Susan Hunt. Sammy and His Shepherd: Seeing Jesus in Psalm 23. Illustrated by Cory Godbey. (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2008. 56pp. $17.00 Susan Hunt is a consultant for the Presbyterian Church in America's Women in the Church ministry, which she formerly directed. She has written on women's ministry (Women's Ministry in the Local Church with J. Ligon Duncan) and children's ministry (Heirs of the Covenant). She has written numerous books for children as well including Big Truths for Little Kids and My ABC Bible Verses. Hunt is also one of the primary writers behind the Show Me Jesus! curriculum that we use for our SojournKids Sunday Bible classes.
In her newest children's book, Hunt provides a line by line exposition of Psalm 23--told from the perspective of a sheep named Sammy. Sammy lives happily under the care of his faithful shepherd, and by listening to his tale, we learn about what it means to trust and walk with our own Good Shepherd.
Several things are evident immediately when reading through Sammy's story.
First, Susan Hunt has spent a great deal of time studying and living the truths of Psalm 23. As a seasoned Bible teacher, she carefully unpacks both this Psalm and the shepherd/sheep theme throughout the Bible. Hunt knows sheep/shepherding and she uses concrete facts about the animals to unpack the spiritual truths of this Psalm. The following dialog appears in the chapter entitled, "He Restores My Soul":
"Sometimes a sheep like you can roll over on his back," the shepherd said. "When that happens, we say the sheep is cast down. A cast-down sheep cannot turn himself back over. If someone doesn't help the sheep, he will die. He needs someone to restore him to a right position" (20).
In this way, Hunt weaves nurturing biblical counsel into Sammy's story. Sammy shares with us what it means to be known by the shepherd, to be called by name, to be fed with spiritual truth, to be restored when we are cast down, to have our fears calmed so that we can rest, to be disciplined when we stray, and to be protected from our enemies. Hunt also uses Sammy's friendship with "my friend," a sheep from another flock as a sort of anti-Psalm to remind us what it is like not to have a shepherd like Sammy's.
Second, Hunt is an experienced Christian educator. She presents the material so that it is ready to be taught immediately. An appended "Talk About It" section at the end of the book provides memory verses, discussion questions, and applciation points for parents to use with young children. Using the "Talk About It" sections, the book can easily be read chapter by chapter as an eleven-night family devotional.
Third, Susan Hunt is committed to the gospel. It comes out so clearly in the "Talk About It" section for chapter 3, "He Leads Me Beside Still Waters." After quoting John 4:14, she writes:
Of course, Jesus was not talking about water like you drink out of a glass. He was talking about spiritual water. He was talking about Himself... Every morning, ask Jesus to help you to be thirsty for the Water of Life--Him (47).
I am so thankful for a devotional (and curriculum) writer who is committed first and foremost to the gospel of God. This story encouraged me to delight in our Good Shepherd Jesus, and I pray it encourages my children to do the same.
Finally, Cory Godbey should be commended for excellent illustrations that do exactly what picture book illustrations should do--help tell the story without detracting from it.
I highly recommend this book. Rachael is getting it for her birthday next week. I trust that it will be as encouraging to our family as it was to me personally.