(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
The Lord is my shepherd… God is a Father, and He has a family. He loves and protects His family.
Little is simpler or more beautifully put than Psalm 23.
A thought-provoking study, Don. Thanks.
Very wonderful knowlege…
Good works of interpretation and exposition.
Its a wonderful piece that prepares all to start doing same to any scriptures, so as to make more meanings and values to the ways we understand and uphold the Words Of God and live by them.
Thanks and more anointing to keep it up.
The rod and staff are weapons He created that inflict harm on those who don’t follow God. See Heb 12:6, Isa 54:16-17, Lk 22:31-33 and Mat 25:32-35. Also, note the fact that Moses’ staff turned into a snake and the fact that God erected a serpent wrapped around a staff to heal His people. See my blog on this: http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.ListAll&bID=521554986
( Don responded: I appreciate your commenting on my post about the twenty third Psalm (“thy rod and thy staff”). I tried to go to your blog, and was unable to connect with it. Maybe you could provide more information. I agree with you about the use of those items as a weapon. It’s probably also true that they provided support as the shepherds walked on rough terrain. In addition to using the staff for that purpose, the crook in it probably served usefully in reaching over into brambles, or maybe down a hillside, to hook a straying sheep and return it to safety. Without our modern technology, the ancients were resourceful to make tools for themselves, and more than likely used them for a number of purposes. I thought it was interesting to note that, after Moses threw the rod down and picked it up, it is often referred to as “the rod of God.” Interesting comment. Hope you’ll stay in touch. ~donkimrey
I think what you had in mind when you wrote moon chucks, was the colloquial words nunchucks for the Okinawan weapon called nunchaku. The staff of Bo is generally 5-9 ft in length and the jo generally being 50-56 inches in length and can break even the razor sharp katana when used properly. The Jo is a passive weapon that disables the attackers ability to continue the aggression without the goal being to kill them. Kuroda-no-Jo is another name for the classical short staff
It appears to me that you might be an expert in martial arts. I’m impressed. It isn’t clear to me all the implications and applications of the “rod and staff.” As a shepherd, those must have been very practical, useful instruments for them to use. I hadn’t thought of it in terms of the more sophisticated uses, especially those who excelled in the oriental arts of self defense. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Don kimrey
I appreciate your effort and the simplicity of your study,thy rod and thy staff to me is His is word and His Spirit,God’s word is powerful and His Spirit leads,guides us.please get in touch for more
When it was said ‘thy rod ans staff comfort me’ as you suggested Moses not even Moses because there is no man who lived by the name Moses. The actual man was Ahmose(remove the Ah at the begining and add an s at the end you gets ah-Mose-S). He like many black pharoes of our land carried a rod and staff. Till today in our land we have people who still carry a rod and staff but not at the same time. Nowadays you find rods in churches and staffs very mystic. The reason why the were separated I think was because our people started getting religion fron Europeans who clearly till this day dont understand the uses of the rod and staff.
I’m not certain that I understand, or agree, with all you’ve said. But it is certainly an interesting perspective and food for thourht. I encourage independent thinking and want to be open an respectful of other viewpoints. It seems to me that you may live in Egypt, or certainly outside the United States. Also, I wrote this quite some time ago. Isn’t it remarkable that via the internet we can carry on such a conversation across time and miles!
thanks 4 yer explanation of thy rod and thy staff
for 67 years i hv been reading abt it and did not know what they were
Don thanks for this post. I understand now about the rod and staff.
I really appreciate your comments, Marlyn. It always is an encouragement when someone thoughtful understands what you’re trying to communicate. Hope you’ll visit the site often. I also have a web wearing the title of my first book: http://www.Godscomebackkids.com. It is, incidentally, an outgrowth of the blog.
I’ll also certainly visit your site. ~ donkimrey
Don, Some time ago, after giving my life to Christ and making efforts to change my ways, I was praying telling Christ that having given up my old ways, I was feeling very vulnerable and didn’t know how to handle situations with particular people that (in my opinion) choose to hurt me or are completely careless with my heart. I heard the “Still Small Voice” say “thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” At the time, I took that to mean that he will guide me and protect me. That was months ago and maybe the reason I haven’t heard the ” still small voice” since.- I haven’t rested in that. Even though I gave up my old ways of lashing back at these people in words – I still feel vulnerable and tossed around emotionally by these family members. I’ve done forgiveness work along with going out of my way to try and establish a peaceful relationship with the people but my efforts seem to have been rejected by them. I have tried to trust The Good Sheperd but I still feel vulnerable. Any suggestions?
