Monthly Archives: February 2012

Teaching the Judges to Children:Samuel

The book of Judges ends with Samson, but Samson is not the last of the judges. The last judge of Israel is also the first prophet of Israel: Samuel. Most kids know the basic story of Samuel, so I opted to tell his story from the point of view of Eli, the priest who raised him. It is often useful to come at an overly-familiar story from a different direction.

My name is Eli. I was a high priest in Israel during the days of the Judges. This was before the temple was built; the only place of worship was the tabernacle—the tent that Moses had made in the wilderness before we even came to this land. When I became priest, there were few righteous people left in Israel. Everyone did what seemed right to them, instead of asking God what was really right. Do you think that if people just do what they think is right, that they will actually do what is right? No, of course they don’t! People are sinners and their thoughts and actions are fallen. Only God knows what’s right.

There were so few people left in Israel who knew right from wrong that when I saw a woman weeping in the tabernacle, I assumed the worst at once. I thought she must be drunk. But no, she was earnestly praying, and so broken down with grief that she was weeping with true sorrow. She told me her name was Hannah and that she was unable to have children. More than anything, she wanted to have a son. I understood why she was so sad, then, because having children is very important to our people. She wanted a son so much that she promised to give the child forever to God when he was born. I told her that I hoped her prayer would be answered. I felt certain it would be, for Hannah was a truly righteous woman in a sinful land. Surely God would bless her.

I didn’t see Hannah again for almost five years. Then one day, there she was with a four-year old boy named Samuel. She wanted to give the boy to God, so she left him there at the tabernacle with me. Now, I was already an old man and my own children were all grown. Actually, I had not been such a great father; my own sons had not turned out so well, so I wouldn’t have been surprised if Hannah had not dared to leave her precious son with the likes of me! But she trusted God to take care of her son and protect him. So little Samuel lived with me and helped me do little jobs in the tabernacle.

But, as I said, my sons were very wicked men. I was very old, and they were doing most of the work of sacrificing. It’s very hard work and I was too weak to do it. But unfortunately, they were stealing the people’s sacrifices for themselves. Worse, they were stealing the sacrifices right in front of the people. I can imagine how angry and sorrowful these poor people felt. They came to the tabernacle to worship God and brought with them their best lamb or goats to give to God. And instead, they have to hand over their sacrifices to the greedy priests and watch my wicked sons eat their lambs for dinner. I tried to tell them to stop, but they refused to listen to me. I should have sent them away, for the sake of the people, but I was too weak to stand up to them. I guess I was afraid of them.

One day, a man of God came to me and told me that God was disgusted with my sons’ behavior and that since I was not doing my job and taking care of the situation, He was about to take care of it Himself. Both my sons would die on the same day, and then I would also die. After that, God would set up a new high priest who would honor Him as He ought to be honored. What could I say? He was right, of course! My sons were wicked and I was letting them get away with it. God’s people deserved a high priest who would treat God with proper respect!

One night after that, when I was sound asleep, the boy Samuel woke me up. He was about twelve years old by that time and smart as could be! More importantly, he loved God with all his heart and wanted to serve Him with all his heart. Anyway, he woke me up and said, “What did you want? You called me.”

“No, I didn’t,” I replied. “I was fast asleep. Go back to bed.”

I had just managed to fall asleep again when the boy returned. “Here I am, you needed something?” he asked.

“My son, I did not call you. Go back to sleep,” I told him.

The third time Samuel woke me up, I suddenly understood what was happening. He was a truthful boy and not one to imagine voices, so he obviously was hearing a voice calling to him. It wasn’t me, and it certainly wasn’t my worthless sons! Who else could it be but God!

I said, “It is God who is calling you. Next time you hear His voice, say: ‘speak Lord, your servant is listening.’ Then listen to what He has to tell you.”

Of course, Samuel did exactly as I told him. He was such an obedient boy! The next day, I asked him to tell me what God had said to him. Poor Samuel! He did not want to tell me, because it was such bad news! He didn’t know that the man of God has already told me this news: that my sons would be killed and then I would die, and no one of my line would ever be a priest again. “God knows best. Let Him do what He will,” I sighed.

That was only the first time that God spoke directly to Samuel. After that, God was talking to Samuel all the time. Soon he because famous throughout the land as a prophet, because God was always giving him messages.

