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Bible stories

Bible stories

This Thanksgiving lesson is structured a little differently from most of the other Kids of Integrity lessons. With this lesson, it would be best to cover all six Bible stories, perhaps one each consecutive day.

Bitter water, bad attitudes

Prepare ahead (optional): Make some “bitter water” for your children to sample during your Bible story. Add three tablespoons of lemon juice to one cup of water.

Set the scene for this Bible story by reading this brief summary of the preceding events:

God helped the Israelites escape from Egypt, where they had spent 430 years working as slaves for the Egyptians. Pharaoh, the ruler of the Egyptians, finally agreed to set the Israelites free and let them leave the country. This sounds like good news, but shortly after Pharaoh let the Israelites go, he changed his mind! He wanted his Israelite slaves back!

The Egyptian army came chasing after the Israelites as they fled through the desert. The Israelites were travelling on foot, with their wives and children, and carrying everything they owned. But the Egyptian army had horses and chariots, and they caught up fast. Soon the Israelites found they had nowhere to run: they were trapped by the Red Sea! But God performed a miracle by piling up the water of the Red Sea to the left and right, so the Israelites could safely cross by walking on the ocean floor. When the Egyptian army tried to follow them, God closed the water back over top of the army. It was simply amazing!

Now read Exodus 15:22-24.

Questions for discussion
  1. What is a desert like?
  2. What were the Israelites complaining about when they were in the desert?
  3. Would you like to try some bitter water? (Offer each child a cup of lemon water.)
  4. Would you complain if you were in a desert and this was all you had to drink?

Add a tablespoon of sugar, honey or agave nectar to each child’s cup and let them sip it while you continue telling the story.

Read Exodus 15:25-27.

  1. What do you think the Israelites said after they tasted the sweet water?
  2. Do you think God would have let the Israelites die of thirst in the desert?
  3. When the Israelites complained to Moses, who were they really grumbling against?
  4. When you complain about something, who else hears you?
  5. What did God promise the Israelites?
  6. What was it like at Elim – the place that the Israelites came to next?
  7. What can you do when you are worried about not getting something you think you need?
Key concepts

God knew the Israelites needed water and He provided it. There was so much water and so many trees at Elim, we know that God provided more than enough water for the Israelites. At the end of this story, God promised the Israelites that if they listened carefully to His voice, paid attention to His commands and did what was right, that He would not let the diseases that He gave the Egyptians make them sick. God said, “I am the Lord who heals you” (Exodus 15:26). This was another way that God reminded the Israelites of His ability to care for them. You could say that God was even going to be their “doctor in the desert.”

This story helps us understand that God knows what we need and He will provide it. When we are tempted to worry or complain about not having something, we need to remember that God cares for us and will provide what we need (Philippians 4:6-7). If we grumble and complain like the Israelites did, it shows that we are not trusting God. Instead of whining when we think we need something, we should pray and trust God to give us the things we need.

Make it real

As an exercise in thankfulness, set up a lemonade stand and offer free lemonade. When people stop by for a glass, instruct your kids to tell them, “We are giving away lemonade just to say ‘Thanks for being such great neighbours.’ ” If it is cold out, you could set up a coffee or hot chocolate stand instead. Alternatively, you could make cookies or pumpkin muffins and deliver them to special neighbours with a thank-you note.

Take time to pray, asking God to teach you to trust Him to take care of you and to give you thankful hearts. As a parent, model thankfulness by noting aloud what you appreciate about the other people who live in your neighbourhood. If you complain about your neighbours, let your kids hear you pray about your whining, asking God to help you trust Him to take care of any stressful issues in your neighbourhood.

Relevant Scripture

Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Whining about Wheaties

Prepare ahead (optional): Bake some homemade “manna” using the recipe presented at the end of this Bible story and let your children snack on the manna while you read the story. Or, if you prefer, make your manna together after the Bible story.

Short on time? Purchase a slightly sweetened whole grain breakfast cereal to serve as your manna. Some good options are Life, Shreddies, Corn Bran, Kashi’s Honey Sunshine cereal or Weetabix.

