Sunday School is a vital part of any ministry. In it, one is able to experience a deeper knowledge of God’s Word. We here at “Word For Life Says” want to help you help others. Below you will find resources to help you prepare for your upcoming lessons. May God bless you!
“The Lord is my Shepherd”
PDF Lesson Print Out is now Located at the Bottom of the Lesson. Please Scroll Down, Click and Enjoy! Blessings.
Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2013 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original to wordforlifesays.com unless properly quoted/cited. As always you are encouraged to do your own studies as well. Blessings!)
Lesson Text: Psalm 23
1) “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2) He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3) He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4) Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5) Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6) Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
Psalm 23 is probably the most famous chapter in the entire Bible. It’s one that children learn and recite from an early age. Yet, let’s not take it for granted because of its familiarity. Rather, with child-like faith let us grasp the beauty of those blessed words that unfold before us in those six verses as David’s description of God and His relationship with His people is made known in this poetically beautiful psalm.
As a teenager, David knew exactly what it was to be a shepherd. His profession was to tend his to his father’s sheep (see 1 Samuel 16:11, 19). Before the anointing oil from Samuel’s flask dripped upon his head, his life was spent walking through the valleys and hills of the land, caring for, finding food for, and protecting for the sheep that were put under his charge.
Now, no longer a teenager, but a king, David could look back at those experiences he had, and his job, and his relationship with the sheep, and compose a beautiful song that celebrates God’s ultimate care for us using the same Shepherd/sheep analogy. Words that inspire the believing heart to see God as everything we could ever need no matter what life throws at us.
With that, David opens this psalm by penning the words, “The LORD is my shepherd.” As with David’s pre-king occupation, a shepherd’s job and life were spent in a selfless manner. The sheep dominated his day in and day out thinking. How to provide for them? Where to lead them? Are there any dangers ahead or behind them? A shepherd’s life was also pretty isolated. Leading the sheep often meant time away from home. Perhaps, when Samuel came to see, and anoint this future king, that’s why David’s family forgot about the boy in the fields. He was always working and caring for the sheep and maybe he was hardly seen in their presence.
Looking back on those days it wasn’t hard for David to see God as the ultimate Shepherd and himself counted as a sheep who is totally dependent on the care and the protection of the Shepherd. The description of God in the role as a shepherd actually predates David’s time and is seen in books of the Bible as early as Genesis (see Genesis 49:24). So, David’s thinking along those lines is right up the alley with the patriarch Jacob/Israel when he too saw God in this fashion and referred to Him as such when discussing God’s protection over Joseph when he was attacked by those who hated him.
As sheep, if left on their own, they will fall prey to so many elements of this world be it animals who want to eat them, circumstances and weather that may threaten them or the lands where they graze. They are docile animals awaiting the leading of the shepherd. As such, David too saw his own relationship with the Lord in the same manner. “LORD” in all caps stands for Yahweh, the name Israel identified as the holiest of all in reference to the only true God alone. So, there is no mistaking who David says is his true Shepherd. “My shepherd,” he says, is God only.
“I shall not want.” Being under the Shepherd’s care, David saw there is nothing lacking in God’s provision for His people or in our relationship with Him. Did not the Apostle Paul state in the book of Philippians, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus,” (4:19). It is by the hand of the Lord that we are sustained and maintained. It is by His loving care we are thoroughly and completely cared and provided for. The Bible says, “No good thing will he withold from them that walk uprightly,” (Psalm 84:11). Anything we NEED (not our wants as we use it for most of our modern terminology) for our Christian journey, God is our unfailing provider. God is for His people – Always! We do not serve a God of lack. He will provide! Whatever you NEED, God’s got it! God is attentive to the state of His people; His sheep. He does not leave them wanting for care. He provides!
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” In this reference, David saw in one’s relationship with God peace that can’t be found anywhere else. The phrases “lie down” and “still waters” show the sheep being unafraid due to the shepherd’s care. Sheep are naturally fearful animals but these references show that the sheep is at rest; at peace in His presence.
