God revealed his desire to be present with his people—even though we’re sinful—when he created the sanctuary as well as the services that take place in it on a daily and yearly basis. This is the way to live a life with God.
Read the Student Lesson as well as the Teacher's Guide. This will provide everything you need to teach the Youth Sabbath School lesson.
Every once in a while, people choose to move around the furniture in their bedroom or even their entire house. A change like that can be both unsettling and exciting! It might also throw them off at first, since what they were used to was the way the furniture had been arranged before.
When God had his people set up the tabernacle in the wilderness, he gave them specific dimensions for the various pieces of furniture they were to build and place inside the sanctuary. Do you happen to remember what items were included in this list and where they were placed?
Use this time to quiz the participants in your Youth Sabbath School on what they know about the items and their locations in the sanctuary. If they are unfamiliar with these things, take some time to teach them to the participants. You can do this two-dimensionally by showing them a photo of the sanctuary’s layout (there is one available below), or you can do it three-dimensionally by creating or borrowing a model sanctuary made out of Play-Doh or pieces of wood or plastic and showing it to the participants. Sometimes younger children’s Sabbath Schools make a long-term project out of constructing a model of the sanctuary and keep them over time. If that has happened in your church, ask to borrow theirs for this Sabbath.
Last week we did an activity that tested our creativity. This week we’re going to test what’s called our “working memory.” Spelling can be easy for a lot of people, especially for easy words we use every day. But spelling words backward is a little more difficult, isn’t it? Trying to do that is what tests people’s working memories.
Test the participants by asking a volunteer or volunteers to spell the following words backward. Time them to see how many seconds it takes them to do each word.
As you consider our lesson for today, keep in mind that God gave his people several tangible elements that would help them understand him more. Sometimes people are quick to forget or disregard these, and others never get past their literal implications and understand what they mean on a symbolic level. It’s possible for children to memorize and list these elements on a simple level, but as teens you have a better ability to understand them on a more complex, much more symbolic level. Hopefully this will lead to several aha moments for you today!
This is a short video clip you can show your Youth Sabbath School to illustrate this week’s topic, plus a few follow-up questions to spark discussion afterwards.
Create a video clip that illustrates the lesson for this week. One way you could do this is by focusing on the creation of the sanctuary in the desert. Another way would be to focus on the concept of making room for God based on John 14:2 and 14:23. In John 14:2, Jesus tells his disciples that his Father’s house has many rooms (not “mansions” as the KJV translates it). In verse 23, Jesus promises that he and his Father will make their home with those who love and obey him. Remember to create a list of follow-up questions to go along with your video.
In this 2:41-long video, Christian comedian John Crist reads out a list of cartoons that Christians weren’t allowed to watch as kids and why.
This 6:53-long video gives the viewers a tour of the tabernacle that the Israelites built in the wilderness. It moves rather slowly, but it does a good job of explaining the locations and purposes of the items found in the sanctuary.
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 EXODUS 36-38
Ever since Adam and Eve chose Satan rather than God in the garden of Eden, there has been separation between God and humans. Genesis 3 describes Adam and Eve hiding from God when he came to walk with them in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8-9).
The Scripture shows us bits and pieces of the battle that keeps playing out between God and Satan. The part we’re going to focus on today follows God’s demonstration of power on Mount Sinai, his spoken commandments to the people, and the extended period of time he spent with the leaders of the Israelites, especially Moses.
Last week we considered what it meant when the Israelites attempted to create a visible god they could worship, much like the believers of other religions in their time had. That didn’t turn out well at all!
This we’re going to focus on how God continued to reveal himself to his chosen people, this time in a more tangible way than ever before. In addition to the cloud he sent to guide the Israelites and the daily provision of manna he gave them to eat, God instructed Moses to have them build a sanctuary so God could dwell with them (Exodus 25:8). God had some very specific instructions for how they were to make this sanctuary. When the Israelites originally left Egypt, the Egyptians gave them jewelry and other items made out of precious metals (see Exodus 12:33-36); now he asked them to use those things in the construction of the sanctuary. It’s an amazing example of how closely God wants to be involved with his people.
Besides building the sanctuary itself, God also gave the Israelites specific instructions regarding the items that would go inside it. You can read about them in Exodus 37-38. Here’s a list:
Have your participants read Exodus 37-38. If you have a small class, feel free to divide the list above among them and have one person read about one or two of them individually. If you have a larger class, you can divide the sections about these components among small groups.
After the participants have read about the items inside the sanctuary, show them a photo or a model of the sanctuary’s layout (you can check if someone in your church has made a model of the sanctuary in the past and borrow it, if possible) and have them figure out where each of those items is located.