Set up a make-believe campfire by placing a flashlight under red and yellow tissue or cloth, then cozy up together beside your “fire” in sleeping bags or favourite blankets while you enjoy this Bible story.

Read Exodus 16:1-16.

Questions for discussion
  1. Do you enjoy camping?
  2. Where is your favourite place to camp?
  3. What do you think it would be like to camp in a giant field of sand?
  4. In today’s Bible story, what were the Israelites complaining about?
  5. What did God do to provide food for the Israelites?
  6. When we whine and complain, who are we really complaining against?
  7. What do you think God thought when the Israelites whined and complained?
  8. How can you remember to have a thankful attitude, even when you feel like complaining?
Key concepts

In our last Bible story, the Israelites were in the Desert of Shur, where God showed them that they didn’t need to worry about water: He provided them with all the water they needed. But right after that, when they reached the Desert of Sin, the Israelites began to worry and complain about not having any food. (They sure complained in the Desert of Shur, and sure enough, they sinned in the Desert of Sin!)

So God provided the Israelites with quail to eat in the evening, and in the morning He sent a very special food, called “manna,” that covered the ground in flakes. When the people first saw the manna they said, “What is it?” They called it manna, because “manna” in their language means “what is it?” That would be like us calling our breakfast cereal “whatisit.”

The Bible says the manna was white like coriander seed and tasted like it was sweetened with honey and baked with olive oil (Exodus 16:31, Numbers 11:7-8). God sent the manna for the Israelites to eat for forty years – the entire time they were in the desert (Exodus 16:35).

Even though God provides food, water and shelter for us every day, when things get hard we can be tempted to doubt God’s ability to care for us. In Genesis 22 there’s another story about how God provided. This time, God provided Abraham with a lamb to sacrifice. Overjoyed, Abraham called the place “The Lord Will Provide” and he called God by the special name “Jehovah Jireh,” which means “God is the God who provides.” When we feel worried or begin to doubt if God is going to take care of us, we can pray and call God by the name “Jehovah Jireh” to remind us that we can trust God to take care of all our needs.

Make it real

Here’s the recipe for manna wafers. Before you enjoy your manna snack, make a list of the things you require to live (i.e., a home for shelter, food, water, clothing and a family or friends to love). Pray and thank God for providing everything you need.

Manna wafers

3 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. coriander (optional)
1/8 cup butter, melted, or olive oil
½ cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup unsweetened applesauce (equals one 111 g container of Mott’s brand)
1 egg
sugar to sprinkle on top (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 °F.
  2. Use a hand mixer to blend the butter, honey, vanilla, applesauce and egg together.
  3. Sift in just one cup of the whole wheat flour, 1 tsp. baking soda and ½ tsp. powdered coriander (optional – note that the Bible says manna was like coriander in looks, not necessarily taste).
  4. Mix the dough until it is uniformly blended. Continue adding flour until the dough is stiff enough to roll out.
  5. Roll the dough as thin as possible. The thinner you roll it, the more authentic it will be, as manna was described as being flaky.
  6. If you want to sweeten the wafers slightly, sprinkle the surface of the rolled-out dough with white or brown sugar. Gently roll over the sugared surface to adhere the sugar to the dough.
  7. Cut the “manna” into squares or use cookie cutters to punch out a variety of shapes.
  8. Place the wafers on a non-stick cookie sheet and bake in the oven at 375 °F for 8-10 minutes. The manna wafers are done when they are lightly browned and spring back when pressed lightly with a fingertip.
Relevant Scripture

Genesis 22:14 “So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.’ ”

1 Timothy 6:17 “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”

Whining about water . . . again!

After the Bible story you may want to play the M&M game, which is explained below under make it real.

Read Exodus 17:1-7.

