Israel’s Unfaithfulness – Judges 1 - 3
With this lesson, we begin a study of the period of judges in the history of Israel. Before launching into this passage, it’s important to remember one sentence from the last book of Joshua. Joshua had challenged the people to “choose this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” All the people responded that they would also serve the Lord, to which Joshua said, “You are not able to serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). For the remainder of the Old Testament, God will prove to the people that they cannot serve Him, and thus, that they need a Savior. (We each must also learn this lesson).
At this point in Judges, however, the people are just starting to learn this lesson. As Judges opens in the first half of chapter one, the people (mainly the tribe of Judah) is taking over the land as God had instructed them, but by the last half of chapter one, tribe after tribe is NOT driving out their enemies. Instead, they are getting comfortable living alongside their enemies. (The same thing can happen to us; we can become comfortable living with our sin instead of battling it).
So, in chapter 2, we find in verse 10 that “a whole generation grew up, who didn’t know the Lord.” They forsook the Lord and began worshiping other gods. Wow! So fast – just like that it happened. (We, too, think we are so far from sin, but really we’re just inches from sin that can destroy us). And so, by the end of chapter 2 begins a cycle, which is repeated over and over again throughout the book of Judges. A) The people fall AWAY from God and commit terrible sin. B) God turns the people over to their enemies, who put them into BONDAGE. C) The people CRY out to God for help. D) God sends a DELIVERER (a judge). E) The people experience a time of EASE or rest and peace. The name of the judge will change, but the circumstances will repeat this cycle.
The two judges mentioned at the end of chapter 3 hold special lessons for us. They were very ordinary men, maybe even men we would disqualify from special service for God. Ehud was a left-handed man, very unusual and even culturally problematic. This tells us that he must have had some birth defect or injury to his right hand. But this ends up being an advantage; because of his left-handedness, he straps his sword to his right leg, a place no right-handed man would ever strap his sword, so the sword goes undetected. Do you have a weakness, something about yourself that you don’t like? How might God use that weakness, that hated thing, for His glory?
Last, there is just one verse about Shamgar (3:31). He defeats 600 Philistines with an oxgoad, and he saved Israel from their oppressors. What is an oxgoad? It’s a cattle prod – a stick with a sharp end. So, Shamgar was probably a cattle herder with not even a decent weapon to his name. But, in God’s power, he used the crude instrument he had to do God’s work. What about you? If you’re like me, you’re probably pretty ordinary, too. But we all have things we do – play baseball, clean the house, read books, ride bikes, play soccer, etc. If we let Him, God will use our ordinary lives and our ordinary activities and our simple “stuff” to do HIs work and to bless other people. Let’s lead the kids in brainstorming how God might use them and their ordinary-ness!
Use What You Have – collect a variety of art media – crayons, googly eyes, feathers, pom poms, crepe paper, etc. Give each child a piece of construction paper and markers. Tell them they may each choose 4 other items to create a picture that communicates, “God loves you.” As they work, point out that no one has exactly the same “stuff.” In life, God gives us each different stuff and asks us to use what we have to bring Him glory. Discuss how kids can do that. How can kids point people to Jesus? How can kids be a blessing? If you have time, you may also discuss the following:
What did you like about this story?
What didn’t you like?
What did you learn about God?
- • God hates our sin.
- • God lets His people experience pain and hardship when He wants to get their attention.
- • God is full of mercy and answers us when we cry out to Him.
- • God sends people to help us when we’re in trouble.
What did you learn about people?
- • Sometimes people love evil; then, they may be horribly punished.
- • All our sin deserves destruction.
- • People should cry out to God when they’re in trouble.
- • People need God to help them live life.
What did you learn about yourself?
- • I often think I can be good enough, but I can’t.
- • I need a Savior. I need Jesus!
- • I don’t like trouble, but when it comes, I need to listen to Jesus and trust Him to bring me through it.
- • I need to talk to God when I need help.