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This is lesson is part of the “What’s in the Bible?” series, starting with “Memories & Stories” on Genesis

For The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

By Sally Ulrey

Key verses:
For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, AND to teaching its decrees
and laws in Israel (Ezra 7:10)

 To understand the book of Ezra as the journey of the Israelites’ coming back to
Scripture and living by its principles
 To learn a little bit about what’s in the book of Ezra, specifically the profound effect it
has on the Israelites’ daily lives when they followed Scripture
 To prioritize reading, knowing, and living by Scripture in our own lives
The Set up: Minimal
The Plan:
 Hook: “Sword Drill” (15 mins)
o Familiarizing ourselves with the Bible using a good, old-fashioned “sword drill”
 Book: Overview of Ezra (10 mins)
o Learning about the effects of reading Scripture in the book of Ezra
 Look: What’s in The Book? (10 mins)
o Small Group Discussion about the most meaningful passages in Scripture to each student
 Took: Read The Book! (20 mins)
o Time to read and journal about some passages of Scripture
o Tools for continuing the habit of regular Scripture reading
The Supplies:
 Copy of lesson
 Candy
 Print outs of Ezra-Nehemiah Timeline
 Print outs of Small Group Discussion Questions
 Print outs of Scripture Study sheet
 Bibles, pens, paper
 Flip Chart/White Board & something to write with
 Optional: AV Equipment for background music
The Preparation:
 Get background music ready
 Print stuff: Timeline, Small Group Questions, Study/Resource sheet

“Read the Book” (Ezra)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
ABOUT THE LESSON: The major point of the books of Ezra is: READ THE BOOK! Ezra came to teach Scripture to
the people of Israel who had just returned to Jerusalem from Exile in Babylon. They were exiled because of
their failure to follow Scripture, and those who returned were ready to follow it now. They will find that
Scripture is meant to be life-giving and transformative. It is meant for our GOOD! Studying it and truly
learning it and taking it to heart is a valuable and worthwhile use of our time. Neglecting it caused the
Israelites a lot of heartache and pain. Taking it to heart brought them life and hope and joy. We would be
wise to learn from their story, and take Scripture to heart in our own lives. The bottom line of the book of
Ezra is that studying and following Scripture is an important part of following God.

“Sword Drill” (Hook, 15 mins)

For the opening of the lesson, you’ll do a good old-fashioned “sword drill”, so named because the Word is
called the sword of the Spirit in Ephesians 6 and Heb 4. So…for this, there are no swords. There are just
Bibles. The students will race to be the first to look up various Scriptures which you will call out, and they will
be rewarded with candy (because it says the Word of God is sweeter than honey…and also cuz who doesn’t
love candy?) Make this a really fun and exciting competition. You can lead the group in doing finger stretches
beforehand. You can even time it.

 Pass out the Bibles, one per person

 Explain that this is called a “Sword Drill” but they will use their Bibles (you can refrain from explaining
why it’s called that and see if anyone can explain it at the end, after having looked up all the Scriptures)
 Tell them that you will call out a Scripture reference and they will be racing to see who can look it up
the fastest, and that they will be rewarded with candy
 Give them a minute or so to look through the table of contents, flip through the books and familiarize
themselves with the Bible and generally where things are.
 Have them close their Bibles with their thumbs out
 Call out the first Scripture, see who wins, give candy, and have that person (or another volunteer who
wants to read if the “winner” doesn’t) read the verse out loud.
 Continue until all the verses are read.
 See who has the most candy
 Scriptures References:
o Psalm 19:7-10: The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The
precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever. The decrees of the LORD are firm, and all of them are righteous.They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are
sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.
o Ephesians 6:13-17: Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your
ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the
breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition
to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of
salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
o Psalm 119:9-11: How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my
heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
o Hebrews 4:12: For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul
and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
o Isaiah 40:8: The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.
o 2 Timothy 3:16-17: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
o Deuteronomy 8:3: He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your
ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
“Read the Book” (Ezra)
by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
o James 1:22: Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
o Luke 11:28: He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
o John 1:14: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
o Matthew 7:24: Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his
house on the rock.

Quick Large Group Discussion Questions (2 mins):

 What do you think today’s lesson will be about?
 What did you learn about the importance of Scripture in a believer’s life?

