This lesson is part of a series we’re calling, “Hello, My Name Is… A Series on the Names of God.” You can find the latest when you follow Tara’s author archive. We’ll add links to the whole Bible study once it’s complete.
Lesson Eleven: Shepherd, Lamb of God
Main Idea: The Good Shepherd takes wonderful care of us, his sheep, by providing the Lamb of God to take the punishment for our sins.
Memory Verse: “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
- Read lesson, Scripture references, Ezekiel 34:11-23, John 10:1-18
- Gather: Bible, lesson plan, dry erase markers or chart paper and markers, white balloons, hula hoops or tape, straws, cotton balls, brown construction paper, index cards, string, scissors, hole punch
- To help keep track of the names of God learned over this series, write each lesson’s name of God on the board along with the main idea. Tape a strip of paper over the name, and one over the main idea. Use this to review the lesson as you go. Alternatively, use large flash cards with the name of God on the front and the main idea on the back. Create one of these every week and review with the class as you go.
- Take time to meditate on this lesson and apply it to your own life. The Good Shepherd is one of the most commonly known names of God. On the surface, this name brings comfort and joy. As you dive deeper into the Scriptures concerning the Shepherd, his name begins to evoke deep humility and wonder at the abounding grace of God. The Shepherd became the Sacrificial Lamb. How deep is the love of God for us! Take time today to praise God for coming in the flesh to save us, to save you. As you prepare to lead your class in discovering the attributes of the Shepherd, take some time to meditate on the different roles of a shepherd, and of the Shepherd. Consider how you can better know the Shepherd’s voice and follow him.
- Isaiah 40:10-11
- Psalm 23
- John 10:11
- Isaiah 53:6-7
- Psalm 119:176
- Mark 12:30-31
Game: Herd the Sheep
The goal of this game is for each student or team to herd as many sheep into their sheepfold as possible. Use hula hoops or tape off areas as sheepfolds. For sheep, blow up several white balloons. If you desire, decorate each balloon to look like a sheep. Separate the class into teams. It would work best to have no more than five or six students per team. Designate a sheepfold for each team and have the teams stand near their sheepfold. Place the sheep balloons an equal distance from all the sheepfolds. When you say go, the students have to use their hands to bat the balloons into their sheep fold. They may not pick up the balloons. They can only use their hands to bat the balloons. They may only herd one sheep at a time. The sheep balloons must stay on the ground. Sheep don’t fly and the balloon sheep shouldn’t either. Once all the sheep are in a sheepfold, count and see who has the most balloons. To make the game more difficult, have some students be wolves. It is the wolves’ job to steal the sheep from the sheepfolds. The shepherds can steal the sheep back after they are taken from the fold. Alternatively, every child is a shepherd, and shepherds can steal one sheep at a time from other’s folds. If you choose this method, then you will have to set a time limit on the game otherwise they will just keep stealing and the game will never end. As an alternative to this very physical game, play Cotton Ball Sheep Relay. Give each student a straw and a cotton ball. Have two or three students race across a table. They must blow through the straw and use only air to push the cotton ball sheep across the table. The first one to the edge of the table wins.
Message: Open in prayer, then say, today’s name of God is one I am sure you have all heard of. Even many people who never go to church have heard of this name. This is one of those titles of God that people really love. We’ll find out why soon. First let’s take some time to review the names of God we have already learned. You have all learned so much about the names of God! God is our strong creator. He has always existed and always will. He is our Lord and our Father. He is Jealous for us, and fills us with Perfect Peace. He is the King, our Rock, and the Judge. I find knowing all these names to be pretty humbling. It makes me feel small to see how BIG God is. That’s not a bad thing either. We are really, really, REALLY tiny compared to God. But you know what, he loves us so, so much. God loves us and takes care of us. The God who made everything and existed from before time began and rules over all creation, cares for us. That’s what today’s name is all about. Let’s turn to Isaiah 40:10-11 to learn about this name. (Read, or have a student read, Isaiah 40:10-11.) “Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.”