Linda, thank you so much for writing. In my opinion, you’re on the right track. I want to think a bit and perhaps reply to you via email soon. In the meantime, I have a website for a book I wrote: http://www.Godscomebackkids.com. Some sample chapters are there, and I wish you’d read
and reply by email. In the meanwhile, I have a website for a book I did, and I wish you’d take a look at that. The site is http://www.Godscomebackkids.com. The chapter I think you’d find helpful is “The Key to Joseph’s Comeback.” We can’t control how people treat us. Our challenge is to control the way we react. Being able to see that God is in charge and means nothing but good for me has helped me much more than nursing festering wounds. Let’s think and discuss this a bit further. You have my gmail address I believe. A friend, don kirmrey
I have learned from a bible commentary that when it is dark and the sheep don’t see well and fear that their shepherd is not with them, the shepherd will use use a kind of stick and he will stroke the sheep gently on their back so that the sheep can make sure their shepherd is THERE and this way they feel secure and “comforted”.
Thank you for your thoughtful observation, Yasser. I’d sort of thought before as the “staff” being something the Shepherd could use in pulling the little lamb from a precarious ledger or out of brambles and briers where he’d gotten stuck. The “staff” I’d thought of more as a defensive instrument to fend off predators, or to guide the sheep if they tended to stray off. Your idea hadn’t occurred to me. That’s one reason why I like sharing with others, asking questions, encouraging others to think . That’s pretty solid Scriptural logic, in my opinion. Thanks again.
I’ve really enjoyed reading your ‘talk’ and others messages – thank you. I heard Bill Wilson talk on this once. What stuck with me was how he explained that shepherds would knotch their staff with their knife with different marks to remember the importance of different events-like a diary. For example a shepherd may remember when he fought of a wild animal and protected his flock. For me it is like I mark in a diary and remember God’s protection over me in a battle or comfort when I have needed it. Then when I need to lean on my staff and things are getting tough I can clearly look and remember the knotches and see when God has intervened for me. I am comforted by the truth I can see and remember when God has been there for me in my past. I am strengthend going into another battle by my staff knowing God will be there for me again. A staff can be both strength of protection in the now for a battle but also a comfort when remembering the past events.
Your intro to this study pulled me in. I can definetly relate and understand your concept of that verse. Wisdom… God is all about love and that is what I see in your blog, His love. Your heart is in the right place, your responses to others’ posts even shows your heart. You have definetly come to the greatest understanding which God wants for all of us, that is to love one another. A level of love that is pure, to the core of your being. You my dear are a rare gem. Be blessed. B.
Wow! Birdhouse and Joy, both of your comments are such an encouragement to me! Of all the writing I’ve done, the studies on Psalm 23 have generated the most response, and although written months ago, folks are still encouraged by my comments on that beautiful Psalm. If I could ask a further favor, may I ask that you check out http://www.Godscomebackkids.com. It contains some sample chapters and a table of contents which is also the title of a book resulting from writing Scripturestudent.com
This is the only verse my Grandmother taught me when I was six years old, she read it to me and told me to memorize it and it would get me through the tough times in life. And has it ever, It has become clear to me that as we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (adversity) we are to know that God is with us and has a “rod and staff” that will protect me / us at all times, if we have faith that he will.
i was just going through something at work last night and when i got home this morning God gave me the scripture to think about – though i walk through the valley of the shadow of death, i will fear no evil. thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. iwanted to find out more about thy rod and thy staff they comfort me, then i found this via internet. iam encouraged knowing Gods with me wants the best for me. THANK YOU JESUS
Sheep are defenseless, but our Shepherd is vigilant and protective. If you have ever encountered a cougar in the wild, you would not want to be defenseless. A good sturdy rod and an expertly wielded staff could be a lifesaver! But we need to spend time in the Word in order to use God’s protection in times of peril. When I read this Psalm, it reminds me that the Lord is in control, and I need to let God be God. The staff can be used to correct sheep, but as the flock grows in relationship to the shepherd, this becomes a comfort. It reminds us that we are not lost. We are on the right track. “Whom the Lords loves, he chastens.”
