Use this children’s Sunday School lesson about the prophet Daniel and King Nebuchadnezzar to teach children about how God wants to change our thinking.
Needed: Bibles, a volunteer to play King Nebuchadnezzar (you can do this yourself if you want)
Intro Game: Power Up Freeze Tag
Divide the students into two teams. One team is It and tries to tag the members of the other team. When a student is tagged, they freeze in place. Every minute or so, a designated Power Up leader runs through the play area. If someone on the team being chased tags the Power Up leader, the leader shouts, “Power Up!” and the frozen students are back in the game. The roles also reverse, so that now they are It and the other team is running from them.
After the first round, explain that when God starts to change the way we think, it’s like He’s giving us a power-up.
Say, The two kingdoms of Israel and Judah had been conquered. God let the Assyrians and the Babylonians conquer Israel and Judah because the people of Israel and Judah had done so many bad things. They had believed in and worshipped fake gods instead of the real God, and they had done all the wrong things that God didn’t do want them to do. So, God let the Assyrians and the Babylonians conquer their kingdoms and carry the Israelite people back to Assyria and Babylon.
(Read Daniel 4 with your students, or read the following story as a summary.)
Greetings and God bless you! I’m King Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, and I can tell you that God has certainly shown me His power in some very awesome ways. First, I saw God save Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when I threw them into the furnace for not worshipping my gold statue. Then, a little while after that, I was sleeping and had a dream.
In the dream, God sent an angel to me to tell me that my mind would become like the mind of an animal for seven years and that I would live out with the animals. I didn’t know what the dream meant, so when I woke up, I called for all my magicians and wise men to come to help me figure it out. But none of the magicians could tell me what the dream meant.
Finally, I called in Daniel. Daniel was an Israelite that my army had taken from Judah when we conquered them. Daniel was very smart, and he was in charge of all my magicians. When I told him what my dream was, he said, “King Nebuchadnezzar, the dream means that God is going to punish you for not believing in Him. He’s going to make you go insane for seven years. You’ll run away and go live with the animals in the wild because you’ll go insane.”
Then Daniel told me, “But if you will start to believe in God now and start doing the right things that He wants you to do, then maybe God will decide not to punish you.”
I should have believed in God then, but I didn’t. I ignored what Daniel told me.
Exactly one year later, though, I was walking on the roof of my palace, looking out over the kingdom of Babylon. I said, “Look at this great country I’ve made for myself. I don’t need any God to help me. I’m the greatest man that ever lived!”
Now, let me ask you: do you think I should have said that I don’t need God to help me? Do you think I should have been proud like that and started talking about how great I was?
No, I shouldn’t have done that. Because right then, a voice came from Heaven and said, “King Nebuchadnezzar, you are going to be punished and live like an animal because you do not believe in God.”
So, right then, my mind was changed. I went insane and ran off into the woods. I lived like a wild animal for seven years. I let my hair grow really long. My fingernails grew so long that they were like claws. All I ate was grass, and I was very dirty all the time.
Then, at the end of the seven years, God made it so that I could think like a human being again. I remembered who I was and I believed in God. Eventually, my servants came and found me, and I became king again.
I thanked God for forgiving me and giving me back my kingdom. And from then on, I believed in God and tried to do the right things that He wanted me to do.
(Have your students thank “King Nebuchadnezzar” for coming to talk to them.)
Why did King Nebuchadnezzar go insane? (God was punishing him because he didn’t believe in God or do the right things that God wanted him to do.)
Did God forgive King Nebuchadnezzar? (Yes.)
Do you think God can forgive us if we do things that are wrong? (Yes.)
God doesn’t like it when we do wrong things, but if we say we’re sorry and try not to do those things anymore, then God will forgive us and be happy with us, just like God was happy with King Nebuchadnezzar when King Nebuchadnezzar decided to believe in God and do the right things that God wanted him to do.
And just like God changed King Nebuchadnezzar’s thinking to be worse – like an animal – He can change our thinking to be better. He can help us to think about good things instead of wrong things. He can help us love people more instead of getting angry. He can help us have hope instead of being sad. God changes us for the better just like He changed King Nebuchadnezzar for the worse.
Activity: Nebuchadnezzar’s Transformation
Tell students that they’re going to pretend to be King Nebuchadnezzar. Remind them that King Nebuchadnezzar was always bragging about great he was. Tell students to brag about how great they are. Encourage them to be really dramatic about it. Then, when you yell, “Act like an animal!” tell all the students to do their best impressions of whatever animals they want to. Count to seven and then, yell, “You’re healed!” Students then act like their normal selves again.
Remind students that God made King Nebuchadnezzar think he was an animal because he didn’t believe in God and because he was bragging about how great he was all the time, but that then, after seven years, God forgave him and healed him.
Repeat the exercise a couple of times for fun.
Activity: Acting It Out
Divide students into groups of two or three. Have each group decide on and act out a scene in which a non-Christian is thinking about something the wrong way and a Christian is thinking about that same thing the right way.
Game: Power Up Freeze Tag
Play the intro game again for as long as time permits. Remind students that when we let God change our thinking, it’s a power-up in our lives because it helps us live for God.
Father, we thank You for the warning that King Nebuchadnezzar gives. Help us to always believe in You and not to be too proud. We also pray that You’ll change our minds and hearts for the better so that we can be more like You want us to be.
You can also find this lesson for Kindle or in print in my book, Hope in Exile.