…Your rod and your staff, they comfort me

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.

 

Studying the Word of God

If you are anything like me, then you feel the pressing need to dig deep into the word of God. God may be prodding you and nudging at your conscience, telling you you need to invest time in the study of His word. Then this is for you.

I love studying the word of God but initiating the process of taking my bible and reading is the greatest struggle I encounter on a daily basis. I can watch Netflix till the wee hours of the night but as soon as I pick up my bible, a wave of sleep washes over me and gently lulls me into this place of obtundation.

Recently, I heard a sermon by Pastor James MacDonald that has inspired this post. In his message, he outlined 3 things that will enable us deepen our commitment to God’s word:

Discipline

I will pursue your commands, for you expand my understanding. Psalm 119:32 NIV

We need to discipline ourselves to pursue the study of God’s word. This is not something God can do for us. I have learned that I need to make the commitment and initially it can be very difficult. To dare to go deeper with God, I need to move out of my comfort zone and take the leap and commit to reading my bible daily. This means I consciously set aside time in my day to do this. The truth is, reading the bible does not just happen and if you don’t carve time to do it, there will be 1000 other things that will occupy your time during the day. That is the process of self-discipline. The beauty of this process is that even though God cannot do it for you, He promises to help by His spirit:

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 NIV

Desire

Eventually, studying the word will become a part of you and it will no longer be a tedious task but a desire, a longing and you will start to look forward to your time in the Word of God. Like the psalmist, this will be your confession:

Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Psalm 119:97 NIV

And believe you me, this happens to everyone who goes through the process of discipline. The Word starts to come alive everyday and it draws you in until your desire is for more. And finally the most amazing thing happens:

Delight

You start to delight in the word of God.

How I delight in your commands! How I love them! Psalm 119:47 NLT

Direct me in the path of Your commandments, for there I find delight. Psalm 119:35 Berean Study Bible

What an amazing feeling! and if you were seeking to go deeper with God, at this point you will be like a tree with deep seated roots that are nourished by God Himself.

Blessed is the man… whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither– whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:1-3 NIV

Wow! I want that!

So I leave you my dear readers with this: Be intentional in studying the Word of God. The command to us today is to

Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 King James 2000 Bible