SHEEP and the SHEPHERD
SHEEP and the SHEPHERD
1. Read and memorize Psalm 23 as we prepare to study this passage over the next 12 weeks.
2. What thoughts come to your mind when you read this passage today? Which statements do you relate with the most? Which piece is most important to you and your spiritual walk? Journal these answers so that you can compare with what you learn throughout the study.
3. Who wrote this passage? Where was he when he wrote it? Why would he write something like this? What experience did he have that gave him the understanding to write this passage about sheep and being a Shepherd?
4. Look at the first line: “The Lord is My Shepherd”. Describe what this line means to you personally without using the other lines in Psalm 23. (This means your answer cannot be “It means I will never be in want”.)
5. What does the name “Lord” mean and why is it important to understand that name to understand the rest of the passage?
6. Read John 10:11-15. List three things that you see in this passage that impact the way you read and feel about Psalm 23:1. (For example: We read in Psalm that “The Lord is My Shepherd” and in John “The GoodShepherd knows His Sheep”. How does the second statement impact the first?)
7. What is one area that you really hope to learn more about as we study this passage?
1. Before you start your study, what does the phrase, “I shall not be in want” mean to youpersonally? What have you been taught that it means? Is there an example of how it hasimpacted you in a personal way?
2. David experienced many times of struggle in his life. He had King Saul, along with hisson Absalom, who tried to find him and kill him. He had made plenty of mistakes. ReadPsalm 69:1-4. This passage was written around the same time as Psalm 23. Knowing thestruggles that David had gone through, what do you think this statement really meant tohim?
3. Is David’s statement of, “I shall not be in want” about having more or being content withwhat you have? Read 1 Tim. 6:6-10. What are the dangers of not being content with whatGod has given you?
4. What is the difference between being content with “what you have” and being contentwith “Who you have”? Should your contentment be based on what God has given you orWho God is as your Good Shepherd? How do we change the way we think in this area?
5. Read Matthew 6:24 and I Kings 18:21. How do these passages relate to the level ofcontentment you feel, or don’t feel, with God as your Shepherd?
6. Do you truly trust that God as your Good Shepherd has all of your needs covered? If not,what steps do you feel you can take so that you can make the statement, “I shall not be inwant” in your own life?
7. What encouragement do you need from the group as you try to grow in yourrelationship with the Father this week?
1. When David is describing His Shepherd, he claims, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Why is it so critical that the Shepherd gives the sheep an opportunity to lie down and rest?
2. In chapter three of the book, Keller listed four things that can keep a sheep from being able to rest. Those conditions are fear, tension, aggravation, and hunger. It is the Shepherd’s responsibility to solve these issues. How do these issues relate to things that can keep us from resting in peace?
3. Read Psalm 4:8. What would it look like for you to “lie down and sleep in peace”? What are the issues in your life that can keep you from being at peace? How does your trust in God relate to each of those areas? What is the result in your life if you cannot rest well?
4. There is nothing that brings more peace and security to a flock of sheep than the knowledge that their Shepherd is nearby. How does it help you rest and trust the Father when you know that He is always nearby? How should this change the way you deal with issues like fear, tension, aggravation, and hunger in your life?
5. Read Matthew 5:23-24. How can tension between you and another “sheep in the flock” keep you from being able to rest in peace?
6. Read II Timothy 1:7. What has God as your Shepherd already done for you that should keep you from living in fear?
7. What action steps can you take from this lesson that will help you learn to rest in the Father as your Good Shepherd?
1. Describe, in your own words, what you think David is feeling and thinking as he writes this part of the passage: “He leads me beside quiet waters”. Why would the “quiet waters” be so important to the sheep? How does he relate that to his relationship with his Shepherd?
2. What is the physical result for a sheep that does not get enough water? In John 4, Jesus describes Himself as the Living Water. What is the spiritual effect on a Believer that is not getting enough Living Water on a regular basis?
3. Read Matthew 5:6. What does it mean for us to “hunger and thirst for righteousness”? How does this work with the fact that Jesus says, “Once I give you Living Water, you will never thirst again”. Re-read the end of verse 6. What does it feel like to “be filled” by Him?
