“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.” Psalm 23:4.
As I grow older, approaching my 60’s, my thoughts turn more and more to my mortality. It is comforting to note that, if one is a Believer, God has promised to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). In Psalm 23 this extends even to when we die as the Lord leads us through the “shadow of death” while comforting us with his rod and staff. The rod and staff were used by a shepherd as instruments of protection and direction for the sheep.
Phillip Keller in “A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23” gives more details on the shepherd’s rod and staff. He states that the rod was a defensive weapon used to both deter and safeguard both the Shepard and his flock against dangers as well as the instrument used to discipline and correct any wayward sheep that insisted on wandering away. It was also used to examine and count the sheep. A sheep that passed “under the rod” was one which had been counted and looked over with great care to make sure all was well with it.
The staff was essentially a symbol of the concern, the compassion that a shepherd had for his charges. Whereas the rod conveyed the concept of authority, of power, of discipline, of defense against danger, the word “staff” speaks of all that is longsuffering and kind. Mr. Keller pointed to two areas of sheep management in which the staff plays a significant role — drawing sheep together into an intimate relationship so they would not end up alone and for guiding sheep and getting them back on the correct path when they strayed.
This passage is a great comfort to let us know that, for Christians, the transfer from death to eternal life is a comforting process due to our Savior leading us along the way and there is no evil to fear as he will protect us along the path. The Lord is indeed our Shepard and Savior.