Gideon: Mighty Judge of Israel
Summary of Lesson Activities:
The teacher (movie director) will guide the students through six different scenes in the story.
For scripture and memory verses see above post.
- God is patient. God loves us even when we doubt and test God’s love.
- God can use regular people to do important work.
- Recognize that we can rely on God’s strength and power
- God calls us to be faithful, and can make the most improbable faithful follower into a leader, capable to complete God’s plans.
- Review Bible Background notes
- Gather the materials.
- Set up your scenes and props before the children arrive.
- See page on props and settings (see next posting)
Opening-Welcome and Lesson Introduction:
Make sure you have your nametag on. Introduce yourself to the students.
Open with a prayer if guide did not.
Dig-Main Content and Reflection:
Open your Bible. Tell the class that today’s Bible story is from the book of Judges, chapters 6-8. Tell them that you will be telling the Bible story as they help with some of the actions.
Storyteller directions: You are the assistant movie director of “Gideon: Mighty Judge of Israel”. Tell the children that the “movie” is taken from a true story from the Bible—from the Old Testament in the book of Judges. Greet the children wearing a baseball cap, or T-shirt inscribed with the movie title, or marked “assistant director.” Carry a clipboard. Explain you will be guiding them thru the scenes to be filmed. The children are the hired extras in your movie and need to know what to do in each scene. Make sure they have their costumes on.
In each “scene” single out several children for duty. Demo the action and have them try it, just as they would practice as extras. Each scene vignette needs something simple that you can pickup, or point out as you tell the story. If you want to read the information, especially the dialogue of the main characters, off your clipboard notes, that’s ok. Be excited, enthusiastic. Pick out individuals for certain things, like farmers, or soldiers and tell them to remember their roles when they report to the costume department after the tour.
Here’s your script. Have fun.
SCENE 1 (Rural Israel):
Our movie opens with a panoramic view of the lands in Israel. The people are living in the mountains and hiding in caves. [Have most of students huddled down like they are hiding] They are afraid of the Midianites. The Midianite raiders come on camels from the deserts east of Israel. The Israelites are barely surviving because food is scarce and anything they plant for themselves, if found by the Midianites, is taken right when it is ripe. The pesky Midianites raid the crops, eat the sheep and camp nearby just long enough to take the grain harvest for themselves. They’ve been doing this for seven years!
Our camera zooms in on the Midianite camp. Tents set up between two fields of golden grain. Over there, ( point ) the camels are grazing, their big feet trampling the grain flat. There are big fires with spits of roasting meat, big pots of vegetable stew, rows of flat breads fresh from baking. The camera pans right, ( gesture as if you’re controlling the camera) and there’s a raiding party riding into camp, carrying baskets of ripe vegetables, eggs and two chickens. One raider jumps off his camel, proudly holding a basket with a lid. Pulling off the lid, he reveals it is filled with barley for making bread. He must have raided a farmer’s hidden storehouse. [Have other students grab the baskets of food]
Next, our camera travels over the field and there’s an Israelite farmer, waving his fists in the air because his underground hiding place has been raided. There are baskets strewn around the ground, and his barley is gone. He cries to the Lord! Too much misery! Too much destruction! Too much suffering! [Have the children repeat the phrases, raising their hands to heaven, pleading to God for help.)
As the scene ends and fades to black, we hear a voice-over saying these words: The Israelites cry out to God. Help! God, help! We need you, God. Please help! Move to scene 2.
SCENE 2 (Winepress):
The sun is low in the sky. It will soon be dark. The air is dusty and hot. We hear muffled coughing, and a brushing sound, like someone is sweeping the floor. There’s a man, crouched close to the ground, inside a big winepress.
(Show the picture of the winepress). The winepress is constructed by flattening the ground and making it hard as rock. Grapes dumped on the floor, and people tromped on them with their feet to make the juice of the grapes flow down tiny trenches into a collection basin. The juice would then be turned into wine. The area is around 5 X 6 feet, with sides rising two feet.
The man beating the bundle of wheat on the floor is our hero – Gideon. But, he’s not a might warrior yet. Right now he’s just a skinny guy - hungry and hiding from the enemy.
Gideon is beating a bundle of wheat on the floor of the winepress. He’s crouched down low, hiding from the Midianite raiders. The normal way to thresh is to use a big flat space on the top of a hill, where animals can walk over the stalks to break the grain kernels from the shafts. Then workers pitch the broken stalks into the air so breezes blow away the chaff and leave just the grain. The grain falls to the ground, and can be collected.
Obviously, Gideon isn’t doing it the proper way.
