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“Samson! What are you doing? You have been sitting at the table, staring at your meat way too long.”

“It’s too tough, daddy, and it tastes awful. If I take another bite I’ll throw up,” Samson said, starting to cry.

“Don’t be a baby any more, Samson. You are six years old now, and if you don’t eat what I give you, you will die like your friends. Just last night our neighbor, Nathan, told me that his little daughter, Sarah, died because there was no food for her. There are many people in this city that would kill someone to get the meat I got for you, and you won’t eat it? I know it tastes strange, but it is meat and it might keep you alive. Now take another bite.”

“What kind of meat is it?” Samson asked. “It is nothing I’ve tasted before.”

“Why can’t you be thankful and just eat it, Samson? I risked my life to get it for you, and you refuse to eat it.” Samson’s dad walked over, yanked Samson’s chair away from the table, and said, “Get off the chair, you stubborn, selfish, worthless kid.” He pushed Samson away, sat down on the chair and started eating Samson’s meat. “I’m not going to tell you what kind of meat it is. You don’t need to know. But if you won’t eat it and live, then I will. I don’t know why I risk my life for you; you are worthless.”

For almost a year and a half enemy soldiers surrounded the city, not allowing anyone to enter or exit. All that was keeping them from invading the city were the walls all around it. So the enemies were building a ramp to the top of the wall to get into the city, and the people inside were starving. Samson’s mother had a small vegetable garden hidden just behind their house that was keeping her family just barely alive.

The very next morning Samson was awakened by yells and screams outside their house. He jumped out of bed and hid in the corner of the bedroom between the wall and a big box. Four soldiers burst into the room, swords drawn. Samson’s dad jumped out of bed and the closest soldier slashed his dad’s neck and ran his sword through his chest, killing him. The next soldier grabbed Samson’s mother and put his sword next to her neck. The third soldier said something in another language and the soldier holding Samson’s mother pushed her toward the third soldier. Just then the fourth soldier grabbed Samson’s arm and pulled him out of the corner. Samson’s mother screamed and yelled, “Don’t kill him. Let him live to serve you.”

Everything stopped for what seemed like forever. Then the soldier holding Samson’s mother said several words Samson couldn’t understand, and the soldier holding Samson by the back of his neck pulled him out of the house and they started walking down the street. The soldier’s hand on Samson’s neck was so tight he could do nothing but jog beside him to keep up. When he stumbled, the soldier grabbed the front side of his neck with his other hand and pulled him up, almost choking him. Samson looked at the soldier and said, “You are hurting me,” and the soldier stopped abruptly, took one hand and put it hard against Samson’s lips. Looking into Samson’s eyes, the soldier said two words Samson didn’t know. The soldier took his hand off Samson’s face and began walking again. Samson kept jogging silently.

Eventually, the soldier and Samson reached the Temple square where it looked like everyone living in the city was being watched by a legion of soldiers. The soldier holding Samson’s neck shoved him hard into the crowd, letting go of his neck. Samson almost fell down from the force of this shove, but was stopped by people who held out their hands to keep him upright. Samson just stood where he stopped, looking around. There was nobody he knew, so after a while he started walking among the people looking for anyone who might know him, but also looking at the circle of soldiers for a place he could sneak out and get away.

Sometime after noon, he saw an older boy try to escape by running through a gap between soldiers. But less than fifty feet from the circle, two soldiers behind the circle ran him down and killed him with their swords. Samson squatted down and started crying. A lady nearby came to him and putting her hand on his shoulder quietly said, “Don’t cry, little boy. You don’t want to attract the attention of the soldiers. It is worthless to try to escape.”

Samson took several deep breaths, then looked up at the lady and said “Thank you.”

After a while, Samson sat down where he had been stooping. Looking around, he noticed that most of the people were also sitting on the ground, and the soldiers were pacing back and forth around the circle. At least nothing bad was happening except that periodically a few more people were pushed into the group.

Then late in the afternoon a big soldier came up to the circle of soldiers and shouted something Samson didn’t understand. All the soldiers started walking to the corner the big soldier had come from.

When all the soldiers were gone the crowd sat, confused and overwhelmed by what they witnessed. As the sun was setting a few in the crowd stood up and began walking away. When the rest of the crowd saw that nothing was happening to them, they began walking away from the square in all directions. For some reason, the soldiers were all gone.

Samson got up and began walking home. As he came to a corner, he saw a blind beggar, sitting with his hand stretched our waiting for someone to give him money. Samson had seen this man at this corner every time he went to the Temple square, but he had never given him anything or even stopped. But this time he approached the man, squatted and asked, “Has anyone told you what happened today?”

