Sabbath School Lesson for June 25-July 1, 2022

Overview of Lesson 1

The 23rd Psalm and the role of Jesus as our Shepherd brings us a better understanding of…

  • the need for a guide on our life journey (Sunday)
  • the varied locations along the path to righteousness (Monday)
  • the dark valleys that unexpectedly detour us (Tuesday)
  • how to deal with enemies along the way (Wednesday)
  • the love that sustains us all the way to our eternal destination (Thursday)

This quarter will bring us an awareness and understanding of the many trying times that come to all of God’s children. Most of all, we will be reminded of the constant need to trust God with the outcome of any trial, or crucible (Romans 8:28).

No matter what the hardship, it should comfort us to remember that Jesus went through worse. We only experience our own griefs and sorrows, but God bore all our griefs on the cross (Isaiah 53:4). And He is the Shepherd who guides us through crucibles, no matter what they are.

Memory Text: “He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3 NKJV

Many can testify that our greatest times of spiritual growth often come during or after some crushing, personal defeat or experience. The imagery of a shepherd speaks reassuringly to us during these times, as we contemplate the many things the shepherd does for his flock. He leads the sheep, feeds them, searches for them when lost, and heals their wounds. This restoration is possible for all of us because of the Shepherd’s love, our only source of hope for full restoration and happiness.

Sunday: A Guide for the Journey: The Shepherd (Psalm 23:1, 2)

Psalm 23, a short psalm, just six verses, is packed with much information about our Savior. He truly is our Shepherd–leading, restoring, comforting, anointing, and dwelling with us.

The Old and New Testaments verify this shepherding role of God. Prophets and apostles recognized the all-important work of our Lord and Savior, and how it resembles that of a faithful, loving shepherd.

The angels, who proclaimed Christ’s birth to the shepherds of Bethlehem, made this humble crew the first to visit the Messiah in a lowly stable. They, above others, would identify with the healing, caring ministry that characterized the life of God’s Son.

Sometimes, in our most trying circumstances, we struggle to not let Satan obscure this wholesome picture of God as a loving, tender Shepherd. This is probably why Psalm 23 remains such a favorite chapter and is probably the most read and quoted chapter in the whole Bible.

Questions to Discuss:

Psalm 23:1-6

  • How has this chapter impacted how you see God working in your life?

Isaiah 40:11, Jeremiah 23:3, 4, Ezekiel 34:12

  • Why did these other prophets go back to the imagery of a shepherd in describing the work of God?
  • Who are the “shepherds” that God sets over us, as we read in Jeremiah?

John 10:14-16 and 1 Peter 2:25

  • How and why did Jesus and His disciples see Jesus as the Good Shepherd?
  • When did Jesus give His life for His flock? Why was it necessary for Him to do this?

Monday: Locations on the Journey (Psalm 23:3)

What are these paths of righteousness, or right paths, spoken of in Psalm 23:3? No matter how it is translated, the word “paths” is in the plural, meaning more than one. Just as with any road trip, we only need one vehicle, but there are various routes to get us to our destination. We will see different points of interest along the way, depending on which route we take.

Reading all of Psalm 23 gives us a picture of some of the things we may see on our trip. Of course, there will be times when we are hungry and thirsty, and God knows the best places to stop for food and drink. There will be times of danger, too. An accident along the way may cause us to take a detour. It may be the accident of another vehicle, or perhaps one where we are directly involved.

The path that is probably most distasteful and unexpected is the path where we confront an enemy. Most likely it would be a robber or someone out to harm us. Often, we are robbed of more than our material possessions. Our emotions can suffer loss, leaving us painfully scarred and helpless along this path. Thankfully, God provides for dealing with our enemies too.

We must consider why these paths are called righteous. Most likely it is because they…

  1. lead us to the right destination
  2. keep us in harmony with the right Person–the Shepherd
  3. train us to be right, or righteous, people
  4. give us the right witness of God to share with others

Questions to Discuss:

Psalm 23:3 and John 14:6

  • How can there be several paths, but only one Way? Is there a contradiction here?

Tuesday: Unexpected Detour 1: The Valley (Psalm 23:4)

The valley spoken of in Psalm 23 is called “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). Everyone will find himself in this dark place many times in their lifetime. All of us will die, so it touches even God’s most faithful ones.

