If you have grown up in church, or even NEAR a church, you are most likely familiar with Psalm 23. But if you’re like me, you’re not a shepherd…so you may not completely comprehend the imagery used in this Psalm.
The images I want to present today are tools God (the Good Shepherd) uses to discipline us.
In Psalm 23:4b, David writes “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
Yep, God uses discipline to comfort us. “HOW is DISCIPLINE a COMFORT?” you may ask. Well, let me explain.
If you were a shepherd, you would use your staff to bring back straying sheep to the fold. This is the first and most gentle way of disciplining a wandering sheep. There is a hook on the end of the staff that the shepherd uses to guide the sheep back where they should be. If it’s a BIG sheep, he uses the hook around the neck of it to bring if back to safety. However, if the sheep is small, the shepherd uses the hook around the body of the sheep to guide it back to the fold.
While we may never see a physical staff of God, He uses the Holy Spirit as His staff. His Spirit prompts us when we start to stray from Him, gently tugging us back. He also uses the Bible to guide us back to Him.
But sometimes, sheep are stubborn and the gentle discipline of the staff is not enough to teach the wandering sheep to stay with the shepherd. That’s when he uses his rod. The rod is used as a tool to break the sheep’s leg. It sounds cruel, but there is a purpose in it. Immediately after the shepherd breaks the sheep’s leg, he splints the leg, and carries the sheep on his shoulder. The sheep remains CLOSE to the shepherd and re-learns who the shepherd is and grows to trust and rely on him again.
The same is true with Christians. When we don’t respond to God’s gentle discipline of the promptings of the Holy Spirit and His Word, He will use other means to break us down. But He doesn’t leave us broken! He mends our hearts, carries us through the difficult situation. As a result, we learn to hear and heed His voice and rely on Him.
As you can see, while the staff and the rod are tools of discipline, they are also tools of comfort. Whichever tool God needs to use on us, the result is always the same: to draw us closer to the Good Shepherd.