ANOTHER COFFEE BREAK: THE PSALM 23 ADVENTURE, Part 38
May 5, 2017
Back to our discussion on the rod and the staff, here is the complete statement David makes as he describes our walk in the Paths of Righteousness through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou Art With Me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
The staff has traditionally been representative of guidance, but both Hebrew and Greek texts apply the use of the staff to represent support of every kind. Throughout Scripture, we see the use of the staff mentioned 42 times. We see bread represented as “the staff of life.” Bread, therefore, is the sustainer — that which supports life.
In Genesis 38, we have the story of Judah and Tamar. Without getting into all the specifics of that story, in a secret liaison in which Judah is unaware of Tamar’s identity (she is actually his daughter-in-law), Tamar becomes pregnant with twins. She is accused of playing the whore and brought before Judah for judgment.
Judah, on the other hand, has given up his signet ring (the symbol of his authority), his bracelets (the symbol of his wealth) and his staff in order to spend the evening with Tamar. His staff is more than just his support in a natural sense, it is his legal support, and it is representative of the guidance of the Lord in his life.
This story is one that I was given the opportunity to witness firsthand during my journeys back and forth through time in 1996 as directed by the Lord, and accompanied by an angel of the Lord.
When Tamar is brought before Judah for his judgment (by law, she could have been stoned to death had she actually been plying herself and her body for personal gain), Judah is incensed that his daughter-in-law is pregnant, her most recent husband having been dead for some years. He is about to pronounce sentence on Tamar when she presents him with his signet ring, his bracelets and his staff.
Judah has no legal support to pronounce sentence upon Tamar, and realizes that he has failed her in his role as her father-in-law. When Judah’s first two sons had married Tamar in succession and each of them died under the judgment of God because of their mistreatment of Tamar and their in-your-face rebellion against God, Judah had promised his third son to Tamar when he became of age, but feared that the same fate would befall him.
Instead, at the appointed time, Judah married his third son off to someone else, leaving Tamar a grieving widow. There is not time or space to get into the entire story in this discussion, but I have written and documented the entire event as a first-hand witness in a book to be published when the Lord so orchestrates. It is a phenomenal story of the grace and love of the Lord in the most trying circumstances.
What this story illustrates, as far the staff is concerned, is its representation metaphorically for natural support, legal support, and the future guidance of the Lord for events to come in the not-too-distant future.
Sorry, I ought to save this for later, but I can’t resist showing you how this all unfolds.
Tamar gives birth to two sons, Pharez and Zarah. Pharez’ great grandson, Amminidab, is one of the two spies that Joseph sends into Jericho. He is the rescuer of Rahab, and marries her in due time. Rahab becomes great-grandmother to Boaz, who marries Ruth, and becomes the grandfather of Jesse, the father of David, King of Israel, and progenitor of both Joseph and Mary through different strands of the family.
You just can’t make this stuff up! Judah’s staff was integral to all of this unfolding. Now, perhaps, you can see why David could see the staff as something comforting to him as he followed the Lord in the Paths of Righteousness. It was integral to his very existence, and it was integral to his life as a shepherd.
You will also remember that the instruction of the Lord to Israel on Passover night went like this:
Exodus 12:11: And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’S Passover.
Israel was instructed to take the staff with them as they departed Egypt because they were going to need it for both support (when they wearied in the long walk) and for the guidance of the Lord that would go before them as they departed the land.
Now, let’s take a look at the staff from another perspective.
Roy Archer was my grandfather’s cousin, but we all knew him as “Uncle Roy.” Uncle Roy was, in every sense of the word, a shepherd. (We’ve already made the distinction between a sheep rancher or sheep-herder and a shepherd.) In the late 1950’s, my brother and I went with Dad to visit his spread in North Dakota.
Uncle Roy had an old 32-volt wind generator that he had ceased to use, (with an adaptor, it would work for 120 volts) and when he learned that we were living in the arctic without electricity, he offered the generator to Dad. We had to dismantle the tower and generator, of course, and haul it up the Alaska Highway, but that’s another story.
As I’ve said, Uncle Roy was a shepherd. He led his sheep to pasture. He didn’t have a sheep dog to chase them. The sheep followed him wherever he went, and when he stopped or sat down, they began to feed in the green pastures.
There was this one sheep that went with him everywhere he went. In fact, the sheep walked so close to him that it rubbed up against his leg. When he would come in from the fields, Uncle Roy would head into his back porch. I laughed one day when the sheep walked into the porch with him.
“Uncle Roy?” I asked, “what’s with this sheep, anyway? It won’t leave your side, and it goes with you everywhere. It even wants to follow you into the house like a pet.”
He laughed and said, “I have a story to tell you about this sheep.”
“Years ago,” he said, “when this sheep was a little lamb, he was always wandering off from the flock and getting himself into trouble. Every so often, I had to retrieve him from places where he was stuck and couldn’t get out.”