The blind man said, “No, I heard a lot of shouting and crying and running, but no one stopped to tell me. Who are you?”

“My name is Samson. I have seen you here but never stopped to talk with you. But a soldier killed my father this morning, and another dragged my mother away. I have no one else to talk to.”

“Oooh, my child,” the blind man said reaching out his hand toward Samson, “I am so sorry you have no one. I know how that feels because I have no one either.” Samson collapsed into the arms of the blind man and began sobbing. “Cry, my child, cry as much as you need to,” the blind man said as he held Samson tightly.

After a while Samson stopped crying and just sat still in the dark in the blind man’s arms. Then sometime later the blind man asked, “Do you want to stay in my house tonight?”

“Yes,” Samson said.

“Then let’s stand up. Give me your hand, and I’ll lead you to my house. I know you can’t see in the dark, but I don’t need eyes to find my way home. You will be safe there.”

As they began walking, Samson broke the silence to say, “I don’t know your name. What is it?”

“My name is Bartholomew,” the blind man answered. “I am from the tribe of Benjamin.”

Two For One

The next morning when Samson woke up, Bartholomew was gone. Samson began exploring Bartholomew’s house. There was only one room with a table, a chair, two mats on the floor, a large water jug, a box with clothes in it and a box with overripe food. On the table was a piece of bread. Did Bartholomew leave the bread for me or not? Samson didn’t know, so remembering his mother’s words, “Never take anything that you don’t know is yours,” he left it, walked out the door and looked around to figure out where he was.

Remembering that walking in the darkness, they had walked up hill before entering Bartholomew’s home Samson turned to walk downhill to find him. It was a part of the city Samson had never explored before and they had turned several corners in the dark, so Samson walked for at least a couple of hours before he found himself on a street he knew. Then in a few minutes he came to Bartholomew’s corner. Sure enough, Bartholomew was sitting where he always sat to beg.

Without a word, Samson sat down next to Bartholomew. “I thought you might come, Samson,” Bartholomew said. “But I thought you might find your way to you own house and be there.”

“I don’t ever want to go back to my house,” Samson answered. “My father is still there. The soldiers took my mother away. I want to stay with you.”

After a long silence, Bartholomew said, “You don’t have to be alone, you can stay with me as long as you wish. You can be my eyes and I can teach you how to stay alive. But there might be some food at your house, so let us go there and get it before someone else walks in and steals it from you.”

“I don’t think I can go into that house,” Samson said, “It’s too scary.”

“It won’t be easy,” Bartholomew replied, “But I’ll be with you. You will learn that there is no limit to what you can do when someone is with you. I will have my hand on your shoulder the whole time, and we can quietly talk to each other all the way.”

“OK, let’s go,” Samson said, so as they stood up, Samson took Bartholomew’s hand and placed it on his shoulder, and off they went, Samson leading the way. When they arrived at Samson’s house, Samson stopped. The door was partly open. Was somebody inside? Samson stood there listening for voices or movement. He was just about to pull the door open wider, when Bartholomew whispered, “Is this your house?”

“Yes it is,” Samson whispered back.

“Someone is in there,” Bartholomew whispered. “I can hear him moving around.”

“What should we do?” Samson asked.

“Let’s move a little to our right,” Bartholomew whispered. “Then you swing the door wide open and I’ll yell at him to get out.”

“What if he doesn’t come out?” Samson whispered.

“He will,” Bartholomew said. “There are no fighters left in Jerusalem, just old people, and children.”

Samson quietly reached out to the door handle and yanked it wide open. Immediately Bartholomew, in a booming loud voice yelled, “Get out of my house!” Within 2 seconds, an old man, unable to run or even stand up straight, came out the door, took one look at Bartholomew and Samson, said one word – “Worthless,” and walked away, up the street as quickly as he could walk. Bartholomew stood still, listening for anyone else in the house, then said, “OK, Samson, lead me in.”

Samson put Bartholomew’s hand back on his shoulder and led him into his house. The first thing he saw was his father’s body on the floor where he had fallen. Samson gasped and paused. Bartholomew asked, “Samson, is that your father?”

“Yes,” Samson replied. “What should I do?”

“Let the dead bury their dead,” Bartholomew replied. We should walk around his body, find any food there is here and anything else you think might help, and then leave.”