4. Being thirsty is our body’s way of telling us we need more water. Being thirsty spiritually tells our spirit that we need more of the Living Water. What steps do you take personally to make sure you get the Living Water that you need? Can you give an example of a time that you tried to be filled spiritually from the wrong source? How did that work out for you?
5. In his book, Keller tells us that his sheep would benefit from getting up early and feeding on the green grass in the morning. What was the benefit for the sheep? How does it benefit us as Believers to spend time each morning taking in the Living Water that Jesus offers? How does it affect us spiritually if we only read the Bible when we feel really thirsty?
6. What is the benefit to us as His sheep to go to Jesus for our Living Water early in the morning? What is the fear of rushing into the day without stopping and spending time with Him?
7. Read Jeremiah 2:13. Is there any area of your life that shows that you’ve forsaken Jesus, as your spring of Living Water? What cisterns have you built to fulfill your thirst? What will it take for you to put those cisterns away and come back to the True Living Water?
1. In his book, Phillip Keller, talks about what happens when a sheep in “cast”. This is basically when a sheep has rolled over onto his back and can’t get up. You may need to do some research on this one. What causes the sheep to get into this position? Why can they not get up on their own? What happens to the sheep if they stay cast for a long period of time?
2. In Psalm 23:3 we see the line of this Psalm that says, “He restores my soul”. How do we as Christ followers relate to a sheep that has become cast? Why is it so important for us to have a Shepherd that can restore our soul?
3. What are the reasons that a sheep cannot get up from this position on their own? This is one of the times that they are forced to rely completely on the shepherd and his care for them. Relating that to us, what is it that makes it so difficult for us to get up when we are down? Can you share a story from your life when you were in this tough position and the Good Shepherd came to your rescue?
4. What was the attitude of the shepherd toward the sheep that were caught in this desperate situation? What was he willing to do to make sure they could be up and safe again? How does this relate to your Heavenly Father’s attitude toward you when you fail? What measures has your Shepherd gone to in order to help you out of a tough place?
5. What are some things that will cause us to end up in this situation? For the sheep, he listed “the soft spot”, “too much wool”, and the sheep being “too fat”. How can these relate to us as His children?
6. What are the dangers for the sheep, and for us, when we stay in the “cast” position too long?
7. Is there an area in your life where you need to Shepherd to come and “restore your soul”? Can you share that with your group, or with the Pastor at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to pray along with you.
1. It is obviously a huge blessing to know that Jesus, our God Shepherd, guides us well. However, we struggle many times to follow that guidance. What is the required attitude of our heart in order for us to be led well by our Shepherd?
2. Read Isaiah 53:6. Scripture makes it very clear that we are “stiff-necked, stubborn” people that like to do our own thing. How does this play out in our need to be led by our Shepherd? Why is it so difficult for us to follow His direction and how can we overcome that issue?
3. What is the definition of a Christ follower? Is it ok to be a “Christ follower” and still choose to go your own way and do your own thing? Read Matthew 9:24. How do we reconcile this passage with our desire to go our own way?
4. There is a key ingredient required in order for us to follow the guidance of Jesus as our Shepherd. That’s called humility. Why is it so difficult for us to humble ourselves and surrender to His leadership? How has pride hindered your ability to follow Christ? How has it hurt the relationship between Christians and the world around us?
5. One thing that is very important to the shepherd is to keep the sheep “on the move”. This is better for them and for the land on which they feed. How can we as God’s sheep benefit from God keeping us “on the move”? What are the hazards of us staying in one place, physically or spiritually, as believers? How can this be bad for us as His children?
6. In his book, Keller mentions a piece of land that had been “sheeped to death”. He talks about the destruction a flock of sheep can bring to land if they are not led well. How can this relate to us as God’s sheep in reference to the land around us? What kind of destruction can we cause if we do not follow our Good Shepherd?
