“Hear O Israel”

Ezra reads the LawI am adding another lesson to the series on Ezra and Nehemiah due to their great importance and relevance as we seek to serve God in these perilous times.  We had left Nehemiah with the succesful rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem (Oct. 20, 2011 blog “Nehemiah Restores Hope”)  In chapter 8 of Nehemiah we read that the people “gathered as one man” to ask Ezra to bring the book of the law so he could read it to them…”and all the people were attentive to the book of the law.”  Ezra stood on a wooden podium, and beside him are listed 13 men, who along with the Levites, explained the law to the people who stood in reverence when Ezra opened the book, but who bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground as   Ezra blessed “the LORD the great God.”  Verse 12 tells us that the people went away to celebrate a great festival because they understood the words which had been made known to them, then proceeded to make booths to celebrate the feast of Tabernacles.  This making of booths had not been practiced since Joshua’s time so there was great rejoicing.  The sons of Israel continued to assemble with fasting, in sackcloth and with dirt on them… confessing their sins and worshipping God.  This revival brought about great changes in their behavior.  They separated themselves from  the foreigners of the land, and swore to observe all of the commandments. (Chapters 9-13)

Note the reverence and great honor shown the word of God by the people.  We read in Psalms 119: 30 that the entrance of His Word gives light and understanding to the simple. Jesus states that none of His Words will pass away (Matthew 24:34) and  “…assuredly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” (Matt. 5:18)   Notice the special regard the LORD bestows on the person who “trembles at His Word” in  Isaiah 66:2…  “My hands have made both heaven and earth; they and everything in them are mine.  I, the LORD, have spoken! ‘I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts, who tremble at My word’.”This lesson should be especially encouraging to you teachers as we model the Levites in this story and are seeking to make the words of God understandable to children.

Hear O Israel - worksheet

Hear O Israel – worksheet

Print worksheet on card-stock.  Cut the portion containing the scroll, which leaves a space to write the memory verse.  Have the kids write their memory verse first thing , then they can color the page and prepare the scrolls. Cut carefully around scroll.  For younger kids, you will want to pre-cut the scrolls. You will need 2 toothpicks for each scroll.  Before class,  measure and cut the ends off the toothpicks.  The kids can color them with brown markers and glue one to each end of the scroll….centering them.  Roll up each end  of the scroll tightly, meeting in the middle (see sample).  If you have printed the scrolls on card stock, they should keep their shape rather well.  Glue or tape into Ezra’s hands.

The Second Temple is Built – an edible craft for kids

The Second Temple – an edible craft

The LORD  had stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to release any Israelite exile who had the desire, to go to Jerusalem and build another temple to the LORD of hosts.  Ezra and Nehemiah both record the families who joined this group as well as the amounts of silver and gold given in the free-will offerings. The worship was restored in the seventh month after their arrival but the  actual building of the temple did not get started until the second month of the second year.  There was much rejoicing when the foundation was finally laid.

Ezra 3: 10-11

There were many adversaries that rose up to thwart  the Jews and the building stopped for 14 years until Zerubbabel and Jeshua , encouraged by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, rose up and resumed the building. Haggai was given a word from the LORD for the people to get their hearts right. They would not prosper until they put God first for the LORD had called a drought on whatever the ground brought forth…on all the labor of their hands!  When they obeyed Him by resuming the building  of the temple, He would again bless them.

Haggai 1: 7-8

***IMPORTANT NOTE***(It is VITAL that you have allergy information on your kids before you engage in any craft where food items are used…I would use a different craft idea if one child  could not participate due to his or her allergies)To start you will need to cover cardboard with foil. ( I used  old photo album pages)  Make sure your table is freshly scrubbed and the kids have washed their hands. Decide which scripture portions you would like to use and have black paper and silver gel pens available for the kids to be able to write their verses.  The foundation stones can be  made with peanut butter “playdoh” that you can make ahead and put  1/2 cup portions in baggies…enough to make 5-9 stones.  This recipe makes enough for 6 kids: for each 18 oz. jar of creamy peanut butter  add 2 cups powdered sugar, 6 tablespoons honey and 1 cup powdered milk….if your powdered milk is granulated in texture you will have to blend it until it is fine. Mix and add more dry or wet stuff until you get the consistency of real playdoh and it tastes good..  You want it stiff enough to be able to put your pretzels in, but you want it smooth so it does not crack. As the kids break off pieces to mold, the heat from their hands will help in the process…rolling tends to crumble your playdoh so you want a press and molding technique.  Give each child a graham cracker to be the “guide” for where to place their stones. Purchased play-doh can also be used.

