Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
In the valleys of life, where storms press in, floods rage, and predators rush in, the Shepherd’s presence is comforting, and his rod and his staff are tools by which he rescues, disciplines, protects, and comforts his sheep.
In North America, today’s shepherds often carry a rifle instead of a rod, and they still carry a staff. In some areas of the world, a rod is still used. The rod was a piece of wood taken from a tree that had a knob on one end like a club, and it was fairly heavy. The rod was a sign of authority, a weapon, and a tool. It was used for defense and protection of the shepherd himself, and of the herd. A shepherd may use it to drive off coyotes, wolves, other stray dogs and predators. It could also be used to crush a snake. In 1 Samuel 17, David told King Saul that he had killed both a lion and a bear.
The rod was also used to correct the flock. It could be thrown at a wayward sheep in order to deter them from going someplace or doing something they should not. I found several commentaries which compare this tool to the Word of God. The Bible is God’s authoratative Word, given to us for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
In addition to the rod, the shepherd carried a staff, which we are familiar with. It is shaped like a cane, with a hook on the end. The staff can be used to draw a sheep near, pull it out of danger, move a baby near its mother, and so many other ways that the sheep know their Master is near, their friend, and advocating for their good. He uses the staff to separate the wool and check the sheep’s body for health and conformation. According to W. Phillip Keller, just walking with the staff leaning against a sheep gives the creature a sense of comfort and relationship, as though they were walking “hand in hand” with their master. Keller compares the staff to the Holy Spirit’s role in our life. He is ever present, checking the condition of our hearts, comforting us and guiding us. His presence is our seal of relationship with Father God.
There were so many other beautiful analogies and true life examples given by Keller in his book, “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.”
In my own life, God often speaks to me in music, and He has provided a sort of example from music theory. In musical theory, every line of music is written either in bass or treble. The Bass Clef tells the musician to play on the left side of the piano, or the low notes. The Treble Clef tells the musician to play on the right side of the piano, or the high notes. As a Christian, I want to live right, and take the high road. So the Treble Clef has a rod with a hook on the end of it (hanging right down at the bottom), and it sits upon the musical staff.
The notes are placed along the staff, guiding me in which keys to play in order to create the melody.
In Ephesians, we are told that we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus. The word for workmanship, in the Greek, actually means poem (like a song). We are God’s song. His poem. His masterpiece. The sheep of His pasture. His rod and His staff, even like the musical rod and staff, instruct us in how to live right and where to step so that we can create the beautiful melody, or good works, that He created in advance for us to walk in. When I see music, I am reminded of this…
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”Isaiah 30:21
This time of year, the candy cane can be used to illustrate for children how God is our Good Shepherd. Explain to them how he cares for us and guides us like the shepherd does the sheep. Do you have farm animal toys? Grab that plastic sheep and that little candy cane, and let them pretend to guide the sheep. They will remember the analogy in future years when the candy canes come out at Christmas.
Do you crochet? Show your little ones how to chain stitch while explaining the role of the shepherd’s staff. Read Psalm 23 or the story of the Good Shepherd and the lost sheep to them. As you discuss it, show them how the crochet hook pulls the yarn through the loop and talk about how the shepherd uses his staff to help bring the sheep back into the fold. You can fold in a whole lot of little yarn sheep with them. The illustration will stick! 🙂
Pictures courtesy of Pixabay.
Keller, W. Phillip. A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007. Print.