Promises mean a lot. God’s promises can be trusted no matter what happens, while human promises create roller coaster experiences of highs and lows.
Read the Student Lesson as well as the Teacher's Guide. This will provide everything you need to teach the Youth Sabbath School lesson.
Would you trust someone who told you, “I promise”? It might depend on who that someone was, and your history with that person. Use the “I Promise” handout or write the options on paper plates and have people prioritize the options according to:
Get a small squirt gun and fill it with water. Get a blindfold for the person who will use the squirt gun.
Invite those at Youth Sabbath School to stand in a circle with one volunteer in the middle who is blindfolded and holding the small squirt gun (filled with water). Ask them to promise to squirt just one time when given the signal to do so.
Before squirting, have the person in the middle turn around 5-10 times and then squirt just once and see who might get wet. Another option is to have the blindfolded person in the middle remain stationary while people standing in close proximity around the circle move to new positions.
If you have only 2-3 people in youth Sabbath School, you can have them line up against a wall rather than stand in a circle. To cover more area, you can have them stick out their arms to the side. For a larger group (10+), have more than one circle, or have people stand sideways so they take up less room.
After one person gets a shot, give another person the opportunity to do this also.
Be sensitive to those wearing light colors or clothes that shouldn’t get wet, or those don’t wish to be squirted with water. Give youth the option to watch rather than participate. (And be sure to notice if the person with the squirt gun breaks their promise of shooting only once, since today’s topic has to do with promises.)
Some people take promises seriously, while others treat them so carelessly that they mean little or nothing to themselves as well as to others. In fact, some refuse to make promises. But God has made lots of promises. Should we? Let’s dive in to this topic today, and we’ll see whether or not we make any promises by the end, and what those promises might mean.
This is a short video clip and an idea to help you create your own video on this week’s topic, plus a few follow-up questions to spark discussion afterwards.
Create a video that relates to God’s promises. This could include interviews with people testifying to God’s promises, and noting God’s promises in the Bible and how He has kept those promises. Ask someone in advance to create follow-up questions based on this video.
These are more approaches to the same topic featured in the Teacher’s Guide, but just a different way of looking at it. Expect activities to illustrate the topic followed by some questions.
BASED ON JOSHUA 3:1-17
Start this lesson by having your Youth Sabbath School participants join you in the front, center portion of the room or someplace where they can move from the middle to one side or the other of the room. Explain that you are going to make a simple statement that begins with “Would you rather” and then have them choose one of the two options by moving either to the right or left side of the room. Have them return to the middle after each choice. You are given 10 options. You can go through all 10, choose several of the 10, or create your own. With any of these options you can ask participants for input on why they chose what they did.
When the Israelites left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea, they experienced an amazing miracle that continues to be repeated from one generation to the next. It’s a wonderful story for children, youth, and even adults! We covered that story earlier this year (May 4) in our Sabbath School lesson.
This week we are learning about the next generation that miraculously crossed a body of water. Instead of the Red Sea, this time it’s the Jordan River.
Divide your group into at least two groups. (It can be one person per group, or up to five people in a group. If you have more than 10 in your Youth Sabbath School, have groups with 3-5 people and evenly divide the groups so half of the groups cover the first passage and the other half cover the second passage.)
Let’s make some comparisons between these two groups and their unique experiences in crossing these different bodies of water. Crossing the Red Sea can be read in Exodus 14:1-31. Crossing the Jordan River can be read in Joshua 3:1-17.
Provide space, time, and some coaching as needed as groups read and analyze their stories. They may or may not be very familiar with the Bible story, or they might have a faint memory of a children’s version but don’t grasp the full story in Scripture. Encourage them to not only read the words, but put themselves into the story and notice details and imagine the environment and feelings. They should ask themselves questions such as:
With a new generation finally entering the Promised Land, God gave them their own dramatic water crossing experience. Only Caleb and Joshua were adults when God’s people had crossed the Red Sea. The rest knew of this only from the testimony of others. But now they would have their own story to add to the one their parents told them.