Well, there’s not enough room for animals inside this winepress, and there’s no breeze to blow away the chaff. Gideon is kneeling, slapping the bundle of wheat on the ground, trying to get some kernels of grain. Each time he slaps that bundle, the dust flies up and Gideon coughs, his face covered with dust and chaff. He has managed to grow some grain secretly, and wants to thresh it before the Midianites discover him. [Have one student act this out in the “winepress”—either in the box or the tape outline—don’t give them the wheat to beat or it will make a huge mess on the floor!—they can just pantomime. This scenes goes on for a while, so you could have several students take turns]
[Read the dialogue off your clipboard.]
Gideon grumbles: “This is ridiculous. What a nightmare. Try and do anything and the Midianites show up. They’ve taken my sheep, my cattle, my grapes. They’re not getting my wheat, even if I have to kneel in here all night.”
Suddenly behind him Gideon hears: “THE LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”
There’s an angel standing there. The angel doesn’t have any angel duds on. He looks like a regular guy, except he is carrying a white flower. [Have a student hold the white flower and continue with the story.]
Gideon answers, “If God is with me, then why in the world am I harvesting my wheat in the middle of a winepress, in the middle of the night? I’ve heard the stories about God’s miracles. We could use some miracles. Where is God right now? We are abandoned, surrounded by people who steal our food and starve us.”
Angel says: “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
Gideon: “How can I save Israel? My family is poor. I am the youngest, the least important one of my family. My clan is the weakest of the tribe of Manasseh, and they are the weakest tribe in Israel. You’ve got the wrong guy.”
WOW! God thinks that Gideon is going to be able to help Israel. What do you think Gideon did? What would you do? Well, Gideon continued to argue...
Gideon: “So, you’re speaking for God? Prove that God sent you. Let’s see a burning bush - no that’s been done before. Burning letters in the sky - no the Midianites might see. A pillar of fire from heaven? I know...wait here until I get back.”
Gideon ran to his house and prepared some meat and bread and soup. He brought it out to the angel and when he put it down on a rock. Poof! A flash of light and fire - the food went up in smoke. The angel was gone.
Reflect with the children: God was very patient with Gideon. God wasn’t looking at the cowardly man kneeling on the ground threshing grain. God could see potential in Gideon, if Gideon would put his trust in the Lord. God is like that. God gave a job to Gideon AND gave Gideon what he needed to do that job. God does the same for us too!
SCENE 3 (Asherah’s Grove):
Asherah’s Grove is a collection of trees and IDOLS. The trees are tenderly cared for until they get big enough, then the tops are chopped off and the trees are carved into idols. This place was a community shrine. The center of worship -- except the people weren’t worshiping God, they were worshiping carved wood idols.
Didn’t God tell them not to make idols and worship false gods? Tsk, tsk.
God tells Gideon to destroy this “shrine”. Gideon knows that he can’t just walk up to it and chop down the carved stumps. The town people wouldn’t like it and would punish him harshly. He decides to do it in the middle of the night when everyone is sleeping. He pulled down the altar and pushed over the idols. He set fire to one of the idols on a new altar he built. [have the children GENTLY take the altar apart and toss the idols on the ground]
In the morning, the townspeople discovered what Gideon had done and wanted Gideon put to death. Yikes. [Have the students be angry villagers. Have them demonstrate with raised fists, scowling faces. ]
The angry men went to Gideon’s father and demanded Gideon be punished.
Joash: “If we make trouble, the Midianites will hear us, swoop down on us, and we’ll have more trouble. If those idols were truly gods, they would have struck Gideon down.”
The people realized that they were wrong. God had chosen Gideon for something special.
SCENE 4 (Gideons Camp):
The Midianites have moved into the fertile valley, awaiting the grain harvest. We see their tents, and following the river, 4 miles around the bend, over a hill, where there’s another camp. Men and women are gathering to hear what Gideon wants done.
Today, Gideon could just use the Internet and e-mail all his family to come help. Back then they’d send messengers out to neighboring villages. [Have some students in corner of room, send other students out to them to bring them to Gideon’s camp] Wasn’t as fast as the Internet, but it was effective. His clan has come to help him drive the Midianites out of the land. This year they will harvest all their grain and keep it for themselves. But Gideon still has doubts!
[Pick up the fleece and show it to the children. Explain briefly what it is, and then read the dialogue from your clipboard. ]
Gideon: “Lord God! Do you really, really want to save Israel using me as the leader? I need another sign. I’m going to put a wooly lamb’s fleece on the ground tonight and in the morning if it is wet and the ground around it is dry, I will know you are with me.”
The next morning what do you think Gideon found? The fleece was so wet that he squeezed a bowl full of water out of it. The ground? Dry as a bone. No dew, no moisture. Dry. BUT, Gideon needed more proof.
Gideon: “Lord God! Just one more sign. Tonight I will put my fleece out again. If it is dry in the morning, and the ground around it is wet - I’ll know I can believe you.”
What do you think happened? God left the fleece dry, but the ground was wet with dew. Gideon believed. Gideon had no more doubts. He was the one God would use to lead the people.
