MM00065 The Shepherd's Rod
Mentoring Manna: The Shepherd’s Rod
© 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 very vulnerable to wild animals. Shepherds were the only defense against these threats. No other kind of animal is quite as vulnerable as a sheep without a shepherd.
In addition to a staff, well-equipped shepherds carried another instrument called a “rod.” The shepherd’s rod was a strong stick, usually oak, that was larger at the business end. This larger end had nails or other sharp objects protruding from it. It was similar to a club and was a fearsome weapon. It was never used on the sheep but on the enemies of the sheep. It usually hung from a thong on the shepherd’s belt.
The shepherd never used the rod in an offensive way. The shepherd never sought out an encounter with a wolf, bear, or lion but was ready to use his rod to prevent them from gaining access to the flock. With this rod the shepherd could inflict great damage including death on an intruding predator. Since David spoke of the rod and staff in Psalm 23, he probably used his shepherd’s rod to slay a lion and a bear as recorded in 1 Samuel 17:34-36: “But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and STRUCK IT, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and STRUCK and killed it.’” When the battle got up close and personal, the goal of the shepherd was not to simply intimidate the threat, but to eliminate it! Imagine the damage that could be done by a shepherd’s decisive blow with his fearsome rod on the head of the enemy! The sheep were safe when the shepherd wielded his rod in their defense. No wonder David could say that in the valley of the shadow of death, the Lord’s rod and staff comforted him!
The scepters used by kings were most likely ornate depictions of the rod. The shepherd’s rod came to represent authority and power. Moses was a shepherd in Midian before being sent to Pharaoh. It is possible that the “rod” that Moses used to punish the Egyptians, to part the Red Sea, and to bring water from the rock was actually his shepherd’s rod. His rod became known as the “rod of God.” During the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram in the wilderness, the rods of all of the leaders of Israel were placed before the ark of the Lord. Aaron’s rod budded and was placed inside the Ark of the Covenant as a continual reminder of God’s delegated shepherd of His people (Numbers 17:10; Hebrews 9:4). The longer shepherd’s staff would not likely have fit inside the ark. So fearsome was the idea of God’s rod that David said concerning the Lord’s enemies, “You shall break them with a rod of iron.” (Psalm 2:8)
The shepherd’s rod is the word of God. Isaiah 11:4 says, “He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth.” A faithful shepherd will not allow the wolf or the thief to go unchallenged as they carry off sheep after sheep. The rod of God’s word must be used to demolish the heretical doctrines that steal away the faith of genuine believers. The obvious reaction of the wolf, lion, or bear in such cases is to rise up against the shepherd. Like David, the shepherd’s rod also becomes a source of protection for the shepherd himself. While the staff of God’s word is meant to feed, guide, encourage, and protect the sheep, the rod of God’s word is meant to address the enemy. Blessed are those who have a shepherd who wields the rod of the Great Shepherd on their behalf!
Application: We are like vulnerable sheep. From time to time we all pass through the valley of the shadow of death where spiritual predators of darkness seek to ambush and devour our soul. But under the faithful oversight of the Great Shepherd, we need not fear. His rod and staff can bring us great comfort knowing that we are under His keeping power. What we need is to stay close to our Great Shepherd and to have faith in the rod of His word to dismantle and destroy the most aggressive challenges to our faith.
Prayer: “Heavenly Father, I want to thank You for Jesus, my Good Shepherd. I thank You for the rod of Your word that delivers my soul from the mouth of the enemy. Thank You for the faithful under-shepherds in whose hands you have entrusted Your rod for the sake of my protection. May I always be comforted by the presence of Your rod and staff in my life. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”