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Bible passage: Daniel 2
Background: The stories in the book of Daniel seem far away from the world of our young people. Many of them might seem like children’s stories, but they are full of danger, violence, peer pressure and standing up for what we believe in. This story is no different, but the prophetic nature of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream will help them think about how God’s plan works through the ages as well as our own place in those plans.
Welcome the young people to the group and share out any drinks and snacks you have. Chat about the week the young people have had. Ask if anyone has played a computer game called Civilization (or similar), where players start with a Stone Age settlement and develop it through the ages into bustling cities and armies in a bid to take over the world. If so, get them to explain it to the group and describe the different stages, eg how farming, trade and developing technology fit in.
You will need: long sheet of paper (lining paper is ideal); marker pens
Pin the long sheet of paper to the wall and create a timeline of the history of the world. Give the young people marker pens and ask them to populate this timeline with everything they can think of from the beginning of time to now.
Some coordination will be required to space things accordingly, and it will be easiest to start with the most obvious big events, such as Jesus’ birth, 1066 and the moon landing (1969), but don’t get bogged down with recent events. Use phones or other devices to research the dates of the Ice Age, when Stonehenge was built and so on. Try to mark at least some key moments from biblical history.
You will need: Bibles; timeline from ‘Intro activity’; a globe or maps of the ancient world
Read Daniel 2 out loud, stopping whenever necessary to work with the group and mark any dates on the timeline, eg when Daniel was taken to Babylon and the length of time Israel was in exile. Ask them to refer to the timelines at the back of their Bibles.
Explain how many scholars have interpreted the dream. The statue represented four kingdoms to come. Daniel said that Babylon, and specifically Nebuchadnezzar, was the head of gold. Led by Cyrus the Great, Babylon fell to the kingdom of the Medo-Persians in 539 BC, so that was the silver part. The bronze kingdom is the Greek Empire. The Greeks became a unified nation under Alexander the Great in 336 BC and defeated the Medo-Persians in 332 BC. The iron kingdom is the Roman Empire, which begins in 146 BC and lasted 500 years before splitting into east and west.
Work with the group to mark on your timeline the periods of Medo-Persia and the Greek and Roman Empires. Use it to discuss Israel’s and our own place in that history of ancient and modern civilisations. It might be helpful to have a globe handy or to print off a few maps showing how much of the known world these empires conquered.
Use these questions to discuss the Bible passage, making sure everyone gets the chance to contribute:
- Why did God give Nebuchadnezzar a dream, and why didn’t the king trust his wise men to interpret?
- How did Daniel know the meaning of the dream?
- What do you think of Nebuchadnezzar’s response to Daniel’s amazing knowledge?
- Why had God allowed Israel to be taken over by Babylon?
- How does God speak to us?
- What does God know, and what do we not know?
- What does God want us to learn from this story?
You will need: long sheets of paper; felt-tip pens
This activity is similar to ‘Intro activity’ but is designed to help young people see God at work in their own timelines. Encourage them to find some space on their own. Give each person a metre-long sheet of paper and access to felt-tip pens of different colours.
Ask them to draw a line from left to right and mark off the first half (or maybe two-thirds) into twelve months up to a point that they should label ‘NOW’. In the first section (to the left), they should record a few significant moments from world affairs, entertainment and sport news (rough dates are fine).
Now suggest that they add a few key moments from their personal lives, such as their birthday, exam results or relationships starting.
Prompt them to also mark on spiritual moments: times they felt God speaking to them, your youth group weekend away, Soul Survivor or getting baptised, for example.
In the second section (to the right) they should mark on the timeline how they think things will go in the next year or few years. Imagining they are God, able to see everything, even outside of time, encourage them to record their hopes for their lives along with key moments and developments in their spiritual and personal lives.
You will need: personal timelines from ‘Creative response’
Ask the group to look at their own timelines and try to see the bigger picture of their lives as God sees them. Challenge each young person to summarise God’s role in their life, as well as his desires for them and their future in one or two sentences, writing it down on the sheet from God’s point of view. Pray as a group and ask them, if they are comfortable, to read out their statements so everyone can hear them.
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