Bible’s Greatest Hits: The Lord is My Shepherd

I’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.

This sermon series looks at the parts of the Bible that are the best known passages by those outside of church.

For starters, we’ll look at the most common funeral reading, Psalm 23.

“I shall not want” here connotes “I shall not be in want” or “I won’t lack for anything”, not that “I’d better not want anything.”

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 refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk thru 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.
You prepare me a table in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and mercy will follow me all my life.
I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23)

Discussion Questions

  • What is your favorite part of your job?
  • What is the hardest part of your job?
  • Who affects your job the most?
  • What lasting impact does your job have?

Sheep 101

I didn’t grow up as a shepherd, and most of my readers didn’t either. Here’s a little background info on them.

  • Diet: Sheep graze from about 3:30 in the morning until about 10:00. They then lie down for three or four hours to rest. It is almost impossible to make sheep lie down while they are hungry.
  • Direction: Sheep will predictably go astray. They’ll wander aimlessly until they have nothing to eat or drink. They can’t find their way back, since they have no internal compass.
  • Dependence: Without a shepherd, the average sheep would not last more than a few days.
  • Danger: Sheep are a skittish bunch, to say the least. They will not drink from swiftly running water, since it scares them. (Rightly so, since they are poor swimmers, and wet wool will pull the sheep under water. See Matt 11:28.)

Thy Rod and Thy Staff

Shepherds carry a rod, which is usually a thin club a couple of feet long. It’s used as (and looks like) a billy club, or a tonfa, or a small kendo stick. It’s the perfect thing for thumping some heads.

Shepeherds are kind of bad-asses. Like a wild west cowboy, but with fluffier animals.

But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear.” (1 Samuel 17:34-35)

Shepherds carry a staff, which is a long walking stick with a hook at the end. Besides being a great way to get terrible vaudeville acts off the stage in cartoons, it is often used to gently guide sheep, sort of like a very short fence. It can also lift up any (hopefully not too heavy) sheep that have fallen into a well or a ditch.

David, the Psalm writer, finds the Lord’s rod and staff comforting because he knows that God can use the rod to protect him and to discipline him. God can use the staff to guide and to rescue him.

Always Avoid Alliteration

  • Sheep – Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. (Psalm 100:3)
  • Serenity – Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
  • Stillness – Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)
  • Sin – We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way. (Isaiah 53:6)
  • Salvation – In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. (Isaiah 30:15)
  • Command – When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)
  • Close – He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. (Isaiah 40:11)
  • Compassion – I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)
  • Courage – The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own 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. (John 10:12)
  • Care – The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. (John 10:13)

The Seven Names of God

Bonus Vocabulary Word: Ruminate — to chew the cud, to meditate (Isaiah 30:15, Psalm 46:10)

There are seven compound names of God in the Old Testament.

  • Jehovah-Rohi (Shepherd)
    • The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)
  • Jehovah-Jireh (Provider)
    • Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. (Genesis 22:13)
  • Jehovah-Shalom (Peace)
    • Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace. (Judges 6:24)
  • Jehovah-Rapha (Healer)I am the Lord who heals you. (Exodus 15:26)
  • Jehovah-Tsidkenu (Righteous)
    • This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior. (Jeremiah 23:6)
  • Jehovah-Shammah (There)
    • From that day the name of the city will be The Lord Is There. (Ezekiel 48:35)
  • Jehovah-Nissi (Banner)
    • Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. (Exodus 17:15)

Taken together, they map out Psalm 23.

The Lord is my shepherd (Jehovah-Rohi, shepherd)
I shall not want (Jehovah-Jireh, provider)
He leads me beside still waters (Jehovah-Shalom, peace)
He refreshes my soul (Jehovah-Rapha, healer)
He guides me along the right paths (Jehovah-Tsidkenu, righteous)
He prepares me a table (Jehovah-Nissi, there)
I will fear no evil, for you are with me (Jehovah-Shammah, banner)

Visualize World P’s

  • Provision (green pastures)
  • Peace (still waters)
  • Pardon (restore my soul)
  • Purpose (paths of righteousness)
  • Presence (valley of death)
  • Preservation (rod and staff)
  • Protect (in presence of my enemies)
  • Plenty (anointing with oil and overflowing)
  • Paradise (dwell in the house)
  • Promise (forever)

Discussion Questions

  • What is your still water and green pasture?
  • What is your valley? your enemy?
  • What do God’s rod and staff look like for you?
  • How does your cup overflow?


You can download the PowerPoint file here.