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18. The Bible's Big Story

25 lesson plans for children, young people and their teachers.

Lesson 18 After many years, going back home Bible reference – verses from Ezra and Nehemiah. Jeremiah was one of God’s prophets when the last kings of Judah ruled: Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah. He was only a young man when God called him to be His prophet. From before his birth it was God’s intention to use him! See Jeremiah 1 verses 1-8. It is encouraging to know God always has a plan for each of our lives.

Stop and discuss (1) Can any students think of ways they can see God planning their own lives up to today? We can try at all times to thank God for what He is doing in our lives. At least twice Jeremiah had prophesied that the captivity of God’s people would last for only 70 years.

  • Ask the students to read Jeremiah25 verses 11-12, quietly to themselves.

  • Ask if any student can find out from the verses before, during which king’s reign did Jeremiah make this prophecy? (The answer is in 25 verse 1, Jehoiakim).

  • Ask the students to read Jeremiah 29 verses 10-11, quietly to themselves.

  • Ask if any student can find out from the verses before where king Jehoiachin and the leaders of the people were when Jeremiah wrote this prophecy? (The answer is in 29 verse 2, in exile away from Jerusalem – in Babylon).

The context of a passage in the Bible usually helps us to understand it. Other prophets were with the people in exile. They were prophesying 'hope' to the people, but it was lies, see verses 8-9. The false prophets told people just what the people wanted to hear. But God wanted the people to settle in the land He had exiled them to, verses 4-7. Seventy years later the time was right for their return. God wanted the people to use the seventy years they waited wisely, not to waste the time. Wherever we find ourselves, we should keep listening to God so we can know what He is doing. His way is better than our own hopes and desires.

Stop and discuss (2) Ask the students to count how many times the word “I” is found in Jeremiah 29 verses 10-14. Every time it refers to God at work in some way. Some of the things the people would like. Some they would not like. See if the students have any questions about what God is doing in their own lives as they think about this. Give a few minutes to share together.


The books of Ezra and Nehemiah both start in exile at Babylon and finish back in Jerusalem. They both begin with a Persian king making a decree (law) that allowed God’s people to move back to Jerusalem. Stop and act 1. Have all the students except one small group stand and move to one side of the

room, which is going to represent Babylon. 2. Put the small group of students over on the other side of the classroom – perhaps with some upside down chairs and rubble. These are the poor who were

left in Jerusalem amongst the ruins, never taken captive at all, 2 Kings 25 verse 12.

The “poor” students can pretend to till the ground and look after the vineyards to stay

alive. It is 700 miles from Jerusalem to Babylon. 3. The students “in Babylon” can pretend to build houses, plant gardens, marry, and

to pray for the city, see Jeremiah 29 verses 5-7. Explain that it is time for God to keep His promise. The Jews (God’s people of Judah) will journey back from Babylon to Jerusalem. First, some will go and rebuild the altar and the temple. Second, a smaller group will go with the gifted teacher Ezra, who can teach God’s law. Third, Nehemiah will inspire them all to rebuild the city walls. This covers about 100 years of history. We are going to act it out now. Students keep acting while you tell the story. Read aloud 2 Chronicles 36 verse 22. “In the first year that Cyrus of Persia was emperor, the Lord made what He had said through the prophet Jeremiah come true. He prompted Cyrus to issue the following command and send it out in writing to be read aloud everywhere in his empire”. 1. Appoint one student as king Cyrus of Babylon and the Persians. He/she can

pretend to write out this command on a scroll. He can write several copies. 2. Appoint five messengers to take copies of the command to all parts of Babylon,

and to read them aloud to the people. In different parts of Babylon, the

messengers read 2 Chronicles 36 verse 23. “This is the command of Cyrus,

Emperor of Persia. The Lord, the God of Heaven, has made me ruler over the

whole world and has given me the responsibility of building a temple for Him in

Jerusalem in Judah. Now, all of you who are God’s people, go there, and may

the Lord your God be with you”. Show that Ezra 1 verses 2-3 say the same thing. 3. Appoint 80% of the students in Babylon to get ready to journey back to Jerusalem.

They collect gifts to help them from the neighbours they will leave in Babylon,

Ezra 1 verse 6. King Cyrus returns to them silver and gold stolen from God’s temple years before. Ask if anyone in the class knows how many exiled people made the journey? Students can look in Ezra chapter 1 for the answer. (It is 42,360, verse 64).


4. These people now journey 700 miles to Jerusalem, across the room, to join the

poor already there. 5. Arriving in Jerusalem, the people do four things. A collection is made to build a

house of God on the ruins of the old temple. Some students walk up and freely

give things to an appointed treasurer. Ask if anyone knows how much was collected? Students can look in Ezra chapter 2 verse 69 for the answer. (It is 500 kilos of gold, 2,800 of silver, and 100 robes for priests). Seven months went by. 6. Skilled priests began to build an altar, Ezra 3 verse 2. Students act. 7. The people all gathered for a sacrifice on the altar, Ezra 3 verse 3. Students act. Just over seven more months went by.