Transition: That Scripture is life-giving, transforming, and worth studying and following is the main point of
the book of….EZRA! Not knowing or following Scripture got the Israelites in a mess. Knowing and following
Scripture is what gave them a fresh new start, and Ezra was someone who helped the Israelites study, learn,
and follow Scripture…. And that (Scripture) had a profound effect in their lives!

“Read the Book” (Ezra)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Overview of Ezra (Book, 10 mins)
In this section, we’ll have the students briefly look over the effects that knowing and following Scripture have
on the people. These radical responses to encountering God through Scripture are also ones we want to
encourage in our own lives.
 LEADER TIP: You will want to look over the Summary below and Timeline in advance to be familiar with
what all is in Ezra.

Quick Background (5 mins)

 Show the timeline of Ezra-Nehemiah (project, make copies, write on a flipchart) for reference
 Explain that the books of Ezra and Nehemiah overlap and were probably written as a single unit, so that’s
why the timeline includes them both.
 Hit some highlights. Briefly go over some major points of the background and story of Ezra:
o After a period of exile in Babylon, the Persians take over Babylon, and when they do, the Persian rulers
allow the captive Israelites to return home and rebuild their temple. In fact, God moves the heart of
Cyrus (Persian ruler) to give them everything they need, including gold and supplies, to rebuild the
o When they arrive, despite threats from the surrounding people (not Israelites) who live there, the very
first thing they do is to start making Levitical sacrifices in accordance with God’s command. Very first
thing. Then they start laying the foundation for the temple and rebuilding it. They run into opposition,
but they eventually get the temple built and have a huge celebration.
o Ezra goes to Jerusalem; he’s well-versed in the Law, and he’s good at teaching others.
o Throughout the book every time the returned exiles are confronted with commands from Scripture,
they immediately respond whole-heartedly to obey
 They rebuild the temple and reinstated sacrifices before worrying about rebuilding the wall
(Nehemiah does that later) for their own protection (Ez 3)
 They celebrate the Passover the first chance they get (Ez 6)
 They repent of intermarrying (and being influenced by) those who followed other gods and pulled
the Israelites away from their faith (Ez 9-10)
 Later when Ezra reads them the Law, they weep at how they/their ancestors have violated it
(Nehemiah 8)
 They celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles as commanded (Ezra 3 and Nehemiah 8)

Scripture (5 mins)
 Read (or have a volunteer read) Ezra 2:68 through Ezra 3:1-6 and Ezra 3:10-13 (below for your reference)
 As the Scripture is being read, write (or have a volunteer write) on a flipchart all the things that it COST the
Israelites to follow the commands of Scripture. Keep in mind that before the exile, they did not (read:
could not be bothered) to do these things, so it must have cost them something to do it.
o Examples: gold and silver (donated to the temple construction), supporting the Levites and priests so they didn’t have to
work at farming and could be dedicated to the sacrifices, giving the actual animals to sacrifice, taking time out to observe
the Feasts (most of them took a week), making time to worship regularly, getting stuff ready (vestments, instruments),
giving undivided attention and emotional energy to be present worshipping God

Transitional Statement: When we take the Word to heart, it is transforming. As it’s meant to be. It brings joy
and celebration. It changes your whole life for the better. But following Scripture and worshipping God takes
time and energy. Regular worship means a lifestyle change. For it to be truly transforming, we have to make
it part of our daily lives, and that means being intentional.
“Read the Book” (Ezra)
by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Passage to read for your reference: Ezra 2:68-3:6 AND Ezra 3:10-13

When they arrived at the house of the L ORD in Jerusalem, some of the heads of the families gave freewill
offerings toward the rebuilding of the house of God on its site. 69 According to their ability they gave to the
treasury for this work 61,000 darics[b] of gold, 5,000 minas[c] of silver and 100 priestly garments.
The priests, the Levites, the musicians, the gatekeepers and the temple servants settled in their own towns,
along with some of the other people, and the rest of the Israelites settled in their towns.

