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Thy Rod and Thy Staff May 6, 2018

Posted by JP in Bible Study, Discussion.
A Psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, to guide and to shield me],  I shall not want.  2 He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still and quiet waters. 3 He refreshes and restores my soul (life); He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the [sunless] Or valley of deep darknessvalley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You, are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me.


I was thinking yesterday that there is meaning to this Psalm that for the most part goes undiscovered as people read, and take solace in, the commonly held meaning: God is with us in times of sorrow and danger and that we have no need to fear because of this.
I think that understanding is fantastic all on its own. However, I was thinking about the concept of God’s rod and staff, and the valley of the shadow of death and what further meaning we can find therein.
First, we must point out that the ‘valley of the shadow of death, more closely means deep shadow, or darkness, with the connotation of ‘death-like shadow’. Either way, the meaning is clear – even though I travel through dangerous times, or places, I need not fear.
What struck me yesterday is a correlation between Psalm 23 and Proverbs 13:24 (Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.). It occurred to me that discipline is an essential part of loving, training, and protecting one’s children, or one’s flock. Additionally, discipline is an essential element of discipleship.
To make one a disciple you must teach them, train them, protect and guide them. In other words, you must shepherd them. The two essential tools of a shepherd are his rod and his staff. The staff is used mostly to guide the sheep, to catch on to them and bring them back into the fold, and to test the surety of new ground so the flock can graze in safety.  The rod, basically a club, was used for protection and discipline. The shepherd used the rod to drive off predators and sometimes to give the sheep a whack to the flank to get their attention and to bring them back in line. Much like a parent would use a rod (discipline) to punish and redirect the focus of a child.
The other correlation I saw was between the valley of the shadow of death and other allusions to death in scripture. In Rom 6-23 we are told:  23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in[a]Christ Jesus our Lord
So when I looked at Psalm 23 I connected the valley of the shadow of death to sin and the commission of sin.
We all sin, always have and always will, but sometimes we get so entrenched in a sinful practice or lifestyle we are literally walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Our hope is deliverance from that valley and protections from the dangers of that valley. We find we are living in our sin and cannot get ourselves out.
The good news is simply that God is with us and He disciplines us and He guides us, so through His discipleship, we find we do not need to fear the effects of our sin as He will lead us out of that valley safely.


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