Part of my morning routine is to pick a verse of scripture and meditate on it before I get out of bed.
I have an app on my phone that I use to help me with this and recently, a verse in the 23rd Psalm was selected in my app and it struck me as interesting.
This is perhaps one of the most familiar scriptures of all passages among believers and non-believers alike. However, I had never considered the uniqueness of the message contained within verse 4,
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
Psalms 23:4 (KJV)
What struck me as odd was that both the rod and staff comforted David in this scripture. I began wondering, what’s the difference between a rod and a staff. A research of scripture regarding a rod suggests that it was used to strike others whether in discipline (“whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them”, Proverbs 13:24) or as a weapon (“you shall break them with a rod of iron”, Psalm 2:9). In contrast, a staff is the tool a shepherd uses to prevent his sheep from wondering away from the flock.
Subsequently, the rod appears to be a tool of nurturing and protection while the staff is a tool of guidance and direction.
So, I got to wondering, how could David have found a rod, an instrument associated with violence — to be comforting? Was he just into that sort of thing? But when I considered it in context, he is travelling through the valley of death — sounds like a pretty frightening place — somewhere I definitely wouldn’t want to be alone.
Have you ever been somewhere and felt you were in the valley of death? When I was a youngster, it was my job to clean the church my father pastored after services each Sunday and Wednesday night. I soon discovered that a church after hours can be a very scary place for a kid. Especially when I ran the vaccuum cleaner — I was petrified someone would sneak up behind me. Each time I started that noisy vaccuum cleaner, I hoped my dad or mom would have a reason to come from the attached parsonage to the church office so I wouldn’t be alone while cleaning the church. I knew I would be safe if they were there.
The realization of having almighty God alongside him with a rod to protect him from any that would do him harm and a staff to help ensure David remained on the appropriate path through the valley was most assuredly a comfort to David as he traversed this dangerous area.
This scripture should resonate with every believer today just as it did with David. God is no less present with us than he was with David and His rod and staff are just as powerful as they were when the psalmist penned the words.
With all the hustle and stress of everyday life, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and alone. However, this examination of a familiar verse provided me with a renewed level of comfort to help me face today with a new perspective – no matter how dark it gets and no matter how desperate our situation may seem, we are not alone.
Encourage – Elevate – Inspire