Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
Historically, the ‘rod and the staff’ portion of Psalm 23 has been addressed apart from the rest of the verse it sits in. While it is both instructive and comforting to know that Jesus rod/staff will guide me and protect throughout my life, how does that apply to the context of walking through the valley of the shadow of death? Here’s the whole context.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
In Israel there’s an ancient trail one must walk to travel up to Jerusalem. It is steep and the traveler must climb way above the deep precipice the Jews call “The valley of the shadow of death.” It is believed that David imagined this journey while writing Psalm 23. When pilgrims walked this skinny dirt trail, it was easy to slip and fall over the side into the deep canyon. Added to this danger were the thieves who hid behind huge boulders on the mountainside. Attacks and the physical struggles that followed certainly resulted in someone’s death.
This stretch of their journey was the most dreaded as God’s people traveled to the Holy City. The Psalms of ascent reveal that, for strength and encouragement, they sang songs of Zion and recited God’s promises. This helped them deal with the fear and uncertainty. They lived for the joy that awaited them when they would enter Jerusalem.
With that as the backdrop, I can know that on the most difficult part of my journey home to heaven, Jesus will shepherd me through this treacherous valley. The wiles of the devil don’t diminish at the end of life. Far from it. Satan preys on fear. He thrives on oppressing the weak. Never will Jesus’ presence, and His rod and staff, be more needed.
He promises to guide and protect me, never leaving me for a moment. He knows the way; His Father walked him through that valley after His own death.
He will not let your foot slip; he who watches over you will not slumber. Psalm 121:3
Shepherd in life, Shepherd in death. My life is continually under your perfect care. Amen