Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, „plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Through the past several lessons we learned how the Israelites were captives in the land of Babylon. We learned that even though the Israelites were far away from home, God took care of them and protected them and promised to bring them back to their home land.
Daniel had a dream that the kingdom of Babylon would fall and another kingdom would take over. Eventually, the kingdom of Babylon was taken over by the Persians and a man named Cyrus became the king.
God moved the heart of King Cyrus and he decided to send the Israelites back to their home and to help them build a temple. The Israelites were in captivity for 70 years, but after 70 years God brought them back home to their land just like he promised!
Younger Group (Preschool-3rd)
- Begin by praying together.
- Watch Younger Group Video Lesson 10
- Read Ezra 1-3
- Which king of Persia allowed God’s people to return to Israel? (King Cyrus, Ezra 1:1)
- What did the priests build first when they got back to Israel? (the altar, Ezra 3:2)
- Why were some of the older Israelites crying? (They remembered the first temple that had been destroyed, Ezra 3:12)
- Why do you think God allowed His people to live in exile for 70 years? (Jeremiah 25:1-14, Guide the kids to see that God takes sin seriously. He wanted to purify His people; to punish sin and bring new life to the people who truly wanted to follow Him. God wanted to give His children a chance to recognize their sin and turn back to Him. He used the exile to glorify Himself in foreign nations)
- How can we know God loves us in difficult times? (Help kids understand that God’s love for us never changes. We don’t always understand why we face hard times but we can trust that God will never leave us, Deut. 31:6. He will never stop loving us. Sometimes He allows us to experience pain so we can better understand how much we need Him. When we face hard times while relying on God, it glorifies Him and builds our faith, Habakkuk 3:17-19)
- The temple needed a strong foundation. What is the foundation of our lives? (Help kids see that our faith is built on Jesus’ sacrifice for us. We trust the Bible as God’s Word, and it tells us what is true about God and ourselves. With such a firm foundation, our lives can stand up to various trials, Prov 10:25, 1 Cor. 15:58, James 1:2-4, James 1:12)
Older Group (4th-Teen)
- Begin by praying together.
- Watch Older Group Video Lesson 10
- Read Ezra 1-3
Read – Ezra 1:1-5
- Finally the Israelites could go home! How do you think the Israelites felt? How would you feel?
- Allow discussion.
- Answer – The Israelites would have been very excited and they would be praising God for this miracle.
- Was King Cyrus an Israelite? Did King Cyrus care about God?
- Answer – King Cyrus was a Persian man. He was not an Israelite.
- Answer – King Cyrus cared about God. He recognized that everything he had was from God and he knew that God wanted him to build a temple (see Ezra 1:2).
- Can God use anyone he wants to do his will? Could God use you?
- Answer – Yes. God can transform the heart of anyone and he can use anyone he wants to do mighty things. He can even use you (see Dan 2:21 & 1 Cor 1:26-29).
Read – Ezra 2:68 – 3:6
Now the Israelites were back home they had a lot of work to do. They had to fix the city and the walls. They had to rebuild their homes and plant crops so they could have food to eat. They also had to rebuild the temple of God.
- The people gave gold and silver to pay for rebuilding the temple. But even before they starting building the temple they did something else that was very important. What did they do first before rebuilding the temple?
- Answer – Before they even started to build the temple they built an altar and offered animal sacrifices. The most important part of the old covenant was the animal sacrifices. The only true way to worship God was by offering animal sacrifices.
Similarly, the best way for us to worship God is to remember and to cherish the sacrifice that Jesus gave for us on the cross. See what is written in Heb 9:13-28 about the importance of a blood offering.
Read – Ezra 3:10-13
- How do you think the people felt when they saw the foundation of the temple being laid? Why did some of the elders cry?
- Answer – The people were happy and rejoicing because they saw how good God was. God was merciful enough to bring them back to their homeland and to help them rebuild the temple. They could be a nation again! They could be free to worship God again!
- Answer – The Bible doesn’t actually tell us why the elders were crying. Maybe they were crying because they were repentant when they saw how good God was. They saw the first temple destroyed because of their sin and now they get to see God’s promises of mercy being fulfilled. They saw that God was giving them another chance.