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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Sunday School - Psalm 23 Lesson 1

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” (Psalm 23:1)

The long day eases into a cool night. I crouch near the warmth of a fire and allow the murmur of conversations and the warmth of the blaze draw me into a thoughtful state. As my mind drifts from thought to thought, the sounds of muted chatter and crackling campfires give way to the strum of a harp. Music! The perfect companion to a melancholy mood. I come to my feet and search for the source of the melody. A large crowd surrounds one campfire, with all eyes directed toward the center. Could it be David? I’ve heard David touches hearts with his voice. Now is my chance to hear for myself.

As I approach the crowd, I hear the first words of the melody - "The Lord is my shepherd…." My heart catches. David sings with conviction and something else..gratitude...relief? Or are those my own feelings? As I reach the crowd, I see David's face illuminated by the glow of the fire. He sings with eyes closed and head thrown back to revel in the care of an unseen Shepherd. I then look at the faces around me. Some shine with tears, others soften with tenderness. All reflect the power of revelation. After all, this group knows the life of a shepherd...

Sheep go baaa. That’s about all I know about those critters, other than they’re tasty and provide wonderful wool skirts. And shepherds? Well, in my mind, the word "shepherd" inspires a vague image of someone herding sheep with a big stick. Wikipedia offers me more information than I ever cared to know about sheep and shepherds, but the over-share prompts only a “Look at the pretty sheep faces!” from me.

The psalmist David did not require Wikipedia or pretty pictures. The word "shepherd" brought to his mind, not a vague image, but memories. Before he became King David, the young man with ruddy appearance and handsome features lived as a humble shepherd. It’s likely David expected to tend sheep for his entire life, but God had another purpose for him.

God used David’s time as a shepherd of sheep to enable him to become a shepherd of men. As a shepherd, David learned to provide for the physical needs of his sheep, to protect them from enemies, and to care for the weak…all worthy lessons for a king-in-training. David would also need the heart of worship that he developed in solitude to lead a nation in worship of God. There quite possibly would not have been a King David if there had not first been a shepherd David. And from the offspring of David, the Shepherd King.

God prepares each of us the same way that He prepared David. God determines when and where each one of us will live so that we will know Him better. He uses our past experiences, skills, abilities, and gifts in order to serve others and to make Himself famous through us.

An awesome book gave me an interesting tidbit: shepherds cut distinguishable notches into the ears of their sheep to mark ownership. The mark of ownership is obvious from a distance. Though I do not bear a physical mark to distinguish me as a Christian, I bear a permanent spiritual mark. The Holy Spirit marked me and sealed me as belonging to Jesus. Life provides many opportunities to hide that mark, but Psalm 23 instructs me in how to keep it obvious by reminding me of the character of the One that cares for me.

I don’t know much about human shepherds, but my heavenly Shepherd teaches me about Himself in Psalm 23. Good-bye Wikipedia, hello Scripture. Holy Spirit, please teach us.


  1. Has there been a circumstance in your life that God has allowed in order to bring you to a greater understanding of an aspect of His character?
  2. Can you recall a time when you accepted Jesus as your Savior and Shepherd? If not, what has held you back?
  3. If Jesus is your Shepherd, would you say that it’s obvious to the world that you belong to Him? How?