Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“He knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness.”
Deuteronomy 2: 7
“Before me is a future all unknown,
A path untrod;
Beside me is a friend
Well-loved and known,
That friend is God.
Before me lies a new and untried way.
Midst shadows dim;
Beside me is my Guide, and day by day,
I walk with Him.”
Today’s Study Text:
“Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.”
Psalm 23: 4
Psalm 23 – Part 16
“The Safeguard of Our Being”
“Keep me and guard me as the pupil of Your eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings.”
Psalm 17: 8
How have I witnessed the protective care of my heavenly Father in my own life?
“God’s might to direct me,
God’s power to protect me,
God’s wisdom for learning,
God’s eye for discerning,
God’s ear for my hearing,
God’s word for my clearing.”
“The rod and staff, the shepherd’s instruments of prodding, directing, and defending are ever present. The shepherd uses these tools to protect the sheep, to ward off death’s shadow and evildoers, and to continue corralling the sheep where they need to go.”
Kent M. French
Recently, I was introduced to the word “knob-kerrie,” which was not something I was familiar with. Interestingly enough, the “knob-kerrie” is from Africa and is what we call a shepherd’s rod. Author Maurice Berquist gives a rather detailed description of this particular implement, “In Africa, where I first encountered a shepherd’s club, I noticed that both men and boys approaching manhood would not be without it. When a boy was old enough to carry a club, he was first assigned to the job of making it. Finding a young tree, he would uproot it and then fashion a ‘knob-kerrie’ from it. The large knot at the root of the tree became a ball-like handle for the club. The long part of the club would be fashioned from the trunk of the sapling…Having made his club, the lad would then learn to use it, spending long hours throwing it at a target, much as American boys are taught to throw a baseball.”
Having gotten a better understanding regarding the way this piece of equipment came into being, I began a search to find out exactly how “the rod” could serve, as the Bible tells us, as an implement which brings us comfort.
I don’t know how you have chosen to interpret the phrase, “Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me,” but to be honest, in the past when I’ve looked at the words, “rod and staff,” the idea of “comfort” was not the first thing that entered my mind.
As I uncovered more information about “a rod,” it became apparent why this device can be used so effectively. In the time when David kept the flocks of his family, a rod often had an iron spike in it which when hurled at a wild beast could prove lethal. In providing his readers with additional information about this unique, hand-carved weapon, Maurice Berquist reminds us that David’s exploits – killing a lion and a bear – were most likely carried out when he hurled his own rod at the creatures. Berquist continues by sharing this fact: “It is interesting to know how the term (our rod) has crept into modern speech. Western cattle ranchers riding the range do not carry sticks of wood to protect their herds. Handguns, pistols and revolvers are used. Often these are called ‘rods’. (Obviously) the purpose has not changed in three thousand years – comfort and security.”
What we find that David is trying to convey is that when the shepherd is taking his flock from pasture to pasture, up mountain trails and down into valley crevices, he doesn’t show up for the job unprepared. He comes with all he needs to provide his sheep with the protection they will need for the journey.
In his treasure of a book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Phillip Keller shares an interesting account of how he watched young lads in Africa have competitions “to see who could throw his rod with the greatest accuracy across the greatest distance.” He concluded that, “the effectiveness of these crude clubs in the hands of skilled shepherds was a thrill to watch.” But it was this single point which Keller makes that really caught my attention: “The rod was, in fact, an extension of the owner’s right arm.” It stood as a symbol of his strength, his power, and his authority in any serious situation.”
This critical detail led me directly to my Strong’s Concordance where I began my search through all the passages in Scripture that refer to our heavenly Father’s “strong arm.” Psalm 44: 3 records the fact that it wasn’t the strength of God’s children which gave them possession of the Promised Land, instead, in this Psalm from the sons of Korah, we are told that it was, “Your (God’s) right hand and (His) arm and the light of (His) countenance (that) did it.” The prophet Isaiah also makes reference to God’s strong arm: “Awake, awake, put on strength and might, O arm of the Lord” (Isaiah 51: 9, Amplified Bible). And then in one of my favorite promises, found in Jeremiah 32: 17, we are assured that, “You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! There is nothing too hard or too wonderful for You.” How grateful we can be that God’s arm is never shortened when it comes to reaching out and rescuing His children. Truly the “rod” that David speaks of is a symbol of the power, the authority and the defense of the sheep and of you and me as well.
But there are also two other ways the rod is used effectively by our Shepherd. Phillip Keller’s comments on Psalm 23: 4, highlight the varied ways a rod is used: “If the shepherd saw a sheep wandering away on its own, or approaching poisonous weeds, or getting too close to danger…the club would go whistling through the air to send the wayward animal scurrying back to the bunch.” But there are also additional uses for the rod as Keller writes: “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, (Ezekiel 20: 3). 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.” Because the wool on sheep can be very thick and long, great care needs to be taken by the shepherd to make certain disease or injury has not attacked the sheep’s skin. A good and faithful shepherd inspects the sheep under his care and thus, the psalmist may have been referencing this particular process by which the shepherd inspects a sheep when he penned the words: “Search me thoroughly, O God and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts. And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 129: 23, 24, Amplified Bible. As Phillip Keller so effectively sums up, “The rod conveys the concept of authority, of power, of discipline, and of defense against danger.”
Author F. B. Meyer also summarizes the use of our Shepherd’s rod with these words: “(The rod) is surely the symbol of His defending power. It is the scepter which He carries as the supreme Shepherd-King. It is the weapon by which He strikes down our adversaries, even though it be heavy with chastisement for ourselves…a shepherd needs to be well armed with heavy club or ponderous rod, that he may deal death giving blows to lion or bear or stealthy thief imperiling the safety of one of his charge…does not this suggest the protecting grace of Christ our Lord…From the defending rod of the Great Shepherd we may derive abundant comfort; because it is written, ‘My sheep shall never perish, neither shall any (one) pluck them out of my hand’” (John 10: 28).
Praise be to our Shepherd, who with His rod, safeguards you and me in every way.
“My dearest Lord,
Be Thou a bright flame before me,
Be Thou a guiding star above me,
Be Thou a smooth path behind me.
Be Thou a kindly Shepherd behind me,
Today and evermore.”
“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for You, Lord, alone make me dwell in safety and confident trust.”
Psalm 4: 8
The Heavenly Shepherd
“While my Redeemer’s near,
My Shepherd and my Guide,
I bid farewell to anxious fear,
My wants are all supplied.
To ever-fragrant meads,
Where rich abundance grows,
His gracious hand indulgent leads,
And guards my sweet repose.
Along the lovely scene,
Cool waters gently roll,
And kind refreshment smiles serene,
To cheer my fainting soul.
Here let my spirit rest;
How sweet a lot is mine!
With pleasure, food, and safety blest;
Dear Shepherd, if I stray,
My wandering feet restore,
To Thy fair pastures guide my way,
And let me rove no more.
Unworthy, as I am,
Of Thy protecting care,
Jesus, I plead Thy gracious name
For all my hopes are these.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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