It is iconic, familiar, transcendent. And though most of us have heard it countless times, its stanzas still don’t sound cliché.
We still yearn for green pastures and still waters.
The overflowing cup and laden table still beckon.
In the valley of the shadow of death, we still long for God with us.
But what is the Shepherd’s first concern? What is the gateway into the experience of these promises? The psalmist’s answer may surprise you. It certainly surprised me as I read this poem afresh this week.
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SEE IT // BE IT
(WEEKLY COMMUNITY GROUP DISCUSSION GUIDE)
Title:For Rest // Psalm 23
ARRIVAL / SOCIAL TIME 15-20 minutes
Spend the first 15 minutes or so of your time together catching up and socializing with one another. Also, find time to catch up together on how the assignments from last week turned out.
SERMON REVIEW 5-10 minutes
According to Psalm 23, the first concern of the Good Shepherd is rest. God, as our Shepherd, not only creates the conditions in which rest is possible (green pastures), but He then makes us lie down. And from there, the rest of the Psalm flows—quiet waters, a restored soul, no fear of evil, an abundant table, an overflowing cup. All of those blessings begin with rest.
From a secular standpoint, we learned the powerful effects of lack of sleep (a lowered immune system, lowered ability to recall positive memories, impaired reproductive systems, increased risk of obesity, lessened brain capacity, and more depressive moods). If that isn’t enough to make you want to sleep, we have the spiritual aspects that are compelling. On the first full day of human existence, there was rest, and in Deuteronomy 5:15, the Israelites are commanded to keep the Sabbath as a way to remember they are no longer slaves. They (and we) are not determined by how much they produced, by what they did. In fact, salvation and the Sabbath have much in common. The essential truth remains that if we can’t trust God to sustain us in rest, then how can we trust Him to sustain us for eternity. Rest is a must. If you miss the rest of your life, you’ll miss the rest of your life.
THE MAIN THOUGHT keep this in mind as you facilitate discussion.
The gateway to the good life is through rest.
SEE IT – Questions 10-15 minutes
Picture (What is the story saying?): Considering Psalm 23 and Deuteronomy 5:15, why did the Shepherd start with making the sheep lie down in green pastures? What are some of the benefits of good sleep? Why did God command a Sabbath for His people? What does Mark 2:27 mean and how should that guide our pursuit of rest?
Mirror (Where am I in the story?): How well are you doing at getting adequate sleep each night? Do you take a regular Sabbath? What was the most compelling secular fact and spiritual aspect from the sermon? Do you need rest renewal (regular rest), rest repentance (maybe a lack of trust in God), or rest resetting (become more productive)?
Window (How does the story change how I see those around me?): If you have children, how should this sermon guide your parenting of your kids’ sleep habits? If you’re a boss, how might you ensure that your employees have rest rhythms in their lives? How might knowing that you’re around sleep-deprived people change the way you interact with them?
BE IT – Practice
Change UP // Exercise 5 minutes
Recite together the Psalms that have been used throughout church history to usher in sleep—Psalm 4, 90, 133. Consider continuing this practice personally this week.
Change IN // Group Activity 10 minutes
Talk through specific things you’re committing to doing this week to practice rest—turning off your phone at a certain time each day, regular bedtime, taking a 24 hour Sabbath, playing on the Sabbath.
Change OUT // Life Application Assignment 5 minutes
Is there someone in your community who is in need of rest? Maybe new parents who could use a night out, or a caretaker who might need a break. Brainstorm how you can relieve them of their duties to allow them to rest and refresh.
CLOSING PRAYER 5 minutes
Take a few minutes to gather any prayer requests and pray for each other to SEE IT and BE IT this week.