Friday, February 27, 2015

The rod and the staff

“4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
The rod and the staff of God have a very important lesson for every believer! To understand this lesson, we must first understand sheep. Sheep are one of the dumbest animals in the world! If left on their own, they will stray from the flock and get in all kinds of trouble! They have learned to look for the shepherd and to trust him for everything. When they look for the shepherd and the shepherd cannot be seen by them, then they will wander aimlessly and become lost. They will fall into streams and drown, weighted down by their wool coat. They will get stranded on a ledge on the side of a cliff. There seems to be no misadventure that a sheep will not try and they usually end up in trouble because of it!
Lambs are worse than adult sheep because they have not learned to look to the shepherd and to trust the shepherd. They gambol about in a playful romp that is fun to watch but if they are in a lea and not fenced in, it is easy for trouble to befall them.
It is the shepherd’s job to tend the flock and to insure that they have good grass to eat and fresh water to drink. Jesus said: “14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14). This is the ultimate role of the shepherd, to put his own life in peril for the sake of the flock. David was a shepherd before he became king and he knew the safety of the flock was his responsibility. The prophet Samuel tells us “34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.” (1 Samuel 17:14-15).
As you can see, being part of a flock or tending a flock can be dangerous for both the sheep and the shepherd. This brings us to the rod and the staff. In ancient times, shepherds did not have a lot of weapons at hand. They usually had a rod which was a club, about two to four feet in length. It was carried in the belt and was used as a weapon against predators and as a means of disciplining the sheep. If a lamb or a sheep, wandered away from the flock, the shepherd would leave the flock to go and find the lost animal. If it was a sheep that was prone to wandering, the shepherd might separate the sheep to be slaughtered for food. This may sound harsh, but the safety of the entire flock must be considered and one wandering sheep can lead several more astray!
If the animal was a lamb, the shepherd might use the rod to break or bruise the leg of the lamb. This of course made it difficult if not impossible for the lamb to walk; so the shepherd would then carry the lamb across his shoulders. He would insure that the lamb was fed and watered. He provided every need for the lamb. In the process, the Lamb learned to look to the shepherd and to trust him for everything!
The staff was a long wooden pole with a crook at one end. It was used to guide the sheep by gently touching it’s flank. The sheep knew to trust the shepherd for the direction it was supposed to go. If a sheep got into trouble, the crook of the staff was used to pull it out of a stream or thicket, and off of a cliff by hooking it under the front legs and pulling it to safety.
Jesus is our shepherd! He laid His life down for us so that we might live in peace and safety and that He will lead us to where God wants us! We are just like sheep! If we take our eyes off of Jesus, we can easily get into trouble or be led astray. We must learn to trust Jesus for our safety and our every need. We must keep our eyes on Him, trusting that He will not lead us astray. We must submit to the gentle prodding of the “staff” which is the Holy Spirit as He leads us! We must also submit to the rod as we are disciplined and trained to walk in righteousness. Only then will we become followers of Christ!
In Christ,

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