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Return from Exile - Lesson Set

Gustave Doré’s Ezra Reads the Law to the People

Bible Reference:

Books of Ezra and Nehemiah

Key Verse:

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." I Thessalonians 5: 16-18 (NRSV)

Workshops Offered (with brief description

  • Art:  The students will make brick bookends as they reflect on the “building” that God does in their lives.      
  • Games: The students will learn about the story as they move through a life-size game board.   
  • Music:  The students will practice for singing in church (no lesson provided for this)
  • Video:  The students will watch and discuss What’s in the Bible:  Exile and Return.  The PreK students will learn more about prayer as they watch Prayer Bear.   

Suggested Story Books

Important Note for All Teachers on Telling the Bible Story:

Every station (workshop) includes the Bible story, as one of our main goals is for the children to learn what is in the Bible!  All children old enough to read should find the story in the Bible (there are Bibles in each classroom).  There are different ways to tell the Bible story:  teacher reads the story directly from the Bible as students follow along; students read several verses at a time (don’t force anyone to read); teacher reads the story from a Children’s Bible or a Bible storybook (make sure that the children know this is a true Bible story and not a make-believe story); use a flannelboard to tell the story (we have a wonderful, detailed set).

Later in the rotation, after the students have heard the story before, you could use some of these ideas to tell the story (make sure they are telling it correctly): You start the story and have them finish; go around in a circle and have each student add on a part of the story; tell the story with mistakes and have them correct you; use a picture book—instead of reading the story to them, show them the pictures and have them tell you the story; ask a series of questions about the story as a way of having them tell the story (Who are the main characters?  Where does story happen?  What happens first? ….Continue to ask leading questions until the story is done.)

** Part of telling the story is asking questions.  After you ask a question, wait. The silence may seem painfully endless, but often a moment is required for the students to think and collect their thoughts.  Another benefit of waiting for the answer is that everyone has time to think about an answer, instead of just listening to the quickest person’s answer.


Bible Background Information

Historical Setting

God’s people were united in one kingdom during the reigns of King Saul, King David, and King Solomon.  The later years of Solomon’s reign were troubled ones, as he began to turn away from the Lord.  He married many foreign wives and started to worship their idols.  After his death, the kingdom was divided into two:  the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah (whose territory included the city of Jerusalem).  Thus began a cycle of evil kings and prophets who tolerated or even supported idol worship, yet there were also faithful kings and prophets who called the people back to the true faith.

The two kingdoms eventually suffered the consequences of their disobedience.  The Northern Kingdom of Israel was captured and destroyed by the Assyrian empire in 622 B.C. and taken into captivity.  The Southern Kingdom of Judah was assailed by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.  There were several instances of deportations before Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 B.C.  Daniel (of the Lions’ Den fame) was one of those deported in 605 B.C.

Moses had warned the people of this possibility many, many years ago in Leviticus 26 when he talked to the people about the reward for obedience and the punishment for disobedience:  “If in spite of this you still do not listen to Me but continue to be hostile toward Me, then in my anger I will be hostile toward you…” (vv. 27-28).  The punishment would include being scattered among the nations and the land laid waste and the cities to lie in ruins (v. 33).  God goes on to say (through Moses) that “if they will confess their sins….I will remember my covenant” (vv. 40-41).  The prophet Jeremiah declared to the people of Judah that God would bring Nebuchadnezzar against their land and the land would become desolate and that they would undergo 70 years of captivity (Jer. 25: 8-11).  So, the punishment would not last forever. Isaiah, in a prophecy directed to the future exiles, tells them that Jerusalem shall be inhabited and that the towns of Judah will be rebuilt out of their ruins.  Isaiah also speaks of a man called Cyrus, whom God will use:  “he [Cyrus] will say of Jerusalem, ‘Let it be rebuilt,’ and of the temple, ‘Let its foundations be laid’” (v. 28).

These prophecies begin to be fulfilled around the year of 540 B.C. The king of Persia, a man named Cyrus(!), defeats the Babylonians. The Lord moves the heart of Cyrus to begin the process of returning the exiles to their home.  The return from exile is actually a series of three returns, with three different leaders.  This series of stories is told in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah (the oldest manuscripts treated these as one book).

Zerubbabel

God moved the heart of King Cyrus to make a proclamation that the exiles could return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple of the Lord.  Around 50,000 people made the journey to Jerusalem.  Many of the exiles opted not to make the long and difficult journey back to Jerusalem, among them the parents of Esther (who would become the Queen of the Persian king Xerxes).  They were given gifts by their neighbors, and the items that had been stolen from the temple 70 years earlier by Nebuchadnezzar were returned to them.  Their leaders included Sheshbazzar, Jeshua, and Zerubbabel (a grandson of Jehoiachin, the King of Judah, who had been carried off to Babylon).

Upon their arrival, they rebuilt the altar so that they could offer sacrifices to the Lord.  Then they laid the foundation for the new temple to be built.  Work on the new temple faltered because the people became busy working on their own homes and because of intimidation.  The neighboring Samaritans soon began to oppose the building of the temple.  They lodged complaints via letters to the new king of Persia, implying possible rebellion and threats to the king from the inhabitants of Judah.  The king sent a letter, stating that the work should stop.  And so it did for 15-20 years.

