Psalm 23:4 “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Some years ago, as I was reflecting on the words above, a new understanding of their meaning dawned on me. One thought had to do with the word “rod.” Throughout Scriptures the use of this word refers to discipline or correction. One of the meanings of the Hebrew word from which this word was translated is “a stick for punishing.” Some examples of this word’s use in scripture include the following: Job 9:34 “Let him take his rod away from me, and let not dread of him terrify me;” Psalm 89:32 “Then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes;” and Proverbs 10:13 “A rod is for the back of him who lacks sense.” But then there is this verse: “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him (Proverbs 13:24).” You see, one of the marks of God’s love for His children is that He disciplines them. He doesn’t allow them to go off and do whatever they want if those actions lead them into sin. He corrects them. He knows how to touch the lives of His errant children with pain, whenever it is necessary to keep them from things that will only bring self-destruction to them. He doesn’t allow the children He loves to “get away with it” when “it” is sure to bring harm.
From the New Testament we are given this same thought in these words: “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives (Hebrews 12:5-6).” Surely, then, the rod of the Good Shepherd should bring comfort to the believer, as it is a sure mark that God loves them, rather to let them to themselves, as a parent who has no concern for their children would be prone to do.
But then there is “the staff” from Psalm 23 above. To what does that refer? Well the Hebrew word for staff means “a walking stick, something used to lean on for sustenance and support.” What a wonderful description of the support of God for His sheep. In times of need, we can lean hard on the Good Shepherd and His wonderful Word. You’ve probably heard people mockingly talk about how people use religion as a “crutch.” In their pride, unbelievers think they don’t need a thing, when in reality they are spiritually blind to their hopeless and needy condition. However, for the believer, they realize that they have great need for the Great Physician Who heals the sick (Mark 2:17). They are the ones who have heeded Jesus’ invitation to “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).” The believer has the wonderful comfort to heed their heavenly Fathers command to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).”
Praise God for both His rod and His staff, for surely, they comfort those who have put their trust in Him.