40 Years in the Desert


Hi, friends! This collection of children's Sunday School lessons covers:

  • The Giving of the Law and the Golden Calf – fighting peer pressure and idolatry
  • Why We Can't See God – the hope Jesus gives us to see God in Heaven
  • Changed! – communicating with God lights up our souls

This is the third in my series of posts on Moses and the Exodus. It started with Preparing for the Exodus and continued with the story of The Exodus Children's Sunday School Lessons and what happened directly afterward. Go back and pick up those lessons if you haven't already.

40 Years in the Desert

Also, view my children's sermons about the Exodus for object lessons on all the main stories in the Moses saga.

Recommended Extras

You don't need anything else to use the Sunday School lessons below, but I do recommend using these resources if you want to give kids the fullest understanding of the Biblical stories.

Paid Resources

These videos provide a great overview of the Exodus story. Show them in clips to introduce your lessons, as a full-video preview to the series, or as a wrap-up to the Moses sequence.

Superbook: Let My People Go – Two children go back in time with the robot Gizmo to meet Moses in this remake of the classic animated series.

The Greatest Adventure Stories from the Bible: Moses – Also following the time traveling theme is this series that features a more realistic style of animation.

Greatest Heroes and Legends of the Bible – Charlton Heston hosts this series and reprises his role as Moses via voice acting.

The Prince of Egypt – This DreamWorks production does veer off the Biblical record in certain parts, but, overall, it's certainly worth showing. It's a full-length movie that you can show in parts, as a special event, or as a review over the course of a couple of weeks.

Bedtime Bible Stories: The Golden Calf – This story book by Larry D. Hawkins presents a very detailed telling of the story. It's a great option if you want some visuals to go with the story but don't want to rely on a TV.

Free Resources

Free Sunday School Curriculum published coloring and activity pages for The Golden Calf story.

The Giving of the Law and the Golden Calf Children's Sunday School Lesson

Purpose: Use this children's Sunday School lesson about the golden calf to teach kids about peer pressure, idols, and why God punishes us.

Needed: Nothing

Intro Activity: Peer Pressure Playacting – Have students form groups of three. Give them a few minutes to think of how to act out a scene in which one or two of them pressure the other(s) to do something wrong. Then, all the groups perform their scene for the class.

You can allow them to think of their own scenarios or give them cue cards to base their scene on. Ideas include Smoking, Drinking, Doing drugs, Stealing, Lying, Making fun of someone, Cheating, Cursing, Telling a Dirty Joke, and Watching a TV Show they Shouldn't.

Lesson: (Note: Always allow students enough time to think about and answer the questions before clarifying the teaching.)

(Summarize Exodus 19-34:7 , using the following story and asking the included questions as you read.)

After God brought Moses and the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, God told Moses to come up on Mount Sinai with Him so that He could give Moses the laws that the people were supposed to follow. No one else was allowed to come up on the mountain or else they would die. The people saw God coming down like a fire on the mountain. There was a lot of smoke and the mountain shook like there was an earthquake. And the people heard God's voice, sounding like thunder, but they couldn't understand what He was saying. Only Moses could understand what God was saying.

Moses was up on the mountain for forty days and forty nights, not eating or drinking anything, but just listening to God give him the laws that the people were supposed to follow. God gave Moses two stone tablets and wrote the Ten Commandments on them with His own finger.

At the end of the forty days, it was time for Moses to come back down the mountain. God said, "Moses, I am very angry with the Israelites because they have done something very wrong. They have made an idol while you were up here on the mountain and they are pretending that the idol is Me."

What is an idol? (An idol is a statue that people pray to and worship.)

Why do you think God doesn't want people to make a statue of Him? (No one knows what God looks like. And God is too great to make a statue of. Any statue we make of God wouldn't be good enough. It could never show how special God is.)

And God said, "Moses, because the Israelites are worshipping and praying to the idol they made and pretending that the idol is Me, I am going to kill all the Israelites as a punishment."

But Moses said, "No, God, don't do it, please. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and how You promised to give their grandchildren the whole land of Canaan. You can't kill their grandchildren, the Israelites, or else You would be breaking Your promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."

Then, God told Moses that He would not kill all of the Israelites. Moses went down the mountain and saw the idol that the people had made. It was a golden calf, a baby cow made out of gold. Moses was so mad that the people were worshipping and praying to the idol instead of God that he threw down the stone tablets God had given him with the Ten Commandments written on them.