The Bible gives us many references of the peace that we find in our relationship with God. Some of my favorites are:
- Isaiah 26:3 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”
- John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
- John 16:33 “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
- Philippians 4:6-7 “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
All of these solidify the type of relationship the sheep have with the shepherd; the type of relationship we experience in Jesus Christ our ultimate Shepherd (John 10:11). Many are grasping at various things and pursuits to fill their life with peace. This peace and serenity can only be found under the protection of the Shepherd.
“He restoreth my soul.” The need for restoration means one’s energies have been spent. This life can wear people down especially when they are insistent on going their own way. As the shepherd leads his sheep to places of refreshing, God stands ready to replenish the weary and broken soul. Often in life, as Isaiah put it, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way . . .” (Isaiah 53:6) and the soul is in need of being restored.
David knew personally and could speak from experience what it was to wander away from the Shepherd spiritually and to have a need of being brought back into a right soul position with God. He prayed in Psalm 51, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit” after he was confronted in his sin involving Bathsheba. Our ultimate restoration of the soul can only be found in Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd.
“He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” God will guide the soul that chooses to follow Him to the right path. As children, most know what it was like to partake of a game of “Follow the Leader.” Anything the leader does or says is to be matched by the other participants of the game. God gives direction for the purpose of leading His people who will choose to follow Him on the right path that will lead to glory for, “All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies,” (Psalm 25:10).
Finding rest for your soul doesn’t just happen by being in green meadows, but it happens by staying on the true and tried course already laid out for us through God’s Word. Jeremiah 6:16a says, “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. . .” Righteousness is the good way. Righteousness is the path walked before by others and it is the path that will lead us to life eternal. Unfortunately, for those whom Jeremiah spoke to, the latter part of that verse says, “But they said, We will not walk therein,” (Jeremiah 6:16b). They chose to butt up against the Lord’s leading like goats instead of following His Shepherding care as sheep.
This type of combative attitude will not lead one to glory, nor will it bring glory to His “name.” God’s name is to be glorified in our lives (see Psalm 29:1-2; Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Peter 4:11). His name is honored when we live for Him. Previously, I wrote:
“Too many go through their day without ever considering the fact that hey, He is God, and He should be before all others. With that realization in hand, I want my life to reflect that great truth. I want every word, every action and every thought to magnify the greatness of who He is and all of His glory. When I go about my day I want people to see Him in me. Do I make mistakes? Oh, yeah! But, I have a goal. I aspire to do better and to be better every day. God has been so good and wonderful to me, and I feel that as His child the least I can do is showing Him the honor due Him.” (Honor God/Word For Life Says).
David recognized as a sheep he depended on the Shepherd to keep his feet walking on the right path. And, as such, there is no “fear” in this sheep/Shepherd relationship. When the ways get dark and hard to travail; when the path becomes treacherous and enemies hide in crevices to try to attack you, God, as the Shepherd, stands in protection mode over His sheep/people.
Once again, David could look back over his own life and see where God has delivered him before. When he was on the run from his son Absalom who sought to take his life and his throne, David expressed confidence in God, saying, “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about,” (Psalm 3:6). He might be on the run from man, but he is never far from God; he is never far from the Shepherd. His trust is in God who makes him feel safe no matter what is going on around him.
So, he says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me.” The presence of the Shepherd makes the sheep feel safe. “The LORD is my light and my salvation,” he proclaims, “whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).
“Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” The shepherd’s rod and staff were used as tools of protection from enemies and from self. He could use it to defeat a ravenous creature that set its sights on sheep for dinner or he could use the hook of the staff to save the sheep when he himself wandered where he shouldn’t and fell. It has been proven throughout David’s life, time and again; that he could depend on God’s loving care in the same manner.
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” When the Shepherd is on guard (which God always is), it doesn’t matter who snarls at the sheep. The Shepherd not only is the comfort of His people, but He goes “before” them to protect them and to provide for them. Any good shepherd will not let his sheep wander into places without first checking the terrain before them. He goes and examines the land and areas to not only abundantly provide for them, but to also take stock if there is anything there that could cause harm to the sheep.
