The God Who Shepherds Us
Psalm 23 is written from the perspective of a shepherd in Palestine. It was his job to take the family's flock of sheep out in search of food. This meant going on long journeys with the sheep. It meant living with the sheep day and night. It meant guarding them from predators. It meant finding suitable pastures for them to graze and enough water for them to drink.
Being a shepherd meant thinking about the needs of the flock most of the time - much like a parent thinks about the needs of a young child, planning ahead for feeding time and rest time and play time. I remember when I was caring for our children when they were little, anticipating their needs and delighting in their presence in our home, I would find myself reflecting from time to time, "this is a picture of what God does for me." As the pslmist cared for his flock, he seems to have had a similar experience.
GROUP DISCUSSION. When have you experienced joy in meeting a need for someone?
PERSONAL REFLECTION. What would you list as your most basic five or six needs in life?
The psalmist sees in his experience of delighting in and providing for his beloved sheep a picture of the loving, active, intimate care that God provides day after day all through our lives. He wrote as one whose eyes are opened to the amazing truth of God's powerful, protective, joyful, sustaining love for us.
Read Psalm 23.
1. The thesis for this psalm is stated in the first verse. How would you paraphrase this verse for our context?
2. List the needs that God the Shepherd meets as they are described in the rest of this psalm.
3. We live in a consumer society. We tend to think of ourselves as always lacking something, always needing something more. Reflect for a moment on what it would be like to be aware that God will provide everything you need. What thoughts and feelings do you have as you reflect on this thought?
4. Which of the needs identified in this psalm are you particularly aware of God meeting in your life at this time?
5. What is it like for you to experience God's care in this way?
6. Which of the provisions described in this psalm are you especially in need of?
7. This psalm describes our relationship with God as one in which God actively provides for us. God gives and cares and attends. We receive and receive and receive. How does this picture of God compare with your concept and experience of God?
8. Sheep are vulnerable animals, in need of their shepherd's care. In what ways do you relate to this metaphor of being a sheep?
9. How does this picture of who we are in relationship to God (the receivers of love and care) compare with your concept of who you are in relationship to God?
10. What difference might it make (or does it make) in your life to see your relationship with God in this way?
11. Do you relate to the image of God as a shepherd? What other images come to mind when you reflect on God as the one who provides, cares, protects and guides?
12. Spend a few minutes in quiet, reflecting on God as your loving shepherd or caretaker. What thoughts and feelings or images come to you as you reflect in this way?
13. When we are experiencing a specific need, it can be helpful to remember that God, who is our loving Shepherd, desires to meet our needs. Scripture frequently reminds us to talk to God about our needs. What specific needs are you experiencing at this time that you would like to ask God to meet?
Express your needs and your gratitude to God who shepherds you.
Now or Later
This week, begin each day in quiet, reflecting on God as your loving Shepherd. End each day by focusing on the ways you sense that God cared for you during the day.
You might want to keep a gratitude list, acknowledging God's specific care each day.
Pray that your heart and mind will be open to receive all the good gifts God is giving you.