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    Book Review: A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23

    August 4, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    I am not one to read books in the “devotional” genre. I suppose that sounds heartless, but honestly it often feels like voyeurism to me, more than anything else. Often, they are written by women going on and on about their experiences with the Lord, and I just feel uncomfortable, as if they are sharing too much with me because we aren’t actually friends.

    I think this is just the introvert in me coming out, because if a real friend shared those sorts of things with me, I’d be totally on board.


    The book I’m reviewing today is in said devotional genre. It was first suggested to me by Friend L. {who lent me her copy}. It was suggested again by my lovely sister-in-law.

    Two recommendations from two good friends–can’t go wrong with that, right?

    A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
    by W. Phillip Keller

    I was pondering when to read the book, when it dawned on me that my children had memorized Psalm 23 this past year. After discussing the book with these friends, I decided they might get a lot out of it also, and so I’ve been using it this summer as a morning read-aloud at the breakfast table. We read a Psalm each morning, followed up with a quick recitation of Psalm 23, and ended with a portion of A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.

    Here’s the quick version of my review: This book is a fabulous follow-up to Psalm 23 memorization for both old and young, and requires only the tiniest bit of censorship for young children.

    What did I censor? Just a couple specific references to immorality that I didn’t think were beneficial to my particular children.

    Why is it so wonderful? Author W. Phillip Keller uses his experiences as a shepherd to explain each phrase in the Psalm, chapter by chapter. My children were enthralled to learn all about a year of shepherding–for Keller believes the Psalm is actually a reference to the shepherding year with each of its seasons. They ate up all the details, from what sorts of plants sheep eat, to the relation between how a shepherd cares for his sheep and how God cares for his people.

    When we were finished, the children were disappointed. I’ve gone back to reading only a Psalm per day until Circle Time starts back up in a couple weeks. Daughter Q. was still dejected over it this morning. “I wanna read the sheep book, Mama!

    If you’re looking for something a little different to read to your children, Keller’s book might be a unique fit. Or, just read it by yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

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  • Reply Michele Trevino January 4, 2018 at 9:13 am

    I am a person to read many books in the devotional/spiritual genre. I have a book case full of these books; however, I have never been more moved by a book besides the living word of the Holy Bible itself. Many blessings to the anointed author; it was written with a pure heart and true appreciation for God’s natural beauty. I thoroughly enjoyed the read; may you continue to build your flock. Many blessings – I look forward to reading some of his other books.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts August 8, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    Sharlene and Phyllis, I really do think it is fun to read it with children. Even if they don’t catch all of the depth, they are completely intrigued by all that goes into caring for sheep!

    Kristen, I cannot thank you enough for the suggestion. 🙂

    Rachel, Seriously, it was not big deal at all. Just a couple places there were lists of sins {I think one mentioned doing drugs, but I’m not positive about that}. It was not detailed, just a list of names. I simply changed the lists a little as I read, mainly because I knew if I read a list of sins they didn’t immediately recognize, they would start asking about them instead of listening to the rest of the reading, and I didn’t want that particular sort of tangent first thing in the morning. 🙂

  • Reply Rachel R. August 8, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    I love this book! (Don’t remember the immorality references, though. Can you refresh my memory so I don’t inadvertently read them to my kids.)

    Another book that’s really good for adding a similar sort of background to Scriptural imagery is Scouting the Divine, by Margaret Feinberg.

  • Reply Kristen @ Dem Golden Apples August 7, 2011 at 2:02 am

    I’m so glad you and the children liked it. I find myself recommending it often, and I would even like to read it again. Keller is a fantastic author. He has other books on sheep, as well…

  • Reply Phyllis August 6, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Maybe we’ll read it next summer. Our children learn Psalm 23, too, and I could read this to them in Russian…. Thanks!

  • Reply Sharlene August 5, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    I read this book years ago and really appreciated it. I hadn’t thought of reading it to young children. I think I’ll read it next.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts August 4, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    That’s not how I would have described it, but perhaps it’s because I don’t have a lot of those “sentimental notions?” I don’t know. I know that I read once where a gal argued against spanking because it says that the “rod and staff comfort me,” therefore her conclusion was that rods were not for spanking, because she didn’t understand how a tool for spanking could offer comfort, but he makes it clear that the traditional shepherd’s rod is one-part “weapon,” so to speak, used for defense against prey on the one hand and used to discipline wayward sheep on the other. (He doesn’t discuss spanking, though, of course.) Maybe something like that? I’m not sure. I know that I always visualized the “table in the presence of mine enemies” as being a literal table, but he equates it to the high altitude tablelands where sheep spend their summers.

  • Reply Kelly August 4, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    Sounds interesting. In the preview the author says that on occasion he’s had to disabuse his readers of some sentimental notions that have grown up around certain parts of the Psalm. Can you give an example of that?

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