Simply figuring out where these things go is easy for children to do, but teens are able to take it one step further and think about the deeper meaning. Each of the items in the sanctuary symbolizes something. Encourage your participants to contemplate these objects and their meaning individually, then share it either in small groups or with the whole class. Here’s a general explanation for each object, though you should keep in mind that the deeper meaning comes through personal expression:
Ark of the Covenant – Together with the Ten Commandments stored inside it, the mercy seat (lid) located on top of it, and the two angels/witnesses located on top of the mercy seat, the Ark represents the actual presence of God.
Table of showbread – God provides for our daily needs.
Lampstand/candlestick – Without God, we are in darkness; with God, we have the light of the world.
Altar of incense – When we mix our prayers with the sacrifice of Christ, it creates a sweet aroma that ascends into God’s presence.
Altar of burnt offering – If the courtyard represents earth and the Most Holy Place represents the presence of God, the death of Christ is what starts us on the path toward being in the presence of God.
Laver/wash basin – With Christ’s forgiveness of our sins comes cleansing.
You can find a variety of pictures by Googling “sanctuary in the wilderness” and looking under Images. We’ll provide one below from the fourth chapter of It’s My Choice , a baptismal preparation book.
There is plenty to think about here once you get past the basics of where each of these objects is located in the sanctuary, and even past what they all symbolize! For example, several people have noticed over the years that walking through the layout out of the sanctuary (first entering into the courtyard, then progressing through to the Most Holy Place) is a metaphor for progressing from our state as fallen humans to being in the very presence of our perfect God. There’s no question that Jesus is the way—the God-man who redeems us. Once you leave the altar of burnt offering behind you and move into the Holy Place, the layout of the objects around you forms a cross, with the candlesticks on the left, the table of bread on the right, and the altar of incense straight ahead. All of this takes you directly to God, which is God’s intention.
Find a part of your church facility that might have special meaning for the participants in your Youth Sabbath School and take everyone there. This could be the baptistery, the sanctuary platform, your Sabbath School room, or even somewhere else. If there are participants who have attended your church for a while now and are comfortable speaking up, ask them to share any spots that are sacred for them. This could be because they have a special memory of hearing God speak to them while they were there, or because they participated in a ritual there that grounded them in their faith. It might even be a place where they struggled with God. Whatever it may be, have your Youth Sabbath School class visit those spots, relive the experience, and have a group prayer that reflects on the meaning of that moment.
The creation of the sanctuary was God’s way of coming near to us in a very real and tangible way. We can understand this on a simple level by memorizing a list of the sanctuary’s components and even thinking about their meaning symbolically, but it is only when those symbols go beyond memorization and take on a personal meaning for us that we begin to experience God’s desire to dwell with us on a deeper level.
BASED ON EXODUS 30-31; 35-36
When God told Moses to have the children of Israel “make a sanctuary so I can dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8), God had the Israelites build it rather than create it himself the same way he created the earth at the beginning of Genesis. Why?
The sanctuary was designed to help humans draw closer to him. So while God was the one who provided the plans, the resources, and the motivation to make it happen, he wanted humans to participate in the follow through. God wants us to be involved in our relationship with him! Think about it this way: When you have the perfect gift to give someone, the fun part is watching them open it! Where’s the joy if they don’t participate? The sanctuary was made to give humans a closer relationship with God, and what God wants is our participation in moving from sinfulness to perfection.
Back when the Israelites were still in Egypt, God predicted that the Egyptians would give them many articles of silver and gold after the tenth plague (Exodus 11:1-2). Exodus 12:33-36 records how it came true—the Egyptians gave the Israelites so much gold that it almost seemed like the Israelites were plundering them.
When the Israelites were at Mount Sinai, they gave these things to Aaron so he could create a golden calf for them to worship. But now God was giving them an opportunity to use those riches in a more positive way—in the construction of a sanctuary that would allow him to be present with his people. Part of their role in participating in the building of the sanctuary was giving back to him what he’d already given to them.
Did you ever make crafts out of popsicle sticks as a child? Well that’s what we’re going to do today in Youth Sabbath School! We have a bunch of popsicle sticks for you to use, but also some other craft supplies including glue, glitter, paint/markers, and a few design ideas. Go ahead and create something, then decorate it however you want.
Depending on the size of your class, you can have the participants choose to work individually or, better, in small groups of 2-3 people. There are several design ideas available for you to download below. You can also create your own designs from scratch to show the participants or find ideas by Googling “popsicle stick designs.”
