Year A – Advent 4 – Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Psalms 80:1–7, 17–19 1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth 2 before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us!   3 Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.   4 O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? 5 You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure. 6 You make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves.   7 Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.   17 But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself. 18 Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name.   19 Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Overview – Between about 734 and 722 BC the ten tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel were taken into captivity by Assyria. It seems this Psalm laments this and calls repeatedly for “restoration.” Though Israel (northern kingdom) and Judah (southern kingdom) had been divided shortly after the days of Solomon’s death, in 2Chr. 30:1, King Hezekiah had reached out for survivors to unite, in the face of Assyria’s threat: “Now Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover to the LORD God of Israel.” Sadly the response was mocking:  “So the couriers passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun, but they laughed them to scorn and mocked them” (2Chr. 30:10). The rest of the story is that the northern kingdoms were drowned in the Gentile sea. This Psalm was written by the musicians of Asaph at the temple in Jerusalem (Judah), yet it calls for the Lord to “Stir up your might, and come to save us!” (a united Israel) (v2). Given the peril of those days, the faithful were calling for God intervene in restoration. Striking in this Psalm is v 17, “But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself.” In the context of the original hearers this would have been understood as God’s firstborn, “Israel.” Let Yahweh strengthen all of Abraham’s children (north and south).

Insight  – Though God’s firstborn was “Israel,” Israel was to give birth, in the fullness of time to the Final, One True Israelite, the hope of Israel, born of  “Woman” and born under Law in order to redeem us all from the curse of the Law (Gal. 4). God would restore the family of Abraham, but in a way that no one could imagine. It is as though the cry for deliverance and restoration that first rang out in this Psalm from Judah, echoed throughout those hundreds of years until it was answered in the whimper of a newborn in Bethlehem. A Child that was to be laid in a manger, a feeding trough. Jesus was the True and ultimate Shepherd of Israel because He gave Himself for His people.

Child’s Catechism – Why is the final Shepherd of Israel Jesus? Because Jesus gave Himself for His people.

Discussion – If you were to write this Psalm today, what would you be asking God to do in this “restoration”?

Prayer – O Shepherd of Israel, we give You praise because of your mysterious and marvelous plan of redemption. You made promises and You kept them. You have always shepherded Your people. Grant that we may be faithful sheep who love and serve You in the victorious kingdom of Christ our Lord, especially in this time of Advent, as we anticipate the celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus the Lamb of God. Amen.

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Year A – Fourth Sunday of Easter – Psalm 23

Psalm 23 (NRSV)

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 Davide 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 – Psalm 23

Psalms 23:0–6: Psalm of David. 1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3 he 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.

Summary – Psalm 23 is the beautiful poem which expresses the Shepherd/sheep relationship between the Lord and David. This is one of the most memorable parts of Scripture. It explains God’s care for us to lead us, to restore us, to be with us through the dark valley, to comfort/strengthen with rod and staff, to prepare a table, to anoint me, to cause goodness and mercy to follow me. 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.

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 C – Fourth Sunday in Easter – Psalm 23

Psalm 23 NRSV

A Psalm of David.

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 – This psalm is probably the best known passage of the Old Testament. Here David sings of God’s  faithfulness throughout his life. The Psalm confidently describes the Lord as David’s Shepherd, King, and Dinner Host. Jesus said in Luke 24:44 that the Psalms were written about him. Let us read this passage and see how it speaks about Christ. Jesus totally trusts in God for his provision (v. 1-3), Jesus trusts in God for his protection (v. 4-5), and Jesus trust that God would be faithful to his promises (v. 6).

Insight – Interestingly, in the Old Testament there is a very close connection between shepherds and kings, often being understood as synonymous terms (Ezek. 34). David was a shepherd, and he became a king. In this Psalm, David, the king of Israel,  is expressing his confidence in God as the true King, and as the true shepherd of Israel. The Lord protects him and guards him from his enemies. Jesus is the greater David, and as such, he himself is the greater shepherd-king (John 10). The Good Shepherd lays his life down for the sheep, and that is exactly what Jesus did. Even though he walked through the valley of the shadow of death, he feared no evil, because God was with him on the cross. And as a result of the shepherds death for his sheep, “surely goodness and mercy follows him” all the days of his everlasting life. And because Jesus is our Shepherd, we too shall not fear any evil. For God with us, and he will protect us, and even prepare sweet communion with him in the presence of our enemies, the greatest one he has already defeated – death.