The prophets Haggai and Zechariah began encouraging the people to work, not on their own homes, but on the house of the Lord.  Work resumed and again the neighbors complained, this time to King Darius.  There was a different outcome this time.  Darius rediscovered the original decree from King Cyrus and ordered that the rebuilding continue.  The temple was completed, the dedication was celebrated with great joy, and the people celebrated Passover.

Ezra

The next phase in the return of the exiles began about 60 years later.  Ezra (whose name means helper) was a priest directly descended from the first chief priest Aaron (brother of Moses).  The new king of Persia, Artaxerxes, gave him the task of going to Jerusalem and teaching the people about the laws of God.  Zerubbabel had been in charge of building the physical temple; Ezra was tasked with rebuilding the spiritual foundations of the people.

Ezra assembled another smaller group of exiles.  He was also given gifts (worth millions of dollars today) to bring to the house of the Lord.  These riches would be tempting bait for robbers.  Ezra “was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, ‘The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.’ So we fasted and petitioned our God about this…” (Ezra 8: 22-23).  The people and the gifts arrived safely.

Shortly after his arrival, Ezra learns that some of the people and even the priests have been marrying pagans from neighboring lands.  This was a serious problem because it could lead to people turning from God to worship pagan idols (something that had happened in the past).  Ezra demonstrated the seriousness of this offense by falling to his knees, weeping and tearing his clothing, and pulling out his hair.  He prayed to God.  The people observed this and they, too, wept.  They also confessed their sins.  The unlawful marriages were dissolved.  Ezra helped to spark a spiritual revival.

Nehemiah

Nehemiah (whose name means “comfort of Yahweh" entered the picture thirteen years later.  He was not of kingly descent (like Zerubbabel) or priestly descent (like Ezra).  He was an ordinary man who held a high position in the court of King Artaxerxes of Persia.  He was the cupbearer—he chose and tasted the king’s wine to make sure that it was not poisoned.  Even though it doesn’t seem like a very prestigious job, it actually was very important.  The king had to have the utmost confidence in him.  Nehemiah had heard from his brother that the city walls of Jerusalem remained in ruins, which would leave the city defenseless against its enemies.  He immediately wept and prayed to God.  The king asked him why he was so sad.  Again, Nehemiah prayed before answering and then asked the king’s permission to journey to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls.  The king appointed him governor and sent him to Jerusalem with another group of returning exiles and an armed escort.

Nehemiah toured the walls late one night; the damage was so bad that some of the roads were impassable.  He spoke with the Jewish officials and told them how the gracious hand of God had been upon him.  Work on rebuilding the walls soon commenced.  All of the people worked together, including groups such as the high priest and goldsmiths and women; often working in the vicinity of where they lived.  Just like with the temple, opposition arose from the neighbors.  It started with ridicule, which had no effect.  Then they plotted to fight against Jerusalem.  In response, the people prayed and posted guards.  Half worked and half guarded.  Those who worked had materials in one hand and weapons in the other.

Fear of attack from the outside wasn’t the only problem.  Internal financial problems were cropping up.  Nehemiah was angry that some rich people were taking advantage of their fellow Jews by charging exorbitant rates of interest and causing them to sell their property and subject their children to slavery.  Nehemiah demanded that they give the money back, which they did.

Rebuilding continued.  The walls (which scholars estimated to be about 2 miles around) were completed in just 52 days.  Under Nehemiah’s leadership, the people overcame opposition and worked together to achieve their goal.  Surrounding nations were afraid because they realized that this could only have been done with the help of God.

Then all of the people gathered in one of the squares of the city.  Ezra stood on a high wooden platform and read from the Book of the Law.  The people stood and listened attentively from daybreak until noon!  The Levites explained things so that the people could understand what was being read.  The people wept as they listened.  Ezra and Nehemiah instructed them not to grieve but to celebrate because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.  Later that month, they confessed their sins and remembered all that God had done for them.  The people of God were restored both religiously and politically to their homeland.

Key Ideas

  • Rebuilding is covered on many levels.  First, there is the physical rebuilding of the temple and the city walls.  Then there is the spiritual rebuilding of God’s people after Ezra re-acquaints them with God’s law.  God continues to “rebuild” us.  First, when we were washed in the waters of baptism and became children of God.  He continues to renew us as the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of all believers.        
  • The destruction of Jerusalem may have seemed like the end of God’s promises and led to doubts, but God remembered and restored His people.  They were still God’s people and He had not forgotten them.  God keeps His promises. Whether the struggle is physical, mental, or spiritual—God is at our side.  God never leaves or forsakes us.        
  • God moved the hearts of secular rulers (Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes) to allow, even encourage and help, the Jewish people to return home. He used them to fulfill His promises to His chosen people.  God guides history for the sake of His people.        
  • God uses all kinds of people in all types of places doing all sorts of work. Do you feel you must be “in ministry” in order to serve God?   He is not limited by your vocation. In fact, God has placed you where you are for a purpose.        
  • Nehemiah’s life a wonderful example of leadership.        
  • There are a number of examples of prayer in these two books.  It is important to note that Nehemiah went directly to the Lord in prayer when he was faced with challenging circumstances.  He certainly did not consider prayer to be a measure of last resort.  As our Bible verse says, pray without ceasing.