He grabbed his brother, Aaron the priest, and said, "Why did you make this idol?"

Aaron said, "You were up on the mountain so long, we didn't know what happened to you. The people told me to make an idol, and I did. They gave me some of their gold earrings, and I made it into this golden calf."

Why did Aaron make the idol? (The people told him to.)

Do you think we should listen to people when they tell us to do the wrong things? (No.)

Then, Moses took the golden calf idol and melted it in the fire. He took the ashes and put it in the water, and made the people drink it to show them the idol is not the real God since it can be broken.

Then, Moses yelled, "Whoever is on God's side, come to me!"

All of the Levites, the priests and the priests' helpers, came to him. Moses said, "This is the punishment for worshipping the idol. All of you take your sword and kill the Israelites for their punishment."

The Levites attacked the Israelites who wanted to keep worshipping the idol instead of God and they killed about three thousand people.

The next day, Moses prayed to God again and asked God to forgive the Israelites for making the idol. God said, "I will forgive them, but first, I am going to punish them more so that they know not to worship idols ever again." Then, God made a lot of the Israelites get sick and die. After that, the punishment was over.

God gave Moses two more stone tablets with the Ten Commandments written on them because Moses broke the first two when he threw them down. And God said, "I love My people and I will forgive them whenever they do something wrong, but I will also punish them when they do something wrong so that they know not to do it again."

Game: The Punishment Grid – Make a grid on the floor with half the number of columns as students you have in your class. There should be ten rows. Form the students into two teams and have the students stand beside their teammates on each side of the grid. Each student starts behind one column on the grid.

As you ask questions, students will move forward on the grid until the two teams meet in the middle. You'll ask a question, and if students think the answer is true, they'll raise their hand. If they think the answer is false, they'll keep their hands down. If they get the answer right, they move up one square. If they get the answer wrong, they move back to their previous square.

When the students meet, the team with the most right answers chases the other. They are the Levites chasing the Israelites after the incident with the golden calf. The round is over when the Levites tag all the Israelites.

Play again, continuing down the list of questions and then asking some of the trickier questions over. If both teams do equally well, rule that the winners from the last round are now the Israelites, and the opposite team is the Levites.

Ask the following questions and give a brief explanation of the right answer afterward.


  1. An idol is a statue made to look like God.

  2. It's okay to do something wrong if everyone else really wants you to do it.

  3. It's okay to make a statue of God because God likes statues.

  4. Aaron didn't have a choice to make the idol. He had to do it.

  5. We can make statues of Jesus, but not God.

  6. God punishes people because He doesn't like them.

  7. Everyone knows what God looks like.

  8. Something isn't wrong if everyone else is doing it.

  9. God likes it when we make idols of Him because they help us worship Him better.

  10. We can make statues of regular people in the Bible.

Closing Prayer: Father, You are a good God. We know that You only punish us to teach us what is right. Help us to follow You in everything we do. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.

Why We Can't See God Children's Sunday School Lesson

Purpose: Use this children's Sunday School lesson about Moses seeing God's back to teach kids about when we'll be able to see God.

Needed: a mask, poorly made food items

Intro Activity: Too Much! – Set out 3-5 poorly made food items for kids to try if they're brave enough. They should all be safe to eat, but obviously wrong just by appearance.

Some ideas are a drink mix thick with too much sugar, nuts drowning in salt, applesauce dark with too much cinnamon in it, a salad covered in too much dressing, noodles with too much pepper piled on top, and brownies soupy with too much oil.

When kids do or do not try your concoctions, ask them what's wrong with them. Show them that they all have too much of something. All the ingredients you used are good, but sometimes we can't too much of a good thing.

Lesson: Ask students, Where do you think God lives? (Listen for responses, but lead them to understand that God lives in Heaven.)

Does God ever let us see Him? (Lead the students to understand that people don't normally see God.)

Do you think it would be neat to see God? (Lead students to understand that we should all want to see God because He made us and loves us.)

Why do you think we don't ever see God now? (Affirm that the Bible gives us the answer to why we can't see God.)

Some people have seen God before.

Who were the first two people? (Adam and Eve.)

Do you think Adam and Eve ever saw God? (Yes.)

