Use this children’s Sunday School lesson to teach kids about how Israel chose their first king, and how God is the true King.
Needed: Bibles, flashlight, craft foam or construction paper, scissors, glue or tape, markers or crayons, stickers or jewel decorations
Intro Game: Storytelling Sequence
Kids sit in a circle, each telling one sentence of a story. Tell them that the story has to involve a king. When it’s their turn to make up a sentence, they hold the flashlight under their chin so that it lights up their face as if they were at a campfire telling ghost stories. (It’s really to show whose turn it is!)
Let the students tell 2-3 stories about a king. Then, tell them that you’re going to tell them a true story about Israel’s first king.
So far, we’ve learned about how Hannah wanted a baby and told God that she would give her baby back to Him if God would give her a son. That son was named Samuel, and when Samuel was old enough, Hannah gave Samuel to Eli the priest so that Samuel could learn how to serve God.
But God wasn’t happy with Eli the priest or Eli’s sons because Eli’s sons were doing bad things and Eli wasn’t doing anything to stop them. So, when the Philistines attacked Israel, God made it so that Eli’s sons died as a punishment. And when Eli heard that his sons had died, he fell over and died too.
(Read 1 Samuel 7:3-12:25 with your students, or read the following story as a summary.)
After that, Samuel became the leader of Israel. God had spoken to him when he was younger and made him a prophet. Samuel was the one who led Israel in their war against the Philistines, and God helped Samuel and the Israelites win against the Philistines.
Samuel was the leader of Israel for a long time, but when he had sons, his sons were evil like Eli’s sons had been evil. Samuel’s sons could not be Israel’s leaders after Samuel died because they were so bad. So, the people came to Samuel and asked him to make someone king.
Israel had never had a king before. They only had leaders, like Moses and the judges and Samuel. Samuel asked God if Israel could have a king and God said that they could. But God warned them that the king would not always be good. Sometimes, the king would be a bad king and do bad things to the people. He also told them always to remember that God is their real King.
So, Samuel told the people that he would make whoever God chose the king.
Meanwhile, a man named Saul was out looking for his father’s lost donkeys. Saul and his servant looked around all the country for the lost donkeys and couldn’t find them. After they had been looking for a long time, Saul said to the servant, “Let’s go home. My father has probably forgotten about the lost donkeys by now and is probably starting to worry about us.”
But the servant said, “Samuel the prophet lives in this town. Let’s go see him, and maybe he can tell us where the donkeys went.”
Samuel was in the town, getting ready for the holiday feast. The day before, God had told Samuel that Saul was going to come to see him today and that Samuel should make Saul king. So, when Samuel saw Saul and his servant coming toward him, God said, “Samuel, this is the man I told you about. Make him king over Israel.”
Saul had never seen Samuel before, so Saul asked him, “Can you tell me where the prophet is?”
“I am the prophet,” Samuel said. “Stay and eat with me at the feast because I have something to tell you in the morning. And don’t worry about your father’s donkeys. Someone else already found them and took them home.”
Then, Samuel gave Saul the biggest piece of meat at the feast. The next morning, Samuel said, “Tell your servant to walk up the road a little ways so that I can tell you a secret message from God.” When the servant had left, Samuel poured olive oil all over Saul’s head and kissed him on the cheek. He said, “God has made you king over all of Israel.”
Saul didn’t believe it. He didn’t know what to think! So, to prove that Samuel knew what he was talking about, Samuel said, “When you leave here, you’ll meet two men. They’ll tell you that your father’s donkeys have been found and that your father is worried about you now. When you go a little further, you’ll meet three men. They’ll be carrying baby goats, some loaves of bread, and some wine. They’ll ask you if you want some bread, and you’ll take it. Then, when you go a little further, you’ll see a group of prophets, all making music and prophesying from God. When you see them, God’s Holy Spirit will come down on you, and you will suddenly start prophesying too.”
Then, Saul left Samuel and everything happened just like Samuel had said, but Saul didn’t tell anyone what Samuel had told him about him being king, not even his own family.
A week later, Samuel called all the Israelites together and told them that God had chosen Saul to be king. Then, everyone looked around for Saul, but they couldn’t find him. Samuel said, “He is hiding over by the wagons.” Then, the people ran and pulled him out in front of everyone. Saul was taller than everyone there. Samuel said again, “This is your king.”
And all the people yelled, “Long live the king!”
Then, Samuel explained all the rules of the king and sent the people home. Saul went home too because he didn’t have a palace or a castle or anything to live in yet.
A little while later, the Ammonites attacked one of the Israelite towns. The Ammonites told the Israelites in the town, “Surrender to us and let us poke out one of each of your eyes, and we’ll let you live.”
Do you think you would want someone to poke out one of your eyes? (No.)
The Israelites in the town didn’t want to have one of their eyes poked out either, so they sent a messenger to King Saul to tell him what was happening. When Saul heard the news, God’s Holy Spirit came down on him again, and he called all the Israelites together.
Saul’s army had over 300,000 men in it. During the night, they broke into the Ammonites’ camp and killed them, rescuing the Israelite town.
After that, everyone was glad that God and Samuel had made Saul king. All the people thought that Saul would be a good king and they had a celebration for him.
Craft: Crowns for a King
Give students craft foam or construction paper and let them cut out and decorate a crown with markers, stickers, faux jewels, or whatever you like.
Remind students that Saul was the first king of Israel, but that God is the real King.
Game: Good and Faithful Servant
Tell the students that you’re going to play a game in which you’re the King, and they’re your servants. You’re going to name something you want, and they have 15 seconds to bring you what you asked for.
Anything that meets your criteria counts. If a student can’t bring you what you asked for within 15 seconds, they’re out. Items you already have in front of you count if they can apply it to meet the new criteria. The last one in the game wins and becomes the King for the next round.
Some ideas of what to ask for include:
Something of a certain color
Something of a certain shape
Something that reminds you of the Bible
Something that reminds you of Jesus
Something you would use for a certain purpose
Part of the fun could be naming criteria that a lot of items meet and then narrowing it down to criteria that only a few items in your area meet.
Play 2-3 rounds and then explain that they were all good servants because they all tried to bring you what you asked for. Even though some of them couldn’t find what you wanted, none of them said they wouldn’t do it. They all tried.
Lord, thank You for giving the Israelites a king. And thank You for giving us good leaders too. But we know that You are our true King, so help us to serve You the best we can. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
You can also find this lesson for Kindle or in print in my book, Samuel and David: Children Sunday School Lessons on the Boy Prophet and the Shepherd King.