Year A – Lent 4 – Psalm 23

 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

    He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
    he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
    I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff—
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    my whole life long.

 

Summary – Psalm 23 is a beautiful poem which expresses the care of the Lord for his people with the well-known Shepherd/sheep relationship. It is a Psalm of David and calls to mind a young man who came to know God while tending the flock. Just as David was a good shepherd, nourishing and protecting the flock, so the Lord was The Good Shepherd (1 Samuel 17:34ff).  This is one of the most memorable passages in Scripture and has been the comfort of God’s people for over 3000 years. It explains God’s care for us, to lead us, to restore us, to be with us through the darkness, to strengthen with rod and staff, to prepare a table, to anoint us, to cause goodness and mercy to follow us – forever. When God looked on David’s heart, by His grace, David was the kind of believer that placed His trust in Yahweh as Shepherd of His people. This caused David to sing and play psalms of praise to his Lord.

Insight – Psalm 23 is the best known Psalm in the world. It is a tremendous comfort. The first five words, like five smooth stones can bring down the giants of self-condemnation and lack of assurance.

The LORD is my shepherd. That is The one and only Almighty God is the One who cares for me.

The LORD is my shepherd. He is not a vague deity. He is the Covenant Lord (Yahweh) of Israel, a covenant keeping God who has committed Himself to the salvation of His people.

The LORD is my shepherd. Now He IS and ever will be at any time I call upon Him, the only Covenant Lord who is my shepherd.

The LORD is my shepherd. He is certainly the Covenant Lord and Savior of His people and unlimited in His power to save, but I confess now that He is MY personal Shepherd who cares for me.

The LORD is my shepherd. Not only is He the Almighty God and Savior, but He saves me not as a Tyrant, but as a loving Shepherd. So I can claim boldly, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”

Children’s Catechism – Who is the Lord? The Lord is my Shepherd.

Discussion – Have you learned Psalm 23 by heart? If not can you at least learn the first five words? Which one of these words is most important for you?

Prayer – 
Through Christ you make us a new creation, O God, 
for with Him we pass from sin to the new life of grace.
 Accept our prayers in the warm embrace of your compassion,
and welcome all people to the festive banquet of your table,
 where we may rejoice in your love and celebrate the inheritance you have given to us. 
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Year A – Lent 4 – 1 Samuel 16:1-16

1 Samuel 16:1–16 –  The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2 Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” 4 Samuel did what the LORD commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5 He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. 6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’S anointed is now before the LORD.” 7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any of these.” 11 Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12 He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

Summary – This passages tells of the “anointing” of David by Samuel. David is the least of Jesse’s sons and not the one who would have been chosen as the quarterback of the football team. But we are told the criterion of God: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” As a result of God’s selection and the anointing, the Spirit of the Lord was on David.

Insight – Hannah (Samuel’s Mother) prophesied in song that Samuel “will give power to His king; He will lift up the horn of His anointed.” This is the very first use of the term “Messiah” (in Hebrew). Samuel would anoint with Spiritual Oil, the King. Messiah or Christ (Greek) simply means “anointed king.” When Samuel did it, we learn that those who would reign are not mighty in the flesh like Saul, but rather they are mighty in heart. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth of David spoke and plucked psalms, hymns and war songs of praise to the true God. That is the basis for his many victories, the first of which is the story in the next chapter (1Sam. 17). David said to Goliath: “You come against me with a dagger, spear, and sword, but I come against you in the name of Yahweh of Hosts . . . and this whole assembly [faithless Israel in the flesh] will know that it is not by sword or by spear that the LORD saves, for the battle is the LORD’s.”

Child’s Catechism – What does Messiah mean? God’s anointed King.

Discussion – What did God see in David’s heart? What does God see in your heart?

Prayer – O Lord, You are the discerner of hearts, you look beneath our outward appearance and see your image in each of us. Banish in us the blindness that prevents us from recognizing truth, so we may see the world through your eyes and with the compassion of Jesus Christ who redeems us. Amen.

Year A – Second Sunday of Easter – Psalm 16

Psalms 16 –  Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”  3 As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight.   4 Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips. 5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.  7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 8 I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.  9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. 10 For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit.  11 You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Summary – This Psalm of David expresses full commitment to the Covenant Lord (Yahweh). The psalmist takes refuge in God and confesses that I have “no good apart from you.” The writer chooses God as his portion and cup; he keeps the Lord always before him. His heart is glad; his soul rejoices; and his body rests secure, since God will not give him up to Sheol or the pit. God will make known the path of life. In God’s presence is fullness of joy and eternal pleasure. The Psalm is also Messianic. Peter cites it in Acts 2:25-28 which applies verses 8-11 to the resurrection of Jesus. God will not give up the body of Jesus and rather will raise Him and draw Him to the Right Hand of  power.