But as Samuel was drawing closer to God, most of Israel was drawing further away. At that time, we were fighting with the Philistines, and losing badly! Then some of the soldiers got the bright idea of carrying the ark of the covenant into battle with them, like some kind of big good-luck charm! Do you think that God wanted them to use His holy ark for such a purpose? The ark represented God’s presence in the tabernacle. It was so holy, no one was allowed to look at it except for the high priest, and even the high priest was only to see it once a year, and not without offering many sacrifices first. I ought to have stopped them, but just like so many things I ought to have done, I didn’t do it. The soldiers carried the ark into the battle and my sons both went with it.

I was so worried about the ark and about my sons I couldn’t stay inside the tabernacle. I carried a chair out to the outside gate and sat looking towards the battle field, waiting impatiently for news. I feared the worst, and the worst soon came! A soldier, fleeing for his life from the battle, stopped long enough to tell me that my sons had both been killed and the ark had been captured by the enemy. How could the news have been worse? I was so upset, I fell out of my chair and broke my neck and died!

You might wonder what happened to the ark after that. The Philistine town it was taken to was struck with a plague, so it was sent to another town, which also was struck with a plague. And so it went, spreading plague where ever it went, until the Philistines decided it would be best to send it back to us! So they put it on a cart and hitched a pair of cows to it. These cows had just had baby calves, and if you know anything about cows you know they will not leave their calves for anything. But they left their calves this time, crying the whole while, and carried the ark back to Israel. And what happened to Samuel? You’ll have to find out next week!

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Teaching the Book of Judges to Children: Samson

Samson has been much romanticized by the world, which admires his super-human strength but ignores the sad facts of his miserable life. Born with amazing potential to do good and deliver his people from their ancient enemies once and for all, Samson lived his life entirely for himself and consistently refused to fulfill his purpose in life. Far from being a role-model for our children, he serves as a warning against selfishness and disobedience. And yet, he is redeemed in the end. Our God is a God of redemption, and He wastes nothing that He creates: Samson never does completely destroy the enemy, but he does damage their political system enough to render them fairly harmless for many years. Still, one wonders what the world would be like today if Samson had defeated the Philistines: we call them Palestinians in our modern world today.

Samson’s birth was a miracle. His mother wasn’t able to have children, but that was no problem for God. Since Samson’s parents were still loyal to God at a time of spiritual decadence in Israel, God answered their prayer and chose them to have a son. An angel was sent by God to give the blessed parents the news concerning their son. They were told their son was to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines who were occupying the land and oppressing Israel. Then they were given instructions on how to rear and care for the child.

God ordered Samson put under a Nazirite vow. “Nazirite” means “Dedicated”. This was a vow in which a man could dedicate his life to the full-time service of God. This vow required that the hair never be cut, nor could any grape products be consumed—no wine, grape juice, raisins, or even just plain grapes. He was also never to touch a dead body.

God had apparently planned to provide Samson with unbelievable superhuman strength to be used against the Philistines, providing Samson’s vow of submission was faithfully kept. But once he was grown, Samson seemed to lack concern about the Philistines’ oppressive occupation of his land. He wasn’t revolted at the sight of the foul pagan practices of these evil Gentile overlords. He didn’t share God’s hatred of evil, and he lacked a compelling zeal to see Israel freed of Philistine rule.

Samson didn’t think the Philistines were all that bad. In fact, his first girlfriend was a Philistine from Timnath (chapter 14). He became so infatuated with this Philistine woman he put pressure on his parents to approve their marriage. On one of Samson’s trips to Timnath to see his girl he was attacked by an Asian lion. Bare-handed he grabbed the poor lion and tore him in two! He threw the body along the road and went his way! Like swatting a fly—nothing to it. Later, he returned to the dead lion and discovered bees had made a nest in the carcase. He took the honey out of the dead lion’s body and ate it. Now, what was wrong with that? Remember, as a Nazirite, Samson was not to touch a dead body.

Samson’s marriage to the idol-worshiping Philistine woman was arranged. Using his strength to fulfill God’s plan for Israel was far from his mind at this point. Since he was more interested in serving himself than serving God, he would, like a lot of us, have to learn the hard way. Not only was he uninterested in obeying God, he seemed completely unconcerned with the oppression his own nation was living under. The only way Samson would fight against the enemy of his people, it seems, was if he personally were hurt or wronged by them. And this is precisely what God allowed to happen. The marriage didn’t last a week! The Philistines didn’t trust Samson and they surrounded him with thirty bodyguards during the week-long wedding festival. To get rid of them, Samson composed a clever riddle and promised them each a complete wardrobe if they could come up with the correct answer.

