Sunday School: Gospel Doctrine
Lesson 15: ‘Look to God and Live’

“Lesson 15: ‘Look to God and Live’” Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual (2001), 68–72

“Lesson 15,” Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, 68–72

Lesson 15

“Look to God and Live”

Numbers 11–14; 21:1–9


To encourage class members to overcome worldly desires and fears and look to the Savior and his prophets for guidance.


  1. Prayerfully study the following scriptures:

    1. Numbers 11. The Israelites complain about the manna and desire to eat meat (11:1–9). Moses asks the Lord for guidance and for help in bearing his burdens (11:10–15). As instructed by the Lord, Moses gathers 70 elders to assist him (11:16–17, 24–30). The Lord answers the Israelites’ desire for meat by sending them an overabundance of quail and smiting them with a plague because of their greed and overindulgence (11:18–23, 31–35).

    2. Numbers 12. Miriam and Aaron speak against Moses, complaining about his marriage to an Ethiopian woman and challenging him as their presiding authority (12:1–3). The Lord chastens and punishes Miriam and Aaron for their murmuring (12:4–16).

    3. Numbers 13–14. Moses instructs 12 men to search the land of Canaan (13:1–20; note that “Jehoshua” in verse 16 is a form of the name Joshua). They return with favorable reports of the land’s resources, but all except Joshua and Caleb fear the inhabitants and desire to return to Egypt (13:21–14:10). The Lord tells Moses that the faithless and complaining Israelites will wander in the wilderness 40 years, until all of the adult generation are dead but Joshua and Caleb (14:11–39).

    4. Numbers 21:1–9. The Israelites destroy the Canaanites who come against them (21:1–3). The Lord sends fiery serpents as punishment for the Israelites’ incessant complaining (21:4–6). Moses makes a serpent of brass, fastens it to a pole, and tells the people that if they look at it, they will live (21:7–9).

  2. Additional reading: John 3:14–16; 1 Nephi 17:41; Alma 33:18–22; 37:46–47; Helaman 8:13–15.

  3. If you use the attention activity, make a poster with the words The Promised Land.

  4. If the picture Moses and the Brass Serpent is available, you may want to use it during the lesson (62202).

Suggested Lesson Development

Attention Activity

You may want to use the following activity (or one of your own) to begin the lesson.

Write the word Egypt on the chalkboard. Place a poster with the words The Promised Land at the other side of the room. Challenge a class member to walk from the chalkboard to the poster while looking over his or her shoulder at the word Egypt.

If the class member has difficulty reaching the poster, ask the following question:

  • Why is it difficult to go straight forward as you look backward?

If the class member reaches the poster easily, ask the following questions:

  • How far do you think you could go without wandering from the straight line? Why is it difficult to go straight forward as you look backward?

Explain that this demonstration may be compared to the Israelites’ journey from Egypt. Despite the blessings the Israelites received from the Lord, their fear and lack of faith often caused them to wish they had not left Egypt. Their yearning for Egypt delayed and complicated their journey to the promised land.

Scripture Discussion and Application

As you teach the following scripture passages, discuss how they apply to daily life. Encourage class members to share experiences that relate to the scriptural principles. Because it would be difficult to ask every question or cover every point in the lesson, prayerfully select those that will best meet class members’ needs. You may need to adapt some questions to fit class members’ circumstances.

1. The Lord answers the Israelites’ desire for meat by sending them quail and smiting them with a plague.

Teach and discuss Numbers 11.

  • Even though manna was a great blessing from the Lord, the Israelites began to complain about it (Numbers 11:6). What prompted their complaint? (See Numbers 11:4–5; they began to think about and desire the meat and other food they had eaten in Egypt.) What are the dangers of wanting more than we already have?

  • The Israelites became so lustful for meat that they lost their focus on the promised land and began to wish they had not left Egypt (Numbers 11:4–6). What are some modern-day examples of people giving up great blessings in order to satisfy immediate desires? Why do people do this? How can we overcome such temptations?

  • How did the Lord answer the Israelites’ desire for meat? (See Numbers 11:18–20, 31–33.)

  • Moses became so burdened by the sins of the Israelites that he asked the Lord to take his life (Numbers 11:14–15). How did the Lord give him relief? (See Numbers 11:16–17. Seventy men were called to assist Moses.) What great blessings did these men receive? (See Numbers 11:24–29.)

2. The Lord chastens Miriam and Aaron for speaking against Moses.

Teach and discuss Numbers 12.

  • Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses as their presiding authority, pointing out that they too had received revelation (Numbers 12:2). What was the Lord’s reply to their complaint? (See Numbers 12:5–9.) What are the limits to our right to receive revelation?

    Elder James E. Faust said: “The prophets, seers, and revelators have had and still have the responsibility and privilege of receiving and declaring the word of God for the world. Individual members, parents, and leaders have the right to receive revelation for their own responsibility but have no duty nor right to declare the word of God beyond the limits of their own responsibility” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1989, 9; or Ensign, Nov. 1989, 8).

  • The Lord chastened and punished Miriam and Aaron for complaining about Moses’ marriage to an Ethiopian woman (Numbers 12:1, 9–10). How are we affected when we criticize Church leaders? How can our criticism of Church leaders affect our family and friends?

  • Numbers 12:3 says that “Moses was very meek.” What does it mean to be meek?

    President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Meekness implies a spirit of gratitude as opposed to an attitude of self-sufficiency, an acknowledgment of a greater power beyond oneself, a recognition of God, and an acceptance of his commandments” (“With All Thy Getting Get Understanding,” Ensign, Aug. 1988, 3–4).

