Challenge 6 God’s heroes

CONTENTS

 The story shown in bold is explored in full in the Big Bible Challenge book  www.scriptureunion.org.uk/shop

 Stories in this challenge

God’s people disobey          Judges 2:11–19

Deborah                                Judges 4:4–16

Gideon                                   Judges 7:7–21

Samson                                  Judges 16:23–30

Ruth                                        Ruth 2:1–12

 

COMMON tips for this and every challenge

  • Always have a Bible in a child-friendly translation available, as you take the Big Bible Challenge. Even when the Bible verses are printed in the Big Bible Challenge book, find them in a Bible as well. This will help the child gain confidence in handling the Bible and become familiar with its size and number of pages.
  • Finding your way around the Bible can be a challenge in itself! Each reading from the Bible is shown in a certain way, like this:

Genesis 2:15–22.

  • Use the Index or Contents page of the Bible to help you find the book (or books) in the Bible for the readings in this challenge. In this example, the book title is ‘Genesis’.
  • Each book of the Bible is in chapters. In this example, the reading is in chapter 2.
  • Each chapter is split into verses. In this example, the verses are 15–22. In most Bibles, the verse numbers are printed very small.
  • Many of the challenges have five readings from the same part of the Bible, so use a bookmark to keep your place and it will be easier to find the Bible reading next time.
  • The Bible consists of many ‘books’ collected together and presented as one. See if you can work out what sort of ‘book’ you are exploring: is it history or is it a letter? Are you reading words spoken by a prophet or written as a song?
  • Spend time looking at and chatting about the artwork in the Big Bible Challenge. Find out more online in ‘How does the Big Bible Challenge work?’
  • When you have finished this challenge, use the simple evaluation sheet [here: hyperlink]. Find out more online in ‘How does the Big Bible Challenge work?’

 

COMMENCE: your introduction to this part of the Bible

The Book of Judges tells a sorry tale that can best be summed up in its closing words, ‘everyone did as he saw fit’ (Judges 21:25, NIV). The repeated cycles of disobedience, falling under foreign oppression, crying out to God and experiencing his deliverance can make for depressing reading; but our relationship with God is often worked out in similar ways. The book underlines the importance of being true to God and emphasises the consequences of failure. It also demonstrates the patient and forgiving love of God.

The action recorded in Ruth took place during the time of the Judges, possibly around the time of Jephthah and Samson. Its gentle love story stands in contrast to so much of Judges. In addition to showing the value of fidelity, we can also see, with the benefit of hindsight, how God is moving from the promise given to Abraham to the coming of Jesus. In Ruth, we see a key part of God’s long-term plan falling in to place as we are introduced to David’s family line.

In this challenge, we will be meeting four of God’s ‘heroes’:

  • Deborah, a wise prophet and the only female judge, who was obedient to God’s call, showing great courage in the face of adversity.
  • Gideon, who started as a frightened and reticent leader but who placed his total trust in God’s ability to win the battle, not simply the size of the army.
  • Samson, who rebelled against the constraints of his parents’ faith, and who was humiliated and imprisoned.
  • Ruth, who moved from personal tragedy and poverty into a loving family and became a faithful follower of God.

The struggles of God’s people demonstrate their (and our) human inability to remain true to God, but God’s forgiving grace is always present – a pattern evident throughout Scripture.
[‘how to’ wisdom for coach for this challenge]

 

CONNECT: the five stories in this challenge

Challenge 6 looks at some of God’s heroes who followed Joshua as leaders of the people. The challenge begins with Deborah, the first female leader of the nation and ends with Ruth, a woman who was not a leader and yet who was a significant person in the history of Israel.

‘God’s people disobey’ sets the scene. The generation of people after Joshua’s death remembered God’s faithfulness to them but the generation that followed them did not. Again and again, the nation ignored God and served evil gods. When they remembered God and asked for his help, he raised up new leaders called ‘judges’ ‘who saved them’ (Judges 2:16). These became national leaders who led them in battle and who ruled them in peace. It is a pattern that is repeated 15 times, as God chooses judges to lead the nation through the next crisis. Challenge 6 looks at three of them.

