Football season is in full swing. For many, its the most wonderful time of the year. I remember when my son started playing tackle football. One of the key components of practice was The Oklahoma Drill. Football fans and former players alike know the Oklahoma Drill as a measurement of strength on strength. Two players are lined up across from each other like gladiators and compete against each other. The drill reinforces the fundamentals of the game of football. Blocking and tackling. As the television analysts like to say, “the game is won or lost in the trenches.”
Old Testament shepherds were also concerned with the basic fundamentals of caring for the sheep. Psalm 23:4 reminds us that “Your and and your staff protect and comfort me.” Shepherds were equipped with these two devices. The rod was a short stick that may have resembled a billy club. Legend has it that young shepherds had to cut a sapling and then carve their own rod, making it a custom piece that fit his hand. The rod could be used to club an animal that threatened the sheep. It could also be thrown with deadly accuracy. The purpose of the rod was for protection.
The other piece of equipment was the staff. We have envisioned the staff as a long stick with a crook at the top. The staff was used by the shepherd to guide the sheep and keep them on the proper course. The purpose of the staff, therefore, was to provide guidance.
Looking at Psalm 23:4 as a unit of thought, we learn that God’s presence, protection and guidance all go together. The protection and guidance of God is based on relationship more that responsibility. Meaning, the closer we draw to God, the more we experience his presence. And the God who is present in our lives is armed and equipped to guide us brings comfort to our souls in the midst of all fears.