Summary: The rod and staff are reflective of the nature of God and both are needed.
ROD AND STAFF
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
If you can think back for a moment to the Charlie Brown cartoon characters and Linus carrying around his blanket, now and then sucking his thumb,
you get an image of early childhood comfort.
In growing up the security blanket and thumb-sucking have to go, but not our need for comfort. Does more money in the bank, a better and more affordable health care plan is that what brings you comfort today? Perhaps it is a call from one of your children living out of town and telling you things are fine or the doctor giving you a clean bill of health report that has recently brought you comfort.
Interestingly, in our text this morning, David prays:
Thy rod and thy staff (O Lord); they comfort me.
Using the image of God as his shepherd and having been a shepherd most of his youth, David well knew the tools of a shepherd- a rod and a staff –
and sometimes just a staff serving as both.
The rod as I was showing the children was what we would call a good strong club
used mostly for defense against predators of the sheep and sometimes used to
scan the deep wool of the sheep for insects or signs of skin disease deep down
below the surface of the wool. There were times too when counting the sheep,
that it was said they passed under the bar or the rod as they went into the foal for
The staff with its curved top was useful in rescuing a fallen or lost sheep in a ravine or crevice. Also to separate the flock or individual sheep from the flock, the staff was a handy instrument. For guiding and pointing and even walking
the staff was useful particularly on uneven, rocky, or hilly ground.
Like a fireman with his fire-suit and helmet or a carpenter with his ruler and toolbox, a good shepherd was armed and equipped for his job.
The comfort came for David in knowing that the Lord God, His Heavenly Shepherd, had and used rod and staff-like means to protect and bless David.
When President Harry Truman in 1945 ordered the use of the atomic bomb,
dropped on Hiroshima and then Nagasaki, Japan to finally end World War II
and bring victory to the allies was that God using His rod to protect and keep
safe the people of democracy?
Or consider the fierce and destructive winds of the tornado or hurricane leaving
a path of destruction is that the rod of God at work giving the sheep a wake-up
call to turn from their own way to the Shepherd’s direction?
If such is only the destructive devices of men and nature, how then is God’s
corrective and refining work being done in you and me today? Let us not forget that Moses raised the rod and in the name and power of the Lord parted the waters of the Red Sea so that the Israelites could escape the on rushing Egyptian army. And then with the same rod raised called forth for the waters to return to swallow up the enemy. So it was again when the Amalakites attacked
Israel and the battle went on all day. Moses on the hill raised the rod until his arms grew tired and the rod was lowered. Moses realized as long as the rod was raised the Israelites were winning but when lowered they were being defeated, so Aaron and Hur stood on either side of Moses and held up his
arms as they held the rod upward to the Lord and won the battle over their enemy. (Ex.14 and 17)
The rod of our divine shepherd is the terrible and awesome power of Almighty God which can take a people out of slavery and make them the most powerful force on earth as well as allow them to become scattered like the dust all over the land for their unfaithfulness.
Time and again David saw and experienced the rod of God in his personal life and for him that awesome power was a magnificent reservoir of comfort. For those who belong to the Kingdom of God and seek to bring glory to God the wrath of God has been born by our Savior Jesus Christ on the cross.
So may it be for us this morning who claim Jesus Christ as Lord- not fearing the wrath and judgment of God but taking comfort in knowing that God is not mocked and that the destruction that comes to nations and peoples continues
to spell out the absolute sovereignty of God over all His creation.
A true picture of God cannot be seen without the rod and likewise the staff.