Samson led Bartholomew to a chair, asked him to sit down, and found two large sacks. He started putting food in one and some of his clothes, his pillow, two plates and two cups, a knife, a pan and some candles in the other. He was just about to say, “Let’s go,” when he remembered his mother’s garden behind the house. Picking up the food sack he said, “I just thought about my mother’s garden. Maybe there are some ripe fruits or vegetables for us. There were indeed enough fruits and vegetables to just about fill the sack. Dragging the sack back into the house and up to Bartholomew, he asked, “Can you carry this bag? It is too heavy for me.” Bartholomew stood and reaching for the bag, hoisted it over his shoulder. Samson picked up the other bag, then placed Bartholomew’s hand on his shoulder and led him out the door and back to his begging corner. From there, Bartholomew led Samson back to his house, and together they prepared a healthy, delicious meal.

A week later, Bartholomew and Samson were almost out of food. The enemy soldiers had disappeared and more people were walking past Bartholomew’s corner, dropping pennies into his outstretched hand. Samson sat next to Bartholomew every day, but was increasingly impatient do something beyond just sitting and waiting. That morning, sensing Samson’s restlessness, Bartholomew said, “Samson, I guess you would like to go somewhere to play with friends or do anything but sit here next to me all day. Am I right?”

“I don’t have friends to play with any more, but I want to look around and see if I can find anyone who has food I can steal.”

“My child,” Bartholomew answered, “Don’t ever steal food or anything else. Our God who has promised to meet all our needs won’t bless us if we take away anything that belongs to someone else. Here, take these pennies people have given us and see what you can buy with them.” Bartholomew reached into his robe and gave Samson 12 pennies. “As you go, pray that our God Almighty will multiply the value of these pennies to meet our needs.”

“But I am afraid to go by myself, Samson said, Can you go with me? I’ll be your eyes and you can teach me how to stay alive.”

“OK,” Bartholomew replied, “I’ll be with you. You will learn that there is no limit to what you can do when someone is with you. I will have my hand on your shoulder the whole time, and we can quietly talk to each other all the way.”

They both stood up, Bartholomew reached out his hand, Samson put his shoulder under it, and Samson asked, “Where should we go?”

Let’s try the Temple square,” Bartholomew replied. When they got to the square, Samson said, “There are only a few people walking through the square.”

“Let’s enter the Temple,” Bartholomew replied. Samson had been there a few times with his mother, but only into the Court of Women, and there were always a lot of people in the Temple. But now there were only a few people, and Samson noticed that all the decorations he had seen earlier were gone. The enemy soldiers had stolen all the decorations and everything covered with gold or silver. He told Bartholomew what he saw, and Bartholomew sat down right where he was in the middle of the Temple and started crying.

After a few minutes, Samson said, “Don’t cry. The Temple is still here. It’s just not a beautiful as it was.”

“This is God’s house, His dwelling place on earth,” Bartholomew said. “The enemies have desecrated it. God allowed them to ruin our place of worship because we have turned away from Him and become as sinful as the enemies around us.”

“What does sinful mean?” Samson asked after Bartholomew had stopped crying.

“We are full of sin when we disobey God and do what we want to do rather than what God has told us is right.” Bartholomew answered. “That’s why I told you not to steal anything – because God told our ancestors to love Him and each other, and not to steal. When we disobey God, we become sinful.”

After a few more minutes, Samson asked Bartholomew if they could go somewhere else. Bartholomew got up, reached out his hand, and they left the Temple. “How about you lead us to the market place.” Bartholomew said. “Maybe there will be people with food there again, and we can buy something to eat.”

Samson had been to the market place with his mother many times, and it had always been full of vendors. She could buy just about anything she needed. Now there were just a few vendors, but they were all selling food. As they approached a woman selling loaves of bread, Samson whispered, “A lady here is selling bread.”

Bartholomew asked the lady, “How much do you want for a loaf of bread?”

“Twenty-five pennies,” she answered.

“Let’s move on,” Bartholomew said to Samson. “We don’t have that many pennies.”

They came next to a boy selling oranges. “How much do you want for an orange?” Samson asked.

“Six pennies,” the boy answered.

“We will buy two oranges for four pennies each,” Bartholomew said.

“I will sell you two oranges for ten pennies,” the boy answered.

“Nine pennies for two oranges,” Bartholomew countered.

“OK, give me nine pennies and you can choose two oranges,” the boy agreed.

Samson counted out nine pennies, gave them to the boy, and chose the two best oranges in the pile. “Thank you,” Bartholomew said as they walked away. Then turning to Samson, he said, “Let’s go somewhere we can sit down and eat our lunch.”