Adam and Eve saw God all the time. God would come down and visit with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

But, then, Adam and Eve sinned.

What did Adam and Eve do that was wrong? (They ate from the tree that God told them not to eat from.)

And what is the punishment God made for sin? (The punishment when we sin is that we die.)

So, after Adam and Eve sinned, God did not visit them anymore because they had sinned. God is perfect and He can't be around someone who has sinned.

Have you ever looked up into the sun? What happens?

It hurts to look at the sun. In fact, you could go blind if you look at it too long because the sun is too bright for our eyes. God is kind of like that. After people sinned, they couldn't look at God because He was too much for them. Their sin made it so that they couldn't be around God or see God in the same way that they used to.

Have any of you ever done something that was wrong? Have you ever sinned? (Lead to students to understand that they have.)

That's why we can't see God. Just like Adam and Eve, we have all done wrong things. We have all sinned. If God visited us and let us see Him, He would be too much for us.

God couldn't even let Moses see Him because even Moses sinned and did things that were wrong sometimes, like when he killed the Egyptian slave boss who was beating an Israelite.

(Have students take turns reading Exodus 33:18-23 or read it yourself if your students aren't old enough.)

Why wouldn't God let Moses see His face? (Because Moses had sinned and God would be too much for Moses if he saw God's face.)

But God wanted to visit His people. He wanted to be with them even if He couldn't let them see Him. So, He told Moses and Bezalel to build the Tabernacle, the first church. And He told Bezalel to make a special room. It was called the Holy of Holies. And God lived in the special room called the Holy of Holies. No one was ever allowed to go into that room because if they did, they would see God and God would be too much for them. So, no one went in there. No one could see God. But, at least they knew that God was right there with them, in the Holy of Holies in the church.

So, we can't see God right now because God won't let us see Him because of our sins. He would be too much for us. And that's why God stayed in the special room in the church.

But what if God wanted to come down out of Heaven or wanted to come out of the special room in the church to be with people? Is there any way God could do that, but still not let us see His face so He wouldn't be too much for us? (Listen for responses, but then, pull out your mask and put it on.)

See, I'm here with you right now, but you can't see my real face, can you? That is what God did when He became Jesus. God is a Spirit, but God put on a human body and became Jesus. Jesus' body and Jesus' face were like a mask God put on so that He could come be with us, but not let us see His real face so He wouldn't be too much for us. God was in Jesus. God was right there with His people, but they didn't see God. They only saw Jesus.

(Have students take turns reading John 1:14 and 18 or read it yourself.)

When God put on a body and became Jesus, what did Jesus come to do? What was His mission? (Jesus came to teach us and to show us God's love and God's power by the miracles He did and all the people He healed. Finally, Jesus came to die for us on the cross.)

What does Jesus dying on the cross do for us? (Jesus died on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven.)

Jesus died and went to Hell for three days, taking the punishment for all of our sins. He volunteered to die and go to Hell in our place so that we don't have to die and go to Hell. Jesus loves us that much to do that for us. Now, if we believe in Jesus, God forgives us for every wrong thing that we've ever done.

When Jesus died and went to Hell for three days, did He stay dead? Did He stay in Hell? (After three days, God brought Jesus back to life and then, a little while later, God brought Jesus up to Heaven to be with Him again.)

And after Jesus went back up to Heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit down to His followers on the day of Pentecost.

Where does the Holy Spirit live? (If you believe in Jesus, then Holy Spirit lives inside of you.)

Because you've been forgiven for your sins by Jesus' death on the cross, the part of God that is the Holy Spirit can live inside of you even though you still do things that are wrong. Because you believe in Jesus, you've already been forgiven for those wrong things that you still do.

But even though we've been forgiven and the Holy Spirit lives inside of us, do we ever get to see God? (We still can't see God because we still do things that are wrong, even though we have been forgiven for those things.)

But one day, we will see God. Does anyone know when we will see God? (We will see God in Heaven.)

When we die, God will make us perfect so that we never sin or do anything wrong again. Then, we will go to Heaven and we will be able to walk right up to God and see Him how He really is and we'll be able to talk to Him and ask Him things and be with Him forever.

Game: Holy Light – Play a game of Red Light, Green Light with the change of turning the light on and off. Students run from one side of the room to the other when the lights are dimmed. But when you turn the lights on fully, they have to stop and shield their eyes. If they keep running when the light is on, God is too much for them, and they're out. The winner is the first one who makes it to the other side of the room.

