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“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 NIV
Psalm 23 was something I grew up with. It was a psalm that my mom was fond of. I remember visiting a family that was grieving the loss of their father and grandfather. I think I was in the third grade. It was really different and I don’t even remember why we were there. It was not a funeral visitation. We were in their home. It was quiet and there were no words that seemed to give comfort so my mom asked me to stand up and read Psalm 23. So I did. Even as a child I could sense the peace, calm and comfort that came with the words. I remember feeling a sense of awe as I watched the peace and calm fall on the family.
As I was revisiting this passage today, the phrase “rod and staff” caught my eye. Why are they comforting?
A rod was a 2’-4’ club that the shepherd used to defend the sheep from robbers and predators. It resembled a walking stick. It was a weapon. A tool for safety.
The staff was used to hold sheep during shearing and for gentle correction or redirecting. The top hook fit around the neck or head of a sheep to reroute them. The bottom of the staff had a spoon shape, kind of like a shovel. If the sheep wandered from the herd, the shepherd would use it to flick up a chunk of dirt toward the wandering sheep to get its attention and redirect it toward the herd.
When I stepped back and looked at this psalm, I could also see all the promises of care our great Shepherd gives us and just how little I have to do. Here is what I noticed:
- Makes me lie down in green pastures – meaning rich and luxurious places that hold peace and nourishment for me
- Leads me beside still waters – He leads me out of chaos and confusion and into peace
- Restores my soul – like no one and nothing else can; He heals, renews and restores
- Leads me in paths of righteousness – His ways keep me out of trouble
- Is with me – I am never alone
- His tools – His rod and staff – comfort me – so I need to pay attention when I am being redirected; it is for my safety and well-being
- Prepares a feast for me – I am a child of the King
- Anoints my head with oil – He honors me and lavishes His love on me
- Fills my cup to overflowing – His care is abundant
- Will not fear
- Dwell with God
See how little there is for us to do to receive all the care and blessings from God? I have to tell you. Looking at this psalm from this perspective blew my mind a little bit!
- We shall not want
- Goodness and mercy will follow us every day
So why the tools? If we have to do so little, why does God need the tools, the rod and staff? When sheep are afraid or get lost (Have you ever been afraid or lost? Be real now!), they stop. They are helpless. Without the shepherd and being a part of the flock, they do not move forward. The shepherd uses his tools to keep them together and on track. They will not find green pastures and water without Him and His guidance and prodding!
So Father, thank you for Your lavish grace and every good thing that You do and have already done for me! Thank you Jehovah Rohi, my Shepherd, for Your abundant blessings and wise and diligent care. Thank you for not leaving me stuck or lost along the way. Thank you for every prod and redirection You provide to keep me safe and on track!