Just as the Psalms invite people to “sing a new song” to testify with their mind and heart about their new experience, God’s people are always called to share their testimony with others. In today’s story of crossing the Jordan River, we have an illustration of the younger generation sharing their experience.
You’ll need to arrange for this in advance with the pastor and/or other church leaders, but have the youth spend some time brainstorming what they can do to share their own stories as part of the church service. This might take place this very Sabbath, or maybe you will need to schedule it for another Sabbath in the future and simply form the plan and practice today. Depending on your youth Sabbath School as well as your church, you may want to do just one portion of the church service, or maybe a few parts of the service, or possibly the entire church service.
It’s easiest to think of the typical components to a church service, such as:
Your church service may have different components. You may want to just fill in one or two of these components, but have the youth add a personal spin. It would lack creativity to just copy what the youth have seen others do. Use this opportunity to make it personal. Crossing the Jordan River was the same, and yet different, from crossing the Red Sea. Help the youth to think in new ways, based on what God has done and is doing in their lives.
If one of your youth is willing and able to tell a children’s story, maybe another youth could assist them with supplies or actions or some other support role. Take time to brainstorm possibilities. You might need a few other coaches to help in this process.
If your youth are musical, it might be natural for them to choose music components. If a sermon is too much for one person to handle, break it into several parts and have several individuals each do one part. You could even share the comparison of the crossing of the Red Sea and the crossing of the Jordan River. Take the theme of “God’s New Way” to affirm what God has done in the past, and as a reminder that God will also lead in our lives in new ways (as illustrated with these two water crossings).
God did amazing things for the children of Israel, including the miracle of crossing the Red Sea. The next generation, who grew up in the wilderness, had their own unique experience of crossing the Jordan River before they entered the Promised Land of Canaan.
While both groups experienced a water crossing, it happened in different in many ways. God can be trusted, but is not limited to one way of doing things. Likewise, young people today should expect God to continue to act, but should also expect God to do so in unique ways.
Looking at what God did through the previous generation is one part of the application. The other part is to share the new things God is doing with the current generation of young people. You can do this in the church service or as a Sabbath afternoon sharing time. Or it can be done in families or through the week. Take time to listen to adults share what God has done in the past—in their personal lives and in the life of the church. Ask for input from the older members of the congregation as well. Then follow up with what God is doing with young people today in your church, including children. Close with praises to God and commitments from all to trust God with the present and future.
BASED ON JOSHUA 1:1-9
Why do we make promises? We often make promises when we want to emphasize something or give more credence to it. We might think we sound sincere when we say, “I promise.” And maybe we do. But most people who have made promises have broken them and then felt guilty about it.
Some avoid that guilt by shrugging it off. But many simply choose not to make promises. That way they don’t break them. Does that describe you?
Think of the covenant of marriage. It includes marriage vows that involve quite a few promises. Compare that to relationships with people to whom you make no promises and what those relationships look like.
When God established the covenant with his people on Mount Sinai, and then before the next generation entered the Promised Land, he included promises. There were promises of blessings in response to obedience, and promises of curses in response to disobedience.
Read Joshua 1:1-9 (CEV) and note the various promises God made to Israel’s new leader, Joshua.
1 Moses, the Lord’s servant, was dead. So the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun, who had been the assistant of Moses. The Lord said: 2 My servant Moses is dead. Now you must lead Israel across the Jordan River into the land I’m giving to all of you. 3 Wherever you go, I’ll give you that land, as I promised Moses. 4 It will reach from the Southern Desert to the Lebanon Mountains in the north, and to the northeast as far as the great Euphrates River. It will include the land of the Hittites, and the land from here at the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea on the west. 5 Joshua, I will always be with you and help you as I helped Moses, and no one will ever be able to defeat you.
6-8 Long ago I promised the ancestors of Israel that I would give this land to their descendants. So be strong and brave! Be careful to do everything my servant Moses taught you. Never stop reading The Book of the Law he gave you. Day and night you must think about what it says. If you obey it completely, you and Israel will be able to take this land. 9 I’ve commanded you to be strong and brave. Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged! I am the LORD your God, and I will be there to help you wherever you go.