Questions for discussion
  1. What were the Israelites whining and complaining about in this story?
  2. Who were the Israelites demanding water from?
  3. Do you think Moses had any water for the Israelites?
  4. Who should the Israelites have been asking for water?
  5. How did God provide water?
  6. Why do you think God chose to make water come out of a rock?
  7. What do you need in order to live?
  8. What is the difference between wanting something and needing it?
  9. Do you believe God can give you the things you need?
  10. What can you do to remind yourself not to complain about eating _____? (List some foods that your child prefers not to eat.)
Key concepts

You would think that after seeing all the previous miracles (the journey through the Red Sea, bitter water being made sweet and food from heaven) that the Israelites would have learned to trust God. Unfortunately, they continued to doubt God’s ability to provide for them.

It’s easy for us to make the same mistake the Israelites did. Instead of appreciating and thanking God for all that we have, we demand more and more. In Isaiah, God explains that even the wild animals honour Him because He provides water for them in the desert. God also says that He will provide water for His people so that they will praise Him. God wants to hear us praise Him for taking care of us (Isaiah 43:19-21), and He certainly deserves it!

Make it real

Add some fun to this lesson by introducing the M&M game in this way:

In the Bible story, we learned that the Israelites quarrelled with Moses and tested God’s patience. So Moses called the place “Massah and Meribah.” “Massah” means “testing” and “Meribah” means “quarrelling” (Exodus 17:2, 7).

To play the M&M game, every time anyone complains, the rest of the family gently says “M and M” or “mmmm,” reminding everyone of the words “Massah and Meribah.” This is a polite way of saying that you don’t want your home to be full of quarrelling, or a place where you test God’s patience.

As a “penalty” for complaining, the person who whined needs to think of three things to thank God for instead. Here is an example of how an episode might play out:

Parent: “Please pick up those toys before supper.”
Child: “I don’t want to. Get my brother to do it. He played with them too.”
Parent: “M and M.”
Child: “But I don’t want to clean up.”
Parent: “Oops! I just heard you complain again. Can you think of three things to thank God for? I can help you get started. Which toy on the floor is your favourite?”
Child: “I like this giraffe best.”
Parent: “Great. Let's see if you can put it in the toy box before I can say, ‘Thank You, God, for the giraffe.’ Can you think of two more things you are thankful for?”
Child: “Blankie and Bunny.”
Parent: “Thank You, God, for Blankie, Bunny and Giraffe. Thank You too for ______________________________ (insert all of your children’s names here). Please give us thankful hearts. Amen.”

To add a fun twist to the game, also give out a candy M&M each time a child expresses appreciation or thanks unprompted. Don’t tell your kids why you are handing out candy, and see how long it takes them to figure it out.

When someone whines or complains, you can also use your choice of the verses below to remind your children of the importance of praising God instead. Pray with your child, thanking God for His love and goodness. Encourage your child to ask God to forgive their ungratefulness. Thank God specifically for the good things He provides and then close by asking God to give your child a thankful heart.

Relevant Scripture

Psalm 107:8-9 “Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men, for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”

Isaiah 43:19-21 “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor Me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to My people, My chosen, the people I formed for Myself that they may proclaim My praise.”

Isaiah 63:7 I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord, the deeds for which He is to be praised, according to all the Lord has done for us – yes, the many good things He has done for the house of Israel, according to His compassion and many kindnesses.

Mad about manna

Prepare ahead (optional): Before you read this Bible story, liven things up a little by finding a picture of a hot dog or a cut of meat. Each time you read the word “meat” in the story, hold up the picture as a sign that you want your kids to chant “We want meat! We want meat!” (You might want to review the passage first to identify the best points in the story to hold up the “meat” sign.)

After the story you may want to share your own “manna meal” together, as described under the header make it real.

Read Numbers 11:4-23, 31-34.

Questions for discussion
  1. Have you ever become tired of eating a certain food? If so, what was it?
  2. If you were camping in the desert on vacation and all you had to eat every day was pancakes, would you complain?
  3. Once you got tired of eating pancakes, what might you wish you could eat instead?
  4. In today’s Bible story, what did the Israelites want to eat instead of manna?
  5. Why was God angry with the Israelites?
  6. What special new food did God send for the Israelites to eat?
  7. What did the Israelites name the place where they buried people who died in the plague?
  8. How can we be thankful, even when things are not going the way we want them to?
Key concepts

It’s easy for us to sit here in our comfortable home where we eat a huge variety of foods each day and criticize the Israelites for worrying about water and whining about eating manna. But realistically, if we were living in a hot, dry desert and ate nothing but manna for days, we would likely do our share of complaining too.