I loved your thoughtful response! Thank you for taking time to offer your own insights and encouragement. don
If sheep fall or are pushed (by other sheep) into a river, their wool gets soaked and will weight them down and the sheep can very easily drown. The staff can be used to pull the drowning sheep from it’s ultimate doom. As God’s sheep, we are so much in need of His staff to pull us out of our own weighted down muck we get ourselves into. We don’t have a chance by ourselves, but by His grace only we are saved. Thank you Jesus!! “thy rod and thy staff they comfort me”
Was walking my 2 dogs in the park today and… “yea tho I walk thro the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for thou art with me. thy rod and thy staff comfort me.” came to mind leading me to investigate the meaning of rod and staff…… thus here I am. This current world and the Babylonian system it operates under…. to me is the valley of the shadow of death. We are in the world but not of the world…. a peculiar people called to come out and be separate; the old man is to fall away and all things become new. This separation is not a wall around the christian keeping them out of the world but a distinct difference between the new man and the old. The discarding of the old ways (by the holy spirit now living in our hearts and guiding us) and in many cases the unyoking of some very unhealthy relationships…(not marital!!). As ambassadors for Christ… There is no fear for us in “the valley” as Satan is already defeated and if God be for us who can be against us; I can do all things through Christ who strengthen me, I have learned to be content in what ever state I’m in and all things work for the good for those who love god. God does not operate outside his word. If we learn god’s word… and begin to speak it in faith…. he watches over it to perform it. If we say we have faith but speak any negativity what so ever; how do we have faith? Malachi 3:13,14. We can even be tithers but nullify the blessings of choosing life from Deuteronomy by speaking words of fear, sickness, unbelief… etc. So when the true understanding of the tongue as a rudder steering a mighty ship is understood; every word begins to be watched over and every thought begins to be taken captive that exalts itself against the truth of gods word. Strongholds come down and the captives are released. The renewing of the mind is essential….. we are in the midst of a spiritual battle….. wrestling not with flesh and blood but the rulers and forces and powers of darkness in the heavenly realm. This is a VERY REAL BATTLE…. Simply walk in love as best as you can….. be at peace with all men….. as best as you can….. make amends to any you can think of and forgive any you haven’t. I will answer for me….. not you. I need not worry whether you accept me or how treat me. But I do need to pray for you….. If all things work together for our good and we are truly attempting to walk in the light…. rather than wish things were different…. ask yourself… what am I supposed to learn here. Then look back later and analyze the outcomes again, look for a fulfilling in gods word….. but never speak a negative word… as we are snared by the words of our mouths. We all stumble in many ways…. simply repent and carry on. There is therefore now no condemnation…. so just move forward…. don’t beat yourself up. Learn about spiritual warfare, walk in love, speak the word and you will be led by the holy spirit…. there is no doubt. He says….. I’ll never leave you nor forsake you….. draw nigh unto me and I’ll draw nigh unto you….. but also return to me and I’ll return to you. I remember wondering…. how come it doesn’t feel like it used too…. but like dumb sheep we all wonder off at times…. and must return either on our own or with a little neck yanking or some prodding. Remember Jesus prayed not that we be taken out of the world but that we be kept safe in the world and he said nobody can snatch us from his hand. Thy rod and the staff comfort me….. As someone above also pointed out and before I even looked to the net. Thou shalt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed upon thee. Perfect peace is very comforting and reading, meditating, speaking and thus knowing and believing the word will bring this peace. Your faith will rise and there will be no valley of the shadow of death for you… even though you are walking through it. Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of god. The word is both a rod and a staff and still much much more….. to me. A lamp unto my path and a light unto my feet. Enjoyed the opinions… sorry if I got off topic but one scripture simply brought the next etc…. And yes I also have to agree… your heartfelt answers are transparent. Continue to be a blessing.. Greg
I too was looking for explanation on thy rod and thy staff and came across this site in Google. So many ways the staff can be used I read. They ALL make sence to me, I love this open ended forum. That was great what your wrote Greg and I too love your responses Don.
