March 17, 2019 – Ezra 7 – 8

Lesson Date: March 17, 2019

Focal Scripture Passage: Ezra 7:1-10, 25-28; 8:21-23, 31-35

AIM: To lead students to discover what Ezra prepared himself to do and whose protection he sought, and to make commitments to prepare themselves to serve God and to trust Him for protection.

 

Before class: Read the notes on Ezra 7 – 8 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book. Write the words “Preparation” and “Protection” on the marker board or chalkboard. Get enough copies of the “Preparation and Protection” worksheet for your anticipated attendance. Have pens or pencils available for those who might need them.

 

INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Tell the class we live in a fast-paced world, where we expect everything to be at our fingertips instantly. We buy our meals from drive-through windows at fast food restaurants, or else we heat our frozen dinners in microwave ovens. We have instant communication through cell phones and high speed Internet connections so we can zoom from web site to web site. Waiting thirty seconds for a page or video to load seems like an eternity! We have fifteen-minute meals, thirty-day diet plans and one-minute Bibles. We want it all, and we want it NOW!

Ask the class if they have ever watched a professional athlete compete. This might be a professional football, basketball, or baseball player, or an Olympic gymnast or figure skater. Tell the students when we watch a professional athlete compete we see nearly flawless execution and seemingly effortless achievements. Fans and commentators actually seem disappointed when the athlete’s performance is less than perfect. Ask: “How much preparation went into making that world-class athlete successful?” (many years of preparation and practice). Tell the class athletes don’t become successful overnight; in fact, they probably began as small children, taken to practice by faithful parents. The great performance we see on TV is merely the tip of the iceberg from years of preparation and practice.

Direct the students’ attention to the words “Preparation” and “Protection” written on the board. Tell them today we are going to learn about Ezra’s preparation and where he went for protection.

 

HEART OF THE LESSON (Bible Study):

