Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4, NIV
How comforting it is to understand that the rod the shepherd used in biblical times was there to fend off all possible predators – not to hurt the sheep.
A lion, wolf or bear or any other predator for that matter had to make its way past the shepherd before it could get its paws on the sheep. In much the same way, our arch enemy, the Devil, has to approach God before he can tempt or harm us. Our Heavenly Father will not allow him to do anything without his permission and then it is only if there is any good to be attained.
Jesus himself said that he had not lost one, bar his betrayer. "While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. (John 17:12)
In addition, the message of wanting us all in the fold is repeated in 2 Peter 3:9: "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
Furthermore, John 10:10 reveals that Jesus came to give us life to the full while the thieving Devil came to kill, steal and destroy. We can draw so much comfort from the picture of the shepherd with his rod and staff, protecting and guiding us. As long as we keep following Jesus, the Shepherd who knows us intimately, and intrinsically knows what is best for us, will be there, taking care of us to the bitter end.
It must be said, sometimes, as humans, we choose to sin. We have not yet been made perfect and have a proclivity to sin. As such, although we have been saved, consequences for sin remain. It is why life on earth is not hunky-dory, and why we do not get a free pass on pain and suffering. But, how grateful we can be that we have a loving, benevolent Shepherd who is always looking out for our best interests.
Prayer: Father God, thank you that your glory is goodness. Thank you for never giving up on us, always watching out for and protecting us, even though we have a tendency to wander off and go astray. You always pull us lovingly back into the fold and are always willing to rescue us from the wolves that pursue us. Amen.