SCENE 5 (The River):
We are in the Gideon’s camp, down by the river. There are 32,000 men. Gideon is a leader. He is confident. He strolls from tent to tent, meeting each man.
[ Demonstrate how Gideon strides about. Ask a few children to act scared, to tremble with fear, cover their eyes and hide. Ask others to stand proudly, brandishing their swords (imagined)]
Gideon: “Our Lord says I do not need 32,000 to defeat the Midianites. If you are afraid, go home. If you are trembling, go home.”
How many do you think left? 22,000 went home. That left 10,000.
The Lord knew that even this was too many. If they had a big army, then the people would think that they had saved themselves. God wanted to show the people that God was in charge. They didn’t need a big army, only a small handful because God would save them. Gideon led 10,000 men in his the army to the stream and watched them drink.
Some put their faces in the water and lapped it up like a dog does.
[Pick out several children to be dog-lappers and ask them to demonstrate the action.]
Three hundred kneeled, scooped water into their hands to lap the water from their hands. [Pick out a few children for this task, and have them kneel beside the dog lappers, but cupping their hands to drink while watching out for the enemy.]
Gideon: “All who drank with their faces in the water, go home. You are no longer needed. My army will be made up of the 300 remaining, and we will be guided by our Lord God to victory.”
SCENE 6 (Midianite’s Camp):
It is dark. In the shadows we see two men creeping along the ground. Spies! Gideon and his helper are sneaking into the Midianite camp. Men sit hunched in their tents, grumbling that they are afraid. [Have 2 students creeping; have others sitting in the tent]
Midianite: They must be mighty warriors. The weak ones have gone home. Only the strongest are left. I’m afraid. Did you hear those trumpets this morning? I had a dream last night that a round loaf of barley bread came rolling into the camp. [Have a student hold the bread] It struck a tent so hard that the tent turned upside down and collapsed.”
Midianite 2: “Comrade. This dream is a warning! This is no less than the sword of Gideon, son of Joash. Into his hand God will give Midian and all our army.”
There are gasps and murmurs all around as others hear this dream interpreted.
[Have the children be the listeners. See who can gasp the loudest. Ask them to whisper, and murmur.]
Gideon and his servant creep away from the camp. Gideon knows what he must do.
Our camera pans down the river, back to the Israelite camp. It is even darker now, and the fires are burning low outside the tents.
Gideon: “Get up! Awake everyone! The Lord will deliver the army of Midian into our hands.”
Gideon divides the 300 men into three groups. Each man has a trumpet. Then Gideon hands them each an empty jar and a torch.
[Show the picture of the shofar] [ Demonstrate putting a torch inside the jar. ]
Gideon: “Watch me. Do as I do. Hold your torch under the jar when we approach the Midianite camp. When I blow the trumpet, blow your trumpet, too. Shout, “For the Lord and for Gideon! Keep watching me, and do what I do.”
Our camera follows the men along the river. All is quiet. It is very dark. Their torches are under the jars. There is great tension in the air.
At the Midianite camp, the late watch guards are dozing at their posts. Most men are asleep in their tents.
Gideon looked to his right. He looked to his left. He checked his line of 300 men, spread out but surrounding the camp. [Have the children stand in a circle around the camp] He raised his torch in his left hand, and smashed the clay jar that was hiding the flame. All his men did the same.
Then, Gideon blew his trumpet. The men blew their trumpets [Have students blow their trumpets]. Gideon shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” The 300 shouted the same words. [Have students shout this as well]
What a clatter of noise! It must have been terrifying!
The Midianite camp was in total confusion, just as God had planned. Awakened from deep sleep, men grabbed up swords and began fighting each other. Those that weren’t killed ran away in fear. Men were crying aloud, bellowing for their friends, rushing for safety. They believed a huge army - thousands and thousands of men, was attacking them.
Gideon’s army chased the Midianites and their camels, across the Jordan River, out of the country. The Midianites did not return. God’s plan had worked—God had saved the people of Israel!
Gideon could be a ruler of Israel, but he said “no.”
Gideon knew that God would rule over them, taking care of them. God had not forgotten them. He loved them dearly and would protect them from enemies. God had a plan for them, and Gideon would continue to follow God’s rule.
Now, this is our story. We’re going to win awards with this one, don’t you think. .
- THE END -
Use the remaining time to reflect on the story with the children. Ask them what parts they like the best. Ask them what roles they think they are suited for. Remind them that Gideon was not the strongest or the bravest, but God made him part of the “big picture.” God had a plan for Gideon, and was willing to wait until Gideon was “brave” enough to follow God’s instructions and complete the task.
If you’ve got time, walk through the story again and have the children relate it back to you. See if they remember what roles and actions they were assigned.
End with a prayer.
A Lesson Set written by members of: Chicago Western Suburbs Rotation Roundtable
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