25 lesson plans for children, young people and their teachers.
Lesson 12 Ups and downs under the leadership of the Judges
Bible reference – Joshua 7-8; and Judges After success in the battle of Jericho, God’s chosen people continued to conquer the land of Canaan and it’s people. They learned quickly that they must be obedient to all that God told them. Because one man disobeyed the day they took Jericho, Israel lost their next battle at the small town called Ai, Joshua chapter 7. They recognised that God had taken away His blessing from them, verse 10. Only when the sin was uncovered, and the sinner had paid the penalty, could they succeed again, verses 25-26; and chapter 8 verse 1. During Joshua’s lifetime the Israelites served the Lord, Joshua 24 verse 31; Judges 2:7. They possessed much of the land, but not all of it. They defeated and displaced most of the people, but not all of them.
Stop and discuss (1) Divide the class into groups of four or five students. Have each group find Judges chapter 1 verse 19 to 2 verse 15 in their Bibles. Ask each group to read the verses to themselves and to find as many verses as they can that describe the Israelites not totally driving the people of Canaan from the land. They should write a list of the verse references. (Tell the students not to worry about all the different names! For our lesson, these are not important). See which group can find the most right answers. In Joshua and Judges there is a lot of killing. Seven whole nations of Canaanite people are almost totally killed by Israel as they possess the land God promised to them.
(See Joshua 8 verse 24-26; chapter 10 verses 20, 30, 32, 35, 37, 40; chapter 11 verses 8, 11, 14, 21). We must remember why this destruction happened. This was not cold-blooded murder and stealing from a godly, peace loving people! “The Israelites came as God’s chosen people, as instruments to inflict proper judgement upon sin and sinners”.2 They were carrying out God’s judgement . This did not make them better than anyone else. They were accountable to God for everything they did. Stop and discuss (2) Have five good readers from the class read slowly and carefully out loud, the following verses: Joshua 11 verse 15 Leviticus 18 verses 1-2 Leviticus 18 verses 3-4 Leviticus 18 verses 24-25 Joshua 11 verse 20 God will always judge sin. In His mercy He had waited a long time, giving people opportunity to repent. Then, at the time of God’s choice, He used the Israelites to bring His judgement on the wicked Canaanites. More than four hundred years earlier God had told Abraham 2 Theodore Epp Joshua - Victorious by Faith (Lincoln,Nebraska: Back to the Bible) 1968, p.35-37.
that this would happen, Genesis 15 verse 16. The Israelites themselves were warned by God that they would be judged in the same way if they disobeyed God by living evil lives. Now, they were being used by God to punish others. But God would use others to punish them if they did not listen to His commands and follow His way. No person, from any tribe or nation, can ever assume God is on his or her side. God will be with us, and God will be for us when we are living His way. Joshua and his elders led the people well. They encouraged them to live the right way. God helped them in their battles. But after Joshua died the younger Israelites soon ignored the great lessons from their history, Judges 2 verses 10-12. They turned away from God to worship false gods. Therefore God was against His own people. He did not break His Covenant with them. He fully kept it, as He always will, Judges 2 verse 1.
But, at this time, the true and living God fought against His own people. He was trying to bring them back to the way they had been told to live, Judges 2 verse 15. Judges 2 verse 16 gives this Bible book its title: “Then the Lord gave the Israelites leaders who saved them from the raiders”. The word “leaders”is the same Hebrew word “judges”. (The Old Testament was originally written in the Hebrew language). Some old Bible translators used the word “saviours”. This part of the history of God’s special people is a cycle of bad behaviour followed by good behaviour followed by bad behaviour.