What is the name of God we find in this passage? (Allow students to answer.) Right, God is our Shepherd. (On the board write, “Shepherd.) What does a shepherd do? A shepherd takes care of sheep. So if God is our shepherd, what does that make us? (Allow students to answer.) Yes, we are the sheep. Have you all ever seen sheep? What are they like? (Allow students to describe sheep. Write their answers on the board.) Sheep are not the most magnificent creatures to be compared to. Sheep get lost really easily, and can’t find their way back home. Sometimes their woolly selves get stuck in brambles and branches, and they can’t move until the shepherd cuts them out. Sometimes, when it’s getting close to time for the sheep to be sheered, their wool can get so heavy that sheep fall over onto their backs. And then they can’t get back up. They are stuck until the shepherd can come and help them up. If they fall into water, they could drown! Sheep will also follow the sheep that they think is the smartest. Sometimes that sheep can lead them the wrong way. And sheep can be very stubborn. They try to run away from the shepherd and don’t always follow him like they are supposed to. Sheep also don’t have any sharp claws or fangs. They can’t puff themselves up to look mean and scary. They can’t even roar to scare off a predator. They can’t defend themselves at all! Are you starting to get the picture? We are like sheep. We follow other sheep, I mean people, when we should be following God. We can’t protect ourselves from danger really, we don’t know where we’re going in life without God, and when we fall down in sin, only God can pick us back up again.
It is comforting to read in Isaiah 40:10-11 that God is a powerful shepherd. I love how it says God will hold us close to his heart and lead us gently. As we have been learning for months, God is very, very powerful. That fact that the Strong Creator, the King, the Judge, is also our loving, gentle, Shepherd, is just awesome. It’s amazing. Can you picture what this looks like? Not too long ago, I bought my two year old son a little, fluffy, stuffed sheep. As soon as he saw it, he scooped it up in his arms and exclaimed, “I love it!” He carried and cuddled that sheep close to his heart. He cared for it and took it with him everywhere in his arms. This is the sort of love God shows us. The Good Shepherd loves his sheep like crazy. (Please feel free to share a similar personal story of love here, instead of my own. On the board under “Shepherd,” write, “holds us close and leads us gently.”)
Let’s look at the most famous passage about God as our shepherd. Turn with me to Psalm 23. (Continue after everyone has found the psalm.) This Psalm was written by David. You know, the most famous king of Israel. Did you know that before he was a king, he was a shepherd? So when he wrote Psalm 23, which I am about to read to you, he knew exactly what it meant to be a good shepherd. As I read, I want you to follow along in your Bibles and imagine what it would be like to a sheep in this song. (Read Psalm 23 with good inflection, trying to emphasize what it would feel like to be a sheep.)
“The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
4 Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
5 You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
Isn’t that such a wonderful Psalm? Let’s go through it together and find all the things God does for us as our Shepherd. Start with verse one. “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” (Allow students to explain what God does for us according to this verse.) God provides everything we need. (On the board write, “provides for our needs.” Continue through the Psalm with your students. Sum up their explanations. The following script is a general guideline. As always, you do not need to follow this exactly. Use it to guide your conversation with your class. Be sure you take their input, rather than just talking at them. This will help them think through the Scripture for themselves, and will help them remember it better. Write brief explanations of every verse on the board. Students will use these descriptions of the Good Shepherd during the craft.) Verse two tells us that God gives us rest in green meadows. A green meadow is a paradise for sheep! When life gets busy, we can turn to our Shepherd for rest and peace. In verse three we learn that the Shepherd renews our strength. When we are weak, he makes us strong. He also guides us in the way we should go, and God is glorified when we are doing what we are supposed to be doing. In verse four we learn that we never have to be afraid, because God is always with us. The Shepherd is close by us, keeping us safe and making us brave. The last part of this verse says, “Your rod and staff protect and comfort me.” A shepherd’s rod and staff are what he uses to make the sheep behave and to keep them safe. A rod is a big stick that a shepherd could use to either beat off wolves and bears that would try to eat the sheep, or he could use it to smack the sheep to keep them from getting into dangerous situations. A smack isn’t any fun, but it keeps the sheep from possibly dying. In the Bible, the staff is often seen as a symbol of authority. The shepherd is in charge of the sheep. A shepherd’s staff is curved on the end, like an upside down J, or a candy cane. The shepherd would loop the curved part around a sheep’s neck to pull them back to safety. When God the Good Shepherd disciplines us, when he uses his rod and staff, we are protected and comforted. Verse five seems to change gears a bit. This verse basically describes a party. We can celebrate because our Shepherd not only provides everything we need, but he gives us MORE than we need. Anointing our heads with oil is a symbol of celebration and joy. It means that God loves us. Our lives overflow with the blessings of God. Verse six sums it all up. God’s goodness and his unfailing love will follow us our whole lives, and when we follow the Shepherd, we will live with him forever.
