Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Shepherd's Staff

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes my lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even 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.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The shepherd's staff.  
There are many things that can be observed and ripped apart about this psalm.  It is one of the more recognizable psalms of the Bible.  Even those who do not necessarily believe in the salvation of the Lord can probably at least quote the opening line.  

I found myself studying this psalm a couple of years ago and was drawn to the verse where the psalmist proclaims "your rod and your staff, they comfort me."  We know that the shepherd's staff could not have possibly been the most comfortable tool used against a sheep.  It was heavy and made of wood.  The crook on the end of the staff was used to yank a sheep around the neck and bring them back in line.  So why would it be comforting?  The rod and staff were used to protect and discipline the sheep.  They were used to guide the sheep.  The psalmist, imagining himself as a sheep and Jesus as the shepherd, finds rest in the comfort of the staff.  Even though the crook of the staff, with its long curving handle, inflicted some sort of discomfort on the sheep.. the sheep are brought back to the right path.  A tool used for discipline and correction has now become a safety net - a life jacket - a lighthouse.  This verse taught me much about resting in the discipline and correction of the Lord, though I'll be the first to admit that it's hard. The yanking by the staff doesn't feel the best but is for our good. But the staff is held by the loving shepherd who desires for his sheep to get to the correct place.. go along the right path.. eat of the freshest grass.. and drink of the vast pools of cool water.  That is why the shepherd's staff is a comfort.  It's a comfort because of who the shepherd is and his purposes.  Our shepherd is Jesus.

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