Introduction: There is tension in the Bible when it comes to
the issue of suffering. On the one hand God calls us to obey
to limit our suffering and give us success. On the other
hand, we see that Jesus and His immediate disciples suffered
terribly. Plus, we see suffering among those we know who are
good people. Our lessons this quarter bring us face to face
with this tension. Let’s begin this journey of contemplation
and learning by studying Psalms 23!

I. Not Lacking

A. Read Psalms 23:1. The conclusion is that we do not
want. What does it mean to “not want?”

1. If you heard someone described as “not wanting
for anything,” what would you conclude about
that person’s wealth?

a. Is this text about wealth?

b. Have you met people who are not wealthy
and they do not want? (There is a
personality type which always seems to
want something that they do not have.
Other personalities are content with what
they possess.)

2. Many years ago, Daniel Pink wrote a best-
selling book named “Drive.” In it he assessed
what motivates employees to become better
workers. He concluded that beyond a certain
(modest) level of income, employees are not
particularly motivated by money to work
harder. Instead, their motivation is tied to
the nature of their job. Is this consistent
with what the Bible says about “not wanting?”

B. Let’s examine the first part of Psalms 23:1. What
is the necessary ingredient for “not wanting?”
(Having the Lord as our shepherd.)

1. What do you think it means for God to be our

a. What does it require of us? (Following
Him. Letting Him guide.)

C. Read Psalms 23:2. Is this a picture of calm?

1. Let’s take a deeper dive into this picture:

a. What would a “green pasture” mean to you?
(At least two commentaries reveal that
the Hebrew word translated “pastures”
usually means a dwelling, a house where a
person lives.)

b. What should you conclude about having a
“green pasture” home? (You have a
pleasant home and plenty of good food to

c. What would a green pasture mean to a
sheep? (It had plenty of good food to

D. Let’s examine the first part of the first half of
Psalms 23:2. What does it mean to “make me” lay
down? Is God forcing something? (Shepherds lead.
Sometimes they coerce.)

1. Do you need to be forced to lay down? (This
has always been an issue with me. I have a
hard time just resting. I’ve refused to fully
retire because I don’t think I can handle all
that rest, and some rest is absolutely less
attractive to me than some of my work.)

E. Read 1 Peter 5:2-3. What does this suggest about

1. What should we conclude from being “made” to
“lie down in green pastures?” (Part of this
has to be changing our hearts to accept rest
and peace.)

F. Look now at the last part of Psalms 23:2. What do
you think “still waters” means to a sheep? What
does it mean to you?

1. I like “white water.” If you also like it,
why? (It is a challenge. It is a fight to
survive wild water.)

2. What, then, is God’s promise here? (That we
will be able to become fully refreshed without
a fight. The water of life will be easy to
obtain and drink.)

II. Restoration

A. Read Psalms 23:3. If I offered to “restore your
soul” what benefit would you expect?

1. Is the last part of verse 3 helpful in
understanding what restoration of the soul
means? (I think going down the path of
righteousness has to be a big part of it.)

2. Both this text and Psalms 23:2 refer to God
leading us. What does that suggest about our
current situation? (We are not yet where God
wants us to be. We need to make progress by
following God.)

B. The last part of Psalms 23:3 is particularly
interesting. Why is God making this offer of
restoration? (It reflects well on Him.)

1. What, exactly, reflects well on God? (How many
times do you hear pagans blame God for all
sorts of bad events? God wants us to be a
living example of what it means to have God
lead in our life. God wants others to see that
He brings blessings, not evil.)

2. Let’s consider this with the background of the
first two verses of Psalms 23. Do all of these
blessings serve to bring glory to God?

3. If you are blessed, and you are not bringing
glory to God, what does that suggest you
should do?

III. Fear

A. Read Psalms 23:4. What does it mean to walk
through the “valley of the shadow of death?”

1. Why does it say “walk” and not “run?”

2. Friend, we are not in green pastures anymore!
What do you think the word “valley” means when
applied to your life? (A low point.)

3. We know what death means, what is the “shadow”
of death? (We cast shadows in the right light.
I think the “shadow” of death is getting close
to the real thing – death.)

B. Psalms 23:4 says that we fear no evil. The biggest
challenge in my professional life is my litigation
work. It naturally creates fear – especially, I’m
generally dealing with a court, a judge, and
lawyers that I do not know. What does this text
say is the way in which we banish fear? (Knowing
that God is with us. I cannot adequately express
how that has been a comfort to me in litigation
situations which created incredible pressure. Just
knowing that God is with me is a source of great

1. This text says that God’s “rod and staff” give
comfort. How is that? (First, I think these
are offensive weapons against the people who
would do me harm. Second, I think they give me
guidance when I have a pressing problem.)

C. Read Psalms 23:5. Is this saying that our enemies
get to watch us eat? (Not exactly. It means that
our enemies get to see our triumph. Last quarter
we discussed Joseph. His brothers got to see his
triumph. They saw the way he ate in the middle of
a famine.)

1. Read Psalms 45:7. What does this tell us about
our head being anointed with oil? (We are

2. Our cup overflows means what? (We have more
than enough drink. There is a strong strand in
this chapter telling us that God gives us more
than we need.)

D. Read Psalms 23:6. For what part of your life does
God promise to show you goodness and mercy? (“All
the days of my life.”)

1. When you read of the “house of the Lord,” do
you think of heaven?

a. If you do, how do you explain the prior
reference to all the days of life? (I
think the Psalmist is telling us that we
can have a “house of the Lord” experience
right now. Right here on earth.)

b. What about the saying that we are
strangers here, and the earth is not our
home? (The earth is certainly our home
here and hereafter. See Revelation 21:1-

E. Does Psalm 23 seem an odd way to begin a study
about suffering? (I think it is a perfect way. Not
only does it encourage us in general, suffering
resides in the valley of the shadow of death.)

F. Friend, will you turn back to this chapter when
you face difficult times? God has given it to us
to encourage us and to make us glad!

IV. Next week: The Crucibles That Come.

Copr. 2022, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are
from the ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard
Version ), copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing
ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All
rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within
parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail,
but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this
link: Pray for the guidance of the
Holy Spirit as you study.