Closing Prayer: Lord, You are a holy God, and we thank You for protecting us by not showing Yourself to us yet. We also thank You for sending Jesus to die for us so that we can be forgiven for our sins. We look forward to the day when You will make us perfect and we will be able to see you in Heaven. Amen.

Changed! Children's Sunday School Lesson

Purpose: Use this children's Sunday School lesson about Moses Teach children about talking and listening to God.

Needed: a flashlight, drawing paper, crayons or colored pencils, string and hole punch or a stapler

Intro Activity: Storytelling Sequence – Kids sit in a circle, each telling one sentence of a story. When it's their turn to make up a sentence, they hold the flashlight under their chin so that it lights up their face as if they were at a campfire telling ghost stories.

Lesson: Ask, How many of you have ever been really happy and excited before?

When was the time that you were the most happy and excited?

Show me how you looked when you were the most happy and excited.

Oh, wow, your faces just lit up with those great smiles.

There was a time when Moses' face lit up, too, even more than yours did.

(Have students take turns reading Exodus 34:29-35 , read it yourself, or summarize it.)

The Bible tells us that Moses' face was shining because he had been talking to God. Do you think Moses would have been happy and excited to be talking to God? (Yes.)

Getting to talk to God is the best thing ever. And we can all talk to God every day, can't we? What are some ways that we can talk to God? (We can talk to God by praying and reading our Bible and coming to church. When we do those things, we can talk to God, and God can talk to us in our hearts.)

Now, when Moses talked with God, his face was changed. He got all shiny. And when we talk to God, something about us changes us too. When we talk to God, we get happier and we start to love God more and we want to do the things that are right and make God happy.

But do you think Moses' face would have stayed lit up if He never talked to God again?

(Read 2 Corinthians 3:13 .)

Moses' face would light up when He talked to God. But afterward, the light would start to fade. Then, it would come back the next time He talked to God.

It's the same with us too. If we go a long time between talking to God, our spirits start to fade. We start to lose the good changes that God made in us. That's why we should talk to God every day. Every day, we should read our Bibles and pray so that we can keep growing in God and keep those good changes coming in our lives.

Craft: Learning to Listen – Give students drawing paper and instruct them to draw three scenes of them listening to God. They can then add more paper to their project to make a journal. Instruct them to write down any prayers that they say to God or anything that God says to them in church, through the Bible, or through their prayer time.

Game: Changed! – Divide students into two teams and play freeze tag, one team chasing and tagging the others. When someone is tagged, they freeze in place.

Every few moments, say, "God spoke to (the name of one of the frozen students). That student then unfreezes and can run to touch and unfreeze other frozen teammates. After a few seconds, call, "And the glory faded." That student then freezes in places again.

The round is over when all students on one team are frozen. Play again, switching which team is chasing the other.

Game: Storytelling Sequence – play the game from the intro activity again for as long as time allows.

Closing Prayer: God, we thank You for speaking to us just like You talked with Moses. We pray that You will help us to be happy and excited to keep talking to You and we pray that You will change our hearts so that we will live for You the best that we can. Amen.

Thank you for reading! I hope these prove useful to you in your class time.

Follow this series with Building the Nation and Entering the Promised Land . I also have a series of lessons on the Ten Commandments that would be very appropriate to insert here or save until the end of your teaching on Moses.

You can find printer versions of all these lessons on Patreon . They're also included in my book, Slaves to Conquerors: Children's Sunday School Lessons for Exodus – Joshua .

May God bless your prep time and your teaching this week! - Steve

About the Author

Steve and Mindy

Steve has a Master's of Divinity and has served as an associate pastor for about 7 years. Steve is passionate about passing on his devotion and does so in a variety of ways. Check out his Patreon or the About page to find out how you can help support his efforts.


  • Ministry to Children
    Sunday School Lessons

    How to build your children’s ministry with free resources for your children’s ministry or family time. Includes children’s Sunday School lessons and children’s sermons on the entire Bible!

Recent Articles


  • Ministry to Children
    Sunday School Lessons

    How to build your children’s ministry with free resources for your children’s ministry or family time. Includes children’s Sunday School lessons and children’s sermons on the entire Bible!

Recent Posts