26 Feb You are Protected!
This week is our final installment in our February series, focusing on how God loves us (so that we can properly love ourselves).
Today we will be covering God’s protection. That is right! God loves us so much that He wants to protect us; He wants us safe: physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually.
When I think of God’s protection, I immediately think about Psalm 91.
It is one of my favorite chapters in the bible, and I recited it verse by verse for comfort when I grieved the loss of my mother. It also a chapter that my mind immediately retreats to when I am enduring heartache or hardship.
There isn’t anything that is not covered by the promises of protection in God’s Word. He has provided a shelter that is ours for the taking—in fact, according to Psalm 91:4, “Under His wings, shall you trust and find refuge.” This is a perfect illustration of our God because most mother animals will protect their young even if it costs them their own life. When trouble comes your way, stay in that place of refuge in God. It is a place of safety from any enemy!
Psalm 61:3 tells us that “[God] has been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.“
In the 23rd Psalm, David tells speaks directly to the Father and tells Him, “For You [God] are with me; Your [God’s] rod and Your [God’s] staff, they comfort me.”
And I would like to stay here, for a bit.
The staff David refers to can have several meanings. In Old Testament times, the staff was often seen with a shepherd and was used for support in walking and to pull sheep back into the group. For Psalm 23, the staff is two different things.
The staff gives rest. Psalm 23 starts right off by equating the Lord with a shepherd. So, we know immediately we are talking about a tool that a shepherd would use. A shepherd might use a staff a because they are leading the sheep on rocky ground, so they would need a staff to help keep you stable. In that sense, it is like a hiking stick. Hiking sticks create balance; they reduce the accumulated stress on the feet, legs, knees, and back by sharing the load more evenly across the body.
For you and I, the staff serves as a symbol that we can find rest when we lean on the Lord. Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden …, and I will give you rest for your souls.” When we lean into Him, He will support us, thus creating balance – like the staff. God is both our shepherd and our staff. He will “give us rest” when we lean on Him.
The staff gives direction. The shepherd used the large curve at the top of the staff to support the sheep as they crossed rocky terrains and unstable ground. It was used to pull the sheep back in if they started to wander off from the flock, and it could be used to free them from traps or pull them up when they had fallen.
The picture I want you to see here, is the Lord, our shepherd, supporting us, pulling us back in, and protecting us from danger. He does not just give us the directions to go and do the big, brave, and scary things – He comes along for the ride – so that he can support us along the way.
My pastor, Dr. Mark Ellis, always says, “don’t invite God to fix something that you didn’t invite Him to create.” Every decision, big or small, that we make requires God’s staff. Without it, we will not have His rest, peace, protection, covering, or know if we are going in the correct direction.
In biblical times, a shepherd consistently used both a rod and a staff to tend the flock. The shepherd used both tools to protect the sheep, each in a particular way.
The rod is our protection. The rod was a shorter stick, probably about the thickness of the forearm. It was used to fight off wild animals and to count and direct the sheep. If something were coming against the sheep, the shepherd would use the rod to keep them away, also using it to nudge them during the day in the fields and at night into the sheep pen. In a history forum online, I found that when a rod was thrown, it could spin and hit a mark even if not thrown precisely. In this way, the rod is a symbol of God’s protection.
The rod is a symbol of God’s love. As mentioned earlier, most shepherds used their rods as a means of counting their sheep.
I read in a commentary that In Leviticus 27:32, the priests used a rod to count the tithe. Similarly, shepherds used a rod to count their flock. As the sheep passed the shepherd on their journey, he would reach out the rod, touching each one to keep count. Keeping count was the only way that a shepherd would know if he had “leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one.” God loves us. He is not waiting for us to come to Him. He is willing to go after us, wherever we are. His counting us is His way of showing us that each one of us is precious to Him.
“Thy rod and thy staff comfort me.”
Have you ever wondered how these tools comforted the writer of this verse?
When David uttered these words, he was older and had experienced the love of God many times. He knew the power of these tools because he was a former shepherd. He knew firsthand how both the staff and rod were used in the pasture by a shepherd. He had trusted in them and knew how to use them effectively. Confident in their impact, he spoke of their comfort when God had them in His hand. He knew that if God were his shepherd, that everything would be alright.
Women of Judah, one thing that I can take solace in during this time is knowing that God will never “leave me or forsake me.” I know Him to be a strong tower, a rock, a shelter, and the good shepherd. I know that we all will emerge on the other side of this craziness, better and more remarkable, because He has protected us in the past and will continue to do so in the future with His staff and rod – providing love, protection, guidance, and rest.