  • How did Moses show his meekness when Miriam was punished for rebelling against him? (See Numbers 12:13–15. Rather than being pleased with his authority to preside over his sister, he pleaded with the Lord to heal her. He and his people postponed their journey until she was healed.) How can we be meek, even when people criticize or turn against us? How does it help us to respond to criticism with meekness?

3. Moses instructs 12 men to search the land of Canaan.

Teach and discuss Numbers 13–14.

  • When the Israelites reached the border of the land of Canaan, Moses sent 12 men to search the land, its resources, and its people (Numbers 13:17–20). What report did they bring of the land’s resources? (See Numbers 13:23–27.) What did the 10 men besides Caleb and Joshua report about the people who lived in Canaan? (See Numbers 13:28–33.) How do some of us make the same error as these 10 men?

    President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

    “Ten of the spies were victims of their own doubts and fears. They gave a negative report of the numbers and stature of the Canaanites. … They compared themselves as grasshoppers to the giants they had seen in the land. …

    “We see some around us who are indifferent concerning the future of this work, who are apathetic, who speak of limitations, who express fears, who spend their time digging out and writing about what they regard to be weaknesses which really are of no consequence. With doubt concerning its past, they have no vision concerning its future” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1995, 93–94; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 71).

  • How did the report of Caleb and Joshua differ from the report of the other 10 men? (See Numbers 13:30; 14:6–9.) Why were Caleb and Joshua unafraid of the inhabitants of Canaan? (See Numbers 14:9.) What are some ways that we can follow the example of Caleb and Joshua when we face difficult situations?

    President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

    “There is no place in this work for those who believe only in the gospel of doom and gloom. The gospel is good news. It is a message of triumph. It is a cause to be embraced with enthusiasm.

    “The Lord never said that there would not be troubles. Our people have known afflictions of every sort as those who have opposed this work have come upon them. But faith has shown through all their sorrows. This work has consistently moved forward and has never taken a backward step since its inception. …

    “This is an age of pessimism. Ours is a mission of faith. To my brethren and sisters everywhere, I call upon you to reaffirm your faith, to move this work forward across the world. You can make it stronger by the manner in which you live” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1995, 94–95; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 71–72).

  • How did the congregation react to the words of Caleb and Joshua? (See Numbers 14:10.) How did the Lord punish the Israelites for their continual murmuring and their desire to return to Egypt? (See Numbers 14:22–23, 26–35.) How did he punish the 10 men who delivered the negative report of Canaan? (See Numbers 14:36–37.) How did he bless Caleb and Joshua for their faithfulness? (Numbers 14:24, 38.)

4. Moses makes a serpent of brass and tells the people that if they look at it, they will be healed.

Teach and discuss Numbers 21:1–9.

  • Although the Lord helped the Israelites defeat the attacking Canaanites, the Israelites continued to murmur. How did the Lord punish them? (See Numbers 21:6.) How did the Israelites respond to this punishment? (See Numbers 21:7.)

  • What did the Lord tell Moses to do when Moses asked him to take the fiery serpents away? (See Numbers 21:8–9.) What did each person need to do to be saved from the bites of the fiery serpents?

  • Nephi and Alma, two Book of Mormon prophets, taught that many Israelites died because they would not look at the brass serpent. Why didn’t they look? (See 1 Nephi 17:41; Alma 33:18–20.)

  • Whom did the brass serpent symbolize? (See John 3:14–16; Helaman 8:13–14.)

  • Just as the children of Israel needed to look at the brass serpent to live, we need to look to Jesus Christ to receive eternal life (Alma 37:46–47; Helaman 8:15). What does it mean to look to Christ? How do many people today make the same error as the Israelites who would not look at the brass serpent? (See Alma 33:20. They do not look to Jesus Christ because they do not believe that doing so can save them.)

    Elder Carlos E. Asay said: “We, like Israel of old, must rivet our eyes and minds upon … Christ if we hope to gain eternal life. … Our looks must not be allowed to wander across the way or to become fixed upon the perishable things of the world. The eye … must be trained to look upward. We must look to God and live!” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1978, 81; or Ensign, Nov. 1978, 54).

  • Alma taught that just as the way to be healed from the fiery serpents was easy, the way to eternal life is easy (Alma 37:46). In what sense is the way to eternal life easy? How do some people try to complicate the way to eternal life? (See Jacob 4:14. They look beyond the simple, saving principles of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, and obedience.) How can we keep our focus on faith in Christ?


Encourage class members to look past the things of the world and to be unafraid of the “giants” that distract us from the things that are most important. Testify that if we will “look upon the Son of God with faith” (Helaman 8:15) and follow his prophets, we will be blessed in this life and in the life to come.

Additional Teaching Ideas

The following material supplements the suggested lesson outline. You may want to use one or more of these ideas as part of the lesson.

1. “Let us return into Egypt” (Numbers 14:4)

  • What was the response of the Israelites when they were:

    1. Trapped between the Egyptians and the Red Sea? (See Exodus 14:10–12.)

    2. Given nothing to eat but manna? (See Numbers 11:4–6, 18–20.)

    3. Challenged with the task of conquering the land of Canaan? (See Numbers 14:1–4.)

    4. Discouraged by the difficult journey in the wilderness? (See Numbers 21:4–5.)

  • Why do you think it was so difficult for the Israelites to forsake Egypt? What are some things that are difficult for us to forsake today? How can we strengthen each other as we strive to turn away from old habits or worldly attitudes?

2. Where to look for guidance

The book of Numbers teaches us where we should look for guidance. You may want to emphasize these teachings by writing the following principles on the chalkboard as you teach the scripture accounts:

  1. Look to the prophet (Numbers 12).

  2. Look to the promised land—for us, the celestial kingdom (Numbers 13–14).

  3. Look to the Savior (Numbers 21:4–9).