Samson found a place to sit under the shade of a tree, and Bartholomew turned his face skyward and said, “God of compassion, thank you for these oranges.” They each silently ate their lunch, then at Bartholomew’s request, Samson led them back to Bartholomew’s corner. As they sat there, several people came by, and almost all of them gave Bartholomew at least a penny.

Late in the afternoon, Bartholomew turned to Samson who had been napping, and said, “Let’s go back to the market place and see if we can buy some supper from the bread lady.” As they approached the bread lady, Bartholomew whispered to Samson, “You do the talking with her. OK?”

So Samson asked the bread lady, “How much do you want for a loaf of bread?”

“Ten pennies,” she answered.

“We’ll buy two loaves for four pennies each,” Samson answered.

“I have four loaves I will sell you for eighteen pennies,” she answered. “I don’t want to carry them home.”

“For fifteen pennies we will buy four loaves, and you won’t have to carry anything home,” Samson said.

“Give me the fifteen pennies, and the bread is yours,” the lady answered.

As they walked home, Bartholomew said, “Samson, you are a quick learner, but know that Almighty God, our provider, was with us today, and there is no limit to what you can do when our Almighty God is with you. He will have his hand on your shoulder the whole time, and you can quietly talk to Him and listen to Him all the way.”

Over time, Bartholomew and Samson developed a close friendship. Samson’s vision and ability to describe clearly what he was seeing gave Bartholomew a greater sense of the world around him – its beauty as well as its dangers. Bartholomew’s wisdom and patience gave Samson greater knowledge and wisdom, especially in his ability to face difficulties resulting from people who were intent on controlling him for their own purposes. In many ways Bartholomew became a father to Samson, and Samson became a son to Bartholomew.

One day when Samson was bored, sitting next to Bartholomew with very few people passing by, and even fewer people giving him coins, Samson said to Bartholomew, “I want to go into some of the stores and see what they are selling. Is that OK? I’ll come back after a while.”

Bartholomew’s answer was, “Bless the people you meet.” Samson didn’t know what that meant, but he thanked Bartholomew and stepped into the first door to his right. Within a few seconds the lady in the store said, “What are you doing in my store, beggar boy? Get out now, and don’t take anything with you.”

Samson turned around, left the store, and walked into the store next door. The man in that store looked at Samson cautiously. “Aren’t you the boy who sits with the blind beggar on the corner? Are you in here to steal something?” the man asked.

“No,” Samson answered. But if you wish, I will sweep the floor for you.”

“For free?” the man asked.

“No, for 3 pennies. Your store will look better and people will want to buy more, and you will make all your pennies back and more.” The man agreed, gave him a broom and watched Samson work. When he finished sweeping, the man told him to return every day and he would pay Samson 3 pennies every day he worked. Within four weeks, Samson was sweeping eleven stores every day, and getting three pennies from each of them.

One summer evening after dinner, Samson asked Bartholomew, “Several times now when I have asked you if I can go somewhere, you have said, ‘Bless the people you meet.’ What does that mean?”

“To bless someone is to give him something from God,” Bartholomew replied. “Several of the people you work for have told me how your hard work and friendly attitude gives them joy. You bless them by the way you work, so they are happy to pay you.”

“You talk about God a lot, but I’ve never seen him,” Samson said. “Who is he?”

“God is not a man you can see,” Bartholomew answered. But He is the one who created the world, the sun, moon and stars, and everything that exists, including people.”

“Even bad people?” Samson interrupted.

“No, all that God created is good,” Bartholomew said. “But God gave people the ability to choose to obey Him or reject Him. God blesses people who obey Him, but lets people who reject Him do what they want without is blessings. Sometimes people hurt other people to do what they want. Remember, Almighty God, our provider, is with us every day, and there is no limit to what you can do when our Almighty God is with you. He will have his hand on your shoulder the whole time, and you can quietly talk to Him and listen to Him all the way.”

Bullies

On a Friday two weeks later as he was almost finished sweeping his last store, a boy, older and bigger than Samson entered the store and started looking at the merchandise. The way he walked around and looked made Samson nervous, but he continued sweeping. Samson swept the pile of dirt out the back door and returned to be paid. As the owner counted out three pennies, Samson glanced at the boy and saw that he was watching closely. The boy turned and left, and Samson watched him disappear around Bartholomew’s corner.

