What do you picture when you think of the biblical metaphor of God as shepherd and his people as sheep? Many of us think immediately of the protection, comfort, and contentment God provides for those who follow him. An image of a relaxing vacation at a pristine lake surrounded by green, grassy meadows may come to mind. Although God can (and does) provide abundantly for his people, we tend to overlook the fact that often he provides for us when we’re facing difficult circumstances in the desert. The sun is still hot, our path is still steep, but God gives us just enough to keep us going.
- During biblical times, in what kinds of locations did shepherds typically tend their sheep? (See Genesis 13:1-6; I Samuel 25:1-2; Jeremiah 23:10)
In what ways do you think the nature of these lands would tend to shape the relationship between sheep and shepherd, and what might you expect that relationship to look like?
- What do Isaiah 49:8-10 & Isaiah 49:13reveal about how passionately God desires to care and provide for his people?
Where would God’s people be if they needed this kind of care?
In what ways does this passage describe the way a shepherd cares for a flock?
How descriptive is this passage of the kind of care people today need in their “deserts”?
- In 2010, the eruption of a volcano in Iceland destroyed pasture where sheep formerly grazed. They did not know where to go but did not want to willingly leave what they were used to. The shepherds, like the one in the image below, needed to act quickly. Do you see any characteristics of Jesus as our shepherd when you look at this image? How about characteristics of us, when compared to the sheep? Read Psalm 23 together, just before you pray for each other.
Suggested memory verse: Psalm 23 (in whatever version you prefer)
A psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,[a]
I will 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 love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
– NIV 1984