Catechism – Who is our Shepherd? The Lord is my Shepherd.

Discussion – How does this psalm refer to Jesus? Discuss shepherds and kings, and dinner hosts, and explain how Jesus is all of these, and how that relates to the Lord’s Supper.

Prayer – Almighty and Heavenly Father, you have sent your Son Jesus to be for us our Shepherd King who prepares a table for us in the midst of our enemies. Give us the grace to trust that you will guide and protect us, and that your goodness and mercy will be with us all the days of our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

 

Year B – Proper 6 – 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. 35 Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel. 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.”a 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.

 

Insight:  There will be many unforgettable moments in your life; usually these will be life-changing and defining moments that signal a new era, a new development, or a new found role in your life.  Image getting behind the wheel of that car for first time, alone with the road and radio; turning around together, as the pastor introduces you as husband and wife; or with yet another diploma in hand,  smiling as your family proudly gathers around.  This passage tells of one such defining moment in David’s and in Samuel’s lives.  This was also a turning pointing in Israel’s history.  Thereafter, David was seen as the exemplary human king;  and it would be his son who would lead them to victory and lasting peace.  Saul had not been such a good example.  He had been a disobedient king and now the Lord was to name this youngest of eight boys the future king of Israel.  While it is uncertain just how much David and his family understood at this moment.  This occasion was God’s way of setting David apart; and this young shepherd boy would grow to be a man after God’s own heart.

Catechism Question:  What did Samuel use to anoint David?  The horn of oil.

Discussion:  What have been some defining moments in your life?  What were David’s qualifications for becoming king?  What had been some of the reason why Saul was rejected as king?

Your hand is upon your people, O God,
to guide and protect them through the ages.
Keep in your service
those you have called and anointed,
that the powers of this world may not overwhelm us,
but that, secure in your love,
we may carry out your will
in the face of all adversity. 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 – Easter 4 – John 10:11-18

John 10:11–18 NRSV –    “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 10:12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 10:13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 10:14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 10:15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 10:16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 10:17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 10:18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

Summary – In the previous chapter Jesus healed the man born blind and chapter 10 is His continued explanation of His care for people vs the Pharisees’ lack of care. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, not the hired hand. He will defend the sheep against wolves even if it costs His life. The true sheep in God’s pasture hear the voice of Jesus, even those not in the Jewish fold. There are sheep from every nation for which Jesus will lay down His life. Even more, as we celebrate  the season of Easter, He will lay down His life “in order to take it up again.” No one takes the life of Jesus, but rather He yields it up, Himself, and has the power to “take it up again.” This foreshadows His death and resurrection.

Insight – The beautiful words of this chapter remind us that Jesus cares for His people. He stood against the hire hands who were fleecing the sheep, namely the Pharisees and Sadducees. Finally He engaged the ultimate enemy of the sheep, the wolves of sin and death. In laying down His life on the cross He conquered sin and death. Just because of this victory through death, He had the power to “take it up again” – He was raised over death. Jesus is both the Shepherd and the Lamb, both the sacrifice and the priest. Since Jesus provided salvation from sin and death, so we must follow His example and give of ourselves for others, whether this means simple acts of service like setting the table, washing the dishes or sharing with others; or whether we risk our jobs, our reputations or even our lives to help others. Just as Jesus had the power to rise again (through the Father and the Spirit),, so too all who give of themselves in Christ, find that they are renewed and have life in Him.

Child Catechism – Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

Discussion – How does Jesus death and resurrection give us the basis for serving others? In what ways are we called to follow Jesus’s example of “laying down our lives”?

Prayer – Good Shepherd of the Sheep, our Savior Jesus Christ, we thank you for your acts of courage and care in giving your life for the life of the world. We rejoice that you were raised victorious over death. Grant to us the grace to follow your example, being made right through your atonement and empowered by your Spirit. Help us see the ways that we may please you in serving, loving and sacrificing for others. In Christ’s Name. Amen.