"Your rod & Your staff, they comfort me."
Ps. 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
Ps. 23:2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
Ps. 23:3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
Ps. 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
"Your rod & Your staff, they comfort me."
√ Sounds like a contradiction to me!
Ex. When I was growing up I never said to my dad…
"Your belt and the wooden spoon, they comfort me!"
Reveals the need for us to apply ourselves to understanding His Word…
…and reminds us of the value of understanding something of the culture in which God's Word is hung.
Ap. Psalm 23
As a new believer I didn't really understand it all, rather I focused on what I did understand - the promises in the psalm…
Now, with some 27 years of walking with Jesus I find a greater depth of understanding regarding His comfort, as God reveals how He comforts me!
"Your rod & Your staff - they comfort me"
Let's look at this section of psalm 23 and see what the Lord has for us!
The shepherd's Rod
√ The shepherd's Rod
In David's day, as it is still done in much of the world, a shepherd carried a rod as part of his/her equipment to care for the flock.
Each shepherd made his/her own rod. A young tree sapling would be dug up, roots removed, cut to length, and formed to the shepherd's hand.
Shaped like a club - a handle with a heavy "bulb" on the end.
The rod was really an extension of the shepherd's arm - representing his…
…as such, we find that the Bible often uses a rod as a symbol of either a man's power and authority, or Gods.
Ex. Moses - note what he had with him as he tended sheep in the wilderness!
Ex 4:2 So the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A rod.”
Ex. 4:3 And He said, “Cast it on the ground.” So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.
Ex 4:4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail” (and he reached out his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand),
Ex 4:17 “And you shall take this rod in your hand, with which you shall do the signs.” (The symbol of God's power and authority.)
In fact, all of the miracles, which God did through Moses, were done with the shepherd's rod, which he carried!
Represented the power and authority of almighty God!
Symbolic of God's Word - an extension of His will through His servant Moses who spoke to Pharaoh and the children of Israel for God.
No doubt David had all this in mind as he penned this psalm concerning his Shepherd. We can learn much about how the Lord cares for us, His sheep, as we look at how shepherds use the rod to care for their sheep.
1) A weapon to defend
Long before rifles were invented shepherds used their rod as a weapon to defend their sheep from predators.
Could be thrown very accurately and to a great distance to knock a predator (wolf, coyote, vulture, etc.) in the head!
Crush a snake in the grass.
Ex. David had driven off a bear and a lion with his sling, and had certainly used a rod on occasion.
Ap. God's Word is a weapon to defend us!
Ex. Jesus in the wilderness - demonstrated how we are to defend ourselves from the enemy.
The world in which we live is filled with the traps and tricks of Satan designed to destroy the man/woman of God.
The "conforming process" - Rom. 12:1
Only God's word has the power and authority…
To defend our mind from that conforming process.
To break the bonds of fear, shame, and sin, which Satan has put upon us!
To comfort us with His love and protection!
Works in well with last Sunday's sermon!
Read your Bible
Be consistent in church attendance that you can be taught His Word
2) A tool for discipline
Sheep tend to wander off the path the shepherd is leading them on, or to get themselves in trouble by eating plants that are poisonous. The rod was used as a tool for discipline.
Could be thrown to land near enough to a wandering sheep to get them back in line!
The fear of the rod would often serve to keep the sheep from hurting themselves.
Ap. Christians often wander from the path of life and even get involved in things that will "poison" their soul!
As a person moves from God's will - God will speak to them by His Word - nudging the heart, grieving the Spirit within them, pricking their conscience…
…that they might return to the path of life and avoid the dangers that Satan has placed before them.
David captures this aspect of God's Word…
Ps 119:11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!
Ps 119:133 Direct my steps by Your word, And let no iniquity have dominion over me.
While our old nature may not like the rod of God's Word in our lives…
…our new nature finds it a comfort because we know that our Shepherd cares for our well being and will give us a "knock" on the head to keep us out of harm's way!
3) An instrument of discernment
The rod was also used by the shepherd to examine his flock.
The sheep would pass one-by-one under the shepherd's rod. He would stop them, and part the heavy wool so that he could see if they were in good condition.
When the sheep's wool gets heavy and thick it can hide all sorts of problems - cuts - thorns and thistles - skin disease, etc.
