Introduction: All my life I have heard that Jesus is the Good
Shepherd and I am one of the dumb sheep. I accept that. I know I
need protection. I know that I can make some really dumb decisions.
What occurred to me for the first time last week is that the sheep
also get sheared and eaten! Their lives are preserved by the shepherd
so that they can in turn give up their lives for others. Why don’t
we discuss that part of the sheep analogy? Is it because we don’t
want to, or because the focus of the illustration is elsewhere?
Let’s dive into our study today and find out what Psalms 23 has to
say about the sheep story!

  1. My Shepherd

    1. Read Psalms 23:1-3. Who wrote these verses? (King David –
      who grew up as a shepherd.)

      1. When you think of King David, do you think of him as
        a “sheep?” (No. I think of him as a great warrior-king.)

      2. Why do you think he thought of himself as God’s
        sheep? What characteristics of the shepherd/sheep
        arrangement does he mention in these verses? (The
        shepherd takes care of the sheep’s needs.)

      3. The mention of water and grass make it seem that God
        takes care of our essentials. Why does David refer to
        “paths of righteousness?” (Read John 21:15-17. It is
        likely that David is only referring to spiritual food
        and water.)

        1. When David refers to spiritual nourishment, is
          he telling us God will make us great theologians
          if we stick with Him?

        2. What does he mean when he refers to having his
          “soul” restored? (Notice the terms used: “green”
          pastures, “quiet” waters and “he restores my
          soul.” David is writing about that aspect of
          spirituality which gives us peace, confidence,
          rest and joy.)

      4. Why does Psalms 23:3 say that God does this? (For His
        name’s sake. A calm, confidence, peaceful demeanor on
        our part in the storms of life brings glory to our

        1. What stake does a shepherd have in his sheep? (A
          shepherd who let his sheep get injured and go
          hungry would develop a poor reputation. God is
          concerned about His reputation.)

      5. Notice that the sheep must be “made” to lie down in
        green pastures and be “led” by quiet waters. What
        does that suggest about our attitudes in life? (That
        peace, confidence, rest and joy are not natural.)

        1. What does this suggest about following the
          natural desires of our heart?

      6. Do you sometimes feel that you are the only one who
        has gone through the kind of emotional and spiritual
        problems that you face? That no one else can really
        understand your situation? What does this analogy to
        “paths of righteousness” suggest about you being a
        pioneer in unhappiness? (If you are “off the path”
        that God has in mind for you, then you may be
        treading new ground. But, a “path,” is a place where
        many others have walked before. In problems, God has
        a spiritual “green place” for you that has worked for
        many others.)

    2. Read Psalms 23:4. What does the phrase “valley of the
      shadow of death” bring to mind? (A valley is a low spot. A
      shadow is dark. It lacks light. On the other hand, a
      shadow is not the real thing. My shadow is simply a dark
      representation of me. This seems to be a situation in
      which I am very low, I have trouble seeing the light, and
      my dark outlook makes me think that my death is at hand,
      even though it is not.)

      1. We just painted a terrible picture. Why would the
        sheep in that situation not fear? (God is with us.)

      2. As far as I can tell, King David suggests that two
        sticks give us comfort. How do you understand this
        “two stick” theory?

        1. Read Leviticus 27:32. What was one use of the
          shepherd’s rod? (To count the sheep. God knows
          about you. He counts you as one of His. That
          gives you confidence in the face of apparent

        2. Read 1 Samuel 17:40. With what did David face
          Goliath? (His staff and five stones. A staff was
          a weapon the shepherd could use against
          intruders. Thus, the two stick theory is that
          God counts us as His, and He stands ready to
          protect us against intruders.)

      3. Let’s stop a minute and revisit my introduction. The
        sheep (at least some of them) are ultimately headed
        for the cooking pot. Why should we take confidence in
        a shepherd who oversees that process? (Read Hebrews
        13:5-6. The Good Shepherd knows us, He protects us,
        and nothing happens to us without His consent. If we
        love and trust Him, that gives us confidence about
        the future. Note also that King David, when he
        compares God to a shepherd, does not spend any time
        on the cooking pot side of things. Instead, he
        focuses on the care and protection given by the

  2. My Cook

    1. Read Psalms 23:5. Have you ever seen a dog who eats in
      the presence of another dog? How does the eater act?
      (This is not always true, but often the dog who is eating
      eats quickly and defensively so that the other dog will
      not steal his food.)

      1. What is David saying to us in this verse? Are we
        eating quickly and defensively? (No. This is not a
        quick meal. God prepares a “table” – a big spread of
        food – right in front of my enemies. Normally, this
        would make you nervous. The picture is that God
        laughs at our enemies. He puts us in a place in which
        we can ignore them to such a degree that it is
        comfortable to eat.)

      2. Read Luke 7:46. To what custom is David referring
        when he says God “anoints my head with oil?” (This is
        a sign of blessing and favor.)

      3. Just as you might expect, a sheep is not good at
        holding his cup steady. Is that the meaning of “my
        cup overflows?” (No. God gives more blessings than we
        can comfortably handle.)

  3. My Future

    1. Read Psalms 23:6. There are several references in Psalms
      23 to negative circumstances. You have a soul that needs
      restoration (v.3), you walk through “the valley of the
      shadow of death” (v.4), there is “evil” around(v.4), you
      have need for comfort (v.4), and there are nearby enemies
      (v.5). What kind of life does that suggest the sheep would
      be living without the shepherd?

      1. What kind of life does the sheep who confidently
        follows the Good Shepherd live? (A life filled with
        goodness and love.)

      2. What, ultimately, is the fate of the sheep who are
        with the Good Shepherd – the cooking pot? (No! We are
        God’s house guests for eternity!)

    2. Friend, we are on the journey of life. Problems are all
      around us. Would you like to take that journey in the
      presence of the Good Shepherd? Would you like the peace of
      mind that His presence brings? Would you like to know that
      at the end of this journey you will live in His presence
      forever? Give up your sins and give your heart to Him
      today. Sign up to be one of His sheep – one who avoids
      the cooking pot!

  4. Next week: The Crucibles That Come.