Phew, that is quite a long list of ways that God is our Good Shepherd! There is one more thing I want to look at before we do our craft. Let’s have a sword drill. Take all fingers and bookmarks out of your Bibles and hold them above your head. When I say go, turn to John 10:11. Go! (Read, or have a student read, John 10:11) “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.” Jesus is the one talking in this verse. We just read a whole psalm and a verse in Isaiah that tell us how God is the Good Shepherd. So here Jesus is saying he is the Good Shepherd. So what does that mean? (Allow students to answer.) This means that Jesus is God. (Write “Jesus is God” on the board.) Jesus is the Shepherd that Psalm 23 talks about!
Jesus is our Good Shepherd. Back in Isaiah 53:6-7, the Bible talks about Jesus in a different way. Listen to this. (Read Isaiah 53:7) “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.” We already learned today that we are like sheep. Sometimes, like sheep, we disobey our Shepherd. We sin and don’t follow God. But instead of punishing us, Jesus took our punishments himself. He is our Great Shepherd, but he became a sheep. God came down as the man Jesus Christ. As Isaiah 53:7 says, He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.” When Jesus was arrested, he never complained. He never argued. He let himself get beat up and teased before he was crucified. Just like a sheep who is going to be sheared of his wool and then killed, Jesus never tried to get out of being crucified, because he knew that when HE died, WE would be saved.
God is so amazing. When people think of God as their shepherd, they think of Psalm 23 and all the wonderful things we listed on the board. Let’s not forget that our Shepherd became the Lamb of God, and saved us of our sins. The Good Shepherd takes wonderful care of us, his sheep, by providing the Lamb of God to take the punishment for our sins.
Psalm 119:176 tells us, “I have wandered away like a lost sheep; come and find me, for I have not forgotten your commands.” Jesus, our Shepherd, will always save us from our sins, because we remember his commands to love God and love our neighbors. (Mark 12:30-31.)
Close in prayer.
Craft: Shepherd Wall Hanging Mobile
Students will use the list of attributes of the Shepherd you made in class to create a hanging mobile. The top of the mobile will be a shepherd’s staff. Have students draw a large candy cane or J shape on a piece of brown construction paper to make a shepherd’s staff. On this, they will write “God is my Shepherd.” Cut it out, then punch two holes on each long side of the staff. Tie each end of a string through two of the holes, so the mobile can hang from the wall. Tie a string (of about three inches or so in length) from each of the other holes, so you can attach an index card to it. Give the students several index cards with two holes punched in the top and two holes punched in the bottom. They will then use these index cards to write and illustrate different attributes of the Good Shepherd. For example, one card could say, “I rest in green pastures” and have a picture of a sheep laying in a field. After tying that card to the staff, the student could make another card that says, “God holds us close,” with a picture of a shepherd holding a sheep in his arms. Allow the student to make as many cards as they desire. Ideally each student will have at least five index cards hanging from their shepherd’s staff.
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