Psalm 23:4b -- . . . thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
The rod and the staff are the same instrument used by the shepherd. The rod is the straight part of the instrument with which the shepherd turns back the enemies of the sheep, such as the wolf and the lion. There are many enemies of God's people, and with the word of God they are pushed away by our dependence upon his holy word and the instruction that it gives us when we spend much time in it. Psalm 1:2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. In this meditation we find much rest and security as if God were with his Shepherd's rod turning us away from the enemies of truth.
I remember that, when I was a teenager, I listened so several radio preachers. One of them was Herbert W. Armstrong. He said to me from the radio one day that there is no such thing mentioned in the Bible as eternal damnation. As I listened, I continued to read God's word daily. Then one day I read this in my Bible, Matt 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. After I read this, I turned off the radio and did not listen to Herbert W. Armstrong any more. The word of God settled it for me. The word of God was God's rod to turn back the enemy of God's word. Praise the Lord!
The rod is also used to count the sheep. To "pass under the rod" meant that the sheep was counted as the shepherd's own property. Ezekiel 20:37 And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant: It certainly is wonderful to know that God knows his own. 2 Tim. 2:19 . . . The Lord knoweth them that are his . . . . He marked us out in eternity past, chose us before the world's foundation, and brought us to himself through faith in his gospel. With his rod, he marked us out as his own property, and nothing can change that, because he is the one who has done it.
The staff is the crooked part of the instrument that the shepherd used. The shepherd mainly used the staff to pull sheep back to himself away from a dangerous situation or to guide a sheep by pulling him from side to side with the hook.
God leads his dear children along, the song says. "Some through the water, some through the flood, some through the fire, but all through the blood; some through great sorrow, but God gives a song; in the night seasons and all the day long." His staff, then, comforts us as he gently guides us through the valley of the shadow of death, beside the still waters, and in the paths of righteousness.
The rod and staff does two opposing things: it will turn us away from danger and from error, push us out into the world to be a witness, or it will tenderly bring us to the Savior for his leadership and comfort. I am thankful for God's rod and staff. They comfort me. Do they comfort you?