We are almost finished examining the sheep/shepherd relationship from the eyes of the Shepherd of Israel (King David) and Psalm 23. Understanding this relationship will help us to better understand what Jesus is saying in John 10:27 "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." "Follow Me", two life changing words that will cost you everything. We will dive into those two words later, but first we need to know more about why Jesus compares us to sheep and why He is the "Good Shepherd".
When a shepherd is out in the fields with his flock, he carries very little with him. Today’s shepherds will carry a rifle, a staff and a small knapsack. In the Middle East the shepherd carried only a rod and a staff.
The rod is kinda like a club. The shepherd learns from childhood how to throw it with amazing speed and accuracy. It becomes his main weapon of defense for himself and his sheep. He uses it to drive off predators like coyotes, wolves, cougars or stray dogs. In the brush it is used to beat away snakes.
But it is also used for discipline. If a sheep wanders away or approaches poisonous weeds, or gets too close to some danger, the rod is thrown to send it back to the flock.
The staff, on the other hand, is a long, slender stick, often with a crook or hook on one end. The shepherd will use the staff to guide sheep along a new path or through a gate. He doesn’t beat the sheep. He just nudges them along. At times, the staff may be used to get a sheep out of trouble, to pull it from the water or to free it from thorns.
The rod is the shepherd’s weapon of power, authority, defense, and it is a continuous comfort. Similarly, God’s word can be seen as our rod. It implies authority and it carries with it convicting power and undeniable impact. God’s word protects us. The Bible is an extension of His mind and revealed will for our lives. The Bible clears up confusion and keeps us out of chaos. It also protects us with its comforting encouragement, wise proclamations, and its timeless precepts and principles. The Word of God also acts as a rod of protection by keeping us from sin and danger. The rod of God is His word, and His word is sharper than any two edged sword (Hebrews 4:12).
Sometimes, when a shepherd is caring for his sheep he will stop each sheep with his outstretched rod as the sheep comes into the corral. He opens the fleece with the rod and runs his skillful hands over the sheep’s body; he feels for any sign of trouble; he examines the sheep with care to see that all is well. The shepherd is searching every detail. This process is both comforting and frightening for the sheep. Think about what is meant in Psalms 139:23-24 – “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
No one really likes to be searched or investigated. Being investigated carries the implication that you are hiding something or you have done something wrong. However, if there is nothing to hide, any person should welcome an investigation. Special Ops candidates in the military are thoroughly investigated before they can be approved and move on to the next level. They are serious about their job and their missions. They will do whatever it takes to advance to the next task. They know that a background check and an investigation of their life are crucial to their approval.
As believers in Christ, we must also welcome the Good Shepherd’s investigation of our life. If we are to grow in our relationship with Him (and each other); we must allow God to search every corner, every nook, and every closet of our heart. He reveals every hidden thing so that we would not be hindered or kept from advancing in our life with Him. We must submit and subject ourselves daily to the search and seizure of the Good Shepherd. After all, there is really no way that any of us can ever pull the wool over His eyes.
To those of us who are God’s sheep, the authority, power, might and guidance of the Lord are indeed a comfort. "Your rod and Your staff they comfort me."
The shepherd’s tools are used to guide and correct the path of the sheep— much in the same way God has to oftentimes guide, and occasionally correct, our path. "My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves..." (Proverbs 3:11). The shepherd will also stop a sheep as it enters the fold for the night with an outstretched rod, parting the wool with the rod and often times running his hands through so he can feel for any irregularities.
God’s word is very direct and hides nothing from those seeking the truth.
Next we will talk about the "table He prepares for us before our enemies." I'll give you a hint, it has absolutely nothing to do with food.