The next Monday, another older, bigger boy watched the first owner pay him, and another boy came into the next store as Samson swept, and watched him get paid too. By Thursday, four different boys had watched Samson sweep and be paid, and Samson had seen them watching him. That evening Samson told Bartholomew about his fear that the big boys were going to hurt him to get his money. Bartholomew thought for a few minutes then said, “Samson, I wish I could shield you from those boys, but I can’t see, even to fight. If those boys surround you and demand your money, pray for God’s protection, and give it to them. They might still hurt you, but they will be hurting God too. God will strengthen you to absorb the pain because He knows the bigger picture. God Almighty will in His time use this experience, whether painful or not, to bless your life beyond what you can imagine.”

The very next day, when Bartholomew had finished sweeping the last store, not seeing any of the boys, he started walking home. Two blocks from the store, he rounded a corner and bumped into two of the boys. Beginning to back away, he backed into the other two. “Give me your money, kid, and be sure you give me all of it,” the first boy said, holding out his hand.

Samson reached into his robe and pulled out all the pennies and placed them into the boy’s hand. The boy counted it and said, “There should be thirty-three coins. There are only thirty-one.”

“Count again,” Samson said. “I gave you thirty-three pennies.”

“Stupid little kid,” the boy said. You are telling me that I can’t count? Here, take this!” And he punched Samson in the face. At that, all four boys started hitting and kicking Samson. One of them tore the robe off Samson’s body and started looking through it for more coins. By this time Samson was lying on the ground, trying to cover his head with his arms. Then, the other three boys stopped hitting and kicking and began pulling at his robe to find coins.

Finally one of the boys said, “No more money tonight, let’s go.” They dropped the torn robe onto Samson and ran away, laughing. Samson used his torn robe to wipe the blood from his nose, and walked back home. He didn’t tell Bartholomew about his beating.

The next Friday as he swept, he kept looking for the boys, but didn’t see any of them, but to be safe, he took a different way home. Just a block from home, the four boys ran from around the last corner and grabbed him, demanding his money again. This time they didn’t wait for Samson to give it to them, they started reaching into his robe to get it, and started punching and kicking him. As he fell to the ground, he saw the boy who was on top of him hitting his face flying backwards through the air. Then another boy was staggering back and falling. The third and fourth boys started running away. Looking back toward the first two boys, he saw a huge man close to him reaching down for his hand. The man pulled Samson to his feet, smiled, but said nothing, and let go of Samson’s hand.

Samson looked up and said, “Thank you, sir, no one has ever done anything like what you did for me.”

The man smiled, but said nothing. Instead he shook his head, put his hand over his mouth and just groaned.

Samson said, “It’s OK, you can tell me.”

But the man again put his hand over his mouth, then pulled it away, and Samson heard, “hum-m-um, um.”

“You cannot talk, can you.” Samson replied.

The man nodded.

“Would you please come with me to my home?” Samson asked. “It is only a block away. I want you to meet my new father.”

The man nodded, so Samson took his hand and led him home to meet Bartholomew. For the next eight years, Samson, Bartholomew and Big John, as they named him, lived together and took care of each other.


Family Discussion Questions
Worthless

This story is fictional, based on the accounts in Jeremiah 39 and II Kings 25:1-7 of the siege of Jerusalem and its capture by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.

Q. What words did you hear in the story that you didn’t know?

A. Give your children the meaning of each word they remember but can’t define.

Q. Would soldiers kill a man for no reason?

A. Yes, the king of Israel and his army had run away during the night, but were captured outside the city and executed. Many people in the city were killed, and others were taken away to Babylon to serve as slaves of the Babylonians.

Q. Why did the soldiers just go away?

A. The army of Zedekiah, king of Judah as well as the princes and nobles had escaped the city during the night, and Babylonian army left to capture them at Riblah, leaving only the poor people in the city.

Q. What do you think about Bartholomew’s words to Samson, “I’ll be with you. You will learn that there is no limit to what you can do when someone is with you.”

A. Accept and validate your child’s thoughts about the importance of a relationship of trust.

Q. What do you think about Bartholomew’s words, “There is no limit to what you can do when our Almighty God is with you. He will have his hand on your shoulder the whole time, and you can quietly talk to Him and listen to Him all the way.”

A. Accept and validate your child’s thoughts about the importance of a relationship of trust with Almighty God.

Q. What do you think about Bartholomew’s words, “If those boys surround you and demand your money, pray for God’s protection, and give it to them. They might still hurt you, but they will be hurting God too. God will strengthen you to absorb the pain because He knows the bigger picture. God Almighty will in His time use this experience, whether painful or not, to bless your life beyond what you can imagine.” Do you think that God might have brought Big John to Samson to protect him?

A. Accept your child’s answer and thank him or her.

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Copyright © 2018 by Dr. Rex Johnson
All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used with author’s permission.

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