Deborah, Gideon and Samson were three of those chosen to rule Israel. In the Big Bible Challenge book, Challenge 6 travels with Deborah, who, with the help of her general, Barak, has a great victory over the army of Sisera. The adventures of Gideon and Samson are explored in the online material. Gideon – who freely admits that he is weak and unimportant – learns that victory is not about having great numbers but about having great faith in God. Samson is given special power from God but does not always use it well. As his faith in God stumbles, his life comes to a tragic end.

The people had agreed that God would be their leader so Deborah, Gideon and the other judges did not follow straight one after the other. Between each of the stories in Challenge 6, think back to ‘God’s people disobey’ to help your child see how God keeps helping his people – but they keep forgetting him and going their own way.

One person who did choose to go God’s way was Ruth. She was not a judge and she was a different kind of hero of God’s people. She was not even one of them but came from another country! So, why is her story in the Bible and part of Challenge 6? The connection is made when she marries Boaz and their descendants include David and – ultimately – Jesus, the true hero of the world.

 

CONSIDER: what this challenge means today

Explore with your child who their heroes are today and what gives them their ‘hero’ status. Are they good at sport? Are they exciting musicians? Are they movie or TV stars? Are they stronger, braver, more famous than everyone else? Do they wear the right clothes and go to the right places? Are they celebrities who live a certain lifestyle? What is it about them that your child admires?

Talk about who are the heroes for God today. What does it mean to be a hero for God? What are the qualities and characteristics of their lives that make them stand out in a world that so easily ignores God and follows their own ways?

As adults, we may think of qualities such as faithfulness, being servant-hearted, humble or showing the fruit of the Spirit. What will those qualities mean to a child? And are they the sort of qualities your child thinks of as ‘heroic’?

Challenge 6 shows that there is no one type of person who can be a hero for God. Deborah was wise – but that was not what made her a hero for God. Gideon won a battle but that was not the most important thing. Look together at what God says in 1 Samuel 16:7 (CEV) – ‘People judge others by what they look like, but I judge people by what is in their hearts.’ Chat about what that means and, if appropriate, think back to those people whom your child listed as ‘heroes’ today. Have they chosen their heroes because of what they look like, or have they chosen them because of what is in their hearts?

Remember, for all God’s heroes, then and now, the adventure starts with choosing to follow him. As you continue taking the Big Bible Challenge, keep asking, “How can I be a hero for God?”

 

CLARIFY: issues that may arise from this challenge

How can Samson be called a ‘hero’?

Samson was careless about following God, spent time with a prostitute, took his own life and killed many people with him. That doesn’t sound very heroic!

When Samson was born, God’s message through an angel to his parents told them of the reason for his birth: “Your son will begin to set Israel free from the Philistines” (Judges 13:5). While it is easy to focus on the times that Samson failed God, it is important to remember that for most of his life Samson trusted God more often than not. On many occasions, the Spirit of God gave him great power to do some amazing feats of strength.

However, like all of us, Samson is human and, as a result, he made some wrong choices in his life. In spite of this, God, in his grace, (and we sometimes find this hard to understand) still used Samson to achieve His purpose – to deliver God’s people from the hands of the enemies.

While this gives us great encouragement that God can still use us, even though there are times we fail him, this does not give us the freedom to do what we like, knowing God’s grace is always there! God wants us to be a hero for him, developing the qualities in our lives that make us stand out.

 

COMMUNICATE: talk with God

Ask your child whether they have a favourite superhero. Ask what special powers they have. As you take the God’s heroes challenge, look out for who the heroes are: Deborah, Gideon, Samson, Ruth.

Discuss whether they had any special powers and, if so, how they used them for God. As you chat about this, help your child to realise that they all had something in common: they trusted God to help them, so they were able to stand up for him at a time when other people had turned away from him.

Encourage your child to think about what superpowers they might need to help them to be a superhero for God. Will they need to be clever and brave like Deborah? Or will they need to be strong like Samson? Or will they need to be kind and loyal, like Ruth? Your child might like to draw a self-portrait in superhero costume with the caption: ‘I’m a superhero for God!’

As a Bible Coach, think about where your child is on the journey of faith. This may be a good time to talk about the Holy Spirit and how God gives his friends the power they need to live his way. If appropriate, pray for your child to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that they will be able to stand up for God in today’s world, when many people have turned away from him.

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