Whether it’s the death of a loved one or when we get close to our own demise, it’s a time when God’s presence is most definitely needed. A time when God promises to take away our fear, providing comfort, which will help us in our darkest hours.

There is, of course, the possibility that these dark times will make us doubt God’s presence. It won’t feel like He’s with us. We have come to associate God with the light. When that light flickers, or even gets snuffed out, it’s no wonder we question whether God is still there for us. At Calvary, Jesus Himself asked, while darkness came over all the land, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:45, 46).

It’s important to remember that God did not create that dark valley of death. It was not His will that any should experience such a fate. He has sent us a Shepherd though to guide us out of our dark place, back into the light. Whether it’s the light that’s still found on this earth, or the bright light of eternity, where we will never doubt His presence again.

Questions to Discuss:

Psalm 23:4 and Matthew 27:45, 46

  • Why did even Jesus have to experience this valley of death, and how did He cope with the darkness?
  • Had God really forsaken Christ on the cross? How do we know?

Wednesday: Unexpected Detour 2: The Surrounded Table (Psalm 23:5)

A second Bible passage was recommended for us to read this week: Romans 12:18-21. We might wonder why a new Christian, trying to “live peaceably with all men” and not “give place to wrath”, might find himself with enemies. Surely, it comes as a surprise to many of us when this happens. But no matter how long we have tried to love and serve others, we will at some point find we have enemies who unsettle us and shake our faith.

Our unspotted reputation has the potential to create jealousy and resentment in others. How does God expect us to handle these unpleasant relationships? Just as Paul quoted to the Romans from Proverbs 25:21, 22, we are to overcome them with good. And Jesus defined more specifically in the Sermon on the Mount what that meant (Matthew 5:44).

How can we ever find the strength to love, bless, and pray for our enemies? It seems too much to ask when it actually happens to us. How can we seriously follow our Shepherd and love our enemies as He did?

Going back to Psalm 23:5 we find the answer. He prepares a table for us WITH our enemies. We dine together with the God of the universe, surrounded by His goodness, with a cup that runs over with blessings. He anoints us with His Holy Spirit, which enables us to love those who seem to be the most unlovable.

Questions to Discuss:

Romans 12:18-21

  • Is it possible to live peaceably with all men? Why, or why not?
  • Why are we asked to do it though? And how can it be done?

Psalm 23:5 and Matthew 5:44

  • How does Psalm 23 show us how to love our enemies, as Jesus commanded us?

Thursday: A Certain Promise for the Journey (Psalm 23:6)

One of the reasons Psalm 23 is so popular is God’s promise at the end. He promises not only to be with us now, which is comforting in itself, but that we will be with Him…forever. We are guaranteed that God is in control of our present and future. We can get to our final home (“the house of the Lord”)  if we follow His guidance, with His strength and comfort along the way.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me” tells us that God (who embodies goodness and mercy) will not only be with us, but He will do so much more. The verb “follow” used in this promise is also used in other instances where the following is more of a pursuit (Genesis 14:14, Joshua 10:19, and 1 Samuel 25:29). So, what this verse is telling us is that God not only follows us, but He actively pursues us.

With this kind of Shepherd, the sheep can rest assured that their lives are being closely monitored and maintained. He will not forsake His flock. They can know that He is going to be there when they need Him. His love is always available.

Questions to Discuss:

Psalm 23:6

  • What two things are we promised in this verse?

2 Peter 1:10, Psalm 119:165, and Proverbs 4:11, 12

  • What’s the difference in stumbling and falling?
  • What part does the Shepherd have in keeping us from stumbling?

Friday: Final Thoughts

The best way to bear seasons of perplexity and trial is to trust that Someone can guide us through them. Psalm 23 describes such a guide. This kind of leadership is best understood by looking at the work of a shepherd. There is a Shepherd who has all the qualifications we need to pull us through our darkest hours.

The outcome of a crucible is to burn away our impurities, just as it does in the creation of metal. We can come out of these trying experiences better than we went in.

With so many leaders across the globe, some good and some bad, we must put our faith and loyalty in the One Leader who is most intimately involved with our creation and destiny. Only by accepting the leadership of the Good Shepherd will we be able to survive our crucibles in life. Let’s follow the best Leader of all, Jesus Christ.

Next Week: The Crucibles That Come

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