by Chris Sherrod Posted Apr 14, 2020
Read through this week’s verse together.
Ask: Did anyone notice that David has shifted who he is talking to? (He’s no longer just talking about his Shepherd, but talking to his shepherd.)
Did You Know?
A wise shepherd is constantly on the alert, scanning his flock for missing sheep, looking for signs of predators, and even watching the sky for vultures. Because sheep are not super smart animals, when one startled sheep runs in a fright, a dozen others will bolt with it in blind fear, not waiting to see what’s wrong. The truth is, because sheep are helpless, timid, feeble creatures, incapable of defending themselves, their instinct is to run. But the presence of the shepherd – including his protecting rod and guiding staff – throws a different light on things.
What Does Your Shepherd Do?
David wrote this Psalm within the picture of wild mountains, deep valleys, and high tablelands, knowing first hand all the difficulties and dangers that sheep face—raging rivers, rock slides, poisonous plants, predators raiding the flock, and powerful storms. To get to the lush tablelands of pasture it is often necessary to lead sheep through valleys because it is the most well-watered route. But notice David didn’t say, “I stop in the valley” or “I die there,” but rather “I walk through.”
Sword Drill! Someone look up and read Psalm 107:14.
David was confident going through the valley of deep darkness because he was never alone—his Shepherd was always right there.
Ask: Give some examples of “valleys” we go through in life and how you usually react or cope with them.
These valleys are unavoidable (John 16:33), unpredictable (James 4:14), impartial (Matthew 5:45), temporal (1 Peter 1:6), and yet essential to grow our faith (James 1:2-4). Often it’s not until we walk with Jesus through some deep troubles that we discover He is our refreshment in the midst of our struggles.
In our valleys, we can calmly say, “I will fear no evil” because our Shepherd is with us, has already faced temptations like us, and knows suffering and sorrow. He understands us and has been through this territory before us to prepare a table in plain view of our enemies.
Ask: Why do you think David includes a shepherd’s rod and staff as a source of comfort?
The rod is a shepherd’s main weapon of defense and is a symbol of his strength in any serious situation. And more than anything, a staff identifies a shepherd (no other job carries a staff). It was used to draw sheep together, to lift a newborn lamb, to draw in individual sheep, and to guide. David was picturing how God’s ferocious protection and loving guidance worked together to bring him continuous comfort. “He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber” (Psalm 121:3).
Sword Drill! Have someone look up and read what David wrote in Psalm 27:1-3.
What Should Ewe Do?
Even when they have plenty of pasture, some sheep still choose inferior parts of the land, while others will look for holes in the fence to feed on the other side. Likewise, despite having a wonderful Shepherd, we are often still dissatisfied, feeling that somehow the grass beyond the fence must be a little greener. In our stubborn rebellion, we are “prone to wander,” often preferring to feed on the barren ground of the world around us.
Ask: David has been emphasizing the Lord’s provision (both physical and spiritual) and His protection in the midst of shadows and enemies, declaring that all of this brings him peace and comfort. Take turns naming examples of God’s provision and protection in your life.
God’s provision is so amazing: all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), wisdom for the asking (James 1:5), daily forgiveness (1 John 1:9), and His very presence for all time (Matthew 28:20)!
Sadly we often don’t see it this way, especially when troubles or disappointments come along. We tend to feel forgotten by our Shepherd, as though He had fallen down on the job. But David mentions yet another provision when he says, “You anoint my head with oil.” Because the irritations of flies and skin infections keep sheep restless and distracted, shepherds apply a mixture of oil and other soothing ingredients all over a sheep’s head and nose. Likewise, we need the soothing application of the “Comforter,” the Holy Spirit (John 14:16), to our daily situations. More than just being with us, He is in us, leading, correcting, empowering, and comforting us through all the irritations we face.
Sword Drill! Someone read Jesus’ description of the Holy Spirit in John 16:13-14.
Overall, we are very similar to sheep. We are incapable of defending ourselves against Satan’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11) and, despite all our Shepherd supplies, we often foolishly stray, even when we know it’s destructive. Because sheep that wander are usually picked off by predators, the safest place to be is right next to the Shepherd.
Sword Drill! Have someone read Psalm 118:6-8.
We need the common sense to stay close to the Lord, spending time with Him and reading His Word each day.
Peace and Plenty
Ask: What does it mean to be content? What is the secret to being content?
Even in the midst of enemies, David knew God’s presence, protection, peace, and provision, to which he could respond in confident amazement: “My cup overflows” (refreshingly full to overflowing). Knowing and trusting all these blessings of God—the fountain of living waters (Jeremiah 2:13)– brings us to a place of great satisfaction in the Divine Shepherd’s care.
With the peace of God to guard us (Philippians 4:7) and the God of peace to guide us (Philippins 4:9), we ought to be known as the most contented people on earth. So do others see the “cup of contentment” in your life? Parents, could your children say that you have a rested, restored soul? Can you say with David, “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food” (Psalm 63:5)? A quiet, restful attitude should be the mark of those who call Christ their Master. Can you confidently brag on your Good Shepherd because of the peace and plenty He provides? It has been said that peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of God.
Sword Drill! Why does Hebrews 13:5 remind us to “be content with what you have”?
The contentment of our lives should show what a blessing it is to be His.
For Younger Kids
The staff is used to guide sheep in a specific path that the shepherd knows is best. Parents, in what ways have you seen God’s guidance at work in your lives? What staff do you employ in your family that best guides your children?
Close your time together in prayer, thanking your Good Shepherd for His constant protection, peace, and provision.