Theme: Practical Discipleship
This week’s lessons focus on how God acts as a shepherd toward his sheep, and what we are to do in response to him.
Scripture: Psalm 23
Psalm 23 is probably the best known and most popular chapter of the Word of God. It is no surprise that this is so, since everyone enjoys the theme of the shepherd who cares for his sheep. In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ describes Himself as the shepherd. Jesus declares in John 10, “I am the good shepherd” (v. 11). The author of Hebrews calls Christ the “great Shepherd” of the sheep (13:20). Peter, in 1 Peter 5:4, calls Him the “Chief Shepherd.” He is the Shepherd who is over the undershepherds. Indeed, Peter likens the church to a sheepfold, and its leaders are admonished to “be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care” (v. 2).
When we turn to Psalm 23, we find the theme spelled out in the first verse: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing.” That is the theme verse of the chapter and should be separated from all that follows. From now on, the psalm describes the areas where we are not going to lack, if we have God as our shepherd.
What are the things we are not going to lack? We will not lack rest, because “he makes me lie down in green pastures” (v.2). We will not lack guidance, because “he leads me beside quiet waters . . . he guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (vv. 2, 3). We will not lack safety in a dangerous world, because “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me: your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (v. 4). We will not lack provision under the care of the Shepherd because “you prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (v. 5). Last of all, we will not lack a heavenly home: “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (v. 6).
Is it not wonderful to be under the care of a shepherd like that and be able to say we shall lack nothing, nothing at all? Certainly it is, but often we act as though we do not quite believe it. Do we really believe that “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing” when we go out to start the car and the battery is dead? No. Instead we grumble, “Oh, how in the world am I ever going to get to work?” We forget that God is our shepherd even in those circumstances. So this psalm becomes an exercise in practical discipleship, and it needs to be applied to every aspect of our lives.
What does Dr. Boice maintain is the theme of Psalm 23?
What images come to your mind when you think of a shepherd? How does the Lord perform those functions?
Reflection: In what ways has the Lord shown himself to be your shepherd recently?