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  • Truth

Two Pictures of Love

Imagine being transported to Israel three millennia ago. You find yourself sitting beside a well on a sunny afternoon, taking a break from a stressful day. A gentle breeze soothes the heat as it touches your skin. The feeling is therapeutic, and you feel your eyelids get heavy every passing second. Just as you are about to succumb to the call of sleep, you hear a distinct sound from the nearby meadow. It is a symphony that testifies to the nomadic lifestyle prevalent in most fields across Israel – the bleating of sheep. You turn your face in that direction, and sure enough, there they are, thirty coats of glowing wool marching together in the beautiful weather. Leading this procession is a man in a tunic, bearing a staff in one hand and a rod in the other. This man, known as the shepherd, seems to be the conductor of this sheep symphony. When he stops to examine a trail on the ground, the sheep stay put, grazing on the lush field around them and making their sound together. They continue waiting until their conductor moves again, in which case, they follow. They seem happy to follow his lead, and soon enough, they all disappear in the distance.

This sight captivates you, and you decide to follow the company and observe them for several days to learn more. At the end of those days, you would realize something that David, one of Israel's finest kings, penned down - that the Rod and Staff of the Lord, His Shepherd, brought him great comfort.

In those days, shepherds were not merely ordinary workers; they embodied a way of life, guiding their flocks through rugged terrain to find nourishing pastures and life-sustaining water sources. The shepherd's role was both practical and symbolic, representing not only the sustenance of the people through sheep but also the deeper spiritual connection between a shepherd and their flock.

A shepherd's Staff is a long stick with one end curled, and the other pointed, while the Rod is generally straight, shorter, but heavier.

The curved end of the Staff was used to pull sheep caught up in rugged terrain – for example, bush thickets.

This is a picture of the Love of Christ - the salvation that the Lord brings to all who follow Him. He is able to deliver them from all of their troubles.

And just like the Staff of the Shepherd is long enough to bring out every sheep from every gully it falls into, there is no problem too great that God cannot deliver His sheep from. No matter how tough, He is mighty to save.

The pointed end of the Staff was for the shepherd to ward away predators that come to cause harm to his sheep. The shepherd was willing to put himself in harm's way so that his sheep might live and thrive. And sometimes, even if it meant putting his own life at risk, the shepherd was willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice so that the sheep might not be destroyed.

This, too, is a picture of the Love of Christ. He demonstrated this same love on the cross, where He was willing to give His life so everyone could live and thrive. This is a love that we have come to know and appreciate.

On the other hand, shepherds used the Rod to prod the sheep along, which was especially helpful to sheep that went a wire or grew defiant.

It was a sure thing that wild beasts lived in those terrains, and any sheep that was left behind easily became prey. The sheep did not understand this, but their conductor did, and he would ensure that the sheep moved on. David was comforted by the truth that every prodding of the Rod was for his benefit, even if he didn't realize it initially. No one enjoys being told off or chided, but every sheep that will not become a casualty must respond positively to the prodding of the Rod.

This is a picture of love that most people don't talk about much - A Love that corrects and points one in the right direction. A sheep left to its way is not loved by its shepherd because love will not keep silent and watch someone go downhill.

The Rod reminds us that 'acceptance' is not the litmus test for love; True love not only accepts but seeks the well-being of an individual and may sometimes mean expressing displeasure or a stern correction.

In His love, Christ, the good shepherd, yearns for all those who are sheep of his pasture and follow Him to be well-nourished, cared for, grow properly, and safely get home to be with Him. As sheep, we might not always comprehend the entirety of His plans to achieve these desires, but we can find comfort in the knowledge that He understands and knows what is best for us. This is enough to follow.



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