  1. Review.
    • Remind the students that we are in a four-week study of the Old Testament book of Ezra.
    • Briefly explain the context of this lesson by reviewing the following:
      • Because of their sin and rebellion, God drove the Jews out of their homeland into captivity in Babylon (locate Babylon on the map).
      • King Cyrus of Persia (locate Persia on the map) conquered Babylon and soon released the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple (locate Jerusalem on the map).
      • Zerubbabel led that first group of about 50,000 Jews back to Jerusalem.
      • They began work on the Temple in 536 b.c., but soon stopped and didn’t resume until 520 b.c.
      • The Temple was completed in 516 b.c.
    • Ask: “What was last week’s lesson about?” (discouragers and encouragers).
    • Ask: “In what ways have you been an encourager this week?”
  2. Ezra was Prepared and Ready.
    • Explain that all the Jews did not return to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel; many of them stayed behind.
    • Read Ezra 7:1.
    • Ask: “Who was king of Persia?” (Artaxerxes).
    • Tell the class that the events described in this chapter today took place in 458 b.c., some 58 years after the Temple was completed.
    • Read Ezra 7:2-5.
    • Tell the class Ezra was a direct descendant of Moses’ brother Aaron, Israel’s first high priest.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Ezra 7:6.
    • Ask: “How does this verse describe Ezra?” (a ready scribe, which means he was skillful and diligent in the Law of Moses).
    • Ask: “Why did the king grant his request?” (because the hand of God was upon Ezra).
    • Read Ezra 7:7.
    • Tell the class Ezra led a second group of Jews to return to Jerusalem.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Ezra 7:8-10.
    • Explain that after a journey of four months, Ezra and the others arrived in Jerusalem in July or August of 458 b.c.
    • Tell the class verse 10 names three specific things Ezra had prepared his heart to do.
    • Ask: “What are those three things?” (seek the Law of the Lord, do it, and teach it to others).
    • Tell the students that just as a professional athlete spends years in preparation and practice, Ezra had devoted his life to preparing to do these three things.
    • Ask: “How do you think he might have prepared himself?” (by reading, studying, and obeying God’s Word).
    • Ask: “Are you preparing yourself to seek God’s Word, do it, and teach it to others?”
    • Summarize: Through diligent study of God’s Word, Ezra prepared himself and was ready to serve the Lord when the opportunity arose.
  3. Ezra was Strengthened and Encouraged.
    • Tell the class King Artaxerxes wrote a decree authorizing Ezra to lead this group of Jews to Jerusalem. A copy of that decree is found in verses 11-26.
    • Explain that the king gave Ezra money to beautify the Temple and offer sacrifices to God. He also told the people of his kingdom to give money and livestock to Ezra.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Ezra 7:25-26.
    • Ask: “What did the king command Ezra to do when he got to Jerusalem?” (set up judges and magistrates who knew God’s Law to judge the people, and to teach God’s Law to those who didn’t know it).
    • Ask: “According to verse 26, how much power did Ezra have?” (he could punish, banish, or even execute anyone who disobeyed him).
    • Read Ezra 7:27-28.
    • Ask: “What did Ezra praise God for?” (working through the king and giving him mercy).
    • Ask: “What effect did God’s actions have on Ezra?” (he was strengthened and encouraged).
    • Ask: “What did Ezra do?” (he gathered leading Jews to go with him to Jerusalem).
    • Summarize: The Lord worked through King Artaxerxes, giving Ezra the authority and resources to go to Jerusalem and beautify the Temple. God’s actions strengthened and encouraged Ezra.
  4. Ezra Trusted God for Protection.
    • Tell the class the group of 4,000 to 5,000 Jews gathered by a river in Babylon (locate Babylon on the map).
    • Ask a volunteer to read Ezra 8:21-23.
    • Ask: “What did Ezra and the people do before they started their journey?” (prayed and fasted).
    • Ask: “Why didn’t Ezra ask the king for troops to protect them?” (he was ashamed to ask for help because he had told the king God would protect them).
    • Explain that Ezra and his party carried a huge amount of gold and silver with them. They would have been easy prey for robbers.
    • Read Ezra 8:31-32.
    • Ask: “What kept them safe on their long journey to Jerusalem?” (the hand of God).
    • Tell the students Ezra sought God’s protection and God saw them safely to Jerusalem.
    • Ask: “When you’re facing dangerous or uncertain circumstances do you seek God’s protection, or do you look to other people to protect you?”
    • Tell the class Ezra and the others did two things after they arrived in Jerusalem and rested from their journey.
    • Read Ezra 8:33-35.
    • Ask: “According to verses 33 and 35, what were those two things?” (they turned the gold and silver over to the priests for storage at the Temple, and they worshiped God by giving offerings to Him).
    • Stress the fact that after safely making their journey they gave offerings to God.
    • Ask: “Have you thanked God and brought Him an offering lately?”
    • Summarize: Ezra and the rest of his party prayed and fasted, seeking God’s protection for their journey. After arriving safely they worshiped God and gave Him offerings.

 

PERSONAL APPLICATION: Give everyone a copy of the worksheet titled “Preparation and Protection” and a pen or pencil if needed. Ask them to fill in the blanks under the first question. Ask the students to brainstorm ways Ezra might have prepared himself, and then to write their answers on their worksheet.

Tell the class the important question is in the middle of the page. Ask: “Will you commit to prepare yourself like Ezra did?” Ask them to write their answer on the worksheet. Ask the students to brainstorm specific ways they can get started, and then to write their answers on their worksheet.

Read the next statement on the worksheet and ask them to answer the last question.

Tell the students we will not be ready to serve God tomorrow if we don’t start preparing today. Ezra prepared his heart to serve the Lord, so he was ready when the time came to serve God. Ezra also prayed to God for protection when facing dangerous and challenging circumstances.

Lead a closing prayer of commitment to prepare ourselves to serve God and to trust Him for protection.

 

CONCLUSION: Tell everyone to place their completed handout sheet in their Bible at Ezra 9 or 10 so they will see it during the week when they read the scripture for next week’s lesson. Ask them to memorize Ezra 7:10.

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