(We’re still studying “The Shepherd Song,” PSALM TWENTY THREE. Sometimes we get in such a hurry that we don’t have time or interest in close examination of any subject. It’s much easier NOT to do that. However, anyone who has ever diligently searched for treasure and discovered it, will tell you the rich rewards more than justify the search. If you get tired, or have other pursuits, take whatever time you need. Think of some of these thoughts as “diamonds” Hold them to the light, and watch how each facet sparkles brilliantly! When that happens, you are certainly going to know you are “on to something!” -dk)
When I study Scripture, I’m often aware that the writers are trying very hard to put eternal truth into a language the human mind can begin to understand. Analogies, “Figures of speech,” parables, metaphors and such are all a part of that admirable effort. But how can you compress such large truth into any language?!
The picture of the Lord as a “Shepherd” comes about as close to describing His relationship with His people as anything I can imagine. It’s a “word picture” which the most brilliant mind can understand, and which the simplest, least educated person who ever lived can grasp. God tries to make His truth so plain and simple that it is not only easy to understand. It is virtually impossible to misunderstand what He’s saying. The artists’ conceptions of the Shepherd holding a little lamb close to his chest, or reaching out over a precipice to rescue one from danger or certain death, conveys a tenderness that the hardest of hearts and dullest of minds can identify. This Psalm accurately portrays the devotion and commitment the Shepherd has to his flock, as well as the absolute dependence the sheep have upon the Shepherd.
What David realized and wrote so beautifully is that your Shepherd loves you. Really loves you. HE will guide you through life safely and productively…No matter what the perils may be or at what risk and expense to Himself. Even when you may stray away, He will be searching for you. YOUR SHEPHERD REALLY LOVES YOU.
The picture says: “He loves you and me at least as much as the Shepherd loves His sheep. And much, much more.” The shepherd provides what his sheep need in terms of their safety, usefulness, survival, even their very existence. He provides everything they need as sheep and leads them where they need to go. In that same manner, the Good Shepherd cares for you. But oh, so much, much more.
The Psalmist says: “Thy Rod and thy staff they comfort me…” What do you suppose that means?
A rod is obviously a club of some sort. Moses carried one. That was the ordinary “rod” which God told him to throw down and it turned into a slithering, writhing, belly-crawling snake. I can’t think of any reason to carry one unless it’s to knock living daylights out of someone, or something. It is both a defensive and an offensive weapon. Stout. Heavy. A club. Police officers know the value of a “billy” or a nightstick. Loaded with lead, it can be lethal. A baton. Some truckers keep them under the driver’s seat in the cab of their truck and anyone with sense would wisely avoid provoking him to using it.
The staff is pretty long, a straight, strong, thin limb with a crook at the end. The Shepherd can use it to gently prod and guide the sheep. It’s something the shepherd can lean on. It’s also something he can use if a sheep is beyond his reach, hook it, and pull it to safety. Or to fend off predators. Don’t kid yourself about the value of such an instrument. If you’ve seen masters of oriental martial arts, you know great damage can be done with moon chucks, all kinds of sticks boomerangs, slings, and other “primitive” weapons. In olden days, it was about as effective a weapon as you could have in some circumstances. As a little boy and an avid reader, I reveled in and marveled at the exploits of LittleJohn in the Adventures of Robin Hood and His Merry Men. He was an expert with his cudgel, as many whom he soundly thrashed would attest. In the hands of a skilled warrior, the rod and/or the staff were indispensable, effective tools.
In what way could these instruments “comfort” the sheep? Beyond knowing the Shepherd possessed whatever was needed to fend off predators, a staff to guide when it was about to stray away from the herd and into danger …a staff to retrieve a sheep who’d perhaps strayed off, fallen into brambles just beyond the reach of the Shepherd. I guess that would be a comforting thought to the sheep. . . however discomforting it might be to the threat at hand.
If I’ve learned anything at all in considering this Shepherd’s Song for quite some time now, it is this: The Shepherd is wise, knows what is best for the sheep and always acts in their best interests. While sheep probably don’t know or really care, the shepherd knows what is best for them. They probably don’t ever even think about it or queston that fact. But we can and do. And we can choose to follow His wisdom and trust His heart. . . or rebel and strike out on our own.
(PARTING WORDS: Let’s think about the remaining thoughts in the “Song” as we wind down our study of the beautiful Twenty Third Psalm. Several comments have appeared on the site from some friends who’ve joined the study. I want to ponder further what they’ve said, what you think, and the wealth which remains in these final phrases of David’s “Shepherd Song.”
His servant, a friend and fellow student, donkimrey