Click below to download the Cornerstone Connections leader’s guide and student lesson. This week’s resources also include two lesson plans and a discussion starter video which offer different ways of looking at the topic. Each lesson plan includes opening activities, scripture passages, discussion questions, and real-life applications.
Royalty in Ruin (Prophets and Kings)
Chapter 56 - The Joy of Forgiveness and
Royalty in Ruin (Prophets and Kings)
Chapter 57 - Nehemiah’s Painful Work of Reformation
The aged prophet Ezra reads the Law to his people. Unfamiliar with God’s law and His will for them, the throng was starving to hear and know.
Sometimes books, sermons, or people can make the Bible seem difficult to understand, but God wants people of all ages to be able to study and understand His Word. God used Nehemiah to present His Word as a simple message—God’s people sinned, a Savior will save them from their sins, and He is preparing heaven and a new earth where His saved people will spend eternity. The Bible is not something for you to read later in life when you become adults; it is for you so that you can get to know, love, and trust God now.
Opening Activity: Ways to Learn the Bible
Supplies Needed: ability to play a video from YouTube
Watch the following video, “True and Better”
This video begins by stating, “The Bible is not a series of disconnected stories.” It continues to describe all the amazing connections found between various Bible characters and Jesus. In the time of Nehemiah, people had far fewer distractions and yet they still struggled to understand what was written in God’s Word, and needed to have the stories, principles, and laws explained. When Nehemiah stood up to read from the Book of the Law, he explained what he was reading.
Read Nehemiah 8:3.
3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.
Read Nehemiah 8:8.
8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.
Like this video, he made what he was reading meaningful and easy for the listeners to understand. Teens and even children must have been listening that day also, because it says, “men and women and others who could understand” were in the assembly.
Israel, at the time when Nehemiah held his Bible 101 class, was facing a time of transition when they were able to return to Jerusalem. The people had been captives in Babylon and were now returning to the partially rebuilt city. They needed leadership, direction, and to remember who their mighty God is. When Nehemiah taught them from the Book of the Law, they responded with great joy! Light was shining on their lives again. A dark path is difficult to walk, and in the same way it is difficult for us to live life without God’s Word guiding our path. We stumble and fall and move around aimlessly searching for meaning. Like God’s Word presented by Nehemiah to the Israelites, the Bible shines light on our life also, making our purpose clear and helping us to see the direction we need to go.
BIBLE STUDY GUIDE
Read each Bible passage, then discuss the questions. If you are worshiping from home, consider discussing one or more of the questions on social media, in a Zoom meeting, or in a group chat with friends.
Read Ecclesiastes 12:1.
1 Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come . . .
Read 1 Timothy 4:12.
12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
Read 2 Timothy 2:15.
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked. “Yes,” Jesus answered, “have you never read: ‘From the mouths of children and infants You have ordained praise’?”
Generations of Faith
Read Genesis 17:7
7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.
It is no secret that young people who are not yet considered adults are able to understand the Bible. The stories in the Bible often feature children, youth, or young adults who have deep, steadfast faith. They learned about God from parents, grandparents, teachers, and the Holy Scriptures. God’s Word contains a simple ribbon of truth that connects all the stories together to reveal our purpose—to know God, to love God, to trust God, to follow God, and to bring others to God. As you read the Bible, attend church, and pursue knowledge of God, you will be like the “others who could understand” in Nehemiah’s crowd.
Consider applying what you learned in this week’s lesson.
For a Relational Bible Study (RBS) you’ll want to get into the Scripture passage and encourage the youth to imagine participating in the story while it’s happening. Then you will be able to better apply it to your own situation today.
You will need to ask God for the Holy Spirit to be present as your small group discusses the questions (no more than 3-6 people in a group is recommended). Start with the opening question. It is a personal question and the answer is unique for each individual. There is no right answer and nobody is an expert here, so don’t be surprised when you hear different responses. You are depending on the Holy Spirit to be present and to speak through your group. Say what God prompts you to say, and listen to what others share.
Take turns reading the chapter out loud. Follow that with giving the students some time to individually mark their responses to the questions (a PDF version of the handout is available as a download). This gives each person a starting point for responding when you start to share as a group. Next, begin the discussion by asking the students to share what they marked and why on each question as you work your way through. Feel free to take more time on some questions than others as discussion warrants.