References:




A set written by Cathy Walz from St. John Lutheran Church,
Forest Park, IL. 2014.

Images in this post are in the Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons: The painting "Ezra Reads the Law to the People is by Gustave DorÉ. (1866)

A representative of Rotation.org reformatted this post to improve readability.

Printed from https://www.rotation.org

Last edited by Luanne Payne
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A Note on Several of the Materials Used in this Lesson Set

Ezra and Nehemiah Storybooks

Screen Shot of the cover of the Arch book

The story is too long to read from the Bible, so we used a combination of 3 items, in this order:

  • The Arch Book from Concordia Publishing, called "Zerubbabel Rebuilds the Temple"
  • I wrote a short bit about Ezra, which I illustrated with a few pieces of clipart or pictures from coloring books.  Here is the text:

    Ezra Teaches the People:  Sixty  years had gone by since Zerubbabel (pronounced: zuh-RUHB-uh-buhl) had rebuilt the temple.  A new king decided to send Ezra to Jerusalem to teach the people there about God’s laws.

    Ezra was a priest and his name meant “helper”.  Ezra gathered together another group of exiles to return to Jerusalem.  The king gave them many expensive gifts to take with them to the Lord’s temple.  These riches would be tempting for robbers along the way.  Ezra did not want to ask the king for soldiers to protect the people and their expensive gifts, because he had told the king that God would be with them.  So the people gathered together.  Ezra said that he would pray to God and ask God for a safe journey for us and our children.  God did watch over them and they arrived safely in Jerusalem.

    Shortly after they arrived, Ezra learned that the people had been doing many of the same sins that had led them away from God in the past.  Ezra fell to his knees and wept and prayed to God.   The people were sorry for their sins and changed the way that they were behaving.  Ezra helped the people to rebuild their lives with God.
  • There is a short story about Nehemiah at this Web address that we also used:  http://www.biblewise.com/kids/.../nehemiah-builds.php

Story Cards

I created 8 story cards (4 per page) about different aspects of the story and found a picture to go with each of them.  (I can't include all of them here due to copyright issues.) These were the titles or descriptions of the 8 cards in order:

  1. Led Into Captivity
  2. 70 Years of Exile
  3. Small map with an arrow showing the route from Babylon to Jerusalem
  4. Rebuilding the Altar and Temple
  5. The King Sent Ezra to Jerusalem to Teach the People about the Law of God
  6. Nehemiah Prays to God
  7. Nehemiah rebuilds the wallsRebuilding the Walls
  8. Ezra Reads the Law



Images in this post:
The Arch book cover via Amazon (fair use)
Rebuilding the walls offered by Sweet Publishing under a Creative Commons usage agreement.

A representative of Rotation.org reformatted this post to improve readability.

Printed from https://www.rotation.org

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Images (2)
  • Arch book cover
  • Nehemiah rebuilds the walls
Last edited by Luanne Payne

Return from Exile

Art Workshop

Summary of Lesson Activities:

The students will make brick bookends as they reflect on the “building” that God does in their lives.   

Scripture Reference and Key Verse

See above in the first post


Preparation

1.  Review Bible Background notes.
2.  Pray for the children and for your teaching of the lesson.

Materials List:

  • Bibles (found classrooms)         
  • Pencils, crayons, markers, paper, scissors (found in guide boxes—kept in classrooms)         
  • Zerubbabel Rebuilds the Temple (Arch book)         
  • Storybook on Ezra and Nehemiah (described here)         
  • Set of 8 story cards (described here)  

Bible Storybook Ideas:  You may read the story from the Bible or a Bible storybook (make sure that the children know this is a true Bible story and not a storybook).  

  • Red or gray bricks (not ones with holes)—new or “used.” If you use old bricks, make sure that they are clean and dry. You will need one per student.         
  • Felt pieces (or felt dots like those sold in hardware stores)         
  • Paper and pencil in case students want to draw out designs first         
  • Newspaper or plastic tablecloths to protect tables         
  • Paint shirts         
  • Acrylic paints         
  • Paint brushes         
  • Small bowls (to pour paint colors into)         
  • Fabric remnants (in sizes large enough to cover a brick)         
  • Sharp scissors      
  • Fabric markers         
  • Glue Guns         
  • Scrapbook paper         
  • Paper and paper scraps in various colors         
  • Scissors         
  • Permanent markers         
  • Stickers         
  • Glue         
  • Pictures from magazines         
  • Modge podge or spray sealant         
  • Paper plates

Advance Preparation Requirements:

  • Refer to schedule and decide how you will make adjustments for the different ages.         
  • Obtain supplies from the SS storage areas the week BEFORE you teach (just in case supplies are missing, etc)         
  • If you are using a Bible storybook, check to see if it is there.         
  • Print out the set of 8 story cards and cut them apart         
  • We don’t want the bookends ruining anyone’s furniture!  The bookends are meant to stand upright.  You need to put felt on one of the small ends.  You can either cut pieces of felt and use a glue gun to attach the felt.  Or you can attach the felt circles that you can buy at hardware stores.         
  • Decide which of the techniques you will use (so you may not need ALL of these supplies)         
  • Several of the options involve covering the bricks (except for the felt end) with fabric of scrapbook paper—like you would if you were wrapping it as a gift.  Pre-cut fabric pieces or scrapbook paper to the right size for the bricks.         
  • On the day of class, put newspaper or plastic tablecloths on the tables to protect them.  Set all of the materials out so they will be ready for the students.  Leave one area clear for the Bible study portion of class.         
  • See the references section for some links to ideas about making brick bookends in case you need more information.

