The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
Many who have been around church for a certain length of time, likely have heard the description of these two different kinds of sticks that are described in Psalm 23.
The rod is usually described as an instrument of defense. It’s what the shepherd uses to smack a rogue beast on the head if it comes after his sheep.
The staff is the stereotypical stick-with-a-hook that a shepherd uses to guide and direct. The hook can pluck a wayward sheep out of a bush or a lake. For some reason, every picture I’ve ever seen of “The Good Shepherd” only has this one stick in his hand. Maybe because it would look super awkward to be standing there with two sticks.
One small tidbit I’d never heard before was how a rod (or staff…whatever) was also used by a shepherd to count their sheep. They’d hold it up – and have each one pass under – to make sure counting them one at a time would neither miss one nor double-count one. (Lev 27:32 is an example of this usage).
This Rod/Staff combo then is not only symbolic of protection and guidance – but also concern. The Shepherd wants to make sure he’s still got every sheep he started out the day with. Each one is important. There are other passages in scripture where this is spelled out more clearly (like the parable of the 1 sheep that goes missing from the other 99).
It’s not just that the shepherd will protect the sheep.
Or even that he will guide and rescue them.
He also counts them -and has concern that each is still there.
Which of these characteristics of Jesus as the Good Shepherd do you most deeply need to believe / feel / hear – right now?
That you are guarded?
That you have a guide?
That you count?
Thank you for your protection,
We especially pray today for the people of Ukraine.
Hundreds of thousands of people made in your image,
Suffering the brutality of evil, hatred, and pride.
Bring hope to the hurt.
Rescue to the lost
Be with those putting their own lives on the lives to help others.
Be their guiding, protecting, caring Shepherd even right now.