John 10: 7 - 18
The Israelites were wandering shepherds at the time they wrote this psalm of praise to God. The best example they could find to describe God was that of a good shepherd, who always took gentle care of his sheep.
[Please note the way we are led into the psalm by the poet, as he begins in the third person, talking about The Lord, and then progresses to the intimacy of the second person, you - "for you are with me."]
The Israelites saw God the Father in heaven as their kind and loving shepherd. But Jesus said in John 10:11, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep," so Christians see both Father and Son as their loving shepherds and pray to the Good Shepherd for healing.
The King James translation of Psalm 23 is beautiful and probably the most widely known - encourage your class to memorize it.
But they might also enjoy Eugene Peterson's translation in The Message:
O God, my shepherd!
I don't need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
You find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
You let me catch my breath
And send me in the right direction.
Even when the way goes through Death Valley,
I'm not afraid when you walk at my side.
Your shepherd's crook makes me feel secure.
You serve me a six-course dinner
Right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
My cup overflows with blessing.
Your beauty and love chase after me
Every day of my life.
For the rest of my life,
I'm back home in the house of God.
1. What are some ways of describing how God cares for us in the way we live now?
[He keeps us safe from all kinds of harm - let the children list some.]
2. Why did shepherds carry a rod and a staff?
[The rod was a weapon to use against predators (wolves and lions), and the staff has a crook at the end to catch sheep that were going into dangerous places, by dragging them back by catching them around the hind leg. So the rod and staff keep us safe from predators and from our own wrong-headedness as we heedlessly go into dangerous situations.]
3. Why is it important to God that we make good choices?
[God loves us and wants us to have good lives so that we can serve and praise him.]
4. Who do Christians see as the Good Shepherd?
[Christians see Jesus as the Good Shepherd who loves and cares for us.]
The setting of Psalm 23 to Brother James' Air is difficult to sing, but the children seem to enjoy the challenge (Lutheran Book of Worship 451).
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