 Important Note for Art Station Teachers:

The goal is to engage the creative imagination of the child--not to bring home an attractive and easily recognizable project (that looks like everyone else’s—or exactly like the teacher’s sample). The teacher is there to instruct in the art method,  not to make it “look right” or dictate what is created, unless the student is not relating it to the lesson at all (Ex.—making kitty sculpture when studying Jonah). There are times when a “craft” project is OK, but it shouldn’t be the main method in the Art Station.



Presentation

Opening-Welcome and Lesson Introduction

  1. Introduce yourself to the students. 
  2. Introduce the day’s story/station and the main learning purpose: For the past two months, we have been learning Bible stories about the time when God’s people were being held captive in a foreign land. They were in exile. The people we learned about were Daniel and Esther. Now we will be learning about the time when God’s people RETURNED from exile. They returned to the land of Israel and to the city of Jerusalem.  A lot of this story is about building—rebuilding the temple and the city walls. It is also about the people rebuilding their lives with God. So we are going to think about the “building” that God does in our lives by decorating building bricks.
  3. Open with a prayer.

Dig-Main Content and Reflection:

Please make sure that the students hear and “get” the Bible story as well as the application of that story to their lives. The Bible story is the MOST important part of the lesson—it is much more important than the activity associated with this station!

Say:  Before we start, I want to give you a little background information. This story takes place late in the time of the Old Testament—before Jesus was born. It takes place long after King David. There had been many kings after David. The people became increasingly wicked and most stopped worshipping God. The people of Israel were defeated and the people taken away from their country and into exile. God remembered His people and kept His promise to return them to their country. Our story is told in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.  Have the older students find the book of Ezra.

Say:  The story in the Bible is much too long to read word for word, since it is two entire books. We have some Bible storybooks that will help you to learn the story. 

Read the Arch book on Zerubbabel first. Then read the printed out book on Ezra and Nehemiah.

Show the children the set of 8 story cards. Have them put them in the right order.

If this is the second or later week of the rotation, you could try showing the pictures in the books and having the students tell you the story.

Questions:

Ask a few questions about the Bible story.  You can ask

  • Factual questions (Who, What, When, Where, etc)         
  • Why questions (Why did they do this, why did this happen, etc)         
  • What do you think or feel about what happened?         
  • Application questions—some examples (How were their lives different because….. and how would your life be different;   Was……..different or harder in Bible times than it would be now; what would this look like today; how could you……….)

Activities:

There were all sorts of building going on in this story. Zerubbabel helped rebuild the altar and the temple. Nehemiah helped rebuild the walls of the city. Ezra helped the people rebuild their spiritual lives by his teaching. Let’s talk a little bit about this. It will help you think how you want to decorate your brick bookends.

Ask:

  • Our faith lives are built on Jesus and what He has done for us. What has Jesus done for us?  How could you show that on your brick?         
  • God wants to “build us up” in our faith. One of the first things that God did for us happened at our baptism when we became children of God.  What other things does God do to help build us up in our faith?         
  • What does God want to build us up to be and do?

Say:  You are each going to make one brick bookend. I want you to think about how you are going to show at least one of these ideas on your brick. Perhaps you will paint or draw a picture about it. Or find some stickers or magazine pictures. Or maybe you will put a pretty design on your brick and then write some words on it.

Tell them the different ways that they can use to decorate their bricks. They will have to pick just one way. Some of these methods require a glue gun—only adults should operate the glue gun!

  • They can paint their brick.  They should stand the brick upright (with the felt side down).  The bricks may absorb a good bit of paint so they might have to put several layers on.         
  • They can cover their brick with fabric.  Use the glue gun to put some glue on the brick.  Start wrapping the brick.  Use more glue to secure the fabric (just like you would use tape if you were wrapping a package.  Don’t put fabric on the felt side.  They may need to use scissors to trim the fabric. After the fabric is on, they can decorate the fabric:  drawing with fabric or permanent markers; cutting shapes from other pieces of fabric or felt and gluing these on.         
  • They can cover their brick with paper. Use the glue gun to put some glue on the brick.  Start wrapping the brick. Use more glue to secure the paper (just like you would use tape if you were wrapping a package. Don’t put paper on the felt side. Then they can decorate their paper: put on stickers; draw with permanent markers; glue on pictures from magazines; glue on shapes that they have cut from other pieces of colored paper.  They should then cover with the modge podge or spray on adhesive (adults should do any spraying). 

Have the children think about their design for a few minutes—they can draw out their design if they like.  Then they can start decorating their bricks.  These bricks are going to take some time to dry, so they will have to leave them until next week.  Place each brick on a paper plate labeled with their name.

Reflect/Closure:

Go around the classroom and have each student talk about their brick and how the design relates to the idea of building faith.

Close in prayer.


Age Adaptations

Younger students:  They may need more help with the materials.

