MM00064 The Shepherd's Staff
Mentoring Manna: The Shepherd’s Staff
© 2003 Pastor Keith Hassell
Psalm 23:4 “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and staff, they comfort me.” The Bible refers to God’s people as sheep. Sheep are not creatures of strength and wisdom. On the contrary, sheep are very vulnerable to wild animals and other perils. They are rather stupid and easily go astray. Sheep can become so engrossed in grazing that they can actually eat themselves lost from the rest of the flock! They need help to stay connected to the flock. Isaiah 53:6 describes our condition: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Thus the need for a redeeming shepherd is evident in our lives.
A good shepherd is equipped to care for the sheep. An unequipped shepherd is a worthless shepherd. He is not prepared to properly lead, care, and to protect the sheep. One of the shepherd’s instruments is his staff. The staff is not the same as the rod. The staff was a long stick usually with a crook of some type at the top. The shepherd used the staff to lean upon in times of weariness and to stabilize his walk on unstable ground. He often used this long staff to poke around crevices and rocks to run off snakes, scorpions, and other harmful varmints that could threaten the sheep as they journeyed or laid down to rest.
The staff was not a weapon unless it was the only instrument available. It was not used to beat the sheep although it could be used to administer loving correction to a wandering sheep or stubborn sheep. The staff was used to protect the sheep from their own tendencies to go astray and to prevent them from harming themselves. It was common for sheep to be rescued from danger by the aid of the shepherd’s staff.
The staff was an important instrument for counting and separating the sheep from the goats. As the shepherd led the sheep, he would use his staff to make the sheep lie down to rest and then to rise up and move again. For the shepherd, the staff could be stuck in the ground for a place to hang his coat for a little shade from the hot sun. Therefore the shepherd’s staff was a necessary instrument for both himself and his flock.
The shepherd’s staff refers to the word of God. It is through the Scriptures that the shepherd of the sheep tends and cares for his flock. Through the word of God the sheep are fed right things. Through the word of God the sheep receive proper guidance in life. Through the word of God, the sheep and the goats are separated and made manifest. Through the word of God the sheep are warned of surrounding threats. Through the word of God the sheep are prevented from harming themselves. Through the word of God the sheep receive correction when they stray. Through the word of God the sheep are rescued from danger. Through the word of God the sheep are brought to rest in times of weariness, fear, and distress. Through the word of God the sheep are encouraged to rise up in the Lord. Through the word of God, the shepherd himself finds strength and support in times of weariness and fatigue. We need our Shepherd’s staff.
The Lord is our Shepherd. He is the true Shepherd of the sheep. By His appointment, duly called and ordained pastors are Christ’s delegated under-shepherds over our lives. Under the anointed covering of their office and their faithful leadership we can experience all of the blessings of our Great Shepherd’s care. Who are God’s under-shepherds? We will know a true shepherd because of their fruits, because they have a shepherd’s heart, and because the Great Shepherd’s staff is present and properly wielded in their hand.
Application: We are usually the last to admit that we are vulnerable creatures. We are so prone to believe that we know the best path for our own lives and can handle any circumstance. But like sheep, we go astray, each of us according to our own way. It doesn’t take long before we realize what a mess we can make of our lives. We need the guidance and protection of our Great Shepherd. We must submit ourselves under His care. We desperately need the daily comfort, guidance, encouragement, and correction that come through His word. Stay close to His staff for it is a sure sign that our Shepherd is near.
Prayer: “Heavenly Father, I want to thank You for the Great Shepherd of the sheep, the Lord Jesus Christ. I place my life under the authority of My Shepherd’s staff, the word of God. I also submit my life under the oversight of those in whose hand You have assigned Your staff. I understand that under Your staff I will find everything that I need as a sheep in Your flock. Thank You for this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”