A Child’s Look at the 23rd Psalm by Philip Keller
I mentioned awhile back (a very long back) that as we were teaching Isaiah 53:6 to David and Bethel I wanted to get this book to supplement our discussion of sheep. I had this book when I was a child and enjoyed it very much. I know my mom uses this book when counseling children who have been abused.
I finally purchased it, and read through it last night. It’s written so that my children ages two and three can understand it when read to them (I’ve started reading chapter books to them at naptime while they’re lying down. Bethel usually falls asleep listening, and David stays awake). I’d say an advanced second or third grader might tackle the book on his own, but a typical 4-6th grader would be able to read it just fine. It would make a great discussion book for family devotions or a Sunday school class.
I’d say the biggest weakness of the book is in its explanation of salvation. I don’t think its wrong, just a little too vague. I’m opposed to the sentence “ask Jesus in your heart,” for example. For this reason, I’m not sure I’d give the book to a child who is not saved. If I’m reading it to my kids, I’ll skip the salvation parts or explain them better.
The emphasis on finding our joy in a relationship with our good shepherd is excellent. The sheep and shepherd facts are interesting. Line drawings on every page and descriptions about sheep and real life shepherds are appealing to children.
Really, I like this genre. There are very few spiritual books for children of this sort. Most that I’ve seen have a story, then spiritual discussion. As a kid, I always read the story and skipped the spiritual discussions, so I think a good author is wise not to have such a discrete difference. I like the nonfiction approach, using a topic of interest to children to teach spiritual truth.
The book is out of print, but you can get one used, or if you have older children you might just get the adult version (A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm) which is still in print. Lessons from a Sheep Dog is also back in print. I enjoyed this book very much as a child, too.
Some of us are like that [sheep with an unkind owner] too. We never come into the good, generous care of God. We do not really know and follow Christ. We have never been set free from our old owner. Who is that? It may be ourselves. We think we can be our own boss…. If we are wise, we will let Christ, the Good Shepherd, take over our lives. We do this by inviting Him into our hearts.
The surprising and wonderful thing is that when the shepherd is there, they feel safe. When he is near, their fears fade away. They settle down, and soon they are at rest. We sometimes have fears. When something new or frightening happens to us we want to run or hide. We think the best defense is simply to get away. Really, we don’t have to live like that. Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd, is always near. He tells us, “I am with you always.”
Strange to say, some sheep, in their stupidity, will choose to drink from dirty pools and polluted ponds. Here the water is murky and dangerous. It is where the sheep often pick up disease. Because parasites– tiny, disease-producing forms of life– live in stale, stagnant water. Some of us are like these foolish sheep. We seem to prefer to drink from the mudholes of our world. I do not mean just running the risk of drinking bad water, or even the dangers of toying with alcoholic drinks or drugs. But most important, I mean trying to satisfy ourselves with habits that can never fill our longing for the Lord. You see, God made us for Himself. Only as we come to Him, whose life flows out happily like a singing stream, can we be fully refreshed, fully satisfied.