8. After collecting some more resources they begin to rebuild the temple, Ezra 3

verse 8. Students act. Appoint Ezra, who leads half of the group left in Babylon across to Jerusalem, Ezra 7 verses 1-9. All this time there are those in Babylon wondering what is going on in Jerusalem. 9. Nehemiah is the wine steward for Artaxerxes, now the new Emperor of Persia.

Appoint two students to play these men. They act the role of a wine steward

tasting and bringing wine for the emperor to drink, Nehemiah 1 verses 1 and 11. 10. Nehemiah’s brother Hanani, with a few other people, comes from Jerusalem to

Babylonia. Appoint a small group who journey across, Nehemiah 1 verse 2. 11. Nehemiah questions Hanani about the condition of Jerusalem. Hanani answers

him. Appointed students act, Nehemiah 1 verses 2-4. 12. Nehemiah cries before God with a broken heart, asking God what can be done

about the situation. He has some ideas. Students act. Nehemiah 1 verses 4-11. 13. Students keep acting as you tell the story. Serving Artaxerxes one day, the Emperor

asks Nehemiah why he looks sad. Nehemiah 2verses 1-2. He quickly prays to God for help. He tells the Emperor

about the news he has had from his home city, Jerusalem. The emperor wants to help and Nehemiah asks him for written permission to

travel with supplies to build the new Jerusalem city walls, Nehemiah 2 verses 4-8. Remind the students that God is using all of this to keep His promise to His people. Jerusalem, the place where God put His own name, would be rebuilt and repopulated with God’s chosen people. 14. Students keep acting while you tell the story. Nehemiah and a group from the

Emperor travel to Jerusalem. They rest for three days. Then while everyone else

is asleep one night, Nehemiah and a few of his close friends go right around


the ruined city walls seeing what needs doing to repair them, Nehemiah 2

verses 9 and 11. 15. Next morning Nehemiah calls his friends and all the people to help him

rebuild the city walls. The people agree and are very keen to start, Nehemiah 2

verses17-18. Students keep acting while you tell the story. Appoint some students still in Babylon to change and pretend to be people from the area outside Jerusalem who are against what Nehemiah is doing. 16. Students keep acting while you tell the story. Nehemiah and the people build

the walls, with the altar and temple safely inside. From time to time enemies

come and laugh at them. Other times they threaten to attack them as in a war.

Nehemiah keeps encouraging his people by making sure there are no gaps in

their workforce around the walls. He makes them work while also keeping guard

against attack, Nehemiah chapters 3 verse 1 to 6 verse 19. Ask if any student knows how long the rebuilding of the city walls took? Students can look in Nehemiah 6 verse 15 for the answer. (It is 52 days). 17. Students keep acting while you tell the story. Nehemiah and Ezra gather all

the people together. Ezra stands on a high platform in front of the people and

reads God’s law to them, Nehemiah 8 verses 1-5. 18. Students keep acting while you tell the story. As Ezra stands to read with the

book of the Law in his hands, he says: “Praise the Lord, the great God”. The

people all stand and answer “Amen and Amen”. They kneel down in worship to

God, with their faces on the ground. Nehemiah 8 verse 6. 19. Ezra and several friends read and explain the word of God to the standing

people. Students keep acting while you tell the story. The people begin to cry as

they understand what God has done. The priests (you may have to appoint

some) move among them telling them not to cry but to rejoice in a special

celebration, Nehemiah 8 verses 9-12. 20. The people confess their sins because they know God was right to judge

them as a nation. And they also rejoice in the great salvation God has brought

about by bringing them back into their own land, Nehemiah chapter 9. Ask does anyone know how they ended their celebration? Students can look in Nehemiah 9 verse 38. (They make a written agreement to be the people of God once again). All the students could write their own names on the chalk board or in the sand. “We are the ones who did this today”.

Tell students that the Old Testament tells us that God can always be trusted to keep His word. Again and again God is faithful even when His people are not. God is working His purpose out. For example:


Someone planned for this school (training centre) to be here today. People bought or rented the land and employed builders to build the rooms. Other people decided on the syllabus and which classes we should have. More people chose to come as teachers. Your family sent you here as students. We are all here today as a result of this planning and working out by many different people.

Behind it all is the plan and purpose of God. As your Father in heaven He wants what is best for you. As almighty God He is always able to bring it about.

End the lesson today by encouraging the students to be thankful to God

for what He is doing in their lives.

Answers to ‘Stop and discuss’

1. Given them a mother and/or father

Given them brothers and/or sisters

Kept them safe

Made them short/tall, thin/fat, etc.

Helped them have a place at school

Provided eyes to see, ears to hear, a mind to learn and think, etc.

2. Eleven times. “I will show My concern for you”

“I alone know the plans I have for you”

“I will answer you”

“Yes, I say, you will find Me”

“I will restore you”

“I will gather you from every … place to which I have scattered you”

“I will bring you back”

“I had sent you away”

“I, the Lord, have spoken”.


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