Sunday, February 17, 2013

Gideon

Sunday school lesson from this morning, from Judges 6-7...


God had brought the Israelites through a lot. General Sisera did horrible things to the Israelites, and God sent Barak to defeat him. When Barak got scared, Judge Deborah went with him into battle, and with God’s help, they defeated Sisera’s army. But because Barak didn’t trust God enough, Sisera himself was defeated by a woman named Jael.

After that, there was peace for 40 years.

But then, as Israelites did often, they forgot God again. They did evil things, and God allowed the Midianites to do bad things to them. As soon as the Israelites’ crops were ready to harvest, the Midianites and Amalekites swooped in and stole it all. They stole their crops, livestock, and anything they could find to eat. This kept happening for seven years! Finally, the Israelites were so poor and starving that they cried out to God for help. So God sent them a prophet to remind them that He had brought them out of Egypt and provided for them, but they had decided to worship other gods.

Because the Israelites needed to eat, they had to get creative about where they put their food, to hide it from the invaders. One day, God sent an angel to the farm of a guy named Joash. The Midianites would expect to find lots of wheat to eat on the threshing floor where they separated the good wheat from the chaff, the skin of the wheat that wasn’t good to eat. So Joash’s son Gideon was threshing wheat in their winepress. The angel sat under a nearby oak tree and said to him, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

Gideon was pretty surprised. He said, “But sir, if that’s true, what happened to all the miracles? I’ve heard all kinds of great things He did for our ancestors when He brought them out of Egypt, but He seems to have abandoned us lately.”

“Go, save Israel from Midian,” said the angel. “I am sending you.”

Gideon wasn’t satisfied. “But, but…how do I do that? My family is the weakest in the tribe of Menasseh, and I’m the weakest in my family! Why call a wimp?”

But the angel said, “Go. I will be with you, and you will defeat the Midianites.”

“OK,” said Gideon, “I need a sign. I’ll go get an offering. Be right back.” He went in and cooked a goat and made some bread, and then brought it out to the angel. He put it on a rock, and the angel touched it. Fire came out of the rock and burned it up! Then the angel disappeared. So Gideon knew it really was an angel that God had sent. He was scared.

Then God told him to do something really scary. God told him to tear down the idols of the false god Baal, then sacrifice his father’s bull on a proper altar, using the idols as wood to burn it.

Gideon obeyed, but he was too scared to do it during the day, so he took ten of his servants, and they did it at night when everyone was asleep. When the neighbors got up the next day, they discovered their idols had been destroyed, and they were furious. They marched over to Joash’s house and demanded to have Gideon so they could kill him! Joash replied, “If Baal is such a powerful god, don’t you think he can deal out his own wrath? He shouldn’t need help killing someone who destroyed his altars.” So they called Gideon Jerub-Baal, which means “Let Baal contend.”

The Midianites were coming! Gideon was learning, and with God’s help, he started building an army to fight them. But he was still scared. He asked God for a sign again. “If You really want me to do this, show me. I’m putting a wool fleece on the threshing floor, and if the fleece is wet with dew and the ground is dry in the morning, I’ll know.” So God did it! Then he said, “OK, don’t be angry, but I need to double check. This time, I’d like you to make the fleece dry and the ground wet with dew.” God did that. So Gideon had no doubt this was what God wanted him to do.

He set out leading his army, but God had another surprise for him. There were too many people for God to show them that this was His plan! So God had Gideon tell everyone who was too scared to go home. 22,000 soldiers left, leaving only 10,000. But that was still too many! So God gave them a really strange test. 10,000 soldiers went down to the river to get a drink. 300 men lapped the water with their hands to their mouths, while everyone else knelt down to drink. The people who knelt down ended up having to go home. So that meant the army only had 300 people left!

God told Gideon to sneak into the Midianite camp during the night. When he did, he overheard two Midianites talking. One of them had just had a dream that a barley loaf had fallen into the Midianite camp and hit the tent so hard that it collapsed! The second person said, “That means that God has given our camp into the hands of Gideon son of Joash!”

Worshiping God, Gideon snuck back up to his camp and laid out his plan. It was the middle of the night at this point. He split the small army into three groups and gave each of them trumpets and empty jars. The three groups surrounded the camp, and at a cue from Gideon, they blew 300 trumpets and smashed 300 clay jars! 300 voices shouted, “A SWORD FOR THE LORD AND FOR GIDEON!” The Midianite army awoke with a start and panicked. They were so scared that they grabbed their swords and started to fight…but in their fear and confusion, they forgot that they were killing each other! The survivors fled, and the Israelites chased them. Gideon called for more men in the area, and the men of the tribe of Ephraim answered. The Israelites defeated Midian that day, but there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that it was God who had won the battle.

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The following pictures are of a threshing floor and the process of threshing, or separating the grain from the stalks and chaff. I printed them to show the class. Click on them to see them larger.

Source: Fletcher, Elizabeth. "Bible Archaeology: The First Farmers: Food in the Ancient World." Bible Archaeology. Web. 17 Feb 2013. http://www.bible-archaeology.info/agriculture.htm


A stone threshing floor surrounded by a low stone wall to contain the grain


Threshing: woman with grain on a threshing floor, Israel, 19th century photograph

1 comment :

  1. Good job of modifying the materials to illustrate the message that God uses whoever He chooses to complete His goals in spite of their position and abilities. He uses the least of people as well as rich or highly intelligent.

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