One of our small groups recently used the Psalms Bible study (download here for free) and decided to also study Psalm 23. I wrote the following to help guide their personal reflection and group discussion.
The twenty-third Psalm is a classic! The imagery is simple, yet powerful and profound. It is easy to read for the first time, yet the psalm’s depth allows for a lifetime of reading and reflection without ever running dry. This psalm is a well the soul can return to time after time, secure in the promise of renewal.
Begin with prayer, thanking God for his goodness and blessings. Confess your sins and ask him to make your heart pure. Beg for wisdom and cultivated an open heart so that he might draw you closer to him.
Table — In the original usage, this referred to a leather mat spread on the ground upon which food was placed.
Rod and Staff— “Palestinian shepherd normally carried two implements, a club (or rod) to fend off wild beasts and a crook (or staff) to guide and control the sheep.” (Craigie, P. C. (2004). Psalms 1–50 (2nd ed., Vol. 19, p. 207).)
Anoint—Literally, “make fat” with oil. The imagery of excess is paralleled with the cup that is overflowing. In the Bible, an anointing was special, signifying that the person (or object) was chosen and set aside for a purpose.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
After reading this Psalm, what was personally encouraging, inspiring, or uplifting? What new insight, lesson, or teaching did you learn? Did this psalm raise any questions or confusion for you? If so, what are they?
According to this psalm, what specifically does it mean for the Lord to be a Shepherd? What actions and promises does the shepherd make?
In our world, who or what can take the place of the Lord as our Shepherd? What are some common things people follow and trust?
Expressing a deep sense of contentment, the Psalmist says, “I lack nothing” (NIV). In your opinion, how did he win the battle against greed and envy? Why is contentment so difficult for people to attain?
What does it mean, the a the Shepherd acts “for his name’s sake?”
The Shepherd leads the psalmist to “green pastures” and “darkest valleys.” How can it be both? In your opinion, why isn’t it only green pastures and quiet waters?
Share a definition of fear. What are some common things many people fear? In your opinion, why is fear so powerful? According to this psalm, what is the antidote to fear?
How does verse 6 describe the life and after-life for those under the care of the shepherd?
In your own life, what do you need most from the Shepherd?
- To be content
- To be led
- To be refreshed
- To be free from fear
- Something else?
Summarize, in your own words, the significance of this psalm in a single sentence.
Respond to the following summary, what changes would you make?
“No matter what is happening in our lives, we can find contentment and comfort from the presence and promises of the Shepherd.”