I have a collection of shepherds. Some are from Israel – made out of olive wood. Some are made out of porcelain, others of crystal, and a few are resin-like Fontanini figures. But characteristic of them all is the shepherd’s staff.
Philip Keller makes this comment about the shepherd’s staff: “In a sense,” he says, “The staff, more than any other item of his personal equipment identifies the shepherd as a shepherd. No one in any other profession carries a shepherd’s staff. It is uniquely an instrument used for the care and management of sheep – and only sheep. And it is used only for their benefit.” Well, there is a reference to the shepherd’s staff in the 23rd Psalm. At the end of verse 4 it says, “Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.”
The word for “staff” in the Hebrew language is a word that basically means “a support.” It comes from a root verb that means “to support one’s self; to rely upon; to lean on.”
And in a figurative sense, this word came to have the idea of sustenance. The shepherd’s staff was normally a long and slender stick, often with a crook or hook on the end to give it a versatile function in the care of the sheep. You see, a shepherd would use his staff in many ways for the benefit of his sheep. He would reach out and hook them to draw them close. He would guide them by laying it on their side and applying pressure to turn them. He would use the crook to dislodge them from brambles or pull them back from danger. So the shepherd’s staff speaks of all that is loving, and kind, and thoughtful.
Now the Lord’s Word is His staff. With it He guides us, helps us, and draws us close to Himself. No wonder the staff is a comfort! It’s the symbol of His care and love for the sheep.
Say – Do you know the touch of the Shepherd’s staff? You do, if you’re in the Word every day.