The Good Life Wk 5 // Jesus the Good Shepherd
- What do you know about being a shepherd? How much do you know about the care of sheep?
- How do you suppose raising sheep differed in the first century from now?
- What were the responsibilities of a first-century shepherd?
- In what ways does this example help us to relate to Jesus’ ministry to us?
The Bible uses many different metaphors to describe God. Many of them highlight God’s holiness, wisdom and glory. The Bible compares God to a lion, an eagle, the sun, a light, a fountain, a rock, a tower, and a shield — all of which are meant to help us understand who God is and what He is like. In Psalm 23, David personally relates to God as his Shepherd. This is important because it gives you insight into how you can relate to God on a personal level.
Ask a volunteer to read Psalm 23:1-4.
- What do you think is significant about David’s use of the personal pronouns “me” and “my” throughout Psalm 23?
There was a temptation in Ancient Israel to speak only about “our” God and neglect to recognize that the God of Israel is also the God of individuals. This Psalm should remind you that you can go to God as your personal Shepherd who cares about your individual needs.
- What do you think David means when he says that he “lacks nothing?”
- Have you ever been this content? Why or why not?
- What does verse 2 say about how God cares for your needs?
David is able to say this only because he knew God as his Shepherd. The fact that David views God this way implies that he is a sheep. Sheep are not the brightest creatures and would likely not live long without the guidance and provision of the shepherd. David views God as the One who is providing for him, caring for him, and guiding him--thus all his needs are met. Your greatest need in life is not food, or clothing, or shelter, but to have a personal relationship with the God who made you.
"Living the good life means making better choices and having the power to live out those better choices."
- What kind of paths does God lead David down? What is God’s motive in leading David in this way (v. 4)?
David recognizes that God leads him down the right paths “for the sake of his name.” The path that God leads us down may not always be easy (vv.5-6), but it will be right. And God does this for His own glory and name. In other words, God’s motive in leading us is to glorify Himself. The fact that we get to see and personally experience God’s glory is further evidence of God’s perfect provision.
- How might knowing that God leads you down the right paths for the sake of His glory give us confidence in God’s guidance in our lives?
Knowing that God promises to guide you for the sake of his reputation should give you tremendous confidence that God will lead you well. God has put His own name and reputation on the line for us and He will not let His name be profaned or fall into disrepute. This should give you deep assurance that God is going to provide for, protect, and guide you.
"Living the good life means you are protected by God."
- What does a shepherd do with His staff and his rod (v. 4)?
A shepherd carried a “rod” to club down wild animals (1 Sam. 17:43; 2 Sam. 23:21) and a staff to guide and sometimes rescue his sheep. These two tools remind us of God’s constant and comprehensive protection and guidance. God has promised to do whatever it takes to lead, guide, and protect you.
- Why might you find comfort and reassurance in God’s rod and staff (v. 4)? How do these two images help you “fear no danger” even while walking through the “darkest valley”?
David finds comfort in these two images knowing that God may very well lead him through the “darkest valley” (v. 4). These images of God’s perfect protection, provision, and guidance, remind believers that Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
"Living the good life means you were lost, but now you are found."
Ask a volunteer to read John 10:11-21.
- In what ways is Jesus the fulfillment of Psalm 23?
- What is the difference between the hired hand and the good shepherd (vv. 12-16)?
While the shepherd in Ancient Israel would be expected to take greater care to guide and protect his sheep than a hired hand would, it would be astonishing for anyone to willingly give up their life for a flock of sheep. This is why the Bible refers to the cross as a “stumbling block.” It is difficult for many to comprehend that a holy God would stoop so low as to give up His life for stubborn, foolish, and unruly sheep and yet this is exactly what Jesus did.
- Why is it important that Jesus laid down His life of His “own free will” (v. 18)?
The fact that no one could take Jesus’ life from Him highlights both Jesus’ ultimate authority and profound love. Jesus didn’t have to go the cross. He chose to and He did so out of love for God and love for us.
- How might viewing Christ as your Shepherd give you confidence to walk through “the darkest valley”?
Ask a volunteer to read Psalm 23:5-6.
- David shifts in verses 5-6 from envisioning God as a Shepherd to describing Him as the host of a banquet. Do any of God’s actions in verse 5 surprise you?
David envisions God anointing his head with oil which is a mark of friendship, acceptance, and celebration. This is a surprising description of God because He is holy. This is further evidence that this psalm finds its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus, because it is only through Christ that we can relate to God as a friend (see John 15:15).
"God is calling you by name and inviting you to follow Him."
- How might remembering what Jesus did on the cross equip you to face trials?
- How can you face death without fear? How might meditating on Psalm 23 help you be prepared?
- Who do you know that needs to hear about how Jesus is the Good Shepherd who willingly lays down His life for the sheep? How might you strike up a spiritual conversation with them this week?
Pray that you would delight in the abundant provision of Jesus. Thank God for making you able to face and overcome your fears with His help. Ask that He would make you passionate about telling others how good and gracious Christ our Shepherd is.