed to trust God and take the land have died - just as the Lord said.
          2. A. They have been wandering in the wilderness for many years.
      2. So, when you turn to the book of Deuteronomy, the Israelites are on the east side of the river - ready to conquer the land.
        1. Q. So why not just charge on in? What is in the book of Deuteronomy? A. Deuteronomy contains a number of speeches made by Moses to this new generation of Israelites. Moses urges them to be faithful and trust the Lord, unlike their parents and grandparents.
        2. Then, at the end of Deuteronomy, Moses dies and Joshua becomes the new leader of the people (Deut 34).
    4. The Book of Joshua is named in honor of this new leader who takes the people into the promised land.
      1. The conquest and division of the land among the people is the topic of the book of Joshua.
      2. Oddly, however, while the book of Joshua is about the conquest, this book only discusses three battles in any detail (Jericho [Josh 2 & 6], Ai [Josh 7], and Hazor [Josh 11]). Other battles are only listed (Josh 12).
      3. The victories of the Israelites in the land are stunning and great triumphs of faith. We tend to imagine a quick, decisive, and complete military conquest of the promised land. The picture presented by Joshua (and Judges), however, is far different from our hopes.
        1. As before, this new generation of Israelites is confronted with a question: Will they completely trust the Lord with their lives?
        2. And their response is immediately tested with a crisis: Will they completely conquer the land (relying on the Lord) or not?
      4. Read & discuss the following texts:
        1. Josh 13:1-2 Q. What remains to be done at the end of Joshua’s life? A. There is still much of the promised land to be possessed.
        2. Josh 13:13; 15:63; 16:10; 17:12-13 Q. What is the pattern of behavior in these texts? A. The Israelites are not driving out the inhabitants of the land.
        3. Judges 1:19-36 Q. What has happened? A. The Israelites have failed to complete the conquest. Further, one group of the Israelites (the family of Dan) has been driven out of their land!
      5. The failure of the Israelites raises an obvious question: Why?
        1. Did God not keep his promises?
          1. God had promised to drive out the inhabitants of the land (Josh 13:6; Gen 12:7).
          2. The book of Joshua stresses that God kept his promises (Read 21:43-45, 23:14).
        2. The problem, once again, was the people.
          1. Joshua speaks to the people in 18:3 and accuses them of not taking the land the way they should.
          2. Q. Why do you think they did not complete the conquest?
            1. Possible Answers (all valid): They were complacent, satisfied with only a part of the land, and tired of war.
            2. The bottom line, however, is a lack of trust and, therefore, a lack of obedience.
            3. Eventually, the Lord stopped helping them and they were unable to take the land (Judg 2:1-5).
      6. Next week, we will see that this failure to trust the Lord completely and take the entire land will result in terrible tragedies for the people.
  3. Summary
    1. Q. Why does it take the people forty years to begin the conquest? A. They did not trust the Lord to keep his promises.
    2. Q. Why did the people fail to completely conquer and take the promised land? A. They did not completely trust the Lord to keep his promises.
    3. I hope you see a theme here:
      1. When God’s people act in faith & obedience, nothing can defeat them from completing God’s purpose for their lives
      2. When God’s people fail to trust and obey ? they fail.


(about 5 minutes; discuss one of the following topics)

  1. Why did the Israelites have such a difficult time trusting the Lord? Do we have the same struggle? Why? Why is it so hard for us to trust the Lord and completely obey him? (When has it been the most difficult for you to trust the Lord? How did you respond? Why?)
  2. Despite Israel’s frequent failures to be all God wanted them to be, God continued to work in their lives. How does this make you feel? How do you see God working in your life despite your failures? What might you say to someone who is ready to give up on faith because they just can’t seem to stay faithful? God’s way of dealing with Israel is good news for each of us!
  3. Review the “Story of the Old Testament” to this point. Emphasize the problem of sin, the three promises of God’s plan to fix the sin-problem, the fulfillment of these promises in the story to this point, and God’s obvious determination to work through the Israelites to reach the rest of the world.


Read Judges 4-5 and 13-16


Prayer that:

  1. Thanks God for his determination to fix the problem of sin.
  2. Confesses our own struggle to completely trust the Lord with every aspect of our lives.
  3. Asks the Lord to help us trust and live in complete obedience to his will.

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