September’s Bible Story:  

Return from Exile, from the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah


Rebuild • Restore • Renew • Return to God

For the month of September we are exploring the stories of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Us as the people of God:  Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing, and Returning to God. 

Key Verse:  The joy of the Lord is your strength.  Nehemiah 8:10

Key Ideas:

1. God is ready to forgive and rebuild people’s lives.

2. We must keep (remember and obey) God’s word or we will forget it.

3. God is faithful to each generation, even when there are problems, wars, and destruction.

4. God can raise up leaders when they don’t seem easy to find. Even wine stewards!

The people of Israel had been exiled from Jerusalem for 70 years.  Maybe you have felt “exiled” (separated or isolated) from your regular routine and life as we once knew it — from family, from school, from work, from church, from community.  In the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, the people of Israel are slowly returning to Jerusalem and physically rebuilding their lives — the Temple, the community, the walls.  Ezra is tasked with helping the people rebuild their spiritual foundations.  

Nehemiah helped to restore the community both religiously and politically to their homeland.  The completion of the city walls signified that the Israelites were once again ready to take responsibility for being a people of God.  There are a number of examples of prayer in these two books.  It is important to note that Nehemiah went directly to the Lord in prayer when he was faced with challenging circumstances.  He did not consider prayer to be a measure of last resort.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, we are encouraged to, “Pray without ceasing.” Ezra and Nehemiah are role models for us as we, too, rebuild our lives and spiritual foundations.  

We hope you will join us, whether in person or online.  If you are in person, a short presentation and activities will be offered during the 10:00 hour and also allow time for fellowshipping with others.  Our plan is to offer an outdoor option as we are able.  Families or households of all ages may participate together.  Friends may participate together — whatever your comfort level allows.  If you are participating from home, online opportunities will be available as well as ideas and ways for everyone to respond to the story at home.  

For more information, to help, or to share ideas and feedback, please contact Deacon Beth or Deacon Justin at the church office.  

An overview of the Exile & Return presented by Deacon Beth Tobin, September 19, 2021.
An overview of the Return from Exile presented by Deacon Beth Tobin September 26, 2021.
Nehemiah & Ezra Stop Motion Video created by Gloria Dei Youth Alaina Houser & Bryn Kunkel.

Song Links

Blessed Be” from Psalm 41:13 and Nehemiah 9:5  (Sung by Camp Counselors at Lutheran Retreats, Camps & Conferences: El Camino Pines/Luther Glen Farm)


Blessed Be” from Psalm 41:13 and Nehemiah 9:5 (Sung by children at Calvary Lutheran.  Song starts at 2:31 or enjoy the Palm Processional at the beginning. 🌿)

Video Links

Videos geared toward Youth/Adults:

Each of these short videos add different insights into this time of Rebuilding, Restoring, Repenting, and Returning to God, while pointing the way toward Jesus, the promised Messiah.

 
The Books of Ezra-Nehemiah in 5 Minutes – Bible Babble
Overview:  Ezra-Nehemiah – Bible Project
Ezra in 7 Minutes – Pastor Landon
Nehemiah in 6 Minutes – Pastor Landon

Videos geared toward Children:

As with all videos for children, please preview each short video first.  Sometimes an advertisement will play before the start of the actual video.  Thank you.


Exile & Return – Godly Play
The Captives Came Home – Ezra 1-3
Ezra Read the Law – Nehemiah 8
Nehemiah Rebuilds the Walls of Jerusalem – Part 1, Bible Heroes of Fatih
Nehemiah Rebuilds the Walls of Jerusalem – Part 2, Bible Heroes of Faith
Ezra the Scribe – PursueGOD Kids
Nehemiah – God’s Builder – SSPM
God’s Story – Nehemiah – Crossroads Kids’ Club
Nehemiah and Ezra – Kids Play And Learn Bible

Historical Context & Background Information

The Later Years of Exile & Return to Judah – The Bible Journey

The Feast of Tabernacles or Festival of Booths
3 Things Every Christian Should Know about the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles
Got Questions:  The Feast of Tabernacles

Background Information Coming Soon

Ways to Respond to the Story of the Exile and Return at Home 

Response Ideas Using:

Clay

Blocks

Watercolor

PDF of Response Ideas listed below.

Reflection Section:

Questions for deeper reflection.  Think about them on a walk, journal, draw, or talk to a friend or as a family.  Whatever feels right.  Just be sure to give the questions a few minutes of your undivided attention.

  • God is ready to forgive and rebuild people’s lives. What might God be calling you to change or rebuild about yourself? 
  • The Jewish people had lived in Babylon for two generations before returning. During that time they learned a lot. What do we learn when we lose something? When we can’t do things as we have done before?
  • What kind of “stones” would we metaphorically build our “walls” with today? (Love, patience, endurance, faith, etc. ??)

Imagination Station:

Option One: Reenact the Feast of Tabernacles (Festival of Booths).  Build a fort. Crawl inside. Think about God.  Follow the links on our website above or here and here to learn more.  Send Deacon Beth a photo for fun!

Option Two:  Use Legos® or other building materials to build a temple and city walls.  Draw or paint a picture of this story.  Offer a prayer of thanks to God.  Text or email photos of your work to Deacon Beth.  We’d love to see what you create! 

Option Three:  Watch one or more of the video links for kids, youth, and adults about Ezra and Nehemiah above, and/or enjoy the Song, “Blessed Be” from Nehemiah 9:5 and Psalm 41:13. 

Kitchen Connection:

When the people heard Ezra read the word of God, they were sad because they realized they had forgotten God’s rules for living and had sinned. Ezra and Nehemiah told them that even though they sinned, this was a happy day.  Go home and prepare a feast and share food with people who don’t have any.  This day is holy.  Don’t be sad, because “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”  Nehemiah 8:10.    

Prepare a favorite meal, bake cookies to share with someone, or donate to the food bank. Light a candle while you eat as a reminder that God is present with you.  What is something you want others to know or remember about God?  In Nehemiah 9:6-31, Ezra helps the Israelites remember all the things God had done for them.  What are some things God has done for you?

Faith Practice:

Many elements of our worship services come from the time of Ezra-Nehemiah some 2,400 years ago!  In Nehemiah 8, the Torah was read in public (Usually only available to men, this public reading of Scripture was for everyone – men, women and children – anyone who could understand.)  for the very first time which initiated a practice that we follow in worship today — hearing and responding to the Word of God. Singers and instrumentalists helped to lead worship. People read or sang antiphonally (back and forth to each other) along with offering communal prayers, profession of faith, and confession of sins.  Worship renewed and helped to rebuild the spiritual lives of the Israelites. The gift of worship has been passed down to us for centuries.  May you create intentional time for worship, whether online or in person, and be renewed in spirit to love and serve the Lord.