The danger with well-known verses we have heard all our lives is that sometimes we tend to not question…we don’t dive deep looking for meaning and application. I had one of those experiences recently as, during discussion, a friend brought up a point about a phrase from the 23rd Psalm:
“Your rod and Your staff comfort me.”
As we took a moment to ponder real-word shepherds of that day and their sheep, he commented that we know the rod was used to direct, to protect…and to discipline. The staff (think Shepherd’s crook) was used to guide and to hook and drag, if necessary, a wandering sheep or one in need of rescue. I certainly get the comfort in a sheep being protected from a wolf, of course. But, comfort in the discipline? I grew up in a home where my parents used a paddle, when warranted (and I am thankful now for it); however, I don’t recall ever thinking growing up, “Mom and Dad, your paddle comforts me.” Yet… somehow, I just felt the need to report when disclosing the discipline above that I am thankful… glad… even (gulp) comforted, in retrospect, that my parents disciplined me. Maybe that’s the point. The comfort comes after the fact, not during the moment.
Let that realization help each of us as we walk our path.
May we find comfort in the desire of our Shepherd to protect, guide, direct, rescue, and even discipline us.
May we find comfort that the process that produces a convicted heart then leads to mercy and grace.
And for those of us with enough years behind us to reflect back on many pastures already traveled, may we find comfort in study and realization about the well-worn rod and staff of our Shepherd.