By Vicky Moots
Psalm 23:4c: “thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” A shepherd’s staff was a long rod with a crook on one end to lean upon or to use to hook around something, such as a lamb that had fallen into a hole, in order to rescue it. I know personally that my Shepherd has reached down and rescued me many times when I had fallen, and He lifted me back up to continue following Him.
The rod portion was used for correction and protection. I think that the rod and the staff were both parts of the same thing which was used for different purposes, depending on which end was in the shepherd’s hand. It was an important piece of equipment that served multiple needs.
Sometimes a shepherd had to discipline, to correct, to teach a stubborn sheep that kept straying by using the rod for the purpose of keeping that sheep safe from harm. The shepherd did this because he loved that sheep and didn’t want anything to happen to it. Our Shepherd also loves us enough to search for us when we stray and to chasten us with His rod to teach us to stay on the right path. “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth…” (Heb. 12:6).
Wise King Solomon gave the same advice to fathers in Prov. 13:24: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes [at times].” And again in Prov. 29:15, we read concerning the rod of correction: “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” We can be comforted by the fact that our Shepherd loves us enough to chasten us with the rod.
So, what does the rod and staff represent spiritually? How does our Shepherd use it to both bring comfort to us and correction at the same time? The answer is found in II Tim. 3:16: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” The Word of God is both a rod and a staff, depending on what is needed at the time. As a rod it can correct us and teach us wisdom. Then it instructs us in the way of righteousness, and thereby works in our lives to perfect us (to bring us to maturity) that we may bring glory and not shame to God, that our actions will be pleasing in His sight.
Jesus, Himself, is the living Word, and we can lean upon Him, upon His breast, as a place of comfort and love, even as John, the beloved disciple did in John 13:23: “Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.”
In Song of Solomon 8:5 we see a picture of the bride leaning upon Christ the Bridegroom: “Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved...”. Whether we have just come through our wilderness experience of trials or the valley of the shadows, He will comfort us as we lean upon Him.
In addition to finding comfort by leaning upon Him, we can also lean upon Him (the Word) when we are weary and too weak to stand. He is able to keep us from falling by leaning upon Him and His Word instead of upon our own strength or understanding. Jude assures us regarding this in verse 24 of his short epistle. This verse is actually a benediction: “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” How does He keep us from falling? Through the staff of the Word of God as we lean upon it. How does He present us faultless before God? By applying the rod of correction, the Word of God, to let us know when we are headed in the wrong direction. His Word cleanses us from all unrighteousness and declares us righteous in Christ, and we can safely lean upon it.
All these things are accomplished in our lives as we allow our Shepherd to apply the Word to us personally in order to correct us, and to instruct us, and to thereby perfect His will in us. Truly, His Word, the rod and staff, will comfort us in all situations, as we read it and trust in it.
Another important function of the rod and staff is for the protection of the sheep. A shepherd could use it to fight off wolves or other wild animals that might attack the sheep. The Word of God is our weapon, our defense against our enemy, Satan. Jesus, Himself, used the Word as a weapon against Satan when He was tempted by him in the wilderness after fasting for forty days before He began His ministry. Jesus specifically told Satan, “It is written…” (Matt. 4:4). He then quoted other Scriptures to Satan in order to overcome him.
Paul also tells us in Eph. 6:17 that our weapon in spiritual warfare against Satan is the Word of God: “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” Our words will not stop Satan’s attacks and his lies but the Word of God will. We do not have the ability to rebuke Satan in our own power when he attacks us with fear and doubt and lies. It takes the power of the Word of God to do that.
The Word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any twoedged sword (Heb. 4:12). If Satan is attacking you, then get out your Bible and start reading it out loud so Satan can hear you. Also, when you hear the Word audibly it builds your faith, for the Scripture says, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17). Hearing the Word of God teaches us to trust the Shepherd as we hear His voice and to follow His leading. His Word, the rod and staff, brings us comfort, protection and correction as we journey through our valley. Through the Word, our Shepherd will bring us safely to the other side as we lean upon Him.
To be continued