Rebuilding the Altar

3 When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, the people assembled together as
one in Jerusalem. 2 Then Joshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his
associates began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, in accordance with
what is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. 3 Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built
the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the L ORD, both the morning and evening
sacrifices.4 Then in accordance with what is written, they celebrated the Festival of Tabernacles with the
required number of burnt offerings prescribed for each day. 5 After that, they presented the regular burnt
offerings, the New Moon sacrifices and the sacrifices for all the appointed sacred festivals of the L ORD, as well
as those brought as freewill offerings to the L ORD. 6 On the first day of the seventh month they began to offer
burnt offerings to the LORD, though the foundation of the LORD’s temple had not yet been laid.
When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the L ORD, the priests in their vestments and with
trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the L ORD, as prescribed
by David king of Israel. 11 With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the L ORD:

“He is good;
his love toward Israel endures forever.”
And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the L ORD, because the foundation of the house of
the LORD was laid. 12 But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former
temple,wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for
joy. 13 No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people
made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights
reserved worldwide.

“Read the Book” (Ezra)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
What’s in THE BOOK? (Look, 10 mins)
In this part, students will get a chance to reflect on the effect of Scripture in their own lives…what are the
most meaningful Scriptures to them, and how have those words from God affected their lives.

 Put students in groups of 3-4.

 Pass out or project Small Group Discussion Questions
 Allow about 10 mins for the students to discuss
 LEADER TIP: If you have a group that doesn’t know Scripture well, or doesn’t generally have a habit of
reading Scripture, they may not have answers to the first few questions. That’s ok. Put adults/youth
who are leaders in each group who can thoughtfully answer those questions to set the example.

Small Group Discussion Questions

1. What is one of your favorite/most meaningful Scriptures and why?
2. Describe a time when the truth of a Scripture/lesson/sermon impacted your life and how it changed
3. What was your favorite Scripture we looked up in the Bible Scavenger Hunt? How will it change your
life if you apply it well?

Story Time. As an ALTERNATIVE (or an addition if you have time) to Small Group Discussion, you could invite
one or two leaders to share a story about how reading and applying Scripture to their lives made a big
difference for the better (basically they would be sharing their answers to small group questions 1 and 2). The
advantages to this are that youth relate to and are inspired and challenged by personal stories, AND it helps
them get to know their leaders on a more personal, relational level.

Transitional Statement
Scripture is meant to be life-giving and transformative. It is meant for our GOOD! Studying it and truly
learning it and taking it to heart is a valuable and worthwhile use of our time. Neglecting it caused the
Israelites a lot of heartache and pain. Taking it to heart brought them life and hope and joy. We would be
wise to learn from their story, and take Scripture to heart in our own lives.

So we’re going to spend some time reading and learning Scripture….

“Read the Book” (Ezra)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Read THE BOOK! (Took, 20 mins)
For the closing time, we’ll invite the students to practice reading the book, which is really what Ezra was all
about. We’ll also leave them with a couple resources to continue to practice regularly.

 Pass out the Scripture devotional sheets, Bibles, pens, etc.

 Instruct them to find a place (within the boundaries you set) to get by themselves so they can read and
study Scripture and pray and worship (spend time with God and give God undivided devotion)
 Ring a bell (or otherwise call them back) at the end of about 10 mins
 Invite them to share anything that stuck out to them or was meaningful in their time
 Encourage them to carve out a few minutes each day to spend intentional time studying Scripture.
 Call attention to the resources at the bottom of their practice Scripture Study Sheets as they are
leaving to encourage them to continue the practice of Scripture reading

Close in prayer, saying something like…

God, we want to follow you. Teach us how to do that well through the study of your word. Give us the
strength and intention and resolve to make this a regular practice so that we might experience your life-giving,
transforming love for us! AMEN.

“Read the Book” (Ezra)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Timeline of Ezra-Nehemiah