They got busy on it, but couldn’t come up with the answer. So they put pressure on Samson’s wife with violent threats to burn her and her family if she didn’t find out the answer for them. She then started crying incessantly to get the answer out of Samson. He gave in to her, again looking for the easy way out rather than the right way. When the Philistines came up with the riddle’s solution, Samson immediately knew that they had gotten the answer from his wife. He was mad! He left his wife and went to Ashkelon, slew thirty men and took all their apparel and gave it to the thirty who had answered the riddle. He then went sulking home to live with his parents. He had been betrayed! He was angry and discouraged! But would he learn his lesson?

Samson got lonely and went back to the Philistines to get his wife, only to find she had been given to another man. He was beginning to personally hate the Philistines and anger boiled! It was now personal pay-back time. Samson devised an attack plan. He caught three hundred foxes and tied their tails together. It was harvest time for the Philistines and Samson set fire to material tied between the tails of the foxes and turned them loose on the crop lands of the Philistines–wreaking great destruction. Overflowing with anger, he slaughtered many more Philistines. Later, he arranged to be caught by an army of a thousand Philistines and while they surrounded him, he broke loose and grabbed a fresh jawbone of a donkey and killed a thousand men in hand-to-hand combat. These were amazing feats! But was this what Samson was meant to do? No, God had raised Samson up to judge and lead his people; to rally them together to free themselves from the Philistines as a people. Samson was on a one-man revenge mission. He had forgotten his people, his purpose, and his God.

One mistake after another—going from one pagan woman to the next–that was the path Samson took during his twenty year judgeship in Israel. He had been largely faithful to his Nazirite vow and at times made an effort to serve God, but his desire for Philistine women was his undoing. His selfish lust finally brought him to Delilah. Samson wanted love and happiness–but they are elusive apart from the Law of God. As for Delilah, she was in love with herself and with money, not Samson. The rulers and generals of the Philistines offered her a large sum of cash to find out the secret to Samson’s strength. After being “nagged to death” by this wicked, ungodly woman, he finally told her the key to his strength. If his hair were cut, the vow would be broken and he would lose the strength God supplied him; he would become as any other man.

Delilah got the secret she sought and after deceitfully causing Samson to fall asleep upon her knees, she called for an aide to come and shave off the seven locks of his head. She then began to hit, punch, and scratch Samson as she called for the Philistines who were waiting outside her chamber. The Philistines overpowered him and he quickly realized his special strength from God was gone! The vengeful Philistines then gouged out his eyes and bound him with brass chains and bands, fastened him to a grinding wheel in a dark prison and made him rind grain like an ox. What a pitiful sight; blind, bald, a dejected hulk of a man grinding like an animal. Day in and day out he walked the same circle amid the continual abuse of his captors. But now Samson had time to think. Time to think about what a fool he had been. Time to think of the lusting eyes that had led him from one sin to another. Now there were empty sockets where eyes had been! Now he suffered in abject slavery where before no one dared question his freedom and power. Over the months he had plenty of time to meditate on God’s purpose for his life and what a shattered mess he had made of it. He had time to repent before his Creator for all his filth and self-seeking vanity. He couldn’t see the light of day without his eyes, but he came to see the truth that the way of this world and sin does not pay. He came to see that yielding to his Maker would have spared him a life of suffering. He was still alive and while he yet lived he had the opportunity to serve his God.

The Philistines were gloating over their capture of Sampson and when a major holiday came a large crowd gathered. The occasion was to offer sacrifice to their great god Dagon and to celebrate Sampson’s imprisonment. In attendance were the royal family of the Philistines, the Philistine General Staff and the whole administration of that powerful nation. It was a time of rejoicing and making merry, thinking that their god had delivered Samson into their hand (16:23). So they called for Samson to be brought out to torment and ridicule. It had been some time since Samson’s head had been shaven and his hair was long again.

After abusing Samson he was allowed to stand near the two main supporting pillars for the elevated stands from which the dignitaries watched the festivities. Still blind, he asked the young boy who was leading him to guide his hands to touch each of the two pillars. Sampson prayed. Sampson knew he had been called

to deliver Israel from its oppressors, but instead he had mainly served himself. In his pathetic troubles he experienced a conversion and became totally committed to God and to doing His work…even if it meant his own life. He saw the sorry mess he had made of himself and was willing to let God work his will through him.
He fervently prayed and asked God to hear him. God did. God always hears such heart-felt, humble prayers. Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” He then bowed himself with all his might against the two pillars. His muscles bulged, quivered, and filled with greater God-given strength than ever before. The pillars began to push apart, and then like a massive earthquake the entire viewing stand collapsed, killing about three thousand including virtually all the leadership of Philistia.

