Israel’s First King – I Samuel 8 - 15

This group of passages illustrates the problems we experience when our hearts are not in line with God and His desires. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that our hearts are desperately sick. We all need a heart transplant. Thankfully, our God specializes in turning hearts of stone into hearts of flesh (Ezek. 11:19). 

Notice in 8:20, the people told Samuel that they wanted a king “to lead them and to go out before them and to fight their battles.” Who had been leading them, going out before them, and fighting their battles prior to this moment? It was God Himself; over and over again, He had won miraculous victories for His people, but they seemed to not even remember what God had done. When the people insisted they wanted a king, they were rejecting God’ leadership and loving care. Because the Israelites had sick hearts, they forgot all God had done for them; they weren’t grateful for what God had done; and they had their hearts set on something other than God. What about us? When we fail to remember God’s blessings, when we lack thankfulness, and when the desire of our hearts is anything other than God, our sick hearts are showing, too!

Notice in 10:23-24 how impressed the people were with Saul’s external appearance. Again, their hearts were far from God. He doesn’t look at the external appearance; He looks at the heart. If the people had paid attention to the condition of Saul’s heart, they might have saved themselves from lots of grief. What about us? Do we focus more on external appearances or on the condition of people’s hearts?

Notice all the ways Saul’s heart fell short of God’s standard. In 10:22, he was hiding at the very moment when he should have humbly accepted the honor God was bestowing on him. In 11:7, he began leading the Israelites by threatening his people rather than leading by example or with understanding and wisdom. In chapters 13 and 15, Saul acted foolishly and impatiently when he ignored God’s commands and changed the rules to suit himself. In 14:24, Saul abused his men by pushing them hard and denying them food for the entire day. In 15:12, Saul revealed his pride and arrogance when he set up a monument in his own honor. What about us? Do we balk at or obey with our whole hearts God’s commands? Are we humble or proud? Do we care for those under our care with genuine concern?

Saul did not go down in history as a king who had God’s approval even though the Spirit of God came upon him in power at the beginning of his kingship. Why not? Saul’s problem wasn’t a lack of power; it was the fact that his heart was never fully devoted to God. He was devoted to doing things his own way and to serving himself. We also must inspect our hearts and ask ourselves, “Whom do I most want to please – God or myself?” “Have I ever TOTALLY given myself to God to do as He pleases?” Only when our hearts are totally God’s can we know that our lives will be successful in God’s eyes.

Demonstration & Discussion – Paper Plate Demo – Ask kids:

  • Do you know who loves you? Kids may mention others but hopefully they mention God.
  • How do you know God loves you? He gave His precious Son Jesus to die on the cross to pay for our sins.
  • Payment for our sins is Jesus’ gift to each of us. If you want this gift, what must you do? Each of us must tell Jesus if we want to receive His gift.
  • The Bible calls this “repenting” or “receiving Jesus.” When we receive Jesus, He wants access to all our hearts, not just part of them. Demo the difference by pouring water into a divided paper plate and one with no divisions. 
  • Do you see how the water runs into every part of the whole paper plate? God wants us to serve Him wholeheartedly. He doesn’t want our hearts to be divided. 
  • What kind of heart did Saul have? Definitely divided. Our whole hearts are revealed when we obey God completely. Saul’s undivided heart was revealed by his disobedience.

Art Activity – give kids a paper heart to tear into several pieces (no more than 7). Each kid should keep track of all his/her pieces. Then, give kids a whole piece of paper. Ask them to put their heart pieces back together and glue them to the whole sheet of paper. As they glue, discuss: 

  • When someone gives his/her heart to Jesus, s/he will need to give all the parts of their hearts to Jesus. For example, after you give your heart to Jesus, you might sense God telling you that you must share with your little brother. You can no longer be selfish. So, you must decide if you will give that part of your heart to Jesus. If you do, maybe you will share the last piece of cake with your brother instead of eating it yourself. Maybe you will let your brother play with you. 
  • Then the next day, maybe Jesus will remind you that you need to change the way you talk. Maybe you will stop saying bad words. Maybe you will stop calling others names. You will have to decide whether to give that part of your heart to Jesus.
  • Then, maybe after that Jesus will impress on you that you need to do your own work at school and stop cheating. That means you will have to spend some time studying and doing your homework, so you will know what’s going to be on your test.
  • Then, maybe Jesus will nudge your heart to start helping your mom more. You might offer to unload the dishwasher even though it’s not your turn.
  • Life with Jesus keeps going like this. At every point, you must decide to give all your heart to Jesus if you want to keep living for Him. If you decide not to give all your heart to Jesus, you will be in danger of living like Saul. Part of the reason we come to church is so we can encourage each other to give ALL our hearts to Jesus every day.

Additional questions:

What did you like about this story?

What didn’t you like?

What did you learn about God?

  • God sees our hearts.
  • God will let people choose what they want – even if it’s not the best thing for them.
  • God will eventually judge those whose hearts are not fully His.
  • God will bless those whose hearts are fully His.

What did you learn about people?

  • People can choose whether to receive Jesus’ free gift of forgiveness and grace.
  • People can choose whether to completely give God their hearts.
  • People reveal the condition of their hearts by how much they obey God.

What did you learn about yourself?

  • I want to completely obey God.
  • I want to honor God with my life by loving and obeying Him.