Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4)
“Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
When spying out the gear of a shepherd one would find a couple things that are essential to the task. The rod and staff are often the stereotyped “tools of the trade” in the area of shepherding. The Hebrew word for rod has many different facets.
For a king the rod is a scepter of authority
For a tree the rod is an offshoot of Life
For the tradesman the rod is a standard of measurement
All of these are perfectly fitting of Our Lord because all of these give so much insight to the character traits of our Lord, King, Creator, and Tree of Life.
In this particular passage however, the word rod describes a club-like instrument often used by the shepherd to defend his flock. When any danger threatened the beloved life of his flock the shepherd is diligent to defend, with rod in hand he will crush the bones of the enemy that preys on his possession. We are the possession of the Good Shepherd, as His beloved flock the Lord is so diligent to defend us from the enemies that seek to prey on the peace, joy, love, and intimacy of our relationship with the Lord himself and those around us. With the rod of His truth the Lord comes down and crushes the lies that this world, Satan and his demons, and the flesh try to deceive us with.
Some might ask “Well if that’s true; why is it that my circumstances have chewed me up and spit me out?”
The one problem that often leaves us wide open to attack is the sheep-like tendency we all have to stray from the truth of God’s word. Like it says in Isaiah 53 “we all like sheep have gone astray” and so it is for us in life, we get distracted by that relationship that wasn’t so fruitful, we get derailed by that desire that was sinful, and we like sheep find ourselves straying off the path of righteousness right into dangerous territory.
“What now?” You might ask
“I’ve walked off the path so many times and I’ve wandered so far that there’s no hope for me!”
You see, the shepherd also carries a staff for situations such as these. When sheep would get lost, straying a bit too far after this or that, the shepherd’s priority is to search out and rescue that which is lost. He tracks the lost sheep down and skillfully cradles them with the staff, and lifts them from their trouble, carrying them back to safety.
Perhaps that’s where you are today.
You’ve strayed off the path, lost your direction, and don’t think that returning is an option.
If so, then know this…the staff of His Holy Spirit will support you in your weakness and direct you safely back into His loving arms.
The rod of defense and the staff of direction are present in the hands of the Good Shepherd, and because His heart is one that loves us so radically and so deeply we have nothing to fear. This truth was David’s comfort in his moments of delight and despair and so it will be for you as well.
All you have to do is call out to the Shepherd.
He’s very familiar with your voice. (John 10)