This one-on-one examination is essential to keeping sheep healthy.
Ap. God's Word searches beneath our wool!
You'll remember from our earlier studies that "wool" in the scripture represents "self" - the old nature.
The truth is that we can all learn to put on a pretty good face, a facade, to fool people into thinking that we're okay - literally to…
"pull the wool over their eyes!"
But we can't fool Jesus!
He takes us out from the flock and makes us to pass under His Rod, He parts the "wool" and looks beneath our cleaver facades to see if we're healthy or not.
God's Word can discern what is hidden in our hearts….our spiritual condition.
Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Ap. Jesus is interested in fixing up more than just the outside.
Ex. Character flaws and secret sin, hidden hurts and unspoken burdens.
Ex. The sinful woman of Luke 7 - never spoke a word to Jesus, yet He was able to discern what was in her heart - secret sins and hidden hurts - and heal her of both!
Ap. God's Word is a comfort to us because we know that it is more than sufficient for every situation we experience in life.
The shepherd's Staff
√ The Shepherd's staff
The second piece of equipment carried by all shepherds in David's time was the shepherd's staff.
Different from the rod in that it's purpose, and symbolism, rather than representing the….
…of the shepherd; was used and represented the…
…of the shepherd.
The staff was simply a long slender stick, sometimes with a hook on the end, which was smoothed, shaped and cut to fit the unique height of the shepherd.
The shepherd used the staff in a number of ways.
1) To draw sheep
New born lambs to their mothers
Sheep to their shepherd
Ap. The work of the Shepherd's Staff in our lives
1) The Holy Spirit draws folks together that they might enjoy the warmth of Christian fellowship.
Ex. The world can be a cold and hard place - people need the love of one another - the Holy Spirit is drawing hurting people to us - be sure and love them!
2) He also draws each of us individually to the Lord that we might know the extent of His love for us - personally!
Ex. The Holy Spirit makes the love of God real to us!
Takes the Word and applies it to our lives in a way that we cannot doubt the reality of God and His love for us.
2) To guide sheep
When moving along narrow paths, or dangerous places, the shepherd will simply lay his staff gently on the side of the sheep to keep them on the safe path.
Ap. Jesus our Good Shepherd has given us the Holy Spirit to direct us safely through this life.
John 16:13 “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.
Ex. Many confusing and conflicting voices in the world today!
Lots of "gray" areas and difficult decisions to be made for our families and ourselves.
Ask the Lord to show you His will! The Holy Spirit will guide us if we ask - and if we listen!
3) To comfort sheep
Sheep, like people can become easily frightened. One touch of the shepherd's staff reminds the sheep that the shepherd is close at hand…
…and are thereby comforted.
The touch of the staff is a sort of "connection" to the shepherd - as if the shepherd himself was resting a reassuring hand upon the sheep.
Ex. Our dog - has to be touching you!
Ap. The Holy Spirit is the "touch" of our Good Shepherd in our life.
He, the Holy Spirit, is our contact with the living God. His touch in our life brings the personal assurance of God's presence and reminds us that He loves us.
√ The Rod and Staff are both necessary
Just as the shepherd needs both pieces of equipment to care for his flock…
…so, our Good Shepherd uses both His Word and His Spirit to work in and care for us.
How they work together
√ More than just knowledge
A person can fill up their head with the knowledge of God's Word, and never actually know God or experience His love!
Ex. The religious leaders
They knew God's Word - had committed it to memory - yet could not discern the Messiah standing in front of them!
John 5:39 “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.
Reminds us that we need the ministry of both God's Rod and His Staff in our lives.
Ap. The tragedy in the Church
Much of the Christian church is divided along the lines of the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit.
One side pours themselves into the study of God's Word, yet, denies the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
The other side gives themselves to the work of the Holy Spirit, but only lip service to the study of His Word.
We need both to be healthy!
I've gone in both directions - it was such a blessing to find a place where both are embraced.
√ He rescues us from the messes we get ourselves into!
When we rebel and go against His Word, ignoring the "thump" of His Rod against our head…
…and find ourselves hopelessly trapped by our own sin….
He reaches out His Staff and pulls us back to Himself.
We need both for they "comfort" me!