God looks at the Heart (1 Samuel 16) Sunday School Lesson

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Lesson: God looks at the Heart (1 Samuel 16) Sunday School Lesson
Just watch a child select a book at the library and it is pretty evident: we judge things by what we see. In spite of efforts to instill broad acceptance and understanding in kids, it’s hard to fight the natural human tendency to base our thoughts on appearance. In this lesson, we see a new king selected by God, and a reminder of what God cares about most.
Lesson focus: God wants us to care about Godly standards rather than outward appearances.
Passage: 1 Samuel 16
Target Audience: Kindergarten-6th Grade (adaptable older or younger)
Materials Needed: Oil, small containers, paper crowns (click here to download), decorative materials, magazines, scissors and glue.
Optional: Story of David Coloring Pages
Lesson Opening: You choose…begin with a group game about choosing things. Have all students sit in chairs in a circle, with one chair less than the number in the group. Have one child stand in the center of the circle and call something that might describe some people in the circle, like a color they wear or a food they like to eat. Once the caller has chosen the distinguishing feature, all students who fit that description must hop up and switch places in the circle. Whoever is left without a chair is the next “chooser” and calls another thing. Continue play for as long as time and interest allow, rotating to give multiple students a chance to pick and call items.
1 Samuel 16 Bible Lesson: God Chooses David
Explain to students that today they will be talking about choices, and about a time in the Bible when God made a very important choice to pick a new king for Israel. Set the background for children: Saul, who was the king, had made some poor choices and it was time for him to be fired. God told the prophet Samuel to select a new king and sent him to a man named Jesse. Now, Saul had been tall and handsome and kingly-looking, so Samuel expected that the new king would be the same. He went to Jesse’s house, and was in for a surprise…

When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”         -1 Samuel 16:6-7

Emphasize God’s reaction to Samuel’s confusion. People naturally want to judge based on appearances. But God looks on the inside for true value.  Invite students to share a time when they may have been tempted to make a judgment without thinking through everything. This could be about a person, a pizza topping, a book, or a CD…anything to get talking.  Return to the story. After the first son passed by, Samuel tried again:

 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammahpass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” 16:8-11

Samuel might be getting frustrated and confused by this point, wondering what God had in mind to send him on a seemingly fruitless wild goose chase. Fortunately, though, God knew what He was doing (as He always does, of course!)

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” 12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” 13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. -16:11-13

Explain a little about the practice of anointing, and how it designated David as God’s chosen one. Children may be most familiar with the King from the story of his amazing bout with Goliath, but there is a lot more to the character of David. It begins here, and ultimately winds up with the birth of Jesus! Use some oil to “anoint” students gently (and maybe send a bit home as well, for a lesson souvenir). Remind them that, just as God chose David for a special purpose, He chooses all of us to do amazing things for Him. It doesn’t matter what we look like or what size we are. We are His children and if we love and long to serve Him, He will allow it!
Crown Craft:
Younger students can decorate paper crowns in honor of David’s anointing as king. They may also want to decorate their containers of oil (if given). For older students, have them cut a heart shaped card. On the outside, they may select magazine pictures of worldly beauty and glue them. Inside, though, have them write or draw what true love and godliness looks like. Place (or write) a caption with 1 Samuel 16:7 as memory verse. (Click here if you need a crown template)
Close with prayer and reminder of God’s work in our lives. Ask God to open our hearts and minds to love and serve Him and His people.


2 thoughts on “God looks at the Heart (1 Samuel 16) Sunday School Lesson”

  1. This lesson although geared to children has helped me tremendously with my devotion later this week. I was perhaps overthinking the lesson within verse 7…God is not led by outward appearances, but what is in the heart…we homo sapiens, however, being such visual creatures can make decisions/judgements based on appearance and material circumstances.

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