7. In what area do you think Christians struggle the most in following the guidance of our Good Shepherd? Are there any areas in your life where you need prayer to learn to trust Christ and follow Him well?
8. What does David mean when he adds the phrase, “for His name’s sake” at the end of this passage?
1. What do you think David is referring to with the phrase, “the valley of the shadow of death”? Talk about what he meant from the shepherd’s perspective and then from his perspective as a spiritual sheep under God as his shepherd.
2. Why did the shepherd have to move the sheep to higher ground during the summer season? Do you think the sheep knew why they were moving? How can you relate this to our spiritual journey in how we relate to the sheep?
3. It’s pretty obvious that the valleys were filled with possible dangers for the sheep. Why did the shepherd feel like that was the best way to get the sheep to the highlands? What are some of the spiritual valleys that we go through in our growth process and what are some of the dangers?
4. . Understanding why the shepherd would take the sheep through the valleys, why do you think it’s important for us to travel through valleys in life as well? How do we benefit from time in the valley?
5. Read James 1:2-4. If we know that a large part of our spiritual growth takes place as we go through the valleys of life, why do we work so hard to avoid the valleys as we go? And how does that limit our spiritual development?
6. Can you share about a time when you were in a valley spiritually and it caused you to hunger and thirst for God at a new level? What is something that you learned during that time? How did your prayer life or scripture reading change during that time?
7. Read the last 5 words of Psalm 23:4. How does this truth make it possible to walk through the valleys of life with no fear? How has this promise affected you in a personal way in your own spiritual journey?
8. Pray for your friends, asking God to help them persevere through the valleys and become all that He has built them to be.
1. What are the things you know about God today that bring you the most comfort? Share as many of these with the group as you can.
2. Read Psalm 23:4. What is the difference between a rod and a staff? What was the purpose of each of these tools? And, how would each of them bring comfort to the sheep?
3. What does the rod represent in our spiritual life? For the sheep, one thing the rod represented was “authority”. How does that relate to us spiritually and how can that bring us comfort? How do you think it should bring us comfort in the midst of the chaos in our world today?
4. The rod was also used to inspect the sheep as they were called to go “under the rod”. How can that relate to God’s Word in our lives and how God uses His Word to inspect us? Why was this so important for the sheep and why is it so important for us?
5. Another way the shepherd would use the rod was for protection. As it represents God’s Word, how can it be used to protect us in our spiritual walk? What must we do to activate the protection of God’s Word in our everyday life?
6. What was the purpose of the staff? What did it represent for the sheep and what does it represent for us in our spiritual walk? How can the staff be a comfort for us as we live each day?
7. What is the role of Holy Spirit in our lives? What passages of scripture can you find that describe Holy Spirit’s role in us? How do you see Him playing each of those roles in your life right now? Is there an area in which you need to be better connected to Him so you can follow His leading more closely?
8. The staff was the most critical piece of equipment for identifying a shepherd. Can people identify you as a child of God from seeing Holy Spirit in you?
1. Read Psalm 23:5. What do you think David was referring to when he mentioned the shepherd “preparing a table” for the sheep? How can that relate to us as part of God’s flock?
2. David added in the phrase, “in the presence of my enemies”. Why would he use that phrase about the sheep and what would that mean to us? How does our attention on our enemy affect our ability to feast at the table that the Father prepares for us?
3. By using our new “Sheep Knowledge” we’ve learned that the shepherd would never lead his sheep to a location that he had not already been and made sure it was safe. Why is that so important for us to know as we relate the shepherd to our Good Shepherd?
4. Read Psalm 139:16. If God really knows all of our days before we were even born, how should this affect our ability and willingness to follow His direction? The sheep learned to trust the shepherd because they knew he had their best in mind. Do you trust the Father’s heart for you enough to follow His guidance?
5. When our table is prepared in the presence of our enemies, how should we make sure we don’t get distracted by the enemy around us? How do we feast at the table with the fear of the enemy? What has our Good Shepherd done for us that shows we can trust Him no matter what the enemy is doing?
