How much can we get from a single, short verse when we really study it? Let’s find out!
written by Lyn Leahz | February 11, 2013
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. –Psalm 23:4
A valley is a low place. Higher land surrounds a valley. Darkness lacks light. God is light, and the absence of God is dark. God is life, and the absence of God is death.
If I am at a low point in my life, where I can’t see or feel the presence of God, I am to trust that He is with me. I can’t see Him, it’s dark. I can’t feel Him, I’m depressed to the point of death. Yet I KNOW He is with me. This is faith. Knowing what you can’t see or feel, without a shadow (darkness) of a doubt!
Let’s move forward to the rod and staff.
What does a rod do? The rod was what the shepherd relied on to safeguard both himself and his flock in danger. And it was, furthermore, the instrument he used to discipline and correct any wayward sheep that insisted on wandering away.
There is a second dimension in which the rod is used by the shepherd for the welfare of his sheep — namely that of discipline. The club is used for this purpose perhaps more than any other. If the shepherd saw a sheep wandering away from its own, or approaching poisonous weeds, or getting too close to danger of one sort or another, the club would go whistling through the air to send the wayward animal scurrying back to the bunch.
Another interesting use of the rod in the shepherd’s hand was to examine and count the sheep. In the terminology of the Old Testament this was referred to as passing “under the rod”: and I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant: (Ezek. 20:37).
This meant not only coming under the owner’s control and authority, but also to be subject to his most careful, intimate and firsthand examination. A sheep that passed “under the rod” was one which had been counted and looked over with great care to make sure all was well with it.
Finally, the shepherd’s rod is an instrument of protection both for himself and his sheep when they are in danger. It is used both as a defense and a deterrent against anything that would attack.
The skilled shepherd uses his rod to drive off predators like coyotes, wolves, cougars or stray dogs. Often it is used to beat the brush, discouraging snakes and other creatures from disturbing the flock. In extreme causes, such as David recounted to Saul, the psalmist no doubt used his rod to attack the lion and the bear that came to raid his flocks.
So, we can safely say in this verse, that when God chastens us, or disciplines us, this should be a comfort to us. Why? Because it conveys His care. For one does not discipline someone they do not care about. Discipline and correction are a divine act of love. And, God also has given us a rod (the Holy Spirit) to beat the enemy off with! To keep us safe from harm and to ward off the enemy’s attacks!
I would now like to discuss and consider the shepherd’s staff. In a sense, the staff, more than any other item of his personal equipment, identifies the shepherd as a shepherd. No one in any other profession carries a shepherd’s staff. It is uniquely an instrument used for the care and management of sheep — and only sheep. It will not do for cattle, horses or hogs. It is designed, shaped and adapted especially to the needs of sheep.
The staff is essentially a symbol of the concern, the compassion that a shepherd has for his charges. No other single word can better describe its function on behalf of the flock than that it is for their “comfort.”
Whereas the rod conveys the concept of authority, of power, of discipline, of defense against danger, the word “staff” speaks of all that is longsuffering and kind.
The shepherd’s staff is normally a long, slender stick, often with a crook or hook on one end. It is selected with care by the owner; it is shaped, smoothed, and cut to best suit his own personal use.
Somehow the staff is of special comfort to the shepherd himself. In the tough tramps and during the long weary watches with his sheep, he leans on it for support and strength. It becomes to him a most precious comfort and help in his duties.
There are three areas of sheep management in which the staff plays a most significant role. The first of these lies in drawing sheep together into an intimate relationship. The shepherd will use his staff to gently lift a newborn lamb and bring it to its mother if they become parted. He does this because he does not wish to have the ewe reject her offspring if it bears the odor of his hands upon it.
…the staff is used by the shepherd to reach out and catch individual sheep, young or old, and draw them close to himself for intimate examination. The staff is very useful this way for the shy and timid sheep normally tend to keep at a distance from the shepherd.
The staff is also used for guiding sheep. Again and again I have seen a shepherd use his staff to guide his sheep gently into a new path or through some gate or along dangerous, difficult routes. He does not use it actually to beat the beast. Rather, the tip of the long slender stick is laid gently against the animal’s side and the pressure applied guides the sheep in the way the owner wants it to go. Thus the sheep is reassured of its proper path.
Being stubborn creatures, sheep often get into the most ridiculous and preposterous dilemmas. I have seen sheep, greedy for one more mouthful of green grass, climb down steep cliffs where they slipped and fell into the sea. Only a long shepherd’s staff could lift them out of the water back onto solid ground.
Another common occurrence was to find sheep stuck fast in labyrinths of wild roses or brambles where they had pushed in to find a few stray mouthfuls of green grass. Soon the thorns were so hooked in their wool they could not possibly pull free, tug as they might. Only the use of the staff could free them from their entanglement.
Now, with this in mind, let’s again take a closer look at Psalm 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.
I am walking through the lowest point of my life. The terrible things I am faced with weigh heavy upon me, so heavy, that it is to the point my body reacts with the same panic when one is about to face death. Yet I am not afraid, nor do I worry myself about it. I don’t obsess or allow the evil things going on all around me, and in my life, to infiltrate my thoughts, or corrupt my being. Why? Because I know Jesus Christ is with me.
I can know He is with me and find comfort in the fact that He disciplines me, and chastens after me when I disobey. And when the enemy moves in for the kill upon my very life, He wards him off with the power of the Holy Spirit He has given to me. I am equipped with His rod, the Holy Spirit, to battle the dark forces of Hell. The same rod He corrects me with (convicts) is the same rod that battles darkness–the Holy Spirit.
He has also given me a staff that I can lean upon to help take off some of the weight. He also uses the staff to draw me close to Him. In my stubbornness, when I wander away, it is with the staff that He comes and delivers me from my own self-inflicted dilemmas. And when I do not know which way to turn, to the right or to the left, He uses it to guide me.
The rod is the power of the Holy Spirit for reproof, correction, and battling the enemy. The staff is the guidance, comfort, deliverance, and closeness of the Holy Spirit.
When we are in a dark place, smothered by the forces of Hell, we can be sure that He is with us to convict us and correct us if we are surrendering, or giving in, to those evil forces, and to assist in victoriously defeating the enemy. We can be fully confident knowing that He will support us, guide us, comfort us, deliver us, and draw near to us during our most difficult and darkest times.
We have no reason to fear, because this He has promised, and so much more.
My friend, are you in a dark place? Do you feel like you are traveling alone in a valley, surrounded by death and defeat? Know that you always have a friend, in good times and in bad…Jesus Christ. And He sticks closer than a brother! Lean on Him, and He’ll supply all your needs. He’ll pour Himself into you like never before! He’ll take you in His arms and carry you up the side of the mountain, until your feet are firmly planted on the other side of it. He’ll get you there! But first, you have to trust Him, then, you have to let Him.
It might not be the smoothest ride, but He’ll go through it with you, every step of the way.
Information References: Antipas
- I’ve Got A Friend In Low Places (vineoflife.net)
- I’ve Got A Friend In Low Places (ptl2010.com)
- Psalm 23…The Lord Is My Shepherd (promisebook.net)
- The gate, and the sheep that went astray (kingdom777.wordpress.com)
- Psalm 23…The Lord Is My Shepherd (vineoflife.net)
- A Biblical verse that might be of comfort in a hospice card (beherethen.wordpress.com)
- Little Lost Lamb (hopeispossible.wordpress.com)