Set a time limit for 10-15 minutes. It’s best to have a craft area set up beforehand with tables and space to make a mess even though your participants aren’t little children. Offer words of encourage as you observe as well. Don’t be overly directive; let them come up with their own creations. Take note of how many people copy or work closely off a design you showed them compared to those who just came up with something on their own. When everyone is finished, have a show and tell time.
The book of Exodus includes several passages that describe just how God provided for his people and for his sanctuary.
You can focus primarily on Exodus 35:4-37:7 or break it into the following sections. Whatever you choose, have the participants read the verses either individually or in groups, then answer the questions below.
When God wanted to dwell with his people, he invited them to get involved and use what he had already given them to build the sanctuary—a place where he could be present with them and draw them into an even closer relationship with him. God still does the same thing today! One obvious way we can participate with him is by making the space we’re in right now a great place to meet him.
Have the participants write down what God has given them and how it can help make this space a good place to meet him. Use index cards for individual responses or a poster board for them to fill out as a group. If some participants seem unsure as what they can help give, encourage them to do some experimentation and pray with God in order to become aware of the gifts he has given them.
Use the participants’ responses as a springboard for ideas that will make your Youth Sabbath School a unique space. It’s likely the room you’re using will be used by others at some point, so be considerate and ask ahead of time whether it’s okay to make permanent changes (such as to the walls, etc.). If not, use portable decorations and items. This could include things you hang on the walls, put on the floor, or even hang from the ceiling each week. Some features—like music or snacks—may already be portable.
Take this another step and ask the participants to think about how they can use what God gave them to help the entire church. What gifts, ideas, etc. can they offer? Brainstorm with them and provide guidance.
God provided his people with everything they needed to create a space for his presence, but first they had to agree to get involved and use what God had given them. Once they did, God amazed them with his presence (see Exodus 40:34-38)!
Where Is the Sanctuary?
BASED ON EXODUS 3:1-6, 12; 33:7-11; 40:33-38; NUMBERS 2:1-34; MATTHEW 27:45-54; MATTHEW 18:20; JOHN 14:15-18; REVELATION 21:3
When Yahweh told Moses in Exodus 25:8 that he wanted the Israelites to make a sanctuary where he could dwell with his people, did he mean that it would literally be where he was located? Is it possible for Yahweh to be contained in one edifice like that? The answer is no, of course (see 2 Chronicles 8:6 for King Solomon’s answer to this question). What he meant was that this would be a place he could fill with his presence. And according to the middle chapters of Exodus, he was quite particular about it.
Ahead of time, prepare five boxes (they can be different sizes) that are each decorated in a different way. Have one that is gold and royal-looking. You could make another just a plain-looking box, and decorate the other three in whatever styles you like. Boxes with lids are ideal, as you’ll want the participants not to see what’s inside them at first.
Have all five boxes sitting on a table by the time Youth Sabbath School begins, but don’t let anyone look inside them or even touch them. Explain that one of these five boxes has something special in it that represents the presence of God. (You could make this object a single, heavy Bible or several lighter Bibles to hand out to each participant. You could also make it some kind of treat for everyone to eat.)
Distribute the “God in a Box” handout and have each person, after observing the boxes from a distance, choose which box they think has the special object inside. They have to do this just based on what they see from a distance, so it’ll be a total guess. Some may think that the gold-colored one is the most representative of God (especially considering so many of the objects in the sanctuary are made of gold) and pick that one. Others might make a guess in the opposite direction, thinking that the most simply decorated box is meant to represent how Jesus was born in a stable. Others might just pick which one they like the best and ascribe that to
God.After each person has marked their first, second, third, fourth, and fifth guesses, have them come up and lift the boxes up one at a time, without looking inside. Then have them mark in the right-hand column on the “God in a Box” handout where they now think the object representing the presence of God is. Since all but one of the boxes will be empty, it should be pretty obvious which one contains the special object.
The final step is to have the participants take off the lids so they can look inside the boxes. Four will be empty and one will have the special object inside it. If it’s a treat for your participants to eat, give them a second to enjoy their snack. If it’s a stack of Bibles for them to borrow, have each person take one so they can use them after answering the following questions.
For the Israelites, the “box” God was in was the sanctuary. Because of the covenant he made with them and his presence dwelling among them, they felt confident that God would never leave them. However, because they eventually broke the covenant too many times, he allowed their temple to be destroyed and them to be taken as slaves. After that point, God no longer dwelled in the sanctuary they had built.
The Bible contains many more passages that refer to the presence of God. Take a look at them and see if you can identify where his presence was in each one of these verses.
