The oft-quoted Psalm 23 contains the familiar phrase: “Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me” (verse 4, KJV). We’ve all heard or read this text innumerable times and yet there remains an interesting ring to that verse. The rod and staff bring comfort? These shepherd tools were for the driving of sheep and for poking/prodding them into submission and into the shepherd’s direction. David is convinced, however, that these tools of discipline and pain do actually illustrate something significant for the believer’s comfort. Now into week 4 of my silence, this truth is being underlined.
I am being chastised by God. I am not denying that other things may be in the picture for why I am here today in the middle of a trial; but at the end of it all stands my Father in heaven who, in indescribable wisdom and power, orders and carries out all things for my good and His ultimate glory. I am more than ever aware of the sweet, sweet love of God that flows behind even the most severe of His disciplines. He brings the rod and staff to my body so that I am safe and in His keep. I am being treated as His child! What an unspeakable joy to be called and treated as one of God’s own sons! [See Hebrews 12:3-17 for more details]
This past week as I’ve been reading the great classic on communion with God, “The Life of God in the Soul of Man” by the Scotsman Henry Scougal (1650-1678), I’ve found more reasons to rejoice in the Lord while under His loving discipline:
A person, moulded into this temper [having seen the deep love of Christ], would find pleasure in all the dispensations of Providence: temporal enjoyments would have another relish, when he should taste the divine goodness in them, and consider them as tokens of love, sent by his dearest Lord and Maker: and chastisements, though they be not joyous, but grievous, would hereby lose their sting, the rod as well as the staff would comfort him: he would snatch a kiss from the hand that was smiting him, and gather sweetness from that severity; nay, he would rejoice, that though God did not the will of such a worthless and foolish creature as himself, yet God did his own will, and accomplished His own designs, which are infinitely more holy and wise. The exercises of religion, which to others are insipid and tedious, do yield the highest pleasures and delight to souls possessed with divine love.
The Lord, by means of His discipline, is drawing my heart out to Him. He is driving the world and its joys and comforts into the pale so that I can more clearly see what I’ve received in Jesus Christ. There has been an amazing sweetness to my silence, and it simply comes down to all this. I am finally starting to understand why David took comfort in the chastisements of the Good Shepherd.
On a prophetic note…
The song “Shepherd Me” that I wrote for the Crossway Collective CD ended up being true to this season I am now in:
I never thought I’d pray these things
I’m begging for your discipline
It’s kindness to me, oh yeah