God considers it sin when we are not thankful for the good things we have. If we think about what we don’t have, it is easy to start complaining. The best way to avoid having a “sad-itude” (an “oh poor me” attitude), is to praise God for what we do have, even when we think life is difficult or we don’t have all the things we think we want.

Make it real

For one meal, eat only one unsweetened, carbohydrate-based food, for example, brown rice, whole grain bread, potatoes, popcorn, crackers or oatmeal. Eat your “manna” with no salt, seasonings or extras such as ketchup, sauces, dips, dressings or butter. As you eat your meal that’s lacking in colour, variety, texture and flavour, talk about how the Israelites must have felt eating manna every day for forty years while camping in the desert.

During your meal, you can also discuss children in underprivileged countries who are constantly hungry and have only one meal of rice each day, and also review your choice of the Scriptures below.

Practice being thankful for everything, even your “boring” meal. Here’s a thankfulness prayer based on Philippians 4:12: Dear God, Please teach us the secret of being content in any and every situation. Help us to remember to thank You, whether we are well fed or hungry; whether we have lots of things or very little. Thank You. Amen.

Relevant Scripture

Psalm 107:9 “for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”

Psalm 111:5 “He provides food for those who fear Him; He remembers His covenant forever.”

Philippians 4:12b-13 “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

1 Timothy 6:8 “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

Long “time out” in the desert

Prepare ahead (optional): Take a peek at the first idea under make it real; you may want to do this exercise before you read the story. An ideal time to tell this story is when you are on your way to visit a friend’s or relative’s home for Thanksgiving dinner.

Read Numbers 13:1-3, 17-21, 25-33; 14:1-11, 21-30, 36-38.

Questions for discussion
  1. Do you remember all the ways God had already taken care of the Israelites in the desert?
  2. What were the Israelites grumbling about this time?
  3. Why do you think they still doubted that God could take care of them?
  4. Who tried to encourage the Israelites?
  5. If you had been there with the Israelites, what would you have said to encourage everyone to trust God?
  6. What do you think would have happened if the Israelites had chosen to praise God instead of grumbling?
  7. Can you think of some things the Israelites could have been thankful for?
  8. What are you going to do the next time you are tempted to complain about something good God has provided?
Key concepts

Just like Mom and Dad do a very good job of taking care of you, God was taking very good care of the Israelites in the desert. First, God brought them out of Egypt, where they had been miserable working as slaves. Then He performed the miracle of opening up a road through the Red Sea as an escape route when they were being chased by the Egyptian army. God also made sure the Israelites had food and water in the desert. He made the bitter water sweet enough to drink, He fed them delicious munchies, called manna, and provided much more meat than they could eat. God even made water suddenly appear, flowing out of a rock.

After all the miracles God had done for the Israelites, you would think they would have figured out that God was big enough to take care of them. When the spies returned from the Promised Land and told the Israelites there was no way they could take over the land because the people living there were too big and strong, God was not pleased with the Israelites for doubting that He could take care of them. God sent the Israelites away from the Promised Land for forty years! It was like God gave them a very, very long “time out” in the desert.

We can learn a lesson from what happened to the Israelites and make sure that we trust God and thank Him for caring for us. Always remember that God is who He says He is, and that He will do what He says He will do.

Make it real

Pick a destination you know your kids will be excited about. It might be a favourite restaurant, a grandparent’s home, a pool, water park or indoor play zone. When everyone is loaded in the vehicle, ask your kids what you are supposed to do next. (Ideally they will tell you to start the engine!) You can also hint at it by saying, “Hmmm, I wonder if I’ll be able to start the car today.” After you get the engine running, ask your kids if they thought you would be able to start the car, or if they had doubted your capability. As you are driving, remind them how the Israelites doubted God’s ability to give them the Promised Land as He said He would.

