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Topic: Staff (01/31/13)
TITLE: Thy Rod and Thy Staff
By Ron Barnes
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Jesus is often referred to as the Good Shepherd. This is how David sees God in the 23rd Psalm. In the tenth chapter of John, Jesus used this analogy repeatedly to describe Himself. But why would David be comforted by a rod and a staff? The shepherd’s rod or crook was used to catch sheep which had strayed from the flock and pull them back. The staff was used as a support by the shepherd as he walked with the sheep, but could also be used as a weapon to beat animals or even people into submission. On the surface, neither of these would seem to inspire comfort.
On closer examination, however, we find that the shepherd’s rod and staff are symbols of loving protection, not harsh discipline. As I mentioned earlier, the shepherd would use the rod to pull sheep which had strayed back into the flock. He did not do this because he was a neat freak. As long as the flock stayed together, the shepherd could watch over them and guide them safely to their destination.
If a sheep wandered from the flock, it might fall into a pit or become forever lost to the flock. Although wolves and other predators usually avoided attacking a flock, a single lost sheep was easy prey. So although the desire of the shepherd to maintain the integrity of the flock might seem to merely benefit the shepherd, the good shepherd knew that keeping his flock together was for the good of the sheep.
The same could be said of the shepherd’s staff. Although it could be used to beat a sheep which had disobeyed the shepherd, it was rarely used for that purpose. Usually the staff supported the shepherd as he accompanied the sheep to pasture, water or their return home. It could also be used to defend the sheep from predators or thieves.
Israel in those days could be a dangerous place. There were indeed wolves in the forest. Thieves lay in wait to attack the unwary. The shepherd might be called upon to defend his flock from these dangers. A staff could be a handy weapon to be used for such occasions. David, having been a shepherd himself, knew this. It was in this context that he referred to the rod and the staff as a source of comfort.
The rod, having a bent end, could be used to pull a sheep to safety if it had strayed into the water or was otherwise out of reach for the shepherd. As mentioned previously, the staff could be used to drive off those who would attack the sheep or steal them. I have personally seen the effective use of our Father’s rod and staff in my life. Having served as both a Marine and a musician, I have at times wandered from the flock and been beset by dangers. I have seen others that I cared about fall victim to these dangers.
I sometimes wonder why I am still walking around this planet while others have rejoined our Father. Surely there have been times when He was not pleased with my conduct. Then I realize that, though I may be far from perfect, I am part of our Father’s plan, as we all are. I have seen His rod pull me out of situations where I might easily have fallen. I have seen His staff defend me against people who would do me harm. I now realize the truth of Luke 12:6-7 - Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.
There may be times when you wonder whether you have value. There may be times when you wonder if God cares what happens to you. There may be times when you are afraid. But our Father is indeed the good Shepherd. His rod will pull you to safety when you attempt to stray from His protection. His staff will defend you from those who would do you harm. And you shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
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