Shepherds used a staff to guide flocks to good grazing land. With the crook of the staff, a lamb was rescued. Always carrying a rod, they were prepared to fight off wild animals, and robbers.
David our psalmist, had used these tools as he cared for his father’s flock. He remembered the many times, he had rescued a lamb from danger, and guided others as they grazed on the hillside. He saw God guiding him in this same way. About to act recklessly or heading off in a foolish way, God had pulled him back from self-destructive choices, and their consequences.
As I think of God as my Shepherd, I think of turning points, when but for the Shepherd’s guidance, I would have lost my way. I remember crossroads, where good was neither clear nor well defined and occasions when health and healing took an unexpected turn . . . alongside moments, of long held beliefs being shattered in my Shepherd’s care.
Psalm 23 paints a picture of our relationship with God. God, who checks us over each day, fights off our enemies and protects us from forces set upon doing us harm. It reminds us of the One who catches us in our straying, then gently nudges us toward healing spaces of still waters and green pastures.
“Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4b
“The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall lack.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me to tranquil streams.
He restores my soul,
guiding me in paths of righteousness
so that his name may be glorified.
Even though I wander
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are at my side,
with your rod and your staff
that comfort me.
You spread a table for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Only goodness and kindness will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever and ever.” Psalm 23, New Catholic Bible