Have the participants read the following passages and identify where God’s presence was in each one. You can break verses up by assigning one or several to individuals to read by themselves, then share with the group when they’re done, or choose to read through the whole list of verses as a whole group. You can use all of the verses or just pre-select the ones you choose.
The advantage the Israelites had in having a sanctuary was that it gave them tangible proof that God’s presence was with them. However, both before the sanctuary was built and even after God had left it, we can see that God’s presence was with his people no matter where they were. Even if we break our covenants with God and lessen our intimacy with him like the Israelites ended up doing, he will continue to be with us wherever we are.
Let these spark ideas for ways you can move from talk to action and live out the lesson in a practical way this week. The following applications relate to the corresponding Bible study guide options for this lesson above.
God with Us
You may have taken time during this lesson to visit some of the sacred spaces in your church. This week, identify somewhere in your home that can be a sacred space for you to visit every day. This could be the place where you have your personal devotions or somewhere with a nice view that allows you to reflect. It might be a place where you know you won’t get interrupted, or it could be just the opposite—maybe the noise and bustle of a busy location will help you focus better on seeing and hearing and feeling God’s presence. Wherever your space is, find it and commit it to God. Make promises to meet with God regularly, and to respond to what he reveals to you when you’re in that space.
Building a Sanctuary
The Bible passage we studied in this lesson describes everything God gave to his people to help them create a place for his presence. This led to a discussion about what God has given those in our Youth Sabbath School right now, and how we can use it to make the space where we meet a better place for God’s presence. Our next step is to consider how we can make the entire church a better place for his presence! It might take several weeks to follow through on the changes we make, and will probably include meeting with committees and getting items purchased and planned. But it’s better to include more people than to move fast. This application could last through the coming weeks, months, and hopefully even years!
Where Is the Sanctuary?
Each day, wherever you go, ask God to be present with you and help you take notice of it. When you do notice his presence, send a text about it to one or more people from Youth Sabbath School right away. Reflect on it each day as the week continues. Share with the whole group when you come to Sabbath School next week.
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.
Youth Sabbath School usually doesn’t get the first pick of rooms for where they’ll meet. Often it will be a shared space that either others will be using at the same time or later in the week. It’s even possible that your group has to meet in the janitor’s closet! If you meet in a space that’s way too large for your group, it will seem like nobody’s there. If you meet in a space that’s too small, it will actually give the room a crowded, cozy feel that will make it feel like everybody’s there. That’s actually an improvement!
If Sabbath School is just for us, we will spiritually die. We must share what we’ve been given. We can do this both locally and/or globally. The following are suggestions for several options you can use to reach people over 3-4 weeks.
Jesus told his disciples that they would “be witnesses” when they received power from the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). Their witnessing would happen right where they were, and would spread out like the rings when you throw a pebble into a pond. Here’s how you can make that happen by taking the words of Jesus and relating them to your Youth Sabbath School outreach and mission.
When you receive power from the Holy Spirit, you will be Christ’s witnesses in:
Jesus’ Day Today
Jerusalem Your Youth Sabbath School
Judea The church where you attend
Samaria The community around your church
To the ends of the world The world beyond your community
We’ll suggest four options for these four target groups today. You can choose to follow all four or just start with one the first week of this month and choose several other options over the next 3-4 weeks.
Make this a children’s ministry month. Reach out to younger children. Here are a few suggestions. Let this spark your imagination for what you can do where your Youth Sabbath School is.
A. Your Youth Sabbath School
Choose several weeks to assist children’s Sabbath School leaders in other parts of your church during the summer. You may need to assist a few times before you’re ready to take the lead. Maybe you can lead the children’s Sabbath School when the regular leader is on a summer vacation.
B. The Church Where You Attend
Many churches provide a Vacation Bible School sometime during the summer—often toward the beginning of the summer. There are complete VBS programs that can be purchased. Sometimes a church will buy new ones several years in a row and then rotate through them after that.
C. The Community Around Your Church
If your church isn’t doing a VBS, volunteer at a nearby church that is. There’s usually a banner in front of a church to advertise it; if not, just ask parents of young children where they’re going to take their children for VBS this summer. Even if your church is doing a VBS, you can still assist at another church. Or if there’s a church you know of that isn’t offering a VBS, offer to lead it for them so they can reach out to people in their neighborhood.
D. The World Beyond Your Community
Contact a group that is going on a short-term mission trip either this summer or next school year. Find out what kind of children’s program they could do in the area where they are going. Offer to help them put together the program, including the crafts and any other supplies that are needed. Make this your Youth Sabbath School’s adopted mission trip!