Please note: Some Bible students switch the way they view these remaining two verses from the picture of a shepherd to that of a host laying out a banquet table, which could easily be applied to this lesson as well. I will choose to stick along the lines of the shepherd analogy, keeping in line with David’s opening subject of God being identified as the Shepherd and with this subject’s theme. Both support the text and both can be viewed along the veins of God being a wonderful provider who gives extraordinary care to His people.
The phrase, “Thou anointest my head with oil,” depending on how you viewed the first part of this verse, its meaning would vary. In the hospitality based culture of the ancient Hebrews it was customary to anoint one’s head with oil, amongst other practices. Look at Jesus’ response when He went to Simon’s house and Simon failed to do the duty that was expected:
“And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.”(Luke 7:44-47).
These were ways to express honor and respect and help refresh one when coming into a house, particularly to a dinner or feast. But, if we look at the anointing oil from the standpoint of being used by the shepherd instead of a host, it could be seen as being used for medicinal purposes and in other areas of caring for the sheep (i.e. insect repellent).
Either way you look at it, the “oil” represents care and devotion to the one it is applied to, which is what God does for His people.
“My cup runneth over” gives the impression of providing in abundance. God loves His people and has no problem supplying what they need. God never waivers in the care of His people and can be seen as a constant source of trust and rest.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” expresses the idea of God’s faithful care in this life. Previously, I wrote:
“God’s mercy, grace, and every loving attribute we can align to His holy name shows His “goodness” is alive and active even in our broken days. If you are reading this you have experienced God’s goodness today. If you are hearing these words being taught you have been a partaker of the gift He has blessed humanity with. God’s goodness leads one down the path closer to Him if they will but trust and follow it (Psalm 25:8).
God is good (see Psalm 100:5; Nahum 1:7; Matthew 19:17) and God does good (see Psalm 119:64; Genesis 1)! God cannot separate Himself from who He is and what He does . . .” (Praise God the Creator/Word For Life Says).
And, in dealing with the life to come, David said, “I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever” which speaks of his assurance he found in God, knowing that as His child; as His sheep; as His people, he could look forward to spending eternity in the presence of God. There is a blessed future for the people of God. Whether you view God as a great gracious host welcoming one to a banquet supper (compare Revelation 19:7-9) or as the Shepherd leading His people to quiet waters (compare Revelation 7:16-17), both speak of an eternity of being where He is, and the faithful followers of Christ are secured in that coming day because of God’s care and love for us.
“Like a shepherd, he tends his flock. He gathers the lambs in his arms, carries them close to his heart . . .” Isaiah 40:11, ISV
The LORD is My Shepherd!
Please Note: There will not be a posted Sunday School lesson summary and activities for the dates of April 9 and 16, 2017 due to taking time off with my family for Spring Break. Blessings to you all! See you again soon.
Standard Print PDF: The Lord is my Shepherd Sunday School Lesson Summary Standard Print
Large Print PDF: The Lord is my Shepherd Sunday School Lesson Summary Large Print
Below are activities to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
Draw the Scene: The Lord is My Shepherd Draw the Scene
Memory Verse: The Lord is My Shepherd Memory Verse
Coloring Page: The Lord is My Shepherd Coloring Page
Below are Activities/Links/Resources to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
“Psalm 23 Coloring Sheet/Poster” (Older students)
“Lesson: Psalm 23” (Good tips on teaching can be found here as well as an easy activity where students can make their own Psalm 23 book using only white paper and construction paper. There are also a few tips on notes for older students. Enjoy!)
“The Lord is my Shepherd – Psalm 23:1” (This is an excellent place to find printable resources. Activities include a “Sheep Paper Bag Puppet,” “I Shall Not Want” sheep picture, and more. Enjoy!)
“Psalm 23 by David the Shepherd” (Printables)
“God Cares for Me – Psalm 23” (Here’s a very unique and straightforward way to teach to students. Adults may learn some new tidbits and notes as well. Enjoy!)
“Shepherd and Sheep Toilet Paper Roll Craft” (This is easy and can I tell, they have printables! Yeah! Enjoy!)
Photo Credit: Pixabay