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Psalm 23 1
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3a he restores my soul. 3b He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

clip_image100Background

The name Psalms or Psalter come from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, where they originally referred to stringed instruments such as the harp, lyre and lute.

The author is King David, one of the most important figures in Jewish history. Born in 907 B.C., he reigns as king of Israel for 40 years, dying at age 70 in 837 B.C.

Biblical Truths

This type of Psalm is called a song of trust. It is an expression of confidence in God’s protection. The Lord is compared to a shepherd. The word “soul” means vitality, life. “Paths of righteousness” or “of rightness,” that is, right paths which suits the context better. “Shadow of death” is the translation we read, but “deep darkness” is the better interpretation from the Hebrew. The Lord is compared to a gracious host. “Dwell in the house of the Lord” means to worship in the temple. “Forever” is Hebrew for “length of days,” meaning “as long as I live.”

The psalm has two basic divisions, each one providing part of the answer to our question about worry. The first four verses focus on God as the faithful and good Shepherd of his people. It calls us to trust Him as such. The second section made up of the last two verses, focuses our attention on God as a gracious host, preparing a splendid meal for a guest, and results in our rejoicing over His grace toward us.

Items for Discussion

  • What does God want us to know about His ability to be our Shepard?
  • What do you notice about God’s guidance?
  • Finally, what benefit do we as believers gain from God when we are confident in His love?
  • Why should we be confident according to David?

 

John 10:1-15
1 “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. 7 Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Background

The book of John interprets Jesus from a Greek viewpoint because Jesus is presented as the incarnation of the “logos.” Six hundred years before the time of Jesus, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus used the Greek word “logos” to refer to the “mind” or rational power of God that created the world by bringing order out of chaos (as reflected in John 1:1-3). Other Greek philosophers viewed the “logos” as giving “intelligence” to human beings (as reflected in John 1:4 and 1:9).

The book of John describes Jesus as teaching God’s “truth” which human beings should follow in living as God intends for people to live. It is by following this truth or “light” that human beings experience life which Jesus described as “eternal” and “abundant.”

Although the book of John may interpret Jesus in terms of Greek philosophy, it is evident that the writer had “inside information” that could have come only from an eyewitness to Jesus. The book provides specific details about the disciples of Jesus and the events in Jesus’ life that appear to be more realistic than the descriptions given in the synoptic books. For example, Matthew, Mark, and Luke report a “voice from heaven” came at Jesus’ baptism, declaring that Jesus was God’s “beloved Son.” But John wrote that it was John the Baptist who declared that Jesus was “the Son of God” when Jesus was baptized. John’s version of this story is obviously more realistic. There are other examples like this to support John’s claim to having an eyewitness as a resource.

Although Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John write from different viewpoints, what is consistent in the four books is the message of Jesus that it is God’s will for people to love God and love each other as we love ourselves. Jesus refers to this message as God’s word, or truth, or commandment, or will, and those who accept this, as evidenced by how a person lives, will experience life as it is intended to be, and is described by the concept of “entering the Kingdom of God” on earth.

Biblical Truths

Christ is our protector, guarding us spiritually from attack, just as shepherds protect their flock by guarding the sheep pen. Many people think Christians are wrong to say that Jesus is the only way to salvation. They seek other ways to bridge the impenetrable chasm between God and man–such as good moral behavior or religious rituals. Yet Jesus Himself said that He is the only way to eternal life. Others have come in the past and will come in the future claiming to be the way to God. Jesus called them thieves and robbers. Only Christ fulfilled all the prophesies concerning the Jewish Messiah written about in the Scriptures. In contrast to thieves, who are only interested in what they can take, Jesus was only interested in what He could give. He gives life–full of abundance and richness. This life is eternal, yet it begins the moment we give control of our lives to Him. Life in Christ is lived on a higher plane because of His

Items for Discussion

  • Who is the false shepherd?
  • What is the mark or style of the false shepherds?
  • What is the object of the false shepherds?
  • How can Christ be both the true shepherd and the gate?
  • What does it mean to you when we say, “Christ is the door into the Church.”
  • Who is the hired hand?
  • How would we expect the behavior of a hired hand to be different from that of the true shepherd that Christ is talking about?

Discussion Challenge

  • Why should we care that Christ is the one true shepherd? (Hint: revisit Psalm 23)
Additional Study Notes

Items for Discussion in Psalm 23

  • What does God want us to know about His ability to be our Shepherd?
    • His provision is perfect
    • His provision renews and satisfies
    • Conclusion: Rather than worry ourselves to death, why not trust God for what only He can provide?
    • Look at verse 3b — God’s faithful provision is only part of what He does for those who know and love Him. He guides us as well.
  • What do you notice about God’s guidance?
    • He guides you in righteous paths
    • He does it for His name’s sake
  • Finally, what benefit do we as believers gain from God when we are confident in His love?
    • His protection
  • The summary verses (5 & 6) in Psalm 23 tell us to rejoice in God’s grace. Why should we according to David?
    • Because He Spares no Blessing
    • Because it Results in Constant Fellowship with Him

Items for Discussion in John 10:1-15

Discuss the following:

  • Who is the false shepherd?
    •  Christ had been speaking of the Pharisees
    •  Also referring to the one great false shepherd, Satan
  •  What is the mark or style of the false shepherds?
    • They enter not by the gate–Christ is the gate.
    • The mark of every false shepherd is that they are not saved themselves.
  • What is the object of the false shepherds?
    • To steal, and to kill, and to destroy.
    • This is the object of Antichrist.
    • This is the object of the world.
  • How can Christ be both the true shepherd and the gate?
    • He showed himself the good shepherd by his entering in by the gate, that is, ‘by his own blood, obtaining eternal redemption for us’. True, if he had remained without his taking our sins upon him, he would not need to have entered in, but he took our sins upon him.
  • What does it mean to you when we say, “Christ is the door into the Church.”
    • The only way into the Church of God is by Christ, and through faith in Him.
    • Many enter in by learning; learning is not to be despised. But yet it is not the door.
    • There are many that enter by having eminent gifts, but these are not the door.
    • Many enter in by the door of worldly favor, some by the favor of the rich, some by the life of the common people, some by the favor of a patron or parent but they do not enter in by the door. Remember then, and never forget it, that the right way into the ministry is through Jesus Christ.
    • Many enter into the fold another way, by the door of knowledge but if you have not come into the fold by being washed in the blood of Christ, you have not entered through the door.
  • Who is the hired hand?
    • Unfaithful ministers: that is to say, the end he seeks is the hire not the flock. This was often complained of by the prophets.
    • Isaiah complained of it in his day (Isaiah 56: 10, 11).
    • Jeremiah complained of them in his day (Jeremiah 6:13).
    • Ezekiel complained of them in his day (Ezekiel 34:2).
    • Paul complained of them in his day (Philippians 2:20, 2 1).
  • How would we expect the behavior of a hired hand to be different from that of the true shepherd that Christ is talking about?
    • The shepherd would go ahead to make sure the way was safe.
    • The shepherd would search for even one sheep that was lost.
    • A shepherd would lay down his life for his flock.

 

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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