This disaster so disrupted the Philistine nation that Israel was able to throw off its yoke of oppression. In this one act, after yielding himself to God, Samson accomplished more than in his entire life following the way that seemed right to him.

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Teaching the Book of Judges to Children: Abimelech and Jephthah

Just when you think this book is getting easier to teach to your kids, as you breeze through Deborah and Gideon, here comes more troublesome folks who are just too human! Abimelech was not a judge and certainly not chosen by God, but he’s part of Israel’s history and cannot be ignored. Jephthah made a truly stupid but understandably human mistake and his child had to pay for it; but still, he cannot be ignored either! As morality plays of warning against greed, rash actions, and underestimating God, these stories need to be taught to our children.

Gideon had 70 sons that lived with him, and then he had one more son who was the son of a slave women in a nearby town called Shechem. Gideon is an example of a good man who made some really stupid mistakes. The first mistake was to make that golden ephod. Remember that? I guess he meant it to be a kind of memorial to help the people remember what God had done for them. But the people started worshiping the ephod instead! The other mistake Gideon made was to follow the customs of the tribes around them by taking many wives and at least one concubine. A concubine was a sort of wife, but more like a slave. The son Gideon had with his concubine was named Abimelech.

Remember our cycle of Israel? Let’s look at it again. The people would sin and worship idols; God would allow a foreign nation to take over; Israel would repent and ask God for deliverance; God would send a judge to save the people; the people would serve God faithfully until that judge died; then they would fall into sin and worship idols again.

So, after Gideon died, guess what happened? Yes, the Israelites lost no time; they immediately started worshiping the Baals again. At the same time, Abimelech decided that he wanted to rule over everybody. I guess I’ve felt that way sometimes, haven’t you? But he didn’t just feel that way; he decided to make it happen. He went to his mother’s family and asked for money. They gave him money from the temple of an idol. Abimelech used this money to hire some thugs to help him kill all 70 of his brothers. And they did it, too, all except for the youngest brother. This young man’s name was Jotham, and he escaped by hiding. After Abimelech killed his 69 brothers, he declared himself king, and the people agreed to follow him. Would you want to follow a man who had just killed almost all of his own family? It would be hard to trust him, wouldn’t it?

The youngest brother, Jotham, when he heard that Abimelech was now the king, went before the people and made a speech. I want to read it to you out of the Bible. (Read Judges 9:7-20)

What do you think? Do you think the people treated Gideon’s family well?

God gave the people three years of Abimelech’s rule to repent. But they didn’t do it. So God let an evil spirit stir things up between Abimelech and the people. Suddenly, the people were saying, “Why should Abimelech rule over us? Who is he to tell us what to do?” When Abimelech heard what the people were saying, he set out to teach them a lesson! At first Abimelech was winning. But the people in the town he was attacking all fled to a strong tower to hide. Abimelech was going to set the tower on fire! But just then, a woman threw a huge mill-stone out of the window high in the tower. It hit Abimelech on the head and cracked his skull open! Abimelech was dying, but he called his slave over to him quickly. “Kill me quick!” Abimelech said. “I won’t have people saying I was killed by a woman!” So the slave stabbed Abimelech through with a sword. When the people of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they all stopped fighting and just went home. Isn’t that weird?

After that, there were two more judges in Israel. They were named Tola and Jair, and they each were judges for over twenty years. Apparently they did a really good job of obeying God and there was no more fighting or war in Israel during that time.

But after Jair died, Israel went back to their old ways of worshiping false gods. They started worshiping the gods of the Philistines and of the Ammonites. So guess what? God let the Philistines and Ammonites take over Israel. Doesn’t that make sense? If the people wanted to follow the gods of the Philistines and of the Ammonites, shouldn’t they also be forced to be the slaves of the Philistines and the Ammonites? For 18 years, these foreign nations crushed the Israelites and oppressed them. Finally the people cried out to God for help. But this time, God said: “I have saved you time and time again, but you always go back to these idols. Why don’t you ask your new gods for help? Maybe the gods of the Philistines and the Ammonites that you like so much will help you.”

The Israelites knew that only the one true God could help them. This time, they truly repented. Instead of just asking for help, they destroyed their idols and showed that they really meant to change. So God sent them a new judge to lead them against their enemies.

