Gratitude

Bible stories

Choose one or more Bible stories that are appropriate for your children.

Please note that the first three Bible stories presented here also appear in the Thanksgiving lesson.

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

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 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.
     

  5. What do you think the Israelites said after they tasted the sweet water?
  6. Do you think God would have let the Israelites die of thirst in the desert?
  7. When the Israelites complained to Moses, who were they really grumbling against?
  8. When you complain about something, who else hears you?
  9. What did God promise the Israelites?
  10. What was it like at Elim – the place that the Israelites came to next?
  11. 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, your healer” (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.

Relevant Scripture

Philippians 4:6-7 “. . . do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses 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 in the hands-on optionmanna meal” 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 grateful 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.

In closing, 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.

Relevant Scripture

Genesis 22:14 “So Abraham called the name of that place ‘The Lord Will Provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’

1 Timothy 6:17 “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

Whining about water . . . again!

Note: This is not a stand-alone story. Only use this Bible story if you have already completed the Bible stories “Bitter water, bad attitudes” and “Whining about Wheaties” that are also included in this lesson.

Read Exodus 17:1-7.

Questions for discussion
  1. Are you tired of hearing stories about the Israelites grumbling and complaining?
  2. Do you think God ever gets tired of hearing you complain?
  3. What were the Israelites whining and complaining about in this story?
  4. Who were the Israelites demanding water from?
  5. Do you think Moses had any water for the Israelites?
  6. Who should the Israelites have been asking for water?
  7. How did God provide water?
  8. Why do you think God chose to make water come out of a rock?
  9. What do you need in order to live?
  10. What is the difference between wanting something and needing it?
  11. Do you believe God can give you the things you need?
  12. 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!

Note: To add some fun to this lesson, pair it with the M&M game from the hands-on options section of this lesson.

Relevant Scripture

Psalm 107:8-9 “Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of man! For He satisfies the longing soul and the hungry soul He fills with good things.

Isaiah 43:19-21 “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild beasts will honor Me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to My chosen people, the people whom I formed for Myself that they might declare My praise.

Isaiah 63:7 “I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has done for us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that He has granted them according to His compassion, according to the abundance of His steadfast love.

Don’t forget God’s goodness

Before you begin, give your children a piece of fabric and some sandpaper each. As you read the Bible story, have your children rub the cloth with the sandpaper. (Be sure to cover your work surface first so they don’t sand your tabletop or countertop.) Afterwards, observe how the constant friction has begun to wear out the cloth. You can also show your children some old clothing that has holes worn in it.

Read Deuteronomy 8:1-16.

Questions for discussion
  1. How did God care for the Israelites?
  2. If you wore the same clothes every day for 40 years, how do you think they would look?
  3. What did God warn the Israelites about?
  4. Do you know what it means to be arrogant?
  5. What good things could cause someone to forget about God?
  6. Who deserves honour for giving us our home, food, toys and clothing?
  7. How can we honour God for giving us good things?
Key concepts

God cared for the Israelites by bringing them out of Egypt and safely across the Red Sea. He cared for them in the desert by providing manna to eat and water to drink. Even while they travelled in hot conditions their feet did not swell and their clothing did not wear out. He even kept them safe from snake and scorpion bites.

God told the Israelites that when they got to the Promised Land, life would be wonderful. He warned them that when they had large flocks, lots of gold and silver and fine houses and many good things to eat, that it would be easy to forget Him. He said their hearts could become proud and they would start to think that it was their own hands that brought them so much wealth.

To be proud or arrogant means that we honour ourselves instead of giving honour to God for everything we have. The Bible also includes a verse in the New Testament that talks about the same thing: that we should not trust in our wealth, but in God who is the One who provides us with everything we need for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17). We can honour God for giving us good things by remembering to thank Him for the material things we have and by being willing to share them with others.

Relevant Scripture

1 Timothy 6:17 “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

Psalm 106:24-25 “Then they despised the pleasant land, having no faith in His promise. They murmured in their tents, and did not obey the voice of the Lord.

Praising God at a strange time

Read 2 Chronicles 20:1-26.