6. How can the “table” our Shepherd is preparing for us relate to our daily time alone with Him? How can you make sure your time with the Father every day becomes a true feast at His table?
1. What was the common problem for the sheep that required the shepherd to anoint their heads with oil? How do those problems relate to us as God’s children?
2. Was there a certain time of year that this issue was a real problem? In relation to question number 1, are their certain seasons in your life when you experience more struggles in these areas as well?
3. When the shepherd would anoint the sheep’s head with oil the irritation would go away immediately and the sheep could relax in comfort. Read Romans 6:17-18. How does this connect to the shepherd anointing the heads of his sheep and to us? How should His anointing give us the ability to relax in peace?
4. One disease the sheep may get is called scab. With both scab, and the other irritants with which the sheep had to deal, the main target for the sheep is the head. And, this is how it is most commonly spread from one sheep to another. As with the sheep, the things that most often contaminate us come to us through our minds. As a group, share and discuss five passages of scripture that help us know how to protect our minds from the irritants and diseases of the enemy. What action do you need to take from one of these passages?
5. Sheep could become stubborn and reject the anointing from the shepherd. What causes us to be so stubborn when it comes to allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us in the cleansing and renewing of our minds? What steps must we take to allow Him to accomplish this in us?
6. David ends this portion of the passage with “my cup overflows”? We know he is now seeing himself as the sheep. What could he have meant by this statement about himself and what would cause his cup to overflow?
7. As Christians in our current culture, what does it look like for our cup to overflow and how should that affect the people around us?
1. What have you seen from the shepherd in this series, and this passage, that you believe could make David make this statement, “Surely goodness and love (or mercy) will follow me all the days of my life”?
2. David had learned through his life experiences that, no matter what he went through, His Good Shepherd would be right there with His “goodness and love”. What do we know about our Good Shepherd that leads us to this same belief?
3. What do we do with this belief when things in our lives don’t seem to be wrapped in “goodness and love”? How do we trust our Shepherd when things go bad? When the diagnosis is not good? When the job goes away? Where do we see His goodness and love then?
4. Read John 10:11 and 1 John 3:16. How do these truths help you have a deeper understanding and appreciation of His “goodness and love”?
5. Taking a different view of this portion of Psalm 23, how can God’s goodness and love become what follows us around for the rest of our lives? How can His goodness and love flow through us to others around us and how can they become a part of what we leave behind for others to see and feel?
6. When they are not managed well, sheep can become very destructive to the land on which they have settled. How can we as Christians become destructive to the land where God has placed us? How can we leave behind a disaster rather than goodness and love? What can be the results of this destructive behavior for those living around us?
7. When they are managed well, when a flock of sheep would leave an area they would leave behind “fertility and weed-free land, filled with beauty and abundance.” What will your current life situation look like it when you leave and move on to a different pasture? Are you adding life and removing death from the place where God has you right now? How can we be sure that we are doing more good than harm in our current life situation?
8. Is there anything in your life that you need to adjust in order to make sure you are leaving behind goodness and love and mercy instead of destruction and pain? What can you start doing today to make sure you’re leaving a blessing behind with everyone you meet?
1. As you have read this passage through the years, what does the statement “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” mean to you?
2. David gives the picture of a sheep that is completely content as a part of his current flock. What are the characteristics of a child of God that is completely content in their relationship with the Good Shepherd? What would this look like in everyday life?
3. How can our living as “content sheep” help other people give their lives to Jesus Christ? Do you think the way you are living now encourages people toward Christ or away from Him?
4. The sheep would be completely content with their shepherd because of all of the things he had done to take care of them throughout the year. Can you share with the group any of the things that God has carried you through that have led you to be completely content in Him?
5. The Amplified Bible uses the word “presence” instead of “house”. We’ve learned that the main thing the sheep need is to know they’re in the “presence” of their shepherd. How does it change things for you when you see the statement as “I will dwell in the “presence” of the Lord forever?
6. Share with your group about your favorite lesson that you have gotten from our study of Psalm 23.
7. As we close out our Psalm 23 study, what life-change are you going to work on as a result of what you have learned?