Sunday School Lesson April 2, 2017 The Lord Is My Shepherd
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Time: about 1000 B.C. Place: Jerusalem
Golden Text: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want (Psalm 23:1).
The Psalmist here claims relation to God, as his shepherd. He recounts his experience of the kind things God has done for him as his shepherd. He expresses his faith in God as the shepherd that keeps a continual watch over His sheep. Therefore, he has no need to fear no evil, God’s goodness continues to supply all of his needs. For some reason, this Scripture has been used for eulogies but in reality, it’s for the living and not the deceased.
Psalm 23:1 – The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Sheep are gullible animals that are easily led astray even in the face of danger. Because they can’t provide for themselves they usually end up in danger. Sheep are timid and easily startled because of their fearful nature. A good shepherd will always be gentle and will maintain a constant watch over his sheep. Sheep learn to trust this person to meet all their physical needs. Sheep must be free from all fear, free from friction with other sheep, free from flies, and parasites and free from hunger. If any of these conditions are not met, they will be unable to relax, lie down, and rest. Their timidity takes over, and they will remain in an agitated state of mind.
In describing the Lord as a shepherd, David wrote out of his own experience, because he had spent his early years caring for sheep (And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will no sit down till he come hither – 1st Samuel 16:11). Sheep are completely dependent on the shepherd for provision, guidance, and protection. The New Testament call Jesus the good shepherd ( I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for sheep – John 10:11). Jesus is also known as the great shepherd (Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant – Hebrews 13:20). As the Lord is the good shepherd and the great shepherd, so we are His sheep, not dumb, frightened, passive animals, but obedient followers wise enough to follow One who will lead us in the right place and right ways. This psalm does not focus on the animal-like qualities of sheep but on the discipleship qualities of those who follow. “I shall not want,” meaning we shall be supplied with whatever we need, and, if we have not everything we desire, we can conclude it is either not fit for us or not for us, or we shall have it in due time.
Psalm 23:2 – He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me besides the still waters. When David stated that the shepherd makes his flock lie down in green pastures, he was expressing the contentment that comes after a meal as well as the sense of security. One of the duties of a shepherd is to make provision for the needs of the sheep. Two most crucial ones are food and water, sheep will die if there is a lacking of either of these. God’s goodness is much more precious and greater than a shepherd, but David expresses His God as a great Shepherd who looks after His sheep which are the saints of God. God makes His saints to lie down in peace no matter what issues or circumstances going on in their lives. He gives them peace and contentment in their minds, heart, and spirit. When we allow God our Shepherd to guide us, we have contentment. When we choose to sin, however, we go our own way and can’t blame God for the environment we created for ourselves. Rebelling against Shepherd’s leading is actually rebelling against our best interests. A good shepherd looks for pastures filled with freshly sprouted grass that is tender and tasty to the sheep. A good shepherd will also walk over the pasture to be certain there is nothing dangerous hiding in the grass. Sheep are afraid of rushing choppy water, a good shepherd looks for calm, quiet water from which the sheep can drink without being fearful. God wants His people to know peace and contentment in their lives as much as possible, He has given us instruction in how to keep peace within us (Thou will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee – Isaiah 26:3). Faith in God will remove fear and anxiety when we place our trust in Him and His Word.
Psalm 23:3 – He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. “He restoreth my soul,” God refreshes His people with His quiet voice and gentle touch. For this reason, the sheep know the Shepherd and are known by Him ( I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine – John 10:14). Our relationship with the Son and with the Father make us known to them, and we will be gently lead in their righteousness. We’re like sheep and is prone to wander away on our own into dangerous situations that lead to spiritual death, but like the sheep, as we begin to cry out the Shepherd comes and restores our soul. “His name’s sake,” The loving actions of the Shepherd, proceed from His nature. There is always safety in following the leading of the shepherd, and it is only when the sheep determines to decided their paths that he has to take drastic measures with them. His leading will always be on safe, right pathways. We are testimonies of His goodness and love when we live righteously.
Psalm 23:4 – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff comfort me. The valley of the shadow of death can refer to any distressing time in our lives. The awareness of our mortality often comes with sickness, trials, and hardship but the Lord, our protector, can lead us through these dark and difficult valleys to eternal life with Him. Death casts a frightening shadow over us because we are entirely helpless in its presence. We can struggle with other enemies such as pain, suffering, diseases, injury, but strength and courage cannot overcome death. Only One person can walk us through death’s dark valley and bring us safely to the other side.
Psalm 23:5 – Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over. In Middle Eastern culture, hosts were expected to protect their guest at all costs. God offers the protection of a host even when enemies surrounds us in the final scene of this psalm we see that believers will dwell with God, the perfect Shepherd, and Host, promises to do and protect us through life to bring us into His home forever. God’s provision is abundant and it continues, He will show our enemies who we belong to, as we go through difficult circumstances, trials and tribulations, He anoints us, He empowers us with His power.
Psalm 23:6 – Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. The use of both goodness and mercy to describes God’s loyal love intensifies the meaning of the two words. God’s overabundant mercy and love that is no way deserved. God’s promises for the Israelites was not just for the enjoyment of this life in the land of promise, it was also for the full enjoyment of the life to come in His blessed presence. This promise is for all those who submit their lives to the instructions of God’s written Word.