“One day, when I wasn’t paying close attention, he got himself caught in a bush — and it was a good thing! Had the bush not caught him and stopped him, he would have fallen over a ledge and likely killed himself. I had taken a special liking to this lamb and didn’t want him to get killed by his wanderings away from the safety of the flock, so when the lamb was retrieved from the bush, I took my staff and laid it across his front legs.
“I struck his legs just hard enough to crack them so that he could no longer walk. From that moment, I carried him until his legs healed and he could walk again on his own. When he began walking on his own, he wouldn’t leave my side. By my carrying him, he learned that I loved him. He felt my love and heard my heartbeat as I carried him.
“From that time until now, he has always walked by my side. When we walk together to the pastures, the other sheep follow, and he never strays from my side. He sets the example for all the other sheep.”
It was a living example of the staff for me, and it was a living example of how David led his sheep. I clearly saw the picture of “For Thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me” in living color. Roy Archer’s example was a demonstration of the staff of leading, the staff of support, and the staff of correction. It could not have been clearer, and that picture has stayed with me for my whole life.
There is another aspect of the staff that I want to show you. We’ve already mentioned the staff as being a symbol of leading and guidance, but within that framework, the staff is also a picture of the prophetic.
We don’t have time to get into the whole story here, but consider Gideon’s experiences and what he was going through. Israel is under bondage from the Midianites. Gideon has been crying out to the Lord for deliverance and asking God why He doesn’t send a deliverer to Israel. So the Lord sends an angel who goes and sits under a tree next to the winepress where Gideon was threshing wheat. The winepress, of course, was not a normal place to thresh wheat but it was a concealed place from the Midianites.
The angel of the Lord appears to Gideon and announces to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor.” Right! Gideon couldn’t have felt less like a mighty man.
He again complains to the Lord saying, “If the Lord is with us, why then has all of these things happened to us? Where’s all the miracles that took place with Moses and Joshua? Didn’t the Lord deliver us from Egypt? How come He has delivered us into the hand of the Midianites?”
And the angel of the Lord says to him again, “Go in this your might, and you will save Israel out of the hand of the Midianites; haven’t I sent you to do this?”
Gideon considers himself in much the same way that Moses did when the Lord first called him to deliver Israel from Pharaoh and Egypt. “Who am I that I should be the one to do this? We are a poor family, and I’m the least in my father’s house.” And again the angel of the Lord responds, “Surely, I will be with you, and you will smite the Midianites as one man.”
Gideon is really struggling now with all of this and says, “If I have found grace in your sight, then show me a sign that you’ve talked with me (and this is all real)! Stay here. Don’t leave until I come back and bring a present unto you.”
So Gideon goes and roasts a lamb, makes some broth and bakes some cakes. (Wonder how long all of this took?) Next, he brings it out to where the angel of the Lord is sitting under the oak tree and presented his gift. Now the angel instructs him to do something really strange!
“See this rock? Take the meat and the cakes and set them on this rock. Pour the broth out over it.” And Gideon obeys.
Now we are going to see the prophetic implications of the Staff unfold in front of Gideon. Gideon has been told that he is going to be Israel’s deliverer. The odds against his being chosen are astronomical. But the Lord is going to demonstrate the supernatural. He is going to show Gideon in advance just what kind of empowerment he will have to defeat the Midianites and deliver Israel out of their hands.
So the angel of the Lord takes the Staff and touches the soaked me and bread cakes on the rock. Instantly, fire comes out of the rock, consuming the meat and bread cakes. One can only imagine the look on Gideon’s face. His instant reaction is, “Oh my God! I’ve just seen an angel of the Lord, face to face!”
And the Lord speaks to Gideon the same words many of us have heard at times in our lives, “Peace be unto you! Fear not! You’re not going to die.”
Are you seeing, now, how the Staff was used as a prophetic symbol of that which was to come? Think back to David’s experience as he has had the Rod and the Staff with him in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Where did David’s experience with the Lord begin?
“The Lord is MY Shepherd.” And where is this path of the Lord leading David?
“And I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever!”
Were I to continue this picture of the Staff today (and I still have some applications and illustrations we need to consider), this would become a very, very long Coffee Break. That said, let’s pause here and we’ll finish this next week.
I remind those of you in need of ministry that our Healing Prayer Call normally takes place on the first Monday of each month at 7:00 PM Eastern (4:00 PM Pacific). Our call-in number is (712) 775-7035. The Access Code is: 323859#. For Canadians who have difficulty getting in to this number, you can call (559) 546-1400. If someone answers and asks what your original call-in number was, you can give them the 712 number and access code.
At the same time, in case you are missing out on real fellowship in an environment of Ekklesia, our Sunday worship gatherings are available by conference call – usually at about 10:45AM Pacific. That conference number is (712) 770-4160, and the access code is 308640#. We hope to make these gatherings available by Skype or Talk Fusion before long. If you miss the live call, you can dial (712) 770-4169, enter the same access code and listen in later.
Blessings on you!
Regner A. Capener
RIVER WORSHIP CENTER
Temple, Texas 76504
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