The young sheep trudged up the dark valley. The other sheep told him they were going toward a mountain pasture with lush, green grass, but his hooves ached so much that he wanted to stop right there and never move again. Why did the journey have to be so long? It was a nice enough spot right there in the shade of the twisting, valley walls.
The sheep glanced at his Shepherd walking a few yards away. The Shepherd’s staff, a slender pole with a crook at one end, clacked on the stones in rhythm with his strides. In his right hand, he carried his rod, a thick stick with a wooden club on the end.
Perhaps the Shepherd wouldn’t notice if the sheep wandered away from the path to nibble on that green leaf that poked between the rocks. The sheep stepped away from the others and opened his mouth to bite the leaf.
The Shepherd’s rod thunked into the ground in front of the sheep and squished the plant. “Don’t eat that. It isn’t good for you,” The Shepherd told the sheep. The Shepherd nudged the sheep back onto the path with his staff.
For a few minutes, the young sheep stayed on the path. But another flash of green caught his eye. This one was farther off the path, but it looked green and tasty. The sheep wanted to eat it. He wandered away from the others and trotted toward the patch of green.
The rocks shifted beneath him. The sheep cried out as he fell into a crevice in the rocks. The crevice was black like night. The sheep couldn’t see anything but the patch of sky above him.
Something hissed in the darkness. A snake! The sheep froze in fright. He shouldn’t have wandered off the path!
The snake coiled, then struck at him. Before the snake could bite him, the Shepherd’s rod flew through the air. The club end knocked the snake’s head away.
The crook of the Shepherd’s staff hooked around the sheep’s body and hauled him out of the black crevice. The sheep trembled at his close call. He tried to trot away in shame, but the Shepherd’s rod blocked his way. The sheep lowered his head in front of his Shepherd.
The Shepherd knelt and parted the sheep’s wool with His staff. When he’d finished checking the sheep for injuries, he gently nudged the sheep back onto the path. As they started walking once again, the Shepherd leaned his staff against the sheep’s side.
The sheep trotted along, content to walk beside his Shepherd and comforted with the touch of the Shepherd’s staff. He knew he’d be safe as long as his Shepherd carried his rod and his staff.
Questions to think about:
- Read Psalm 23:4 by yourself or with your parents. A shepherd’s rod is the symbol of his strength and authority, while his staff is his means to keep his sheep close to him. How are we comforted by both our heavenly Shepherd’s rod and staff?
- Read Exodus 7:8–13 and Ezekiel 20:37 by yourself or with your parents. What do these passages mean when they use the word rod? Why is that important?