“…your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
The Good Shepherd carries a rod and a staff. Yesterday we looked at the significance of the rod and how it is used to give the sheep discipline and direction. The larger staff, like the rod, could still be used for these purposes, but was also used to protect the sheep from predators. The staff is normally what we think of when we picture a shepherd. It has become a defining characteristic of a shepherd and it serves a purpose for the shepherd as well as the sheep.
One way that we see the staff being used is as a support for the shepherd. Leaning on the staff was a way that a shepherd would relax. Our equivalent would be to “have a seat” for a minute…”take a deep breath”. In other words, when the shepherd leans on his staff he is making himself comfortable. This is important to the sheep! As the the Psalmist says, it comforts us. It lets us know that everything is okay. When the shepherd is relaxed the sheep know it. This communicates several things to the sheep.
First, when a shepherd or anyone leans on their staff it means they are staying. It communicates to the sheep that he is there for the duration. Where the flock is at home…He is at home too. When the sheep see this they can enjoy the benefits of the green pastures without fear. They do not worry because HE is not worried.
Let’s pause here for a minute. Beloved believer, God is not worried. Look over at Him. He is leaning on His staff. Look at His face and see the peace. He’s got this.
If my shepherd is anxious then I am anxious. Animals can sense when their masters are alarmed about something. Those who have pets experience this in our homes. If we are pacing about the house or visibly upset about something, our pets will respond with anxiety. If the Shepherd is leaning on the staff He is comfortable. Therefore, we (the sheep) can also relax because the Master is at ease.
The staff is also used by the Shepherd to protect the sheep when the dangers do come. The rod was used to correct the sheep but the staff was used as a weapon of defense against wolves or other predators. We can take comfort in the fact that our shepherd is not only “willing” to protect us, but fully “equipped” to do it. We do not have to wonder if our Shepherd is capable of keeping us safe. He is! We have the assurance that our Good Shepherd is always victorious in defending us. Paul said,
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31,32)
This verse is not promising material possessions. It is proclaiming God’s gracious care for us no matter what. In the words of our Psalm, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Oh, dearest sheep, our Good Shepherd leans on His staff because He is not worried. He is watching over you. And…if by chance trouble arises…be not afraid…He will get you through it.