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Would Jesus hit you with a stick? To find the answer, we will need to look at the Twenty-Third Psalm, just this one verse:

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). 1

So, a question: Why is the Lord’s rod and staff comforting? Don’t shepherds use rods to hit animals, sometimes even their sheep? Isn’t He the God who loves us? To find the answer, here is the word I invite the reader to ponder with me in the context of this psalm:

Governance.

This is Merriam-Webster’s definition: “The act or process of governing or overseeing the control and direction of something.” In the case before us, the shepherd governs—controls and directs—his sheep by the enforcement of a set of laws. What laws do these animals need? They are few and simple. Sheep must obey their shepherd. They must follow him and not go after an errant sheep that has wandered away and into potential danger. They must follow the shepherd to find fresh, green pasture. If they remain too long in one place, the herd will eventually destroy the grass in a field because their sharp hooves cut into the plants’ roots. The shepherd uses a rod and a staff to direct his sheep in the way they should go. In all cases, the shepherd is governing and imposing His will to enforce his laws. These laws are for the good of the sheep, to ensure their safety and thriving. That includes using the rod as a weapon to defend against predators that want to kill those in the shepherd’s care.

As with those sheep, so with Christians. Our shepherd governs us so we will keep His laws. What kinds of laws do we need? They are few and simple. Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden is light. We must remain in Him. We must follow and obey Him. We must not wander away from Him, following an errant believer and thus into danger. We must follow when He calls us out of a dying place in which we have lived too long, threatening our spiritual lives.

We, of course, are smarter than sheep. At least, we think we are. However, we are often quite unwise. We do all manner of things that lead to death. We do not follow Jesus. Sometimes we do not obey Him and His laws and wander away, right into the mouth of danger. We will live in the same place too long, thinking we can continue in the same perishing place. Death is not only the end of our lives on earth. It is all around us, in our godless cultures and sometimes in our religious ones. The Lord, who loves and cares for us, will use His rod and staff to help us. He will use His rod to direct us back to His care and hook us with His staff to turn us around. He does this through the power of the Holy Spirit, who will convict us of our sin and tell us the right way to go. However, the imposition of the Shepherd’s governance extends outside the herd, as well. He will use His rod to defend us from threats to our spiritual lives.

So, why does the Shepherd govern us with a rod and staff? For our good. That’s why those implements, though the use of them may make our lives uncomfortable and challenging, are ultimately comforting. The governance of the Shepherd will keep us from evil and death, and we need not fear either of them.

So, would Jesus hit us with a stick? Yes. He will do that to keep us from walking into danger and death. We will thank Him for that when it’s all said and done. So, we do thank You, Jesus, for being our good and loving Shepherd and doing what needs to be done to cause us to walk in Your life.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy Bing images.

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