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The rod and the staff
- Jacob Ninan
God hasn't compared us to sheep without meaning. Sheep are some of the dumbest animals on earth who keep going astray. They get a sniff here or there, and off they go. They can also eat without control till they die. How like us! God says that we all go astray like sheep (Is.53:6). Perhaps we can say that all of us, like sheep, keep going astray. We stray from our resolutions, and we overindulge ourselves so easily (Ro.7:15). Isn't it good to have our Shepherd around, who watches over each one of us individually, and warns, corrects and brings us back to the right path when we go astray?
Our Shepherd has both a rod and a staff. With the rod He disciplines us. It may be a warning tap, or it may be a severe scourging, depending on how far we have gone astray. He does this in real life through giving us a warning in our spirit or a word in our mind (Is.30:21), or though adversity of some kind that forces us to stop and consider where we are going. When we come across some adversity in our life let us seek God to see if He is trying to get our attention or say something to us, before we start resisting the devil! Someone has said that adversity is like God shouting to us, when we have not listened to His whispers.
We don't naturally like the rod, because it is painful. But the more we understand the love of God behind it, the more we will be at peace with it and the more we can handle it in a mature way. Think of what would have happened if the Lord had not stopped us in our track!
Sometimes we may think that our punishment is more than we deserve. We may also think that we have learned our lesson and still the punishment is lingering. First of all, discipline is not the same as punishment. The punishment for our sin is death, and that is not what the Lord is giving to us. He is disciplining us through hardship and sometimes through having to reap the painful consequences of our sins, so that we would learn to treat sin more seriously in future. This is the same reason why discipline lingers on, till God thinks that we have been trained enough (He.12:4-11).
The shepherd's staff is used to pull back sheep that are going astray and also to lead them in the right direction. Aren't we happy that our Shepherd also uses His staff with us? Sometimes He closes doors that would have led us in paths that He has not planned for us (even though they may be right for others). We may think that closed doors are signs of God's displeasure. But when we are able to look back over the years how glad we will be to see that God prevented us from going in those directions! In the same way, sometimes He opens special doors for us that few others are walking into. That is because He has different plans for us.
"Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me" (Ps.23:4). Isn't it truly comforting to know that God is always there with His rod and staff to protect and guide us? Even when we think we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, this knowledge really comforts us.