Insight – Have you ever been locked out? Perhaps of a building or even your own house? In one sense the whole story of the Bible is story of Man being locked out of God’s presence and most importantly God making a way back. God has been making a pathway back into His presence ever since in Eden Adam and Eve sinned and were cast out. They were barred from coming back to God’s presence by the flaming sword of cherubim. Yet, as God was revealed to Abraham and his children, the Old Covenant pictures the priesthood following the path of blood and altar fire back into God’s presence. Those like David called on the Lord and by faith were given refuge by the Covenant Lord. All of this was preparation for the true path of life which came through Christ’s blood and ultimately His resurrection. Jesus ascended (with true human nature) to the right hand of the Father. Through Christ we can say confidently, “You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Child’s Catechism – What did Christ do for us? He shows us the path of life.

Discussion – How do we follow the path of life into God’s presence?

Prayer – Mighty God,
in whom we know the power of redemption,
you stand among us in the shadows of our time.
As we move through every sorrow and trial of this life,
uphold us with knowledge of the final morning
when, in the glorious presence of your risen Son,
we will share in his resurrection,
redeemed and restored to the fullness of life
and forever freed to be your people. Amen.

Year A – Lent 4 – 1 Samuel 16:1–13

1 Samuel 16:1–16:  The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2 Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” 4 Samuel did what the LORD commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5 He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. 6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’S anointed is now before the LORD.” 7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any of these.” 11 Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12 He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

Summary – This passages tells of the “anointing” of David by Samuel. David is the least of Jesse’s sons and not the one who would have been chosen as the quarterback of the football team. But we are told the criterion of God: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” As a result of God’s selection and the anointing, the Spirit of the Lord was on David.

Insight – Hannah (Samuel’s Mother) prophesied in song that Samuel “will give power to His king; He will lift up the horn of His anointed.” This is the very first use of the term “Messiah” (in Hebrew). Samuel would anoint with Spiritual Oil, the King. Messiah or Christ (Greek) simply means “anointed king.” When Samuel did it, we learn that those who would reign are not mighty in the flesh like Saul, but rather they are mighty in heart. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth of David spoke and plucked psalms, hymns and war songs of praise to the true God. That is the basis for his many victories, the first of which is the story in the next chapter (1Sam. 17). David said to Goliath: “You come against me with a dagger, spear, and sword, but I come against you in the name of Yahweh of Hosts . . . and this whole assembly [faithless Israel in the flesh] will know that it is not by sword or by spear that the LORD saves, for the battle is the LORD’s.”

Child’s Catechism – What does Messiah mean? God’s anointed King.

Discussion – What did God see in David’s heart? What does God see in your heart?

Prayer – Discerner of hearts, you look beneath our outward appearance and see your image in each of us. Banish in us the blindness that prevents us from recognizing truth, so we may see the world through your eyes and with the compassion of Jesus Christ who redeems us. Amen.

Year B – Trinity 7 – 1 Samuel 17:32-49

1 Samuel 17:32-49:  David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. 36 Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!”

38 Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. 39 David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.

41 The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43 The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.” 45 But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.” 48 When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground. (NRSV)

 

Summary:  This familiar scene between David and Goliath has become an iconic showdown for all those underdogs pitted against an invincible foe.  But David is not the lone hero of this story (nor would he let himself be); Instead, it was for the Lord’s honor and His glory that David fought (vv45,46).  Probably the age of an older teen at the time, David was nevertheless behaving as the noble and true leader for God’s people—though it would still be years before he was publically recognized as the king.

 

Insight:  Can you image that your parents were once teenagers?  It may be hard to believe, but all of us adults were at one time in your, or in your older siblings, shoes.  Being a young adult is not quite like being an adult, but it certainly feels like you’re not kid anymore.  We’ve been there and so was David.  Despite his youth, he demonstrated a remarkable level of spiritual maturity and wisdom.  His youthful drive and focus was one of humble servanthood and properly placed zeal.  Something we adults, and future adults alike, do well to learn from.

 

Child Catechism:  Why would David fight Goliath?  Because he had defiled the armies of the living God.

Discussion:  Parents, what teenage challenges did you face and overcome with God’s help?  Children (and youth adults), what Goliath-size challenges are your facing in your youth?

 

Father we remember your steadfast love and devotion to your people

In all stages of our life, protector us and stand with us

Our battles are your battles

In the power of your Spirit and the name of the King, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

 

Contributed by M. West

Year B – Easter 4 – Psalm 23

Psalm 23:  The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3he restores my soul.  He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I 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 mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.  (NRSV)

Summary:  Despite its lack of cultural relevance, our thoughts of a what a shepherd is, remains a powerful and moving metaphor; Especially when we consider how such imagery informs the Lord’s devoted interaction and guidance within our individual lives.  Throughout history, readers have found this psalm particularly comforting and deeply personal.  God’s care and leading are intimately felt by David’s firsthand experience and poetic imagery.  Thankfully we have a share in David’s voice:  even in the darkest valley, our Divine Shepherd is leading you and me.