Bible Timeline
537 BC The Proclamation of Cyrus Ezra 1
537 BC The Exiles Return Ezra 2
535 BC Temple Work Begins Ezra 3
534 BC Adversaries Hinder Temple Work Ezra 4
534 BC Artaxerxes Orders Work Stopped Ezra 4:17
520 BC Tattenai's Letter to Darius Ezra 5
520 BC Temple Work Resumed by Darius' Decree Ezra 6
515 BC Completion and Dedication of the Temple Ezra 6:16
458 BC Ezra Journeys to Jerusalem Ezra 7
458 BC Ezra Commissioned by Artaxerxes Ezra 7:11
457 BC Families Return to Jerusalem with Ezra Ezra 8
457 BC Ezra's reforms Ezra 9
456 BC Ezra's Prayer About Intermarriage Ezra 10
445 BC Nehemiah's Prayer for the Exiles Nehemiah 1
444 BC Artaxerxes Sends Nehemiah to Jerusalem Nehemiah 2
444 BC Builders of the Walls Named Nehemiah 3
444 BC Builders Overcome Ridicule Nehemiah 4
444 BC Nehemiah Abolishes Debt and Bondage Nehemiah 5
444 BC Sanballat's Plot Nehemiah 6
444 BC Completion of the Wall Nehemiah 6:15
444 BC Census of Returned Exiles Nehemiah 7
444 BC Ezra Reads the Law Nehemiah 8
444 BC Israelites Fast and Repent Nehemiah 9
444 BC Israelites Seal the Covenant Nehemiah 10
444 BC People Settle in Jerusalem Nehemiah 11, 12
432 BC Nehemiah Restores Laws Nehemiah 13

Taken from Bible Hub:

“Read the Book” (Ezra)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Scripture Study Time—For Students
Spend some time reading Scripture and praying, like Ezra taught the people to do. It led to joy, celebration,
and a transformed life for the better! But it did take time and intentionality.

8 1
all the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the
Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the L ORD had commanded for Israel.
So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made
up of men and women and all who were able to understand. 3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon…And all
the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.
Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion… 5 Ezra opened the book.
All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood
up.6 Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen!
Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the L ORD with their faces to the ground.
The Levites…instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. 8 They read from the Book
of the Law of God, making it clear[a] and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being
Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the
people said to them all, “This day is holy to the L ORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people
had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have

nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great
joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.
…From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their
joy was very great.
Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God.

What were some of the responses of the people to hearing Scripture?


“Read the Book” (Ezra)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Reflect Further:

If you look ahead to the next chapter (Nehemiah 9), you’ll also learn that after celebrating, they confessed and
repented of their sins, and they had a whole new perspective on the hardship they had endured in the exile,
and instead, saw God’s graciousness and faithfulness to them in that time (which they had routinely failed to
see before). After learning the law/Scripture, it changed their perspective and attitude. They were self-
reflective. They were repentant. They practiced being grateful. They had joy. They were following God
whole-heartedly. They were excited to learn about God and truly understand Scripture. And they made sure
they put themselves in the path of teachers who could explain it to them so they could get the most out of it.

What are some of the responses you have to reading/hearing Scripture in your own life?

If that is different than the people’s responses in the story, why do you think that is?

What do you think would help you respond with more joy and excitement to hearing/reading Scripture? (For
example, one really practical thing might be to get a good night’s rest before church so you can be attentive
and fully engaged).

Hopefully you’ve seen through this lesson the impact that studying Scripture makes in a believers’ life. How
willing are you to take steps toward making reading/understanding Scripture an intentional part of your
everyday life?

Resources—Daily Online Youth Devotionals:

 D365 app (available for iPhone, but you can visit on your Android phone). It’s a daily devotional
complete with Scripture, prayer, and often, music.
 Daily Youth Devo from
 Another short one from
 There are HUNDREDS of online youth devotionals! Pick one and get started! Set an alarm on your phone
to remind you! And/or find a good Bible study/teacher. Go for it!

“Read the Book” (Ezra)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
The “What’s in the Bible?” Series

Genesis “Memories and Stories” Nov 2017

Exodus “Near” Nov 2017
Leviticus “You Want me to do What Now?” & “Fellowship” May 2017
Numbers “Unfinished” Nov 2017
Deuteronomy “SuperHero Wanted” Nov 2017
Joshua “Never Give Up” Sep 2016
Judges “No Rules” Dec 2017
Ruth “Loyalty” Feb 2017
1&2 Samuel “Who’s on the Throne?” Dec 2017
1&2 Kings “Lights in the Darkness” Dec 2017
Ezra “Read the BOOK!” Jan 2018
Nehemiah “Build the Wall!” Jan 2018
Esther “Courage” Apr 2017

“Read the Book” (Ezra)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta

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