Lesson 5: April 2, 2017

God as Our Shepherd: Psalm 23


Teaching Strategy: Have learners share times when Psalm 23 was of great comfort to them – and discuss how the words of the psalmist fit their own experience of God’s goodness, mercy, guidance and protection as they have faced challenges in their lives. How does the metaphor of God as our Shepherd found in Psalm 23 (and used by Jesus in John 10:11) express what it means to love and trust in God?

 

Psalm 23 is one of the most well-known and beloved Bible passages. Many believers know it by heart; it is frequently read and sung in weekly worship, weddings, and funerals. Such knowledge sometimes avoids deep understanding as words can be recited without reflection upon their meaning. Studying Psalm 23 provides an important opportunity to examine its meaning – past and present. The image of a shepherd caring for sheep would have been familiar to David (a shepherd) and many others in ancient Israel, but it is not familiar to people living in industrialized economies in the 21st century. How might the relationship of a shepherd to sheep help us understand God’s relationship to us? How does God guide us? How does God overcome our fears and protect us? What does it mean to trust God to help us get through difficult times?

Consideration of such questions may be made more personal and specific by pairing them with discussion of the ways that learners currently feel in most need of God’s guidance and protection, whether individually or in community with others. What are the challenges they face now that they find most overwhelming? What are their greatest fears?

The links below may be helpful – or point toward other contemporary challenges and resources.

  • One of the ways many people experience God’s goodness and find help to face personal challenges is through care provided by others. How does God work through them? One example of a program to facilitate such care is Stephen Ministries, established to “equip congregation members to provide one-to-one Christian care to people who are hurting.”
  • Too many churches are struggling to grow, and sometimes just to survive. How might God lead your church through difficult times into the future which God intends? Essays such as 10 Ways to Revive a Dying Church and Grow It or Close It? Is There a Third Option for Struggling Small Churches? provide food for thought.
  • One fear among older adults is the fear of Alzheimer’s disease; one challenge many face is caring for a loved one with some form of dementia. How does God shepherd those afflicted and those who care for them? In his article, Remembering the Power of Gospel During Alzheimer’s, Dr. Benjamin T. Mast affirmed, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even Alzheimer’s and all the challenges that it brings.”
  • One way that believers experience God’s presence and guidance through challenging times is prayer. Learners may share their own experiences or find inspiration in the stories of others, e.g., numerous essays on the power of prayer found in Guideposts and other devotional literature.

Spring 2016-17 Theme: Love

Unifying Principle: People face challenges that may seem too difficult to endure. Where can they find the support and reassurance to face these challenges? The psalmist promises that God’s love provides what is necessary to confront any difficulties and to live in a fulfilling and intimate relationship with God.

Posted on: March 27, 2017, by : Sharon Harris-Ewing