The passage includes the following promises (and you may see more):
The Bible has lots of promises. Are these promises for us today or just for Bible times?
A quick reflex answer might be, “All of the promises in the Bible are for me today.” But consider these two and see if both of them are promises to us today:
What do you think? Are both of these promises for us? For the first one, what if you are having difficulty with your parents/guardians? And what is the land God is giving you?
For the second one, are the Hivites, Canaanites, and Hittites really in your way? Will God send hornets?
Just because there’s a promise from God in the Bible doesn’t guarantee that promise is for us today. God’s promise to Abram (see Genesis 12:1-3) included blessing all the families of the earth through Abram. Maybe God will do that through you as well, but it’s not likely that the seven billion people in the world are going to all be blessed by you (but I could be wrong).
God gave King Hezekiah a promise in response to Hezekiah’s request. God promised him 15 more years of life and Jerusalem’s freedom from the king of Assyria who was attacking at that time (see 2 Kings 20:6). You might be given 15 additional years of life beyond what is expected, but are you living in Jerusalem? And is the King of Assyria attacking you now?
Here are four guiding principles when it comes to reading the promises God revealed in the Bible, especially when it comes to applying those promises to us today. You can find these online at https://www.allaboutgod.com/promises-of-god.htm
Here’s another hint for one entire book of the Bible—the book of Proverbs. A proverb is a statement that is generally true. It might not be true 100% of the time, but it’s true most of the time. For example, Proverbs 21:13 (NLT) reads, “Those who shut their ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in their own time of need.” Is that a promise or a proverb? (It’s in the book of Proverbs. That means it’s true most of the time.) But you might have seen that some who pay no attention to the poor are still helped by others even though they themselves weren’t helpful.
The book of Proverbs can help people tremendously because it provides wisdom on how to live well. But look for promises in other parts of the Bible.
You can download the “Bible Promises LARGE version” file which includes 25 pages with a single Bible promise on each. Another option is to make smaller strips of promises from the “Bible Promises small version” for a three-page collection of 25 Bible promises.
Invite the Youth Sabbath School participants to pick one Bible promise. They can sign their name to the promise or take the promise that’s posted. You can post these on the wall with masking tape and then have the youth take them for their own use, or you could use the smaller version and tape the promises to wooden dowels or long straws so they look like small flags.
Invite the youth to move out of their seats and choose the promise(s) from the Bible that they want for themselves.
Joshua 1:7-9 relates to God’s promises and the instruction to keep them in mind every day. We could call that regular meditation! Let’s review those verses now:
7 So be strong and brave! Be careful to do everything my servant Moses taught you. 8 Never stop reading The Book of the Law he gave you. Day and night you must think about what it says. If you obey it completely, you and Israel will be able to take this land. 9 I’ve commanded you to be strong and brave. Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged! I am the LORD your God, and I will be there to help you wherever you go.
God spoke to Joshua after Moses died and Joshua was to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land. The book of Joshua begins with God’s multiple commands to Joshua to be strong and courageous. And then God spoke many promises to Joshua. The Bible is full of many promises that God has given to people through the centuries. Some of these might be specific for a certain place and time. Other promises continue to be open to all of God’s people. We considered a number of Bible promises already available to us, and we selected promises that have special significance to us right now. We closed with the instruction God gave Joshua to keep God’s words in mind on a daily basis. That keeps his promises fresh in our minds as well.
We selected promises during Youth Sabbath School today. This week, do two things:
BASED ON JOSHUA 4:1-24
The story of God’s people crossing the Jordan River in flood season (see Joshua 3:15 or this YouTube video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=38-8wTNKsDI) stands out as an amazing miracle for God’s people as they entered Canaan. After 40 years of wilderness wanderings, they were finally at their destination. Their parents, after refusing to enter Canaan decades earlier, had died in the meantime. How could this new generation remember to trust God? And what about their children who would be born later?
In addition to the miracle of crossing the Jordan River in flood season, Joshua set up a double memorial for future explanation. You can read about it in Joshua 4:1-24 (TLB).
