GOSPEL PROJECT: Unit 16, Session 4: God Brought His People Home
God’s people had been living in Babylon for 70 years. Some of God’s people had died in Babylon. Some of their children and grandchildren were born in Babylon and grew up there. But Babylon was not their home.
Before the people of Judah were exiled, God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah. These are the words of the Lord: “These nations will serve the king of Babylon for 70 years” (Jer. 25:11). Then the Lord said, “When 70 years for Babylon are complete, I will attend to you and will confirm My promise concerning you to restore you to this place” (Jer. 29:10). The time had come for God’s people to go back home.
Cyrus, the king of the Persian empire, overthrew Babylon. Cyrus took over the kingdom, including the lands of Israel and Judah. In the following year, the Lord did something miraculous in Cyrus’s heart. He prompted Cyrus to issue a decree: All the Jewish exiles are free to return to their ancestral homes.
The exile was over! God’s people were free to return to their own land. They were free to live as God’s special people. The first group of Judean exiles returned home under the leadership of Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel was the grandson of King Jehoiachin, who had been taken to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. (See 2 Kings 24:8-13.)
Ezra 2:64-65 says nearly 50,000 people traveled back to Judah. When they got to Jerusalem, they began working to rebuild the temple that the Chaldeans had destroyed. (See 2 Chron. 36:19.)
Zerubbabel led God’s people back to the temple to rebuild it. The temple was the place where God met with His people on earth. Jesus came to earth to rescue God’s people. One day, Jesus will return to restore a greater home for all of God’s people, and we will spend eternity with Him.
Help your kids understand that the temple was designed to point to Jesus. We meet with God not through a building now, but through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
FAMILY STARTING POINTS
● Babies and Toddlers
- God helps us obey Him.
- God brought His people back to their land.
- Zerubbabel led the people to build the temple.
- Jesus brings us to God.
- How can we obey God? We trust God to help us obey Him.
- God brought the Israelites back home.
- How can we obey God? We trust God to give us strength to obey Him.
- God changed the king’s heart so the Israelites could go home.
UNIT KEY PASSAGE
● Daniel 2:20-21 (Preschool: Daniel 2:20)
COMING UP NEXT:
● “The Temple Was Completed” (Ezra 4:1-7; 5:1-5; 6:13-22)
PRETEEN CURRICULUM: EXPLORERS: The Israelites’ Cycle of Disobedience
Cost of Disobedience: based on Judges 2:1-23
Know: We can learn from the Israelites’ example that Disobedience = Trouble.
Think: We are all tempted to sin.
Do: Confess your sin and know your repentance = God’s forgiveness.
THE MORE YOU KNOW:
After Joshua’s successful campaign to take the Promised Land for God’s people, God resisted establishing a central government in Israel. He wanted the people to trust Him, alone, as the leader of Israel. When the need would arise, God would call up a leader called a shofet, or judge, from among the people. The judges sometimes settled conflicts among the tribes the way we think of judges today doing, but most of the judges were military leaders, like Joshua, who were called up to handle outside threats to the nation. After the judges resolved whatever conflict they were called up for, they usually went back to whatever they were doing before being called into service. In other words, being a judge of Israel was not necessarily a lifelong call to action and left a clear understanding for the people that God was the ruler of Israel. This system lasted for approximately 380 years and is recorded in the book of Judges. Over that time, the Israelites continually got caught in a cycle of disobedience towards God!
It’s easy for us to question how they could have continually disobeyed God, knowing the consequences. Before we are too critical, we must stop and look at our own lives. Ask your kids: Do you ever want to go your own way instead of following God’s way? We are all tempted to go our own way, to sin. If your parents tell you not to watch a show on TV, do you still sneak around and watch it? If your teacher tells you to be quiet, do you want to keep talking? Do you want to hang out with people you know do wrong things? When we do not follow God’s way, we are disobeying Him. If we are not careful, we can be like the Israelites and find ourselves in a pattern of disobedience to God and repentance to Him when trouble comes.
God loves us and he is full of mercy and compassion and will forgive us if we ask. But He also wants us to obey Him because He knows what’s best for us— we just need to trust His character; that is a GOOD God!