…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.

 

Compromise

Have you ever been in a situation where you try to justify your actions even though you know they are not exactly 100% righteous or godly? As we make the commitment to be intentional in being holy, one of the stumbling blocks that we will encounter is compromise. Compromise is defined as

to weaken (a reputation or principle) by accepting standards that are lower than is desirable

to bring into disrepute or danger by indiscreet, foolish, or reckless behavior

Compromise is exaggerating just a wee bit to make your side of the story sound better than it actually is. Compromise is taking longer breaks at work and not accounting for the time in your timesheet. Compromise is speaking a half-truth famously known as a white lie to cover your tracks (not exactly lying but not exactly speaking the truth). Compromise is violating traffic laws by driving over the posted speed limit. Compromise is helping a friend cheat on an exam because you are trying to help them. Compromise is taking credit for someone else’s hard work and not being careful to return credit where it is due.

This brings to mind an incident when I was applying for my son’s passport. One of the requirement was that the guarantor should have known me for at least 2 years and my lovely neighbor had only known me for  approximately 1 year, 11 months and 26 days. “Well, what difference does 4 days make?”  I know  that some may think of  such minute and arbitrary things as inconsequential and trivial but the  bible has this to say about compromise:

[It is] the little foxes that ruin the vineyards. Song of Solomon 2:15

It is compromise on the little issues that leads to the greater downfall (Bridges, 2006). Every time I read this scripture, I examine myself:

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. Matthew 7:13 NIV

I have always pondered how christians can be on the broad path and not even know it! Ever heard the term, slippery slope? Compromise is the slippery slope that leads godly and holy people from the narrow path to the broad path. It starts with the small insignificant things and next thing you know, you are living in full-blown sin. What compromise does is that it weakens your resolve and deadens your conscience. When you compromise, you slowly chip away at your resistance to temptation and eventually you will not be able to say NO to sin. Compromise is reckless if you are serious minded about being holy. Compromise is what God warns about when He says of obeying His commands:

Do not turn aside to the right or the left. Prov 4:27, Deut 5:32, Deut 28:14

Dear readers as I conclude I leave you with this Psalm:

Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the LORD. Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths. You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully. Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees! Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands. As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should! I will obey your decrees. Please don’t give up on me! Psalm 119:1-8 NLT

Be a person of integrity. Do not compromise your walk with God. Be intentional in being holy. Feel free to share your experience in the comment section below so we can all learn from each other.