PreK-Kindergarten Adaptations 

(Since these students have the need for simpler activities—and have shorter attention spans—we offer these more detailed adaptations.  In most cases, the main part of the lesson will be shorter.  The extra time at the end could be filled with various activity stations, such as play dough, puzzles, coloring, rice/grain table, etc). Supplies for these activities are kept on the shelves in Room 301—you will need to take them with you to whichever room your station is assigned.

1.  Additional Materials List

       Plastic pencil box filled with song cards

2.  Changes to Activities

You might want to pick just one technique for everyone in the class to use.  Some possible adaptations:

  • For painting:  You might want to prepaint the bricks in some neutral solid colors.  Cut some shapes out of sponges (heart, cross, person silhouette, etc).  The students can take moistened sponges, dip them in paint, and then press the sponge onto the bricks.         
  • For fabric or paper:  think about precutting some shapes or pictures for them to place on their bricks.

3.  Activity Station Ideas (if time permits)

4.  Changes to Closing

         Pick out 1 or 2 songs from the song box to sing with the class


Resources/Bibliography 


 

A lesson written by Cathy Walz from St. John Lutheran Church,
Forest Park, IL.  2014.

A representative of Rotation.org reformatted this post to improve readability.

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Return from Exile

Games Station

Summary of Lesson Activities:

The students will learn about the story as they move through a life-size game board.

Scripture Reference and Key Verse:

See above in the first post.


Preparation

1.  Review Bible Background notes.

2.  Pray for the children and for your teaching of the lesson.

Materials List:

  • Bibles (found classrooms)        
  • Pencils, crayons, markers, paper, scissors (found in guide boxes—kept in classrooms)        
  • Zerubbabel Rebuilds the Temple (Arch book)        
  • Storybook on Ezra and Nehemiah (described here)        
  • Set of 8 story cards (described here)         

Bible Storybook Ideas:  You may read the story from the Bible or a Bible storybook (make sure that the children know this is a true Bible story and not a storybook).  

  • Large game dice        
  • Life-size game board        
  • Question list – see end  of lesson        
  • Old Testament map        
  • Several large garbage bags filled with crumpled up newspaper        
  • A small pile of building blocks or large Legos        
  • A picture of the city of ancient Jerusalem (you will need one copy per class)
  • Flashlight        
  • Several hammers or other building tools (no saws please)        
  • Play Sword

Note on the game board:

For our game board, we have 40 or so large rectangular pieces of Fun Foam in a variety of colors (available at any craft store). One side is blank. The other side has one of 3 symbols drawn on them: a question mark, a cross, or a stick of dynamite. For this game, lay out the foam pieces on the floor in a wandering pattern (just like a Chutes and Ladder or Candyland board). Make sure that the symbol side is showing and have these set out in a random fashion.

Advance Preparation Requirements:

  • Refer to schedule and decide how you will make adjustments for the different ages.
  • Obtain supplies from the SS storage areas the week BEFORE you teach (just in case supplies are missing, etc)—check with the Meiers for access to storage areas.
  • If you are using a Bible storybook, check to see if it is there.
  • Print out the set of 8 story cards and cut them apart.
  • Attach pieces of  paper with the numbers 1-6 on the 6 sides of the large game dice
  • Set up the board and props before the students’ arrival.

Important Note for Games Station Teachers:

Playing games helps to cement the knowledge and reinforce the skills you introduce during the Bible lesson. The goal of the games station is to learn the Bible story—it is not meant to be competitive!!  If there are teams, you might want to assign them instead of having the students choose teams.  Try for a mix of ages and knowledge.

When a team is to answer a question, have the entire team work together on the answer even if only one team member is to give the answer.  This gets the entire team thinking—and keeps the pressure off someone who is unsure of their knowledge.  Games with questions can involve the whole class even if only one student answers (they are all thinking of the answer even though you only call on one).  Use both factual and Bible truth (real-life application) questions.



Presentation

Opening-Welcome and Lesson Introduction:

  1. Introduce yourself to the students.
  2. Introduce the day’s story/station and the main learning purpose: For the past two months, we have been learning Bible stories about the time when God’s people were being held captive in a foreign land. They were in exile. The people we learned about were Daniel and Esther. Now we will be learning about the time when God’s people RETURNED from exile. They returned to the land of Israel and to the city of Jerusalem.  We will be learning more about the story as we play a game on a giant life-sized game board.
  3. Open with a prayer.

Dig-Main Content and Reflection:

Please make sure that the students hear and “get” the Bible story as well as the application of that story to their lives.  The Bible story is the MOST important part of the lesson—it is much more important than the activity associated with this station!

Say:  Before we start, I want to give you a little background information. This story takes place late in the time of the Old Testament—before Jesus was born. It takes place long after King David.  There had been many kings after David. The people became increasingly wicked and most stopped worshipping God. The people of Israel were defeated and the people taken away from their country and into exile. God remembered His people and kept His promise to return them to their country. Our story is told in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

Have the older students find the book of Ezra.

Say:  The story in the Bible is much too long to read word for word, since it is two entire books. We have some Bible storybooks that will help you to learn the story.

Read the Arch book on Zerubbabel first. Then read the printed out book on Ezra and Nehemiah.

Show the children the set of 8 story cards. Have them put them in the right order.

If this is the second or later week of the rotation, you could try showing the pictures in the books and having the students tell you the story.

