Joshua and Caleb and the Twelve Spies
Summary of Lesson Activity:
The children will perform several experiments that reinforce the story including:
- An optical illusion showing us that sometimes the choices we make in our lives seem like they are right, but things are not always what they seem to be!
- A reminder to trust in God when we find ourselves in scary situations.
- A demonstration that shows that sometimes other people might try and pull us away from God’s plan.
Scripture References, Memory Verse, Theme and Objectives:
Refer to the first post in this lesson set.
- Know that the Lord is always with us.
- Understand that God’s way is the right way and that we should put our trust in Him.
- Realize that since God is with us, we have nothing to fear.
- Review Bible Background notes and Bible Passages, Numbers 13-14, Deut. 31:1-8, Joshua 3-4.
- Gather the materials.
- The book: Amazing Science Devotions for Children’s Ministry (Note: to avoid copyright violation I’ve given enough information so that you get the general idea of the lesson, however this book is needed to be able to use this lesson.)
- Children’s Story Bible
- Journaling pages
- Two stacks of books (stacks should be different heights—one should be about 6 inches higher than the other)
- Two yardsticks shaped into a “v”
- Two funnels (the same size)
- Masking tape
- Several flashlights – enough for one per 2-3 kids
- One or two large mirrors – big enough that several kids can look into each one at the same time or several hand held mirrors
- Twist Ties
- Empty thread spool with a hollow center
- Dark Marker
- Refer to schedule and decide how you will make adjustments for the different ages.
- Do the experiments prior to teaching, to see what adaptations might be necessary.
First Experiment: Use 2 rulers and 2 stacks of books (different heights) to create a racetrack for a car made of 2 funnels. The “car” moving on the track creates an optical illusion—it looks like it is moving up, but is really moving down.
Second Experiment: The students will use flashlights and mirrors to look at the pupils (black part of the eye) of themselves and other students—in the dark and shining the light into the eyes.
Third Experiment: Two balloons—blown up to different sizes—are attached to a thread spool and then twist-tied shut. When the ties are removed, the air will move from the smaller to the bigger balloon.
Opening-Welcome and Lesson Introduction:
(Teacher lesson begins after "guide time" — the guides will review/ask questions about what happened last week)
- Make sure you have your nametag on. Introduce yourself to the students.
- Open with a prayer.
Dig-Main Content and Reflection:
(For the first part of the month, go ahead and read the story from the Bible. For the latter part of the month—when the children should be familiar with the story—have them tell you the story)
Ask: Who knows the story of Joshua and Caleb?
Say: We’re going to take a look at this story in the Bible today.
Read the story from a Children’s Bible or summarize the story, reading selected verses from the Bible passage.
Numbers 13 Summary
The people of Israel have left Mt. Sinai, where they received the 10 commandments. After some further travels, they camp in the desert of Paran. The Lord tells Moses to send some spies to explore the land of Canaan, which the Lord was giving to Israel. Moses sends one representative from each of the 12 tribes, including Caleb (tribe of Judah) and Hoshea/Joshua (tribe of Ephraim). Moses gives them explicit directives on what they are to find out: numbers and strength of the current inhabitants, towns, fertility of the soil, types of plants and produce. After 40 days, the spies return to give their report.
The group of spies agrees about the goodness of the land and its produce, but then the reports begin to differ. The majority of the spies go on to say that the inhabitants of the Promised Land are powerful and of such great size that “we seemed like grasshoppers”. They spread these bad reports among the people. Caleb has a different opinion – to take possession of the land “for we can certainly do it”. The people of Israel believe the negative reports and complain and rebel against Moses and the Lord. They lacked trust in God and forgot about all the miracles that God has already performed on their behalf in the recent past (the plagues, crossing the Red Sea, manna and quail etc). They said they would rather die in Egypt or in this desert than to go into the Promised Land. Joshua and Caleb reminded the people that “the Lord will give it [the land] to us” and “the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid”. These words have no effect on the people. In fact, they were ready to stone Joshua and Caleb, but this did not happen due to the appearance of the “glory of the Lord”.
Numbers 14 Summary
The Lord is angry at the way the people are treating Him with contempt. He considers striking them all down with a plague, and starting over with Moses to create a faithful nation. Moses appeals to God and His gracious nature not to carry out this threat. The Lord forgives His people, but there are consequences. The people had said that they would rather die in the desert than to be led into Canaan to die by the sword, and this is what happened to them. Everyone who was age 20 or over would die in the desert- the only exceptions were faithful Joshua and Caleb. The people would wander in the desert for 40 years: one year for each day of the spies’ travels, giving enough time for that generation of people to die. The 10 spies who spread the bad report were struck down right away by a plague.
The people go against God’s judgment and try to enter the land of Canaan right away. God is not with them in this venture, and the attempted invasion fails.
Ask: For any questions that the students may have.
Ask: The students what they think the main points of this story are (or for younger kids, discuss the main points with them).
- Joshua and Caleb and the 10 other spies saw the same evidence but had very differing opinions on taking over Canaan. Joshua and Caleb were yielded to the Spirit of God, so their interpretation of the problem and their approach to the problem differed from that of the 10 other spies.
