Normandy Elementary in Littleton, CO; first grade is normally a pleasant distant memory but one particular day starkly stands out. In first grade Mrs. Butcher spanked me for drawing on the floor during nap time. In case the message of my wrongdoing didn’t get through I was sent to the Principal’s office had to face “the rod”. The principal frequently espoused a “spare the rod you spoil the child” philosophy of discipline and “the rod” he kept in the corner of his office came to know the behinds of too many young children. Step out of line, whack. Break a commandment, smack. Chew gum, thump.
With this in my mind, I was aghast to hear my first grade Sunday school teacher, Mrs. McCandless, shortly thereafter introduce me to the good shepherd in Psalm 23 who carried “thy rod and thy staff”. Furthermore, the seemingly harmless picture of Jesus with his staff scared me to death. God and His wrath was to be feared my 1st grade mind reasoned. God apparently sent his staff carrying Son, the “good” shepherd to keep me in line!
Thankfully, the church I attended portrayed God in a whole different way than the more common understanding of a vindictive God. I began to see that God spent more time saving, restoring and comforting his children than He did correcting them. The wrath of God was real, but so too, was His love. When His children reached a “dead end” on the shores of the Red Sea, Moses lifted God’s rod and the waters separated. When His people faced the Amalekites, Moses raised God’s rod and Israel defeated their enemies. Later, as they wandered the desert in search of water, shade, and nurturing food and drink, Moses used God’s rod to strike a rock.
So yes, God’s rod corrects us, but it also provides deliverance, strength and provision. No matter what, “…your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
What dead end confronts you today? What enemy threatens to overwhelm you? What need leaves your soul parched? Ask the Good Shepherd to lift His rod on your behalf, pull you close with His staff and cradle you in His arms. There’s more reason to trust in the comforting presence of His rod than to fear its wrath.