Just looking back over some of the replies and wanted to let you know I really appreciate your comments. I’ve been trying to complete a Christmas book, JOY TO YOU, TOO, and it’s really required all the prayerful concentration I can muster. My considering the Birth of the Lord has been a rich, rich blessing to me personally, and I just hope I can share some of what I’ve discovered in a way that will pay proper tribute to Christ and encourage His people. don >
Christine, I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your note. You probably know how much it means when you think carefully and seriously about something and are able to share it with someone who seems to under-stand what you’re trying to do. Thanks! Hope you’ll come back often. Also, I have a website, donkimrey.com with info about the first book I’ve written. And am finishing a work on the Incarnation, JOY TO YOU, TOO. That has thrilled and challenged me as much as any thing I’ve ever tried to write. Best to you. Hope we’ll stay in touch. don
Just a clarification. In the legend of Robin Hood, Little John did not use a cudgel, he used a quarter staff, a weapon 6 – 9 feet long of hard wood which looked like a rod. So there is a degree of confusion between the crook carried by shepherds – which I would suggest acted as a staff (support) as it does today in church ceremonial today and the rod, whatever that may have been – but probably used as a quarter staff! One can, of course, draw the inference that the Good Shepherd used one for discipline – or an adherence to a set of rules – and the other as a support in time of travail.
Thanks Christopher. It means a lot when people participate. I like to be accurate, and yours is an insight which adds to my own visual of that instrument. I also noted the place where God asked Moses: “What’s that in your hand?” “A rod.” “Just a rod?”…In my thinking I considered the obvious purpose of that rod. But in another sense, I viewed it as a symbol of Moses’ occupation. The main “tool of his trade.” God said: “Let go of that. I can do more with it than you can.” In very short order that common “stick” is referred to as “the ROD of GOD!”
Hi, I stumbled upon this wonderful discussion about “thy rod and thy staff.” I like to believe that God is speaking in terms of Love and would never physically harm us with the rod or the staff, or those who are against us. That is just what I like to (believe), but what He actually does is beyond my own understanding, so I do not lean on it. 🙂 God used commandments (rules) for us to conform to, but we humans do not seem to listen very well and so, He chose to send Jesus. God is a Gentleman, thus my interpretation is that the rod is the Bible, for it teaches the truth, the way and the light. And the Staff is his Love for us, which pulls us back in if we become lost or stray away too far from his sight. I Love to imagine being pulled back in by a God who Really and Truly Loves me for me, who wants to protect me from harms way because of His Love for me, and not so he can simply control other people from hurting me by inflicting damage on them. If that is true, I don’t know how I feel about it, so I’d rather not think too much about it! 🙂 Thanks for letting me share. Mindy
Thank you, Mindy. Sorry to be slow getting back to you. I’ve just been trying to finish up a Christmas book, JOY TO YOU, TOO. I really appreciate your thoughtful response, and I think you’re right. Much of what I read in Scripture is beyond my understanding. When I have questions about which I don’t have a clear understanding, sometimes I answer my question with another question: “Shall Not the Judge of the Earth do right?” The answer is: “Yes. Of course He will.” That seems to me to settle some things. He’s God, and I am not. I trust His wisdom and love.~ don >
I have always read Rod and Staff as defensive (rod–weapon protection from external threats) AND guidance and rescue (staff–for internal discipline and to obtain help–I think they used to bang them on rocks to make a noise and alert people at a distance) instruments. In light of the Newtown, CT, killings, Comfort would mean that they were trained to respond to danger and that they were capable of defending themselves. At Newtown they had people (Lanza) running around with mental problems not getting help and no defensive posture to counter-threaten an external attack. If the 23rd psalm were being written today, perhaps they would say: “Thy protective concealed-carry weapon and thy ability to report and obtain help for mentally unstable individuals, they comfort me.”
When I googled “what does Thy rod and Thy staff mean”, I expected “a rod is this and a staff is this”.
Your explanation is so thorough. And so easy to understand. It makes a lot more sense to me now. And I love the Psalm. Its one of my absolute favourites.
My car was recently stolen and I struggled a lot with the why’s and the how’s. This psalm realy gives me joy and comfort. Now with better understanding, it comforts me even more.
Leandre, thank you for your very thoughtful comments. I’ve sort of been out of touch for a while, but I want you to know your response was an encouragement and I appreciate it.
spare the correction and spoil the child!