Do What It Says

Tuesday:Do What It Says
Story Passage: Nehemiah 7-8
Other Passages: Leviticus 23:33-43, Numbers 29:12-39, Deuteronomy 16:13-17, 2nd Chronicles 36:21, Hebrews 3:7-4:2
Objective: We should study God's word and obey it.
Visuals Available (updated 2016)
Memory Verse: James 1:22, Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Introduction: Background
This week we're learning about people in the Bible, whose footsteps we should follow. Following their footsteps means doing the same kinds of things that they did, or being the kind of people that they were.
Two books of the Bible, Ezra and Nehemiah, are named after two men in our story today. Nehemiah was the governor, and Ezra was a priest.
Nehemiah was in charge of rebuilding the city of Jerusalem. It had been seventy years since the Israelites had last lived in the city, and now that they were back, the city was in bad shape. Nehemiah was concerned about the city – buildings in poor condition, the city's defensive wall crumbled to pieces, and so on – but Nehemiah was also concerned that the people had not been able to study God's word or worship God properly while they were away.
Story: Reading from the Book of the Law
Back then the people didn't all have their own Bibles, and many of them couldn't read anyway. So they planned for a day when they could all gather together and hear Ezra the priest read from God's word. They knew that there would be a big crowd, so they built a special platform for Ezra to stand on so he'd be high enough for everyone to see and hear him.
When the day came, everyone gathered together, and Ezra got up on the platform and read aloud from the book all morning long. For about six hours, the people stood quietly and listened carefully, even the kids, everyone who was old enough to understand. Ezra praised God and read to the people from God's word.
As the people listened to the word that Ezra was reading, they started to cry, because there were things written in God's word that they had not been obeying, things they didn't even know about. For seventy years they had not heard from God's word like this. Many of the people weren't even that old, so they'd never heard these things.
Ezra and Nehemiah told the people to stop crying, because this was a good day. They had heard God's word, and now they knew what it said. It was a good day. So for the rest of the day they celebrated. They ate, and they shared, and they celebrated because they had learned from God.
One of the things that they learned about that they had not been remembering to do was the Festival of Booths (Sukkot), which God had told the Israelites to do every year. In the seventh month they were supposed to gather sticks from the countryside and make temporary shelters, and live in them for a week instead of their regular houses, to remind them of the forty years that their great-great-great-... grandparents lived in tents wandering in the desert, because of their unbelief, when God brought them out of Egypt and into their own land. The Israelites were supposed to celebrate this holiday every year, but they hadn't been doing it.
So the next day, they went out and started gathering branches and making the shelters.
Application: Obeying God's Word
The Israelites understood that it wasn't enough to just read the Bible and then go about their lives just like they had been. They needed to do what it said. That's still true today: when we study the Bible, we should be looking for things we can apply to our lives. We should do what God's word tells us. We should follow in the footsteps of Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Israelites who listened to God's word and wanted to obey it.
Invitation: Obedience
Invite any children who want to learn to obey God's word to stay after the lesson and discuss it further.

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