This new judge was named Jephthah. Jephthah lived in the wilderness , and he was such a powerful warrior, he had gathered many companions, fellow adventurers, who followed him. I think he was kind of like Robin Hood and his merry men, living like outlaws, but really doing all kinds of good to help the helpless. Jephthah must have made quite a reputation for himself as a mighty champion, because the people came to him for help against the Philistines and the Ammonites. He agreed to help as long as they promised to follow him. He needed all of Israel to work together now. If they would not all follow him, he could not lead them to victory.

The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah and gave him wisdom and power to lead the people of Israel against their enemies. Jephthah must have truly wanted to serve the Lord, and he seemed to know a lot about the Scriptures. But, he was also influenced by his culture. He made a foolish vow, one that was common in his culture but was not anything God ever approved of. He made a solemn vow to God to sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house if God would let him win the battle.

Did he really need to do this? God had already promised to give them the victory. We don’t ever need to make bargains with God. God keeps His word, and He expects us to keep our word, also. God, of course, let Israel win. He had already promised that He would, way before Jephthah was even called to lead. But the wicked vow had already been spoken and we must always keep our promises, especially our promises to God. So, what was the first thing that came out of Jephthah’s house? His daughter came dancing out, playing on a tambourine, celebrating her father’s victory. She was so happy that her daddy had come home safely from the battle. How quickly her happiness turned to grief! But she did not argue with her father when he told her about his vow to God. She knew as well as Jephthah that it is a sin to break a promise.

Now here’s the question you are all wondering, I’ll bet. Most of the time, when a person makes a sacrifice, the sacrifice is killed. But this is not always the case, and I don’t believe it was the case this time. Jephthah’s daughter asked for time to mourn because she would now never marry or have children. She did not mourn for her lost life. Also, the only person who was allowed to make sacrifices to God was the priest. No priest of God would ever make a human sacrifice. God made it clear over and over that human sacrifice is wrong. He was punishing the pagan nations all around Israel for making human sacrifices. How could He possibly accept such a thing Himself? No, Jephthah’s daughter was dedicated to the Lord’s work for the rest of her life because of her father’s foolish vow, but she did not die. She could never marry or have a family of her own, though, and that was a sad thing for her.

How can we avoid such a thing happening to us? Just don’t make vows! Jesus told us to just let our yes mean yes and our no mean no. We don’t have to “promise” that what we say is true. If we always speak the truth, people will always believe us without our having to make vows and promises.

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Teaching the Book of Judges to Children: Gideon

Gideon is a popular subject for Sunday School stories, but I’ve never seen any curriculum that tells the entire story, warts and all. Gideon was no more perfect than any other man; he was afraid and doubtful and he made some classic mistakes. Here’s my version of Gideon’s story from his own point of view:

My name is Gideon. I was the fifth judge of Israel. Can you name the first four judges? Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, and Deborah. I was born after Deborah died. My people had quickly forgotten the one true God after Deborah was gone. They were worshiping idols again, the god of the Canaanites named Baal. All while I was growing up, even my own family worshiped Baal instead of Yahweh.

So what do you think happened? God let our enemies take over our land. This time it was the Midianites. The Midianites would wait until we had planted our crops, and then they would swoop over the countryside like a swarm of locusts, destroying everything. They killed everything: our wheat and barley, our fruits and vegetables, even our sheep and cattle and donkeys. It was so bad  that many of our people left their homes and farms and fled up into the mountains to live in caves. We were all starving and desperate. This went on for seven long years. Finally, the people remembered their history. They remembered what had happened before when our enemies took our land. They remembered Othniel and Ehud and Shamgar and Deborah. And they remembered the one true God and cried out to Him for help.

But God sent a prophet instead. This man went about the land of Israel preaching about all the things God had done for us. He reminded us that God had rescued us from Egypt and from slavery and had given us all this land. But were we thankful for all God had done? No, we forgot Him and began to worship other gods instead of Him. How does that make sense?

Then one day, as I was threshing wheat, a man walked up to me and said, “Yahweh is with you, mighty warrior.” That was really a weird thing for him to say to me, because I was threshing my wheat in a pit in the ground, hiding from the Midianites like a total wimp! Usually people thresh wheat outside, where the wind can blow the chaff away, the husks that you can’t eat. But I was afraid that the Midianites would see me and would take all the wheat away. Then I would have no food to feed my family. See, I wasn’t really such a sissy, I was just being smart. And at least I hadn’t run away to hide in the caves in the mountains like so many others had!