Encourage each person in the group to apply what is discussed to their personal lives and to share with the group what they believe God wants them to do. Then ask them to pray that God will help each of them to follow through in doing so. Remind them to expect that God will show them ways to live out the message of this passage in the coming week, and that they are free to ask others in the group to help hold them accountable.
The Nike slogan, “Just do it,” could have been used for the Jewish people to return from Babylon to Jerusalem. Admittedly, experience was difficult. Leaving home after your family has spent 70 years in a place requires a major shift. Their “captivity” wasn’t in prisons. They simply had to fit in and let Babylon be in charge. But then the Medo-Persians defeated the Babylonians, and a new group ran the country. Sometimes it’s good to fit in. But when you fit in well while living in a pagan country, your allegiance to God can become weak or non-existent. In such a context, would you really want to leave your comfortable habits and return to a devastated city that lay in ruins?
Some did. And it seemed that the Medo-Persian monarchy made it easy for them by providing permission and all the financial support they needed. But when they travelled to decimated Jerusalem, they found that the people living in those parts created opposition and distractions that made it more difficult for God’s people to restore the temple and the city.
We’ve spent several weeks looking at the stories in Ezra and Nehemiah, plus the encouragement from prophets like Haggai and Zechariah. This week’s lesson includes the second half of the book of Nehemiah. The temple has been built, and so have the walls around Jerusalem. But only a few people live inside the walls. So there’s not much happening there. Most of those who returned to Jerusalem live outside the city and stay plenty busy with their farming. But when Ezra called the people together to resume participation in the annual feasts and festivals, the people came. And the religious leaders taught and explained God’s law. This led to repentance, confession, and revival.
We’ll take just one chapter from the second half of Nehemiah—chapter nine. You may want to consider more, but there is plenty in this one chapter for Youth Sabbath School for this week.
Then and Now
Would you rather live in Bible times or now? Why?
Read Nehemiah 9:1-38.
Nehemiah Chapter 9
The Israelites Confess Their Sins
1 On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads. 2 Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors. 3 They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the Lord their God. 4 Standing on the stairs of the Levites were Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani and Kenani. They cried out with loud voices to the Lord their God. 5 And the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah—said: “Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.”
“Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. 6 You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.
7 “You are the Lord God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham. 8 You found his heart faithful to you, and you made a covenant with him to give to his descendants the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites and Girgashites. You have kept your promise because you are righteous.
9 “You saw the suffering of our ancestors in Egypt; you heard their cry at the Red Sea. 10 You sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his officials and all the people of his land, for you knew how arrogantly the Egyptians treated them. You made a name for yourself, which remains to this day. 11 You divided the sea before them, so that they passed through it on dry ground, but you hurled their pursuers into the depths, like a stone into mighty waters. 12 By day you led them with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light on the way they were to take.
13 “You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good. 14 You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses. 15 In their hunger you gave them bread from heaven and in their thirst you brought them water from the rock; you told them to go in and take possession of the land you had sworn with uplifted hand to give them.
6 “But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and they did not obey your commands. 17 They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, 18 even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, ‘This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,’ or when they committed awful blasphemies.
19 “Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. By day the pillar of cloud did not fail to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. 21 For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.
22 “You gave them kingdoms and nations, allotting to them even the remotest frontiers. They took over the country of Sihon king of Heshbon and the country of Og king of Bashan. 23 You made their children as numerous as the stars in the sky, and you brought them into the land that you told their parents to enter and possess. 24 Their children went in and took possession of the land. You subdued before them the Canaanites, who lived in the land; you gave the Canaanites into their hands, along with their kings and the peoples of the land, to deal with them as they pleased. 25 They captured fortified cities and fertile land; they took possession of houses filled with all kinds of good things, wells already dug, vineyards, olive groves and fruit trees in abundance. They ate to the full and were well-nourished; they reveled in your great goodness.
26 “But they were disobedient and rebelled against you; they turned their backs on your law. They killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you; they committed awful blasphemies. 27 So you delivered them into the hands of their enemies, who oppressed them. But when they were oppressed they cried out to you. From heaven you heard them, and in your great compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the hand of their enemies.
28 “But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight. Then you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies so that they ruled over them. And when they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven, and in your compassion you delivered them time after time.29 “You warned them in order to turn them back to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, of which you said, ‘The person who obeys them will live by them.’ Stubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen. 30 For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you warned them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you gave them into the hands of the neighboring peoples. 31 But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.