Insight:  Biblically, shepherding is a leadership trait that describes even ungodly leaders.  Naturally, such bad leaders were called ‘bad’ shepherds, and they were one of the most damaging and reoccurring threats to the flock of Israel (Jeremiah 23).  However, God was never unsympathetic to such leadership problems; he promised one day to shepherd his people himself (Ezekiel 34).  So when Jesus came onto the scene proclaiming he was the ‘good’ shepherd (Jn 10:14), he was more than just speak of his tender care and pastoral heart,[1] he was claiming to be David’s divine shepherd of Psalm 23.  In fact, “no human king of Israel was ever given the title [of shepherd].”[2]  But now, we have the privilege and responsibility to serve the Shepherd King of Israel.

Likewise, the image of Christ as a shepherd should instill in us a picture of great dignity as well as unsurpassable tenderness.  In Psalm 23, David expresses them both.  He was a man striving to live in that appropriate fear and adoration of Lord.  As we serve the risen and reigning Christ, we must impress upon ourselves the same:  we too have nothing to fear, with no wants, and only the shepherd’s leading:  Surely, goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives!

Child Catechism:  How is God a shepherd?  God rules the universe with a shepherd’s caring and tender guidance, deserving for his name’s sake, all creation’s love and respect.

Discussion:  In the Near East, shepherding was a regal image as well as a commonplace profession; what modern everyday occupations might you use to describe God’s guidance?  How does C.S. Lewis’ Aslan help depict the appropriate fear and adoration of who God is?

Prayer – Father, we thank for your shepherd-like leading and provision in our lives, Grant us the grace to follow the one and only Shepherd King:  Christ Jesus;  And it is in his Name and the blessed unity of his Spirit that we pray.  Amen.

Contributed by:  M. West


[1] Peter C. Craigie.  Ezekiel.  (Philadelphia:  Westminster, 1983):  243.

[2] Timothy S. Laniak.  Shepherds After My Own Heart:  Pastoral Traditions and Leadership in the Bible.  (Downers Grove:  InterVarsity, 2006):  249.

Year B – Lent 1 – Psalm 25:1-10

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. 25:2 O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me. 25:3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.   25:4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. 25:5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.   25:6 Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. 25:7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O LORD!   25:8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. 25:9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. 25:10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

Summary – This portion of Psalm 25 points out an important characteristic of God.  The outline of the Psalm is in a parallel structure (a chiasm):

Trusting in God’s Faithfulness (1-3)

Learning God’s Ways (4-5)

God’s Covenant Mercy (6-7)

Learning God’s Ways (8-9)

Trusting in God’s Faithfulness (10)

Verses 1-3 and verse 10 focus on God’s faithfulness, and verses 4-5 and 8-9 point out God’s nature in teaching His ways, the center is found in verses 6-7 where David enjoins God to remember His mercy and His Covenant Love.  David begins by lifting his soul up to God and he sees that those who would remain in covenant with the Lord must learn God’s ways.  He seeks forgiveness of sins (vs 7). God’s remembrance of His mercy and of His promise is at the center of this Psalm.

Insight – We have all been let down at some point in our life.  People have told you they will do something, and then they don’t do it.  Maybe you have let others down as well!  Have you ever told your parents, “Sure, I’ll clean my room” or told your brother or sister, “Sure, I’ll play a game with you” and then didn’t do it?  When David was King of Israel, the same thing was happening.  The people told God, “You will be our one and only God,” but then they turned around and followed false gods.  David realized that the only way the people would remain faithful to God was if God was faithful to them.  David remembered that God is the only one who fully keeps His promises, so he prayed that God would do so.  His prayers were answered when God sent His Son to the Earth for us.  Now that Jesus has accepted us into His family, we begin to become more like Him and can learn to keep our promises too.

Child Catechism – Who always keeps His promises?  God is the only one who keeps His promises.

Discussion – What does it mean to “wait for the Lord?”  What did it mean to David in this Psalm?  On what basis does David ask God to remember him (vs 7)?

Prayer – (adapted from Ps. 25:1-10)  Lord, we lift up our hearts to you.  Since we trust in you, we ask you to teach us your ways.  You have loved your people steadfastly throughout history, and now we ask that you remember your love and your promise to us now, for you alone are good.  We know that those who keep covenant with you remain in your love, so we ask for your help that we may walk in your ways.  This is only possible through Jesus, so we ask these things in His name.  Amen.

-JHerr