Questions:

Ask a few questions about the Bible story.  You can ask

  • Factual questions (Who, What, When, Where, etc)
  • Why questions (Why did they do this, why did this happen, etc)
  • What do you think or feel about what happened?
  • Application questions—some examples (How were their lives different because….. and how would your life be different;   Was……..different or harder in Bible times than it would be now; what would this look like today; how could you……….)

Activities: Play the Game

  • Divide the children into teams of two to four.        
  • Teams roll one die to determine how many spaces to move forward. All team members must move together and stay on the game board spaces together. (The crowding adds to the fun!)  To eliminate too much crowding and bunching up, you might want to start some of the teams at one end of the board and the other teams at the opposite end of the board.  Either way, they have to go through the entire board to win.        
  • When teams land on a specially marked space (cross, question or dynamite) ask them a question from the appropriate question list. Be sure to ask the questions in order.  If they have to leave this square to do an activity, have the guide keep track of the space that they were on.        
  • Teams MUST CONFER together before answering – absolutely NO CALLING OUT OF ANSWERS! (This is important – we want all children including newcomers, visitors or infrequent attendees to feel comfortable. If necessary, tell teams who call out answers without conferring together, that they will lose a turn.)        
  • If children need help and there is a Bible reference, encourage them to use their Bibles as a lifeline! (After all – we want them to learn that they can find answers in their Bibles!)        
  • If a team answers the question correctly, follow the directions on the question list. (move forward or back). Play then passes to the next team.        
  • After following the instructions on the question list, play passes to the next team. (even if the cards tell teams to move ahead and they land on another marked space their turn ends!)        
  • Have the team with the youngest child go first.        
  • First team to get to the finish line is the winner.

Reflect/Closure:

If you finish the game, but have not read all the questions, use some of the remaining ones for discussion.

Close in prayer.


Age Adaptations

Younger students:  If some of the questions are proving to be too difficult, make them multiple choice or true/false.

PreK-Kind Adaptations

(Since these students have the need for simpler activities—and have shorter attention spans—we offer these more detailed adaptations.  In most cases, the main part of the lesson will be shorter.  The extra time at the end could be filled with various activity stations, such as play dough, puzzles, coloring, rice/grain table, etc). Supplies for these activities are kept on the shelves in Room 301—you will need to take them with you to whichever room your station is assigned.

1.  Additional Materials List

         Plastic pencil box filled with song cards

2.  Changes to Activities

You may need to simplify some of the questions or make them multiple choice or True/False.  There may be a few questions that you will want to eliminate.

3.  Activity Station Ideas (if time permits)

Building blocks—reinforce the idea of the rebuilding of the temple church and the city walls.

4.  Changes to Closing

        Pick out 1 or 2 songs from the song box to sing with the class




Resources/Bibliography


Return from Exile Question List:

Question Mark Spaces:

(Teams that answer correctly may move ahead one space)

  1. This story is found in which Testament of the Bible?  (Old)
  2. Which two books of the Bible is this story found in?  (Ezra and Nehemiah)
  3. The people were held in captivity in the land of Babylon.  Run to the wall map and show Babylon on the map!
  4. How many different groups returned from exile to Jerusalem?  (Three)
  5. Who was the first leader that returned with fellow exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem?  (Zerubbabel)
  6. True or False:  The temple was rebuilt by people who had always lived in Jerusalem because they had never gone into exile.  (False)
  7. The next leader was Ezra.  He was sent to teach the people about God’s laws.  Tell us one thing that you know about God.  (Accept any reasonable answer)
  8. True or False:  Ezra was a king  (False—he was a priest)
  9. How did Nehemiah react when he heard about the broken walls of Jerusalem—act it out.  (Nehemiah cried; they might also say prayed—either is acceptable)
  10. Nehemiah prayed often to God.  When are two times that you can pray to God?  (accept any reasonable answer)
  11. Prayer is important.  Go to the story wall and find the memory verse. Then stand as a group and recite it together  (I Thessalonians 5: 16-18)
  12. God used all kinds of people in this story to help his people.  He used kings in foreign lands who didn’t even believe in Him. He used priests.  He used regular people like you and me.  Name someone who helps you to know more about Jesus?  (Accept any reasonable answer)

Cross Spaces:

Teams may move ahead two spaces after answering or doing the action or the card is read (Remember it is important to know the answers to questions, but it is more important to SHOW that we know by acting that way!)

  1. God remembered His people and helped them to return to their homeland.  Raise your arms in the air and shout “God, Please Help Us!”
  2. When was a time that God helped you?  (accept any reasonable answer)
  3. Zerubbabel had to go back to Jerusalem—a city that was in ruins and surrounded by enemies.  Even though it was scary, Zerubbabel obeyed God.
  4. The first thing that Zerubbabel and the people did was to rebuild the altar so that they could worship God.  Then they would start rebuilding the walls of the temple.
  5. Work on the temple had stopped for many years.  They were able to finish building the temple when the former king’s law was found.
  6. Ezra was the second leader to bring people back to Jerusalem.  The king in Babylon gave them many expensive gifts to bring to God’s house.  Take the large bags and carry them across the room.
  7. Nehemiah, the third leader, prayed to God for help on many occasions.
  8. Nehemiah led the people in rebuilding the walls of the city.  Use the blocks to build a wall.
  9. The walls of the city were almost 2 miles around.  With God’s help, the people were able to rebuild these walls in just 52 days!
  10. The people worked together to do what God wanted them to do.
  11. After the walls of the city were rebuilt, the people stood and listened for half a day while Ezra read to them from God’s Word.  Find a Bible and bring it to the altar area by the cross and the mosaic.
  12. The people celebrated after they had heard God’s Word.  Jump up and down and shout “Yeah” three times.