- The 10 spies were thinking about the size and the strength of the other army, but Joshua and Caleb put their faith and trust in God and His strength and power.
- The Lord is with us, even with the circumstances seem unfavorable
- God’s way is the right way and He will help us
- Because of the above, we don’t need to fear if we are doing God’s will and trusting Him
Say: Today’s memory verse is Numbers 14:9 “The Lord is with us, Do not be afraid of them.”
Ask: What that verse means.
Say: We’re going to do some experiments today that remind us to trust in God rather than ourselves and to remember that we don’t have to be afraid if we put our faith in God.
See the experiment in the book chapter called “Rolling uphill?”. Use their instructions and questions through the explanation of gravity. Then say:
Say: Sometimes the choices we make in our lives seem like the right ones but things are not always what they seem to be – just like in this experiment. Unless we are doing what God wants us to do, we probably aren’t doing the right thing, even if it seems like the right thing.
In our Bible story, what did the 10 spies think was the “right” thing to do? (stay away from the giants in the Promised Land)
Why did they think this was the best thing to do (impossible to defeat the giants of the land)
If the people would have trusted God to defeat these enemies—like Joshua and Caleb encouraged them to do—then what would have happened? (would have entered Promised Land instead of wandering in desert for 40 years)
We must put our trust in God’s abilities, not our own. As long as we do what God wants, God will help us, even when things seem impossible.
Ask: For any questions from the students.
Say: Let’s try our second experiment.
Say: There may be times in our lives when we are afraid, just like the spies were afraid. But God’s Word reminds us that God is always with us. God will guide us through our lives and we have nothing to fear. Remember our memory verse, “ The Lord is with us, Do not be afraid of them”.
Have the kids form pairs or groups of 3. Perform the experiment according to the chapter in the book called “Look!” (don’t start off with the reading from Psalms, though).
Joshua and Caleb did just that – despite what the other spies said, they knew in their hearts that God was with them and that they were doing God’s will. Because of that they were not afraid to try and enter the Promised Land. We can remember Joshua and Caleb and this experiment to remind ourselves to trust in God when we find ourselves in scary situations. We can remind ourselves that we have nothing to fear when God is with us.
Ask: For any questions that the students have.
If you haven’t already done so, have someone (you or students) blow the 2 balloons up
(one is large—almost to capacity; one is small—size of grapefruit). Write “10” on the big balloon and “2” on the smaller one. Tie them off with the twist ties. Stretch the end of each balloon over an end of the spool. Take the twist tie off the small balloon.
Follow the experiment outlined in the chapter: “The Battle of the balloons” until the book tells you to read from Matthew. Instead of doing this, say...
Say: In our story, the people of Israel had a choice. They could follow the advice of the 10 spies or the advice of the 2 spies (Joshua and Caleb).
Whose advice did they follow? (the 10 spies)
They let the wrong ideas influence them and got pulled away from God’s plan for them. Kind of like the way the air got sucked out of the small balloon into the bigger balloon. Sometimes other people might try and pull us away from God’s plan—they might ask us to do things that are wrong or even make fun of you for doing the right thing.
Has this ever happened to you?
Say: God wants you to follow His way, even when it isn’t easy. He will help you and give you strength. Don’t follow the example of the people of Israel—they went away from God’s plan and didn’t trust Him and look where it got them. They all wandered and died in the desert. Except Joshua and Caleb—God rewarded their trust and obedience by allowing them to enter the Promised Land.
Say: In the Bible story that we studied today, Joshua and Caleb were able to put aside their fear. Despite what the other spies said, they knew in their hearts that God was with them and that they were doing God’s will. Because of that they were not afraid to try and enter the Promised Land. We can remember Joshua and Caleb and these experiments to remind ourselves to trust in God when we find ourselves in scary situations. We can remind ourselves that we have nothing to fear when God is with us.
Ask: For any questions that the students have.
Journal Topic (last 5 minutes of class):
Help the guide to hand out pencils/pens and the student folders. Hand out the journaling pages. The children should find a place to sit quietly and think and write in their journals. You and the guide may need to help the younger children with their writing. Another option for younger children is to draw a picture about the topic.
Think about a time when you felt afraid and your faith in God helped you get through it. Write or draw a picture about that time.
Think about a time when you felt afraid and your faith in God helped you get through it. Write about that time.
Dear Lord, please help us to remember that you are with us and that you will help us through any situation, even when things seem impossible. Help us to not feel afraid and to remember to put our trust and faith in you and your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
- Younger students: Read to them. Read some of the Bible verses and summarize the remainder of the story.
Guide Information (Editor notes: Many churches call these "Shepherds")
Detailed Summary of Activities: The students will read and discuss the Bible passage and then will conduct several experiments.
How the guide might help:
Help gather the children for the first experiment.
Help the children as they conduct the second experiment.
Help with the journaling question.
Halasz, Sheila. Amazing Science Devotions for Children's Ministry. Loveland, CO: Group Pub.,
The Interpreter's Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 1984. Print.
A lesson written by folks from: St. John Lutheran Church
Forest Park, IL
Rotation.org Moderator reformatted this post to improve readability.