Anyway, this man walks up and says that Yahweh is with me, and I so I asked him, “If Yahweh is with us, why are we suffering? He did miracles to get us out of Egypt. He did miracles to give us this land. Where’s all the miracles now?” The guy says, “You’re the miracle. I’m sending you.”

“Me?” I said. “You can’t mean it. My family is the least important family in the whole tribe of Manasseh. And I’m the youngest, least important guy in my family. What can I do?”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be with you,” the man said. “You are going to strike down all the Midianites.”

But I needed to be sure. I mean, I didn’t even know this guy. Why should I believe him? “Give me a sign,” I said. “Wait here, I’ll be right back.” And I ran home and fixed the man a meal of meat and bread. It was a real sacrifice, believe me! We had very little food to eat in the house, and I was giving away my family’s dinner. But what if this was really a messenger from God! I ran back, and the man was still there, waiting for me. He told me to put the food on a rock. Yuck! Eating food off the ground? I thought. But I did what he said, and he touched the rock with his staff. Fire burst out of the rock and burned up the meat and bread. Then the man disappeared. That’s when I knew for sure that he had not been a man at all, but an angel of God.

That night, God spoke to me and told me to destroy my family’s idols and build a proper altar to make a sacrifice to Yahweh. I did it, but in the dead of night so that no one would catch me doing it! See, even though the people had cried out to Yahweh for help, they were still superstitiously clinging to Baal, too. Just in case, I guess.

The next day, when the people of the village saw what I had done, they were furious. And then somehow they found out it was me who had destroyed their Baal! A whole mob of them went to my father and demanded he let them kill me! Lucky for me my father had already been learning that Baal is not a true god. He said, “If Baal is so powerful, let him defend himself! Let him take care of his own altar.” Then the people saw that Baal couldn’t be all-powerful! If he were, he would have stopped me himself.

Now the people were willing to follow me, and a good thing, too. The Midianites and their pals the Amalekites had joined their armies and were gathering to destroy us once and for all. There were hundred of thousands of them! I have to admit, I was kind of nervous. I asked God for two more signs. Can you remember what they were? I set out a fleece, a sheepskin, overnight and asked God to let the dew be on the ground all around the fleece but not on it. He did this for me; but then I asked Him to do the opposite and let the fleece be wet with dew and the ground be dry. He did this for me, too.

I know it sounded like wimpy thing to do, asking for signs, but God didn’t seem to mind. He never scolded me or anything. He just gave me the assurance I needed. He’s very loving that way. And He knew I’d need assurance because of what He was about to ask me to do. I had an army of 32,000 men against the Midianites’ hundreds of thousands. But God told me to send the men who were afraid home! Well of course, most of them were afraid! I was left with only 10,000. Then God told me to test the men to see how careful they were. I was to have them drink from the river and watch how they did it. Most of them got down on their knees and put their faces right down to the water. But 300 of the men stayed sensibly on their feet and drank water from their hands, like this. Those were my soldiers. An army of 300!

We were to go into battle that night. And God knew just what I needed. He sent me down to the Midianite camp to listen to a certain conversation. One of the enemy soldiers had had a dream that a loaf of bread had rolled into his tent and made the tent collapse. What a weird dream, huh? But another soldier knew what it meant. “Gideon is the loaf of bread. He’s going to destroy us all!” the man said. Imagine, me, a loaf of bread! But I had to admit, it made me feel better. Especially when God told me that the only weapons we were going to use were empty jars, torches, and shofars. Here’s a shofar, remember this? I had my 300 men hide their torches inside the jars so that the enemy couldn’t see the light. Then we sneaked up and surrounded the enemy camp. When I blew my shofar, everyone else blew their shofars, too, and broke their jars so that suddenly the camp blazed with light. The Midianites were so terrified they didn’t know what was going on! They started swinging their swords at whatever moved and whatever moved was themselves! They were killing each other. We didn’t have to do a thing! The ones who survived ran away, and we chased after them and defeated them.

Well, the people were so grateful to me for leading them to defeat the Midianites that they wanted to make me their king! But I knew that Yahweh was the true king of Israel, so I refused. I did lead the people pretty well as their judge for the next 40 years. But I did make one bad mistake. I made an ephod out of gold to put in my home village as a sort of memorial and for some reason the people started to worship it. I guess I should have realized they would do that, but I mean, how weird is that? After all Yahweh, the one true God, did for them, they want to worship a piece of gold? I’ll bet you kids would never put anything else ahead of God, would you?

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