March 10, 2019 – Ezra 3:8 – 6:22

Lesson Date: March 10, 2019

Focal Scripture Passage: Ezra 3:8-13; 4:1-5, 24; 5:1-2; 6:14-22

AIM: To lead students to identify the encouragers and discouragers in Ezra 3 – 6 and the results of their actions, and to examine themselves to determine if they are encouragers or discouragers and commit to being encouragers this week.

 

Before class: Read the notes on Ezra 3:8 – 6:22 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book.  Think of someone who has encouraged you in the past.  Think about how that person encouraged you and what their encouragement meant to you.  Be prepared to share your experience in the introduction of the lesson, if needed.  Write the words “Encouragers” and “Discouragers” on the marker board or chalkboard.  Prepare the index cards described in the “Conclusion” step.

 

INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Direct the class’ attention to the words “Encouragers” and “Discouragers” written on the board.  Ask: “Has anyone ever encouraged you?”  Ask if any volunteers would tell who has encouraged them and how those people encouraged them (be prepared to share your own experience if class members do not respond).  Ask: “What effect did that person’s encouragement have on you?”  After a few responses, ask: “Without naming names, can you think of anyone who has ever discouraged you?  How did that discouragement influence your behavior?” (allow time for some responses).

Direct the class’ attention once again to the words written on the board.  Ask: “What root word do you see at the center of both of those words?” (the word COURAGE). 

Explain to the students that Dis-COURAGE-ers takes away our courage so that it is difficult to finish our tasks, but En-COURAGE-ers give us the courage we need to complete our tasks.  Tell them in today’s lesson they are going to discover some discouragers and some encouragers.

 

HEART OF THE LESSON (Bible Study):

  1. Review.
    • Remind the students that we are studying the Old Testament book of Ezra.
    • Be sure everyone has a copy of the new Sunday School Member Quarterly.
    • Ask: “What was last week’s lesson about?” (Persian King Cyrus released the Jews from captivity and sent them home to rebuild their Temple in Jerusalem).
    • Point out Babylon and Jerusalem on the map.
    • Ask: “Have you thanked God this week for His sovereign control of world events?”
    • Ask if any volunteer would be willing to recite last week’s memory verse (Jer. 29:11).
  2. The Jews Laid the Foundation of the New Temple.
    • Read Ezra 3:8-10.
    • Tell the class the date was April or May of 536 c.
    • Ask: “What did the Jews do?” (laid the foundation of their new Temple).
    • Ask a volunteer to read Ezra 3:11-13.
    • Ask: “What did they do when the foundation was laid?” (sang and rejoiced).
    • Ask: “Why do you think the old men were sad when they saw the Temple foundation?” (they knew their meager resources would not allow the Temple to be restored to its previous glory; the Ark of the Covenant – symbolizing God’s presence – had been lost and would not be in this new Temple; they may have felt remorse for their national sins that brought about the destruction of the first Temple and their captivity in Babylon).
    • Ask: “How loud was their singing and shouting?” (loud enough to be heard a long way away).
    • Summarize: Soon after their release from Babylonian captivity, the Jews in Jerusalem laid the foundation of their new Temple.
  3. Discouragers.
    • Read Ezra 4:1-2.
    • Using the map, explain the following:
      • The adversaries of the Jews were foreign captives who had been brought in by the Assyrians to populate Samaria after the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell in 722 c.
      • These foreigners intermarried with the remaining Israelites.
      • They worshiped many foreign pagan gods along with half-hearted worship of Israel’s God.
      • These people became known as Samaritans.
    • Ask: “What did they offer to do?” (help the Jews with their building project).
    • Ask: “Do you think their offer was sincere? Did they really want to help?” (no; they wanted to slow down and hinder the work). 
    • Tell the students we should beware any time our enemy wants to join forces and “help” us.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Ezra 4:3-5.
    • Tell the class Zerubbabel and the others wisely refused the offer from their adversaries.
    • Ask: “What did the adversaries do next?” (troubled and hindered the construction work, even hiring lawyers to try to stop them with legal action).
    • Read Ezra 4:24.
    • Ask: “What happened as a result of the discouragement caused by the Jews’ adversaries?” (the Jews stopped building the Temple).
    • Tell the class that Temple construction lay dormant through the rest of King Cyrus’ reign, the entire reign of his successor, and into the reign of King Darius – all because of discouragement!
    • Summarize: The foundation of the Temple was laid in 536 c., but because of discouragement, the project remained unfinished for 16 years!
  1. Encouragers.
    • Read Ezra 5:1-2.
    • Ask: “Who encouraged the Jews to resume building the Temple?” (the prophets Haggai and Zechariah).
    • Ask the students to hold their finger in Ezra, while turning to Haggai 1.
    • Read Haggai 1:1-8, 13-15.
    • Ask the class to turn a few more pages over to Zechariah 4.
    • Read Zechariah 4:6, 9.
    • Ask: “How do you think the words of these prophets made the Jews feel?” (encouraged and strengthened).
    • Ask everyone to turn back to Ezra 6.
    • Tell the class the Jews’ adversaries were not finished yet. They wrote a letter to King Darius to try to get the Temple rebuilding project stopped.  He searched the royal records and found that the Jews were indeed authorized to rebuild their Temple. 
    • Read Ezra 6:14-15.
    • Ask: “What helped the Jews complete their Temple?” (the prophesying of Haggai and Zechariah).
    • Ask a volunteer to read Ezra 6:16-22.
    • Ask: “What did the Jews do as soon as they completed their new Temple?” (worshiped God).
    • Ask: “According to verse 22, what did the Lord do for them?” (strengthened their hands – encouraged them – to do His work).
    • Summarize: God used His prophets Haggai and Zechariah to encourage the Jews to finish the Temple building project, after which the Jews joyfully resumed their regular worship of the Lord.

 

PERSONAL APPLICATION: Direct the class’ attention once again to the words “Encouragers” and “Discouragers” written on the board.  Tell them today’s lesson included some discouragers and some encouragers. 

Ask: “Who were the discouragers in today’s lesson?” (the adversaries of the Jews – the Samaritans).  Ask: “What tactics did they use to discourage the Jews?” (deceit, intimidation, delay, and legal maneuvering). 

Ask: “Who were the encouragers in today’s lesson?” (the prophets Haggai and Zechariah).  Ask: “How did they encourage the people to finish the Temple?” (through speaking God’s Word, promising God’s help, and getting personally involved).

Ask: “What about you?  Are you an encourager or a discourager?”  While we all certainly want to be encouragers, probably all of us have discouraged others at some time.  Tell the students they should confess the sin of discouraging others to serve the Lord, and they should commit to being encouragers this week.  Urge them to do those things as you lead a prayer of commitment.  After the prayer, ask: “Who do you need to encourage this week?” 

 

 

CONCLUSION: Give the students an index card on which you have written the following question:

“Have I been an encourager or a discourager today?”

Ask them to place the card on their bathroom mirror or nightstand, and to honestly answer that question every night this week before going to bed.

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