Dynamite Spaces:

Teams must go back one space, unless otherwise directed, after landing on this space.

  1. God’s people kept disobeying God and turning away from Him.  The city of Jerusalem was destroyed and the people were taken away into exile and captivity.  Tear up the picture of the city of Jerusalem.
  2. The people were in captivity in a foreign land for 70 years.  Jump up and down 7 times—once for each 10 years of captivity.
  3. The enemies of God’s people stopped Zerubbabel and the people from finishing the building of the temple.  GO BACK TO START!
  4. The people of Israel listened to their neighboring enemies instead of listening to God.
  5. Ezra fell to his knees and wept and prayed when he saw that the people of God were sinning.
  6. You disobeyed your parents and then you lied about it.
  7. What does God want us to do when we sin?  (ask for His forgiveness)
  8. When Nehemiah first arrived in Jerusalem, he went out at night to see what shape the walls of the city were in and found that they were in a terrible mess.  Take the flashlight and walk around the wall with the altar and mosaic so that you can “inspect” it.
  9. The neighbors of Israel made fun of them and tried to make them stop building the walls.
  10. You made fun of someone at school.
  11. The enemies of Israel said that they would attack and fight them to keep them from rebuilding the walls.  So God’s people put guards all around the city.  The Bible says that they worked on the walls with a sword in one hand and tools in the other.  Find the tools and hammers and bring them to the teacher.
  12. In all of their difficult times, God was with His people.  Tell about a time when God was with you.  (accept any reasonable answer)



A lesson written by Cathy Walz from St. John Lutheran Church,
Forest Park, IL. 2014.

A representative of Rotation.org reformatted this post to improve readability.

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Return from Exile

Volume 7 in the series What's in The Bible?

Video Station

Summary of Lesson Activities:

The students will watch and discuss Volume 7 in the DVD series “What’s in the Bible?" Volume 7 is called: "Exile and Return”.

The PreK students will learn more about prayer as they watch “Prayer Bear."

Scripture Reference and Key Verse:

See above to the first post.  


Preparation

  1. Review Bible Background notes.
  2. Pray for the children and for your teaching of the lesson.

Materials List:

  • Bibles (found classrooms)      
  • Pencils, crayons, markers, paper, scissors (found in guide boxes—kept in classrooms)      
  • Storybook on Ezra and Nehemiah (described here) — printouts of this will be provided (for PreK)      

Bible Storybook Ideas:  You may read the story from the Bible or a Bible storybook (make sure that the children know this is a true Bible story and not a storybook).  

  • Through the Bible in Felt—Felt Board and Figures        
  • See List in Bible Background document
  • DVD Player      
  • Projector or TV      
  • DVD:  What’s in the Bible? Volume 7: Exile and Return!      
  • DVD:  The Adventures of Prayer Bear “Best Friends” (for PreK)      
  • Large sheet of paper      
  • Tape

Advance Preparation:

  • Refer to schedule and decide how you will make adjustments for the different ages.      
  • Watch the videos beforehand, so that you are familiar with them.      
  • On the large sheet of paper, write the following (basically a summary of the video):  Kings have trouble being good – Theme Song – Where are we in the Bible? – Empires – Cyrus lets the Exiles Return – Sheshbazaar (and Zerubbabel) Rebuild the Temple – Ezra – Nehemiah Rebuilds the Walls – Quick Review.  Tape to wall.      
  • Before class starts, get the video cued up to the designated spot. This is especially important for the video with the older kids so that there will be time enough for the video and discussion.

Important Note for Video Station Teachers:

With video, we are tapping into the brain's love of media to teach God's Word and improve the brain's ability to recall it and embrace it.  It should not just be passive “sitting and watching”—we are engaging the kids with the video.  The “Pause” feature on your remote is a great teaching tool—build that into the lessons.  Stop and ask questions—did you notice such and such—what would you do—what do you think will happen next, etc.  Don't be afraid to view an important scene a second time (if time permits).

Before the video begins, assign them things to look for.  You might want to hand out paper and pencil to help out in this.  After the video, debrief and process the story:  What did you see?  What happened?  Did anyone notice ___?  What was the reaction of ___ to ___?  What would have been your response?

Familiarize yourself with the video before the day of class.  Before class starts, make sure that you understand how the equipment operates.  Load your video and get it to the starting point mentioned in the lesson. Some videos may take some liberties with the story-you may need to point out these discrepancies.





Presentation

Opening-Welcome and Lesson Introduction:

This lesson is for Grades 1-6.  Please see the end of this document

for the lesson for PreK and Kindergarten!

