The God Who Is with Us
Sheep are defenseless creatures. They have no ability to protect themselves. They cannot even be trusted to find food on their own or to rest when they are tired, much less to defend themselves from attacks of predators. Sheep need the constant protection of their shepherd.
When sheep in Palestine are on their journey to the high meadows they pass through deep canyons, which are dark and filled with dangers.* While in these dark valleys the shepherd is especially close, always making his presence known.
GROUP DISCUSSION. When children are frightened in the middle of the night, what they need more than anything is someone to be with them. They need someone to reassure them with their presence. Think of a time you were afraid as a child. Describe your experience.
PERSONAL REFLECTION. Think of a time when you were afraid and experienced God being with you. Describe your experience.
In Psalm 34 David describes his experience of facing dangers and threats of every kind, of being afflicted and even brokenhearted. In spite of the experiences of affliction acknowledged in this psalm, this psalm is a psalm of good news, of loud shouts of praise, for David tells of discovering that God was with him - that God responded to his calls for help and rescued him.
Read Psalm 23:4
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, For you are with me."
Read Psalm 34.
1. What title would you give Psalm 34?
2. List all the things the psalmist says that God has done and continues to do for us in Psalm 34.
3. What response does the psalmist have in these verses to all the ways in which God has been with him?
4. The first verse of Psalm 34 tells us that this psalm is meant especially for those who are afflicted. The psalm is written to encourage us when we are in distress or when we are walking through a dark valley. Reflect for a moment on the afflictions or dark valleys you have experienced in life. What have those times been like for you?
5. What invitations and instructions do you find in this psalm?
6. Both Psalm 34:19 and Psalm 23;4 teach us to expect difficult times, even when we are following God's ways. How does this compare with your expectations?
7. Verses 17-19 tell us that the righteous may have many troubles, but that God will be close to them in those troubles and will deliver them. Have you found this to be true? What is your response to these verses?
8. How might God make his presence known to us? What helps you experience God's presence?
9. Take a minute of quiet and ask God to show you how he is with you as your refuge and help. Write whatever thoughts and feelings come to you.
Talk to God about whatever troubles you are experiencing. Invite God to show you that God's Spirit is with you always.
Now or Later
Begin each day this week by reflecting on the truth that God will be with you all day, even in the difficulties. Invite God each day to remind you of his Spirit's presence with you. End each day by reflecting on the times you were aware of God's presence.
A Psalm of David when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed.
I WILL bless the LORD at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make its boast in the LORD;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
And let us exalt His name together.
I sought the LORD, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces were not ashamed.
This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him,
And saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel* of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints!
There is no want to those who fear Him.
The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing.
Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Who is the man who desires life,
And loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
And your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry.
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears,
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the LORD delivers him out of them all.
He guards all his bones;
Not one of them is broken.
Evil shall slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous shall be condemned.
The LORD redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.