Pick out one person to be the narrator, another person to be the voice of Joshua; and one more person to be the voice of God. Others can follow along.
1 When all the people were safely across, the Lord said to Joshua, 2-3 “Tell the twelve men chosen for a special task, one from each tribe, each to take a stone from where the priests are standing in the middle of the Jordan, and to carry them out and pile them up as a monument at the place where you camp tonight.”
4 So Joshua summoned the twelve men 5 and told them, “Go out into the middle of the Jordan where the Ark is. Each of you is to carry out a stone on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes. 6 We will use them to build a monument so that in the future, when your children ask, ‘What is this monument for?’ 7 you can tell them, ‘It is to remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of God went across!’ The monument will be a permanent reminder to the people of Israel of this amazing miracle.”
8 So the men did as Joshua told them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan River—one for each tribe, just as the Lord had commanded Joshua. They carried them to the place where they were camped for the night and constructed a monument there. 9 Joshua also built another monument of twelve stones in the middle of the river, at the place where the priests were standing; and it is there to this day. 10 The priests who were carrying the Ark stood in the middle of the river until all these instructions of the Lord, which had been given to Joshua by Moses, had been carried out. Meanwhile, the people had hurried across the riverbed, 11 and when everyone was over, the people watched the priests carry the Ark up out of the riverbed.
12-13 The troops of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh—fully armed as Moses had instructed, and forty thousand strong—led the other tribes of the Lord’s army across to the plains of Jericho.
14 It was a tremendous day for Joshua! The Lord made him great in the eyes of all the people of Israel, and they revered him as much as they had Moses and respected him deeply all the rest of his life. 15-16 For it was Joshua who, at the Lord’s command, issued the orders to the priests carrying the Ark. “Come up from the riverbed,” the Lord now told him to command them.
17 So Joshua issued the order. 18 And as soon as the priests came out, the water poured down again as usual and overflowed the banks of the river as before! 19 This miracle occurred on the 25th of March. That day the entire nation crossed the Jordan River and camped in Gilgal at the eastern edge of the city of Jericho; 20 and there the twelve stones from the Jordan were piled up as a monument.
21 Then Joshua explained again the purpose of the stones: “In the future,” he said, “when your children ask you why these stones are here and what they mean, 22 you are to tell them that these stones are a reminder of this amazing miracle—that the nation of Israel crossed the Jordan River on dry ground! 23 Tell them how the Lord our God dried up the river right before our eyes and then kept it dry until we were all across! It is the same thing the Lord did forty years ago at the Red Sea! 24 He did this so that all the nations of the earth will realize that Jehovah is the mighty God, and so that all of you will worship him forever.”
Take 12 stones and give them to the youth to make the altar. These can be large or small rocks. You may want to keep the rocks as a memorial for several weeks or even longer. Let it raise questions for others that your youth will be able to answer themselves.
The altars for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were temporary. Elijah repaired an altar that hadn’t been used for a while (see 1 Kings 18:30). The altars they were not meant to be permanent, but temporary. You can build an altar anywhere, representing the fact that God goes everywhere we go (see I Kings 8:27).
Make your (temporary) altar either on the floor or on a table in the Youth Sabbath School room. You may choose to add significance to this by having the youth share testimonies about what God has done in their past.
Please take one of these small rocks with you today and put it in your pocket as a reminder. You might want to put it someplace in your room or in your backpack this coming school year. Use it as a reminder of God’s actions in the past and tell others about these, too.
There’s one other verse to highlight in Joshua 4. Notice verse 9: “Joshua also built another monument of twelve stones in the middle of the river, at the place where the priests were standing; and it is there to this day.”
Everyone from the previous generation had died except for Caleb and Joshua. These two older guys were the only ones left. It had been 40 years since they spied in Canaan. Yet Joshua built his own monument of 12 stones in the middle of the river, and they withstood the flow of the river during flood season. Joshua must have used some hefty rocks! And that left two monuments—one in the river that prevented their entry into Canaan, and the other signifying the time when they crossed over on dry ground and took up residence in Canaan.