  1. Introduce yourself to the students.
  2. Introduce the day’s story/station and the main learning purpose:      For the past two months, we have been learning Bible stories about the time when God’s people were being held captive in a foreign land.  They were in exile.  The people we learned about were Daniel and Esther.  Now we will be learning about the time when God’s people RETURNED from exile.  They returned to the land of Israel and to the cityof Jerusalem.  We will be watching a video all about these two books of the Bible—Ezra and Nehemiah.
  3. Open with a prayer.

Dig-Main Content and Reflection:

Please make sure that the students hear and “get” the Bible story as well as the application of that story to their lives.  The Bible story is the MOST important part of the lesson—it is much more important than the activity associated with this station!

There is a series of videos called “What’s in the Bible” that teaches about EVERY book in the Bible. We are going to watch part of one that deals with Ezra and Nehemiah. This is what the video will be going over.  Point to the large sheet of paper that you have written out:

  • Kings have trouble being Good—a lot of the kings of God’s people had trouble following God and that got them (and the people) into some trouble      
  • Theme Song—then we have the theme song      
  • Where are we in the Bible—tells us a little bit about where these books are in the Bible      
  • Empires—talks about the 2 empires that conquered God’s people and took them into captivity      
  • Cyrus—this is where the exiles first start returning to their land      
  • Sheshbazaar (and Zerubbabel)—there were several leaders in that first return.  The book that we read focuses more on Zerubbabel; the video talks more about Sheshbazaar.  They were both around.      
  • Ezra—He came with the second group of exiles and helped teach the people      
  • Nehemiah—He came with the third group of exiles.  Prayer was very important for him.      
  • Review

Questions:

See 'Reflect Closure" section below.

Activities: Show video

From the DVD menu, choose “Chapters.” This will take you to the six chapters of Part 1.  Choose the first one, which is “On to Ezra and Nehemiah.”  We will be watching for around 8-9 minutes. STOP the DVD after Nebuchadnezzar is mentioned and you see his name written on a black background (we are going to skip the section on “True and Trustworthy.")

Go to the menu again and choose the chapter called “Cyrus Lets the Exiles Return.”  We will watch the remainder of this section, through the review of the stories and Buck Denver and Phil Vischer signing off. Stop the video when the scene returns to the car (it will be starting the story of Esther).

These 2 sections together will take about 26 minutes, which will be the majority of class time.

Reflect/Closure:

As time allows, ask a few questions after the video is over:      

  • What did you like best in the video and why?      
  • Why did God allow the people to be taken into exile? (they had repeatedly turned away from God)      
  • God showed that He is in charge of all things—even people who don’t believe in Him.  Did the kings of Persia worship God and God alone?  (No.  But that didn’t stop God from using them to get His people back to Jerusalem)      
  • Another important lesson from this story is that God never gives up on His people.  He kept His promises to the people in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.  And He keeps His promises to us as well.  He promises to love us and care for us and help us to believe in Him.

Close in Prayer.


Age Adaptations

1. Older students: None

2. Younger students: None

PreK-Kindergarten Adaptations

(Since these students have the need for simpler activities—and have shorter attention spans—we offer these more detailed adaptations.  In most cases, the main part of the lesson will be shorter.  The extra time at the end could be filled with various activity stations, such as play dough, puzzles, coloring, rice/grain table, etc).

1. Additional Materials List

         Plastic pencil box filled with song cards  (room 301)

2. Changes to Introduction/Bible Story

Say:  For the past two months, we have been learning Bible stories about the time when God’s people were being held captive in a foreign land.  They were in exile.  The people we learned about were Daniel and Esther.  Now we have been learning about the time when God’s people RETURNED from exile.  They returned to the land of Israel and to thecity of Jerusalem.  I am going to read you a little part of the story and then we are going to watch a video.  The video is NOT about the story of Ezra and Nehemiah.  But it IS about something that was very important to them.  Both of these men spent a lot of time praying to God, so we are going to watch a video about prayer.

But first, a little bit about the story.  God’s people had not obeyed God and had even turned away from God.  So a king from another country came and tore down their cities and took them away.  They lived as captives in another country for 70 years.  But then God decided that it was time for them to come home again—to return from the exile.  The king of this country sent a group of people back to their land so that they could rebuild their temple church.   Zerubbabel was the leader of this group of people.  Then a new king sent another man—called Ezra.

Continue by reading the storybook on Ezra and Nehemiah.  As I said, both of these men spent a lot of time praying to God.  So we are going to learn a little bit more about prayer by watching a video called Prayer Bear.

3. Changes to Activities

Watching the Video

Cue the video at the beginning.  You will watch the entire video, which will take about 24 minutes.

Questions

  • What did you like best about the video and why?      
  • When do you pray to Jesus?      
  • What kinds of things do you pray for?      
  • Why does Jesus like it when we pray to Him and why does He listen to our prayers?  (He loves us and He is our friend.

4. Changes to Closing

  • Pick out 1 or 2 songs from the song box to sing with the class      
  • Ask the children if they have any prayer requests.  If they are having trouble thinking of something—suggest that they think of something that they would like to say thank you go God about.  Incorporate all of these into your closing prayer.

Resources/Bibliography




A lesson by Cathy Walz from St. John Lutheran Church,
Forest Park, IL.  2014.

A representative of Rotation.org reformatted this post to improve readability.

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  • Volume 7: What's in the Bible?
Last edited by Luanne Payne

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