Questions for discussion
  1. What would you do if you were playing outside and saw a group of older kids coming down the street who looked like they were planning to cause trouble?
  2. What was the first thing King Jehoshaphat did when he heard there was a huge army coming against him and his people?
  3. How did God answer their prayers?
  4. What did they do the next day as they went out to battle?
  5. Is it easier to praise God when things are going your way or when you are disappointed?
  6. Why do you think we should praise God even when life is difficult?
  7. Is there anything hard in your life?
  8. Do you want to thank God for this challenge?
Key concepts

When King Jehoshaphat heard that a huge army was approaching, he had very good reason to be afraid. Two of the strongest armies in the region were marching to fight his people.

The first thing Jehoshaphat did was to call together all the people to pray. Just as a child will go to their parent for help when there is a problem, Jehoshaphat went to God. God answered Jehoshaphat through a man named Jahaziel. The message from God was “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.” (2 Chronicles 20:15). The next day, when Jehoshaphat and the people went out to war, they went singing a song that said, “Give thanks to the Lord, for His steadfast love endures forever” (2 Chronicles 20:21).

The Bible tells us that as they began to sing, praising God, God caused the approaching armies to fight against each other so Jehoshaphat and his people didn’t even need to fight. Afterwards Jehoshaphat gathered the people together to praise God again.

It can be hard, but God wants us to thank Him for everything, because hard times help us learn to trust Him more and to grow stronger in our character. If we face difficult or scary times, we can remember what Jehoshaphat did when he had a big problem. He thanked God for His love, even though the Israelites were in a discouraging and seemingly hopeless situation. And after God came to their rescue, Jehoshaphat remembered to have all of the people praise and thank God for caring for them.

Relevant Scripture

Romans 5:3-5 “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

James 1:2-4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Thanking God all day long

This story describes what Nehemiah did during the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem to show gratitude to God. To help your children understand why Nehemiah had so much to be thankful for, begin by reading them this summary of the events leading up to the building of the wall around Jerusalem:

The Israelites were proud and stubborn and refused to listen to God. Over and over again, to get their attention, God allowed their enemies to cause them to suffer. Then they would cry out to God and He would make things better for them. But as soon as the Israelites were comfortable again, they would start sinning again (Nehemiah 9:6-18,26-31).

After being patient for a very long time, God decided to allow their enemies to come and capture the Israelites and take them away from the Promised Land and into their enemies’ countries (2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 18:10-11,13, 2 Chronicles 36:5-7; Daniel 1:1-7, 2 Kings 24:10-17, 2 Kings 25:1-12).

Then, after 70 years had passed, God allowed some of the Israelites to return to their land and begin rebuilding their temple. Nehemiah was living in a foreign country when he found out that some of God’s people were back in the Promised Land and that they were rebuilding God’s temple in the city of Jerusalem. He also heard that there was no wall to protect the city and to protect the people rebuilding the temple.

Nehemiah told God that he was willing to go back and help. God answered Nehemiah’s prayer by softening the heart of the Persian king, Artaxerxes. The King not only gave permission for Nehemiah to go, he also gave him supplies to be used for rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. Despite many trials, Nehemiah encouraged the people to persevere and to continue trusting in God for help. Eventually the walls were restored and more Israelites began to move back to Jerusalem.

Read Nehemiah 12:27-29,31,38-43.

Questions for discussion
  1. Have you ever seen a parade or a marching band?
  2. What was your favourite part of the parade?
  3. Do you hear a parade first, or see it first?
  4. Which are your favourite instruments in a marching band?
  5. Why did Nehemiah call the people together?
  6. What did they do to praise God?
  7. Who came to the celebration to praise God?
  8. How loud do you think their praises were?
  9. What is your favourite way to make joyful noises to praise God?
Key concepts

Nehemiah called the people together to dedicate the walls of Jerusalem to God and to praise and thank Him for allowing the walls to be rebuilt. They praised God through singing and playing musical instruments like cymbals, harps and lyres. Nehemiah also organized two large choirs to sing songs of thanksgiving and to march on the city walls during the dedication ceremony. The Bible tells us that even the women and children rejoiced and that the sound of their praises could be heard far away. We can make joyful noises to praise God, too (Psalm 100:1-3). Like the Israelites did, we can shout, sing and play musical instruments.

Relevant Scripture

Psalm 100:1-3 “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into His presence with singing! Know that the Lord, He is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.