"Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me."

David never loses sight of the Shepherd all through his wonderful song. Comfort here stands for protection, peace, preservation, strength, and assurance in the hard places of life. If we were left to our own strength and wisdom we would be overcome and destroyed. There is no place of safety except in the Shepherd's care.

By means of His rod He beats back the evil powers which threaten us. Mighty wonders on land and sea have been accomplished by the rod of God. Our Saviour-Shepherd may select a very ordinary instrument to serve as His rod, but it will serve both Him and us well. His own power passes into this common instrument, just as the "rod" of Moses became the might of God. It became a devouring serpent and swallowed up the rods of the magicians. This same stick from the desert became the instrument in the hand of Moses by which God rolled back the waters of the Red Sea and delivered Israel. By this rod streams of water flowed in the desert.

The rod of our Shepherd prevails in every battle. The rod is an instrument of sovereignty. Our Sovereign-Shepherd rules over all. In our day when men's hearts are failing them for fear of those things which are coming upon the earth, the saints of God can rest in confidence that their Shepherd-King is overruling the governments of this world, and can be assured that the kingdoms of this world shall soon become the kingdoms of their Lord and Master.

The rod stands for correction, but even the chastening of our Shepherd is not void of comfort. Saints have learned that succeeding each correction from the Shepherd's rod, fresh and sweet revelations of His love and grace speedily follow. Someone has said, "I was almost glad to receive the whippings which my father gave us, just to receive and enjoy the special caresses and expressions of deep love which always followed."

Chastening assures us that we are yet the subjects of our Shepherd's love. "For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth." Heb. 12:6. Chastisement does not always indicate that the sheep of God are wayward. We are told that this word actually means "Child-training." Even our sinless Saviour was put to grief, and "learned obedience by the things which He suffered."

"Now chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." Heb. 12:11. In view of the afterward the sheep of God can even "joy in tribulation."

Unlike the complaining woman who said, "When I feel the best, I feel the worst, knowing how bad I'll feel when I feel bad again," we should say, "We feel the best when we feel the worst, knowing how good we shall feel when the chastisement has ended."

Some of us who belonged to the order of better days (days wherein parents ruled their children rather than being ruled by them) learned a valuable lesson concerning chastisement. Instead of drawing back we discovered that if we would draw close up to the correcting parent the licks would not be nearly so hard.

"As many as I love I rebuke and chasten." Rev. 3:19.

The shepherd's staff is used to count the sheep at the close of the day when they pass through the door of the sheep fold. He who counteth the hosts of heaven, and calleth them all by their names, counteth His blood-bought sheep, and numbereth even the hairs of their heads. No loving mother ever cared for her child with the love and deep concern which our Shepherd knows. He forgets not the minutest interests of those who love Him.

The staff is used by the shepherd to rescue the sheep which is caught in thorns, or has slipped and fallen to some hazardous point at the verge of a yawning chasm.

You, dear saint of God, may be caught in some tormenting thistle where all hope appears to be in vain. Despair not, for thy Shepherd knoweth thy sad plight and will come to your rescue on schedule. He is never late for those who trust in His care. Some sad disaster may have struck, or through no fault of your own you may be suspended over some dreadful precipice without a beam of hope in sight. Despair not, for the Shepherd's long and loving reach shall rescue you in time. His staff may not appear in the manner we think, but it is His nevertheless. It may be a song, a sermon, a kind word, a prayer, a promise from the precious Book, or some unexpected act of providence, but it is our Shepherd's staff.

The staff also stands for support, or something to lean upon in the time of weariness. Our loving Shepherd shares His staff with us and supports us in times of sorrow or trial. This staff may well stand for the unfailing precious promises of the Bible. What a staff to lean upon! Men's promises may fail, but the promises of our Lord can never fail. His Word is a rock which will never quake. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but His Word never. This is our staff now, shall be our staff in the darkest night, shall be our comforting support at eternity's border, and shall be our stay in the ages yet to come. How great is this staff! Let us make much of it: read it, meditate upon it, believe it with simple faith, practice it in our daily lives, then rest upon it when earth and all that is mortal is receding. "Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me."

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