Laying the foundation – part one of lesson

After your “foundations” are laid, pause and tell the rest of the story.  The people were disheartened because of their crop failures and hostile enemies.  They procrastinated by putting all their energy into building their own houses and neglecting the LORD’S.

sideview of temple

Give each child a whole graham cracker for the roof. They  will need a heaping tablespoon of frosting in a small yogurt container, plastic knife, 55  stick pretzels for the walls (stick these in the foundation stones) 1/4 graham cracker for the “door”, 1 1/2 tablespoons of chocolate chips…31 for trim and extra to eat.

Gluing the roof

After your walls are in place , dab a bit of frosting on the corners, frost your roof and add chips before placing roof on top.  Add door if desired…doors that open will need to be cut with a large knife ahead of time.  If you would like to add a courtyard you could glue some sugar wafers around your temple with frosting….my store did not carry these.  Don’t forget to have the kids glue their verses down. You may make home-made buttercream icing or buy the frosting in  a can.  The pretzels might lean now and then but they will have fun regardless. For a sturdier project (but less edible) use regular play-doh for the foundation stones when building your temple.  You can  even divide the lesson in half . (part 1) Laying the foundation with peanut butter playdoh foundation stones from Ezra 3.  (part 2) The prophet Haggai encourage the people to finish the temple from Haggai 1 and Ezra 5-6. (using regular playdoh, pretzels, frosting, graham crackers and chocolate chips)

Door option

doors that open – another option


Nehemiah Restores Hope


nehemiah 2

Nehemiah has so much to teach us so I hope you take the time to read Ezra and Nehemiah.            (Zechariah and Haggai also, if you have time…as they all tie together.)  Here is what is happening in a nutshell:  the Lord had stirred up the spirit of Cyrus to let the Jews go back to rebuild the temple. Only 42,360 went with Zerubbabel to reestablish the worship in Jerusalem.  They had just laid the foundation of the temple with much rejoicing but were frustrated in their plans by great opposition and forced  to stop until the second year of Darius.  Haggai and Zechariah prophesy to the Jews and they were encouraged to begin  the project where they left off .  The temple was finished in the sixth year of Darius.   Sixty years pass and Ezra, a  priest and skilled scribe, comes to Jerusalem to teach the Lord’s statutes and ordinances with much treasure to beautify the temple. The heads of families who accompanied Ezra  number 1,496.  After fasting and prayer, they arrived safely .  Ezra then received the bad report from the leaders that 17 priests, 10 Levites and 86 laymen had  inter-married with pagans, which was strictly forbidden by the LORD. This sin had to be severely dealt with.

Now we come to Nehemiah.  He was a cup-bearer to the king, Artaxerxes, and was given  upsetting news in the 20th year of this king’s reign.  Some men from Judah reported that the people in Jerusalem were in great distress and disgrace  because their walls were broken down, and their gates were burned with fire.  Nehemiah wept over this state of affairs, and prayed that the king would let him go to help his people.  The king granted Nehemiah’s request for letters assuring his safe passage and timber for the gates and the house he would occupy .  The enemy was “deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel.” The people were rallied and able to complete the great work in 52 days in spite of tremendous hostilities. (If you are teaching chronologically, this lesson would be taught after Esther.) This book is remarkable to me, not only for it’s encouraging spiritual lessons, but because the LORD honors each worker explicitly by name…what  great treasure and reward is stored up for them in eternity!

Nehemiah – worksheet

Color both pages…match stones below with the main wall in the worksheet above.  Cut out stones and glue per sample above.  We want to learn the proper tools to fight the enemies’ opposition, so cut out and glue the tools (have kids choose where they want to glue tools…there is no “right” answer, each tool will overcome any of the “stumbling blocks”…please extend the “y” on the bottom stone (conspiracy)…it got cut off in the scan!