referencing The Lord is my Shepherd…
The first thing I think about when i think about the rod is discipline perhaps from the scripture “spare the rod and spoil the child”. And while there is an element of discipline in the functions of the rod, there are so many more uses of the rod I will like to explore as God leads.
Shepherds use a rod to protect the flock from predators or reprimand unruly sheep, and to prod those going astray, or are oblivious to danger. Isn’t it true of us that many times we put ourselves in precarious positions and are in need of being saved from ourselves? Sometimes when our Shepherd intervenes it is not without a reprimand to help us to stay the course. I think about the time when I caught my son trying to stick an object into a socket. As I swooped in to remove him from imminent danger, you better believe i was scolding him in the process! Even though the tone of my voice frightened him and it may not seem like love in the moment, my actions came from a place of overarching knowledge of how electricity works and some bad experiences with live wires I have had in my own past. Now ponder this scripture:
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, or lose heart when He rebukes you. For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastises everyone He receives as a son.” Hebrews 12:5-6 Berean Study Bible
David, in his former life as shepherd, recognized that when ever he used his rod, be it to fight of predators or to correct the course of a sheep, it was always used for the benefit of the sheep. So it was not far-fetched for David to associate a sheep’s rod with comfort.
The other piece of equipment a shepherd had in his arsenal was the staff. This is the one with the crook on one end, the symbol of a shepherd. If a shepherd association had an insignia it would the staff. The purpose of the staff is to guide the sheep, to lift the tired ones or rescue stray sheep from places that are difficult to reach. The staff is like an extension of the shepherd’s hands. Now there are two staffs that God uses to shepherd us his flock. Their names are Favor and Union.
So I cared for the flock intended for slaughter–the flock that was oppressed. Then I took two shepherd’s staffs and named one Favor and the other Union Zechariah 11:7 NLT
We discover the function of these two staffs by reading further down about the chaos that takes place when they are broken. We see that when the staff of Favor is broken it signifies an annulment of God’s covenant and when Union is broken it signifies an end to the bond of unity that exists (Zechariah 11: 10-14).
Favor: For the most part whenever the word covenant appears in the bible, the word favor appears alongside it. Jesus Christ negotiated a new and better covenant for all of us and we partake in this covenant by His grace (which is also known as the unmerited favor of God). “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Jeremiah 31:33 NLT. The grace (favor) of God keeps us within the terms of God’s covenant and give us the confidence to claim all the benefits stipulated under this new covenant. Favor goes beyond being successful in an exams, passing a job interview, getting promoted at work, winning that coveted/ prestigious scholarship or award. Favor is not happenstance occurrences in your life. For a sheep, Favor is an everyday occurrence. Or to phrase it another way, for a sheep, the grace of God is an everyday occurrence. In the presence of the Shepherd you have favor. No wonder the psalmist says:
For surely You, O LORD, bless the righteous; You surround them with the shield of your favor. Psalm 5:12 Berean Study Bible
The second staff is Union or Unity and we know from Colossians 3:14 that the perfect bond of unity is love. Love drove our Shepherd to lay down His life for us and our responsibility as sheep is now to Love the LORD with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind and love our neighbors as ourselves.
But how can we love the Lord with our everything when many times we are being pulled in so many different directions? when sometimes our everything is being held together by many bandages because of the hurt and cares of the world? when many times we have been so broken and hurt by people that we are no longer whole? when we have no love left in us to give? And how can we love our neighbors when they are source of our stress and grief? when their values and beliefs are different from ours? or when they don’t look like I do or act like I would? I am reminded of a prayer of the psalmist:
Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. Psalm 86:11 ESV
The psalmist prays to God to unite his heart, to give him an undivided heart. The staff of Union restores the bond of unity within us and among us so that our worship is unhindered and our love for God and for others is unhinged.
David says of the Shepherd: your rod and your staff they comfort me. They are my consolation, my solace, my support, and my reassurance. My prayer is that we feel the comfort of God in every circumstance of our lives as we purpose to be intentional in our walk with God.