In addition to God drying up the Jordan River for his people to cross into Canaan, he instructed Joshua to have each tribe participate in making a monument of God’s miracle for the present and future generations. We can hear testimonies from previous generations, and we have testimonies to share with each other, as well as to pass along to the generations that come after us. God continues to act in every generation.
We built an altar in Youth Sabbath School today. But the small rock given to each person is a reminder for you this week. Let it prompt you to share what we shared in Youth Sabbath School this week. Let it prompt you to ask those older than you about the “rocks” or “altars” of God’s activities in the past. And share your stories with others.
Place your rock in your room at home, or somewhere that it will prompt your memory. Don’t worship it, but let it remind you to worship the God of miracles who is still active. You may want to put it in your school locker or backpack as you begin the new school year.
This is a bonus just for the youth leader—a quick tip and an illustration to enhance your youth leadership. You may already know this idea, have learned it through trial and error, or just need a quick reminder.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of doing something and then just do it without a clear purpose. It’s also easy to get into a rut of doing something over and over, like Youth Sabbath School each week, out of a sense of duty rather than purpose. Ask yourself, “Why?” when it comes to what you’re doing in Youth Sabbath School. Your purpose should answer that. When you know your purpose, you can ask, “How?” The way you shape your Youth Sabbath School should demonstrate your purpose.
Here’s a question a teen is asking, with a response from a youth pastor. This might be a question your teens are asking. Use the response to springboard into discussion with your Youth Sabbath School participants.
QUESTION: I pray all the time and I have grown to trust in God. What do I do when I feel like He has let me down?
ANSWER: I would say that you should pray about it! If you pray all the time, then pray about this, too. You wouldn’t be the first person to do so. Check this out:
“I counted on you, God. Why did you walk out on me? Why am I pacing the floor, wringing my hands over these outrageous people? Give me your lantern and compass, give me a map, so I can find my way to the sacred mountain, to the place of your presence, to enter the place or worship, meet my exuberant God, sing my thanks with a harp, magnificent God, my God.
“Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God—soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God.”
That’s one of David’s Psalms (chapter 43 from The Message). Consider it a prayer and tap into many of them. Some of the psalms are praise prayers, and some are angry ones.
I’ve gone through my Bible and color-coded them so that I know right where to turn to an expression that matches what my mood is or what I want it to be.
For example, if you’re looking for some praise passages, go to Psalm 19, 33, 47, 66, 67, 89, 92, 100, 119, 138, and 145-150. There are others, and parts of some, but here’s a good start.
If you’re wanting a psalm of calling out for help, try Psalm 6, 22, 69, 86, 88, 142.
How about something regarding God’s care and protection? Turn to Psalm 12, 23, 31, 41, 46, 56, 91, 121, 127, or 136.
Are you angry? Instead of holding it in and getting an ulcer, or instead of spewing it out on others, dump it on God. That’s what David did in Psalm 69 and 109. You’ll also find fragments of anger in Psalm 35, 58, 70, 79, 137, and 140.
And two classic Psalms on the topic of forgiveness are Psalm 51 and 103.
Many of the Psalms combine several of these elements or moods, such as Psalm 1, 9, 18, 27, 28, 37, 71, and 138.
Try reading one Psalm a day and come up with your own color codes. They are a great way to continue your relationship with God. Some of them come out of the stories of David found in 1 and 2 Samuel. A concordance will tell you which ones came out of which stories.
Some people have the idea that by being friends with God and giving your life to Him, you won’t have any more troubles, questions, or misunderstandings. I haven’t found that to be the case.
I do believe that I’m with the Winner and the one who created me and has a purpose for me. But that doesn’t mean my life is easy, trouble-free, or in constant communion with God. There are times when God seems to be silent. There are other times when I don’t want to talk to Him. It’s a dynamic relationship. Sometimes it’s the difficult times that actually grow my faith to trust Him based on our relationship to that point, not just on what’s happening at the moment.
I’m so glad that you pray all the time. Be sure to include reading Scripture as part of your time with God since you already have some input from God there. Note the types of relationships God has had with others in the Bible. Who are your heroes? With whom do you identify?
And keep on praying! You’re right on track!