Just as we learned in last week's lesson, the Israelites fell into their familiar pattern after Deborah ruled Israel. They forgot everything the Lord had done for them and began to do evil. As a result, God allowed the Midianites to begin to take over Israel. The Midianites also descended from Abraham (Midian was Isaac's half-brother), but they were known for worshipping many false gods and for being nomadic traders. Joseph's brothers sold him to the Midianites who carried him down to Egypt and sold him. Moses spent his 40 year exile in Midian after killing the Egyptian.
The Israelites then cried out to God when they were in trouble, and God sent a prophet that reminded them that their trouble was because of their rebellion against him. So God raised up Gideon to deliver the Israelites from the Midianites.
God Chooses Gideon
The Lord appeared as an angel to Gideon as he was threshing wheat in a winepress. Why was he threshing wheat in a winepress? To hide it from the Midianites. They had become so oppressive to the Israelites that they had to live in caves and hide their food from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord told Gideon that he would use him to defeat the Midianites. Gideon wasn't quite sure how that was going to happen since Gideon's family was the weakest of his tribe, and Gideon was the weakest of his family (God seems to get a kick out of using weak people and things to defeat the strong). But God assured him that he would be with Gideon. Gideon brought an offering of a young goat to God. God showed Gideon his power by touching the meat with a wooden staff and immediately burning it up with fire that appeared. So Gideon knew that he was chosen by God.
Gideon Tears Down Baal's Altar
Gideon's first assignment was to tear down an altar to a false god (named Baal) and replace it with an altar to the real God. So Gideon did it, but the people weren't happy and were afraid of what Baal might do to them as a result of what Gideon did. Gideon's father talked some sense into them, though, and convinced them that if Baal was a real God, he could defend himself. And nothing happened to Gideon...
Gideon Asks God for a Sign
So the Midianites began to join forces with other tribes to the east of Israel, and things weren't looking good for the Israelites. It was time for Gideon to go into action. Before he did, though, he wanted to make sure one last time that he was hearing God correctly, and that God would in fact deliver the Israelites from the Midianites. So Gideon asked God to give him a sign. He put a piece of wool fleece on the threshing floor and left it there overnight. He asked God to make it wet and the ground around it in the morning - and sure enough, that's what happened. Just to be sure, Gideon asked God again for a sign, and this time asked for the opposite. He laid the fleece in the threshing floor and this time asked God to make the ground wet and the fleece dry - and that's what happened.
Gideon and His Small Army Defeat the Midianites
So Gideon was ready for battle and called upon everyone to fight. 32,000 men joined in to take on the Midianites and their allies, who had 135,000! But God told Gideon that he had too many men. Too many men? How can you have too many men in a battle, especially when you are already outnumbered 4-1? Well, God wanted to be sure that the Israelites knew that it was He who delivered them, not by their own strength. So, first God told Gideon to just tell the men that if they were afraid, they could go home without shame. So 22,000 of them just left there on the spot. But God told him that he still needed to winnow the forces down. God told Gideon to lead his men to drink, and if his men lapped the water like a dog, they stay. And if they got down on their knees and drank water out of cupped hands, they had to leave. So that left Gideon with only 300 men...
Gideon learned that God had made the Midianites very afraid of the Israelites, so he used that against them. He had the 300 men bring torches and clay jars and surround the Midianite camp. All at once, they broke the jars and shouted "For the Lord and for Gideon!" and then blew 300 trumpets. The Midianites were so surprised and afraid, they began to turn and fight each other! They fled, and God won the battle for the Israelites.
Use the "Lapping vs. Bowls" reinforcement activity at the beginning of the lesson time, before you have taught the story. Observe which of your students lapped the water directly out of the bowl and which drank the water by picking up the bowl. Then tell them that you need to assemble an army, but only some of the students can be in it. Separate the children who lapped out of the bowl (if any) and tell the class that only those students will be in your army (you can do this "American Idol"-style if you would like to add some drama to it). Your students will most likely be confused as to why you chose that way. Then begin the story...
Read story from a Children's storybook Bible for younger children.
For older children, read story from an age-appropriate Children's storybook Bible or tell the story yourself.
Scripture for Kids to Read Aloud: Judges 6:1-6, 6:33-40, 7:16-23
First, ask the children if they have any questions about the story. What to do if you don't know the answer?
Scripture Do not long for anything that belongs to your neighbor. Exodus 20:17
Supplies colored beads, leather, string
Heads up! This activity should be done before the story is taught
Scripture So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, "Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink. Judges 7:5 The Lord said to Gideon, "With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home." Judges 8:7
Supplies Bowls, water
Scripture The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. Judges 6:5
Heads up! make sure students know they cannot throw poppers at another student
Scripture Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, "A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!" While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled. Judges 7:19-21
Supplies folded paper, homemade torches, trumpets (or kazoos) and poppers (4th of July)
Scripture The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, "A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!" judges 7:20
Supplies brown paper bags, red and orange tissue paper, stapler
Scripture Judges 6:36-40
Supplies small pitcher or cup with water, something resembling fleece (I found white pads for waxing a car or a fluffy white car wash mitt or a bundle of cotton balls)
Scripture Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. Judges 7:19
Supplies construction paper or card stock, strips of paper