When you arrive at your destination, pretend that your kids are the spies Moses sent out to explore the Promised Land. Have them bring you back unfavourable reports about your destination. For example, The park is full of red ants. They’ll get in our pants! Or, The park smells like garbage. There are pigeons flying all over and they will poop on us! Then invite one of your children to try to convince the others that God will protect you all, despite the ants, pigeons or other “dangers.”

Pray with your kids, borrowing a prayer from Jeremiah 32:17: Ah, Sovereign Lord, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for You. Please help us to trust You to care for us and give us thankful hearts. Amen.

When you notice someone grumbling, whining or doubting, send the child for a “time out” and remind them of the long time out the Israelites had to serve when they complained. When the time out is over, read one of the verses from below aloud and pray with your child asking God to give him or her a trusting and thankful heart. Here’s a sample script you could use: Please help ________ (your child’s name) to trust that You love him/her. Please remind him/her to sing and praise You for all the good things You do (Psalm 13:5-6).

Relevant Scripture

Psalm 107:9 “for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”

Jeremiah 32:27 “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for Me?”

Mark 10:27 “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’ ”

Philippians 4:19 “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

Elephant altar

Prepare ahead (optional): Begin by looking through a family photo album with your children. Point out that when special events take place – weddings, birthdays, graduations and vacations – people take pictures so they can remember the special event. Tell your kids that today’s Bible story is about an extraordinary event that took place so long ago that the people back then didn’t have cameras to take pictures.

Set the scene for today’s Bible reading by summarizing the previous story:

In our last Bible story, we read how God gave the Israelites a very long “time out”! He made them wait forty years in the desert, because they had not trusted that God would protect them from the dangerous-looking people who lived in the wonderful land God wanted to give the Israelites. But now the forty years have passed and God is about to lead the people across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land. Let’s find out what happens . . .

Read Joshua 3:9-4:24.

Questions for discussion
  1. The Israelite children had only heard stories of how their parents had miraculously crossed the Red Sea. Do you think the children were excited that they were about to see a similar miracle?
  2. Do you think the priests at the front of the ark were afraid when they stepped into the flooded Jordan River?
  3. What happened when the priests stepped in the water?
  4. Is that something you would want to take a picture of?
  5. How was the altar that God told the Israelites to make like a photograph?
  6. What did God want the Israelites to remember?
  7. What were the Israelites to tell their children who asked about the twelve stones?
  8. Can you name an animal that people say “never forgets”?
Key concepts

The Israelites didn’t have cameras to take pictures, but God had another plan to help the Israelites remember the day they crossed the Jordan River. God told Joshua to build an altar made of rocks from the riverbed. The purpose of the pile of rocks was to help the Israelites remember the good things God had done for them and to remind them that He would be with them in the Promised Land. Just like kids enjoy hearing stories about the past, we can guess that the little Israelite kids probably asked their parents to tell them the story of crossing the Jordan River over and over again, every time they saw the big pile of rocks. From this story, we learn that God wants us to plan ahead, creating reminders so that we don’t forget His goodness and care.

Make it real

Build your own altar as a way to remember to thank God for His presence in your home and for the good things He provides for you. Have fun involving your children in the building of the altar using things they are thankful for. It could be food, toys, clothing and other basic necessities. Leave the pile visible as a reminder to let God know how thankful you are for all that He provides for you. If you’d like to tie in the idea that “an elephant never forgets” you can try to build your altar in the shape of an elephant. If you’re short on time, simply place a basket on your kitchen table and fill it with items you are thankful for.

In the future, when it appears your kids are forgetting to be thankful, you can encourage them to look at the altar and read Deuteronomy 8:10-18 as a reminder of the importance of remembering to thank God for the many ways He cares for them.

Relevant Scripture

Deuteronomy 8:10-18 “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land He has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe His commands, His laws and His decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, 'My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.' But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms His covenant, which He swore to your ancestors, as it is today.”

Acts 7:36 “He led them out of Egypt and did wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the desert.”

1 Timothy 6:17 “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”