The rod in biblical times was a two to four foot club used for defending the sheep from predators and robbers. It was worn in their belt and may resemble a walking stick but was a weapon or tool to provide safety for the flock. The staff was used to hold the sheep during shearing and for gentle correction or re-directing. The hook at the top end of the staff was fit around the neck or head of the sheep to re-route them. At the bottom end of the staff was a spoon-shaped “shovel”. If the sheep wandered a bit from the herd, the shepherd would scoop up a bit of mud or dirt and flick it at the sheep that had drifted to catch its attention; hey the rest of the group is over here, there is safety within the herd. The staff and rod also represented the head of household, the leader and family representative. Numbers 17:1-6
Part of tending and caring for ones animals is providing them with good pasture. Not only for nutritional opportunity, but predator and territory conditions needed to be considered as well. If one of the herd should fall down an embankment, unable to get back onto pasture, the rest of the herd would stand around, looking down at the lost sheep, helpless in its aid. The alert shepherd notices that the sheep are not grazing and have gathered near a hazardous section of the landscape and knows immediately what is needed and comes to the rescue. Another interesting fact about a lost sheep is that it will lie down helplessly, and refuse to budge. It is in need of the shepherds intervention, yet is too stubborn and lost to be able to act on its own or to even realize the danger that it is in. Then, as the day comes to an end, each sheep passes through the shepherds legs so that he can run his hands over them, checking for any ticks, wounds or any other harmful conditions.
With this understanding, I can relate to David’s comfort and trust as expressed in Psalm 23:4. I easily and vividly imagine the Lord in all of the functions of a good shepherd. The care, concern, safety and protection that the sheep experience while under his care. The care and concern of a shepherd not only illustrates God’s love, but serve as examples of the natural care and nurture that we should practice not just at home, but within our fellowship and community as well. His rod for protection from harm, satan and other outward threats and His staff for a physical and spiritual gentle guidance and direction that leads us to His Word and ultimately to Him.
Luke 15:1-7 Jesus describes that a penitent sinner pleases God more than a ceremonially correct Pharisee. He specifies His pleasure and pride, “Rejoice with Me, for I have found My sheep which was lost!” when His own return to Him. There are many of us, who are called His own. The world holds countless “sheep” who are lost and need shepherding. It’s a family effort, gathering as many together as possible. It’s our mandated job in fact, He has commanded that we do this. Mark 16:14-18.
Here is Matthew 28:18-20 for us to consider, probably with repentance: “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 20 Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
So, let’s get out there, with love and in obedience, and put our shepherding skills that we have learned from our Holy Heavenly Father into good use; for the furthering of His kingdom before all opportunity is lost! There are so many out there (like us) who need the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth! I would not be able to bear it; His inability to say, “Well done good and faithful servant.” How about you?