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 NIV
Blessed is the man you discipline, O LORD, the man you teach from your law; Psalm 94:12 NIV
Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, O LORD, have helped me and comforted me. Psalm 86:17 NIV
Comfort. This is a lovely word. It conjures visions of mashed potatoes slathered with butter, a huge vanilla ice cream cone, a soft, cozy down comforter, an incredibly soft pillow, or the embrace of a loved one when I feel sad or am mourning. What comforts you? Take a moment and picture that thing, person, or experience.
David composed Psalm 23, and he is uniquely qualified to use these beautiful words to describe how God comforts us. David was a shepherd as a boy and as a teenager. Later he was Israel’s anointed king. David describes God as our personal shepherd. In John 10:11 Jesus says, [He is] “the good shepherd.” He goes on to say, “[He] lays down [His] life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15).
David describes walking through the valley of death, not being left there, but walking through it – with his shepherd, his God, by his side. Then he tells us that the shepherd’s tools are a comfort to him – David, the sheep. David tells us the shepherd has a rod and a staff with him. My NIV study Bible says that the rod was used as an instrument of authority, for protection from predators and danger, for counting, guiding and rescuing the sheep. The staff was used for support, and for effectively bringing wandering sheep back into the fold. How are these tools a comfort?
1. The shepherd is WITH the sheep; sheep can’t be left alone; they must be under a shepherd’s care at all times or they can’t find food, protect themselves from danger, or find their way – as they tend to wander. God is WITH me.
2. The rod was used for discipline – to teach wayward sheep to come back, and to protect them – to keep robbers, and wild animals from carrying the sheep off for food. God CORRECTS and PROTECTS me.
3. The staff is there for support, to hold up, to help when the road is rocky, and it is a sign of authority. God SUPPORTS me, and has authority over me – HE is SOVEREIGN and in control.
Comfort. Remember what or what person represents a picture of comfort? Now, picture God as your comforter, as your protector, as your teacher, as your shepherd, as your parent – holding you close, guiding you, correcting you, holding you up, and walking with you. God is all of this and more.