32 “Now therefore, our God, the great God, mighty and awesome, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in your eyes—the hardship that has come on us, on our kings and leaders, on our priests and prophets, on our ancestors and all your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until today. 33 In all that has happened to us, you have remained righteous; you have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly. 34 Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our ancestors did not follow your law; they did not pay attention to your commands or the statutes you warned them to keep. 35 Even while they were in their kingdom, enjoying your great goodness to them in the spacious and fertile land you gave them, they did not serve you or turn from their evil ways.
36 “But see, we are slaves today, slaves in the land you gave our ancestors so they could eat its fruit and the other good things it produces. 37 Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress.
The Agreement of the People
38 “In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it.”
1. When do you confess your sins?
2. What are the main reasons you praise God?
3. What impresses you the most about God being the Creator?
4. What did God do in Bible times that amazes you today?
5. What laws/commands did God give in the past that are still true today?
6. What did God do for His people during their 40 years in the wilderness?
7. What would you say God has done in your life?
8. What promises will you make to God today (vs. 38)?
Remembering the past helps us recall and internalize God’s amazing activity over the years. Indeed, we wouldn’t be where we are had it not been for God’s intervention in our lives, and in the lives of those who came before us. Remembering God’s activity draws us near to the heart of God. This often includes a change in our heart, attitude, and action. It includes prioritizing, even when that might mean changes. It also includes making apologies—repenting and confessing, and feeling the euphoria of being right with God and others. Oh, what a feeling! It can push us to tears of sorrow, and then tears of joy.
That’s what happened in our Bible study for today. And that can happen in our lives today as well. What remembering have you done today? What remembering will you continue? What reprioritizing and changes can happen in your life at this time? They could easily include sorrow as well as celebration. And both will be worthwhile.
Are you surviving or thriving? Many have been in a bit of a stupor since the pandemic hit. The flu season makes the coronavirus even more potent. It’s easy to lose hope at a time like this. Christmas traditions we’ve developed over the years will likely be interrupted, stopped, or could be superspreader events if we engage in them. In this time when we seem to be losing so much, take stock like the people did in Nehemiah 9 when they stopped what they were doing and considered what God had already revealed to His people. When they acted on that, things changed. Here are some options for you to act on what God has already revealed to you.
Commitments are good. But they rarely last. So people make recommitments. When you started school this year, you made either a commitment to be part of a new school, or you recommitted to be part of your same school from last year. Or perhaps you started or continued a homeschool or distance learning program. Relationships require commitments and then recommitments in order to be alive. The same is true with your commitment to God.
God has revealed His law for thousands of years. Those who live by it have guidance and receive benefits from living well, even though sometimes that life can be challenging.
DOWNLOAD “GUIDING LIGHTS FROM GOD” PDF
What amazes you the most about God? Is it what He has done in your life or what He has done in the lives of others? Is it what has happened recently, a while ago, or in the distant past?
Quick Start Prayer Guide for Generation Z
By Kymone Hinds
It seems like such a simple request. It was a request made by the disciples to Jesus one day. They saw Him praying and were so impressed and impacted by His prayer that they wanted to learn to pray like Him.
Prayer can be one of the easiest things to do and one of the most difficult things at the same time. It’s like talking to a friend - that’s easy. It’s talking to a friend you can’t see or hear audibly – that’s hard. Let’s be honest, you look weird talking to someone that is invisible.
Even though God is unseen it does not mean that He is not accessible. He can be reached. He is just a prayer away. This guide will help you to connect with Him deeper and get more out of your time in prayer.
Love reading? Use your reading and acting skills to bring joy to children and seniors. Create a funding page, select a few books, and go live on Instagram or Facebook, or broadcast on YouTube.
Cost: Less than $5.00
Express your appreciation and encourage people on the front lines. Use your imagination to create encouraging cards for essential workers.
Cost: Less than $5.00
Help feed the hungry. Give your canned food drive a twist. Build and display structures with the cans to encourage people to give.
Cost: Less than $5.00
Help children transition to a new home with dignity. Purchase and decorate duffle bags for children who are placed into foster care. Place items such as towels and personal hygiene items in the bags.
Cost: $25.00. Partner with a business to defray costs
5. Appreciation Gift Bags for Essential Workers & Teachers / Hero Candy BarsE
Say thanks in a fun way. Make appreciation bags with food or care items for teachers, essential workers, hospital staff, first responders, etc.
Cost: Less than $5.00