From now on it is ‘Activity time’! Ask the class to stand up. Tell them to stand up as tall as they can, hands stretching up towards the sky. They should do this whenever you speak of ‘good behaviour’. Next, have them turn with their backs to the sky, bent down low, looking down at the ground. They should do this whenever you mention ‘bad behaviour’. Tell them that this should happen for all of the time that is left in today’s lesson. Now ask them to sit down – but be ready to stretch up, or to bend low, as you say ‘good behaviour’ or ‘bad behaviour’. Tell the class you are going to pick out some stories from the Judges:
God’s special people keep forgetting that God chose them for a reason. He wants them to be His people, living in His place, following His plan. This is what God sees as ‘good behaviour’ (class stretch up). The people are often influenced by those around them. They rebel against God. God sees that as ‘bad behaviour’ (class bend down). In Judges 3 verse 7 the people forget the Lord God. They sinned against Him, worshipping the idols of Baal and Asherah. God was angry at this bad behaviour (class bend low). God let them be conquered by an enemy for eight years. When the people cried out to God for help He sent them a leader, a judge, a saviour, called Othniel. For forty years Othniel led the people in good behaviour (class stretch up).
In Judges 3 verse 12 the people sin against the Lord again. God sees their bad behaviour (class bend down) and sends another enemy to defeat them. Eighteen years later the Israelites call for God to help them. He gave them a left-handed leader named Ehud. Ehud was the judge for 80 years. He led the good behaviour (class stretch up) of the people. In Judges 4 verse 1 the bad behaviour (class bend down) of the people means that God lets them be ruled by a violent and cruel Canaanite king. This lasted for twenty years. God’s people need help and call out to God. God sends Deborah as leader, saviour and judge. Good behaviour (class stretch up) brought them peace in the land for forty years. Deborah’s song of praise to God is Judges chapter 5. In Judges 6 verse 1 the foolish and forgetful people once more sin against God. This bad behaviour (class bend low) means that for seven years the strong Midianite peoples drive the Israelites to live in hillside caves. All the Israelite crops are stolen or destroyed, year after year. All of their animals are taken away. A prophet – whose name we do not know – warns the people that they are not listening to God. This prophet reminds the people of all God has done through history. God brought the Israelites from Egypt into the land He promised to give them as their own. God calls another judge to save Israel from the bad situation they were in. His name is Gideon. Gideon leads the people in good behaviour (class stretch up) that God was pleased with! Gideon leads just three hundred men to fight and defeat Midian, Judges chapter 7. God is pleased with the good behaviour (class stretch up). God wants no more bad behaviour (class bend down). Other judges lead Israel and save them from their bad behaviour (class bend down), encouraging good behaviour (class stretch up). Jephthah is a mighty warrior, Judges 11 verse 1. For eighteen years God lets Israel be the slaves of the Philistines because of their bad behaviour (class bend down). They serve other gods and forget the true and living God, who had helped them so much over many years. Samson is set apart to God from his birth, Judges 13 verse 5. God strengthens him in a special way, verse 25. The powerful Spirit of the Lord makes him strong, 14 verse 19; 15 verse 14. God uses Samson while his good behaviour (class stretch up) pleases God. So we learn how the good behaviour (class stretch up) and the bad behaviour (class bend down) of the people and their leaders has an effect on everything that happens. If God is angry at their bad behaviour (class bend down), then He is against them. When they cry out to the true and living God for help, their good behaviour (class stretch up) is seen by God. And He sends them a person who is their leader, judge, and saviour.
Stop and discuss(3) Towards the end of Judges a statement is written four times which introduces the subject of our next lesson. Have students look up these four verses and write out what it says on the next page, (43): Judges 17 verse 6 18 verse 1
19 verse 1
21 verse 25
“ T w n_ k i_ I a_ t t ; a t p d j a_ t p _____”.
The class could also learn the verse if there is time. Read and repeat it several times out loud.
See if one female and one male can remember it, and can say it to the whole class.
Answers to ‘Stop and discuss’
1. Judges chapter 1 verse 19, 21, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34;
and chapter 2 verses 12, 14, 15. Thirteen references in all.
2. I suggest you allow the class to ask any questions they may have about this topic of God commanding violence.There is no need for you to raise a problem if the class do not have one. But if any students are disturbed, share with them about God’s holy hatred of sin and yet His pure love for the sinner, John
chapter 3 verses 16,17.
3. “There was no king in Israel at that time; all the people did just as they pleased”,
Judges 17 verse 6.