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  Bible Question: What does the terms "rod" and "staff" mean in the 23rd Psalm?
Bible Answer: The 23rd Psalm was written by King David. This Psalm is part of a trilogy. Psalm 22 is called a Messianic Psalm. It speaks of Jesus suffering and death (Ps. 22:1). In the 23rd Psalm, Jesus is the Good Shepherd or as David says, "My shepherd" (Ps. 23:1) and in Psalm 24, Jesus is the "King of Glory" (Ps. 24:10). The 22nd Psalm reviews the past, the 23rd is the present and the 24th looks to the future. Now that is the order in which God ministers to us. Jesus died first so that we would have a Savior for our sins. We discover that He is our Savior, Lord, and Good Shepherd, and then some day we will reign with our King of Glory. The 23rd Psalm is special to Christians because it paints a picture of our relationship with Him. If we are not Christians, He is not our shepherd.
  The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (NIV) Psalm 23
     I Shall Not Want. As a boy I had memorized the 23rd Psalm, but I did not pay attention to the words. I did not understand the Psalm because I thought the first verse said that I shall not want Jesus. I thought the phrase "I shall not want" was talking about the shepherd. I did not realize it was talking about me. The Psalm was talking about the Good Shepherd of the sheep meeting my daily needs. The Psalm is a reminder to us that He cares for us - His sheep. The Psalm is a picture of a loving shepherd in the field of life caring for his sheep. Jesus is the Shepherd and we are His sheep.
     Paths of Righteousness. The Psalm says that God cares and provides for us in the field of life (Matt. 6:25-34). He provides for our physical bodies by providing us with food - "pastures" - and water - "quiet waters." He also desires that we are growing in holiness by guiding us along the paths that sheep need to travel - "paths of righteousness" (Heb. 4:14-16). If we as sheep stray from the path of righteousness into sin, He comes after us. What would a shepherd do to a lamb that kept leaving the path and walking away? A good shepherd would break its leg and then splint it so that the lamb would stay with Him and not run off. The shepherd forced it to stay with Him (Heb. 12:4-17). Today, we would call it discipline for sin. The picture is vivid. Leaving the shepherd's side is a serious mistake. Jesus wants us following Him.
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