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Psalm 23

Lesson Focus

God is with us and for us. His goodness and faithfulness constantly pursue us to lead us where we need to go. We must learn to follow his leading.

Lesson Outcomes

Through this lesson, students should:

  1. Understand that God is with us and for us always.

  2. Understand that God’s goodness and faithfulness constantly pursue us.

  3. Seek to learn to follow God’s good leading.

Catch up on the Story:

Psalm 23 is one of the most beloved psalms of all time. Regardless of their affiliation with church or Christianity, many people know or could recognize these poetic lines. It is very familiar to us.

That is the trouble. Anytime we are confronted with a familiar passage of scripture, the challenge is to read it with fresh eyes and ears so that we might hear what it has to speak to us today. So, please take a deep breath, clear your mind, and open it to the possibility of receiving something new.

Of course, there’s a good chance that this psalm carries with it the same meaning as we have come to know and love.

As with many psalms, we lack a specific context. Psalm 23 can be classified as a psalm of trust, and psalms of trust usually are formed within the context of conflict.

There is no reason to believe that this psalm is different. It will speak well to us in the context of the Lenten season, where we are constantly learning, amidst all circumstances, to place our trust in the God who created and now sustains the world.

The Text

The psalm can be split into two sections which use two different metaphors to speak about our relationship with God.

The first section, verses 1-4, uses a shepherd/sheep metaphor. The second section, verses 5-6, uses a host/guest metaphor.

These two metaphors work in concert to paint a picture of God’s relationship with us that is active and comforting.

My Shepherd: Psalm 23:1-4

As we have been studying the psalms these last few weeks, we have encountered this shepherd/sheep metaphor.

Domesticated sheep are not the brightest animal and are prone to get lost. They will eat a bit of grass here and then wander off to the next bit of grass, not paying attention to where they are going. They either become lost or because they are away from the flock's protection, they run into wild predators.

In the ancient near east, using a shepherd/sheep image to depict the king and his people was common. The king was the shepherd, and the people were the sheep (Jacobson, 102). This common image extends to God as the only divine king and Israel as his people.