Several years ago when my son Jacob was around five years old we were riding in the car and I asked him to roll up his window. He was quiet, then asked, “Mom, how do I roll a window?” I didn’t understand his question at first, then I realized the phrase I used is out of place in the context of a button controlled window! I explained to him that when I was his age, we “rolled” a crank on the door to raise or lower a window. Some things just don’t make sense out of context!
I’m reminded of his confusion as I am researching the purpose of a rod and staff. Of course, David was very familiar with this tool as he spent many years as a shepherd. Me? Not so much. As with a lot of things, there seems to be some inconclusive information. Some say the “rod” is the curly end of the tool; others say that part is the “staff”. Some explain that it is two different tools, while others claim that it’s opposite ends of the same object. But either way, we can learn a lot about why a sheep would find comfort in the shepherd’s rod and staff.
The tool is used by the shepherd to offer stabilization when walking rough terrain. It is also something he would lean on for moments of rest. This reminds me of Jesus. Time and again, He would turn to God the Father for both stability and rest.
- How might it give you comfort knowing that your Shepherd is rooted by His relationship with the Father?
Shepherds use the rod and staff to corral the sheep, encouraging them to stay close in one location. Yes, this is ironic in this time of physical distancing, but we are made for community! The Good Shepherd wants His flock to stick together.
- How does this thought resonate with you today?
- How might we “stick together” even in the midst of a quarantine?
While they’re cute as can be, sheep are not the wisest animals! They can become so overly focused on eating grass that they can wander right into trouble. Shepherds can scoop a sheep out of bushes or deep water with their rod and staff. This tool is also used to protect sheep from predators.
- What “grass” do you become so overly focused on that you wander from your Shepherd? (Fear, productivity, Netflix?)
- What “tool” does He use to redirect you? (Scripture, trusted friends, prayer?)
This one excites me the most! The shepherd uses the rod and staff to count his sheep. The sheep would be directed to walk under the tool as he accounted for each one. Do you hear that? You count. You are seen. You are valued. The Good Shepherd notices when you are not near Him. Ever wonder how he would realize a flock of one hundred was missing the one that He needed to go find? Because He was constantly counting them.
- During this Coronavirus crisis, the isolation can make us feel forgotten. How does it make you feel to be reminded that your Good Shepherd sees and takes account of you multiple times a day?
I find it incredible just how much we can learn about our Savior from this one line of scripture. It is packed with truth. Jesus loves us. He surrounds us with His Church. He patiently and tenderly rescues us from our mistakes. Our Shepherd offers us protection from the evil around us. His eyes are on us, constantly taking account of where we are and how we are doing. What a remarkable God!
What speaks to you from today’s passage?
Jesus, thank You for Your love for us. I’m grateful for the wisdom found in this imagery. The rod and staff is a symbol of Your unending care and love. Open our hearts to receive this truth and give us the wisdom on how to best share this gift with others who need it today. Amen.