“ . . . You are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
Just as a shepherd uses a staff to touch and comfort his sheep, so the Lord Jesus Christ uses the Holy Spirit to touch and comfort me. Of course, He is also the rod of correction and guidance, but the Greek name for the Spirit is a word that means “to call alongside” – very fitting for what the Holy Spirit does.
These verses remind me of my Shepherd’s care using the Spirit as His staff. . .
The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:26–27)
What a comfort to be reminded of truth that my scattered mind would otherwise forget. And there is nothing like the peace that my Shepherd gives through this Comforter. It is a peace that goes beyond human understanding for it does not depend on circumstances and is a great comfort when all else goes wrong. But this is not all that this ‘Staff’ does.
After Jesus ascended, the Spirit gave Peter a perplexing vision. “And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, ‘Behold, three men are looking for you. Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.’ And Peter went down to the men and said, ‘I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?’” (Acts 10:19–21)
What a comfort to have a ‘translator’ for the puzzling things of life. While He does not explain everything (like what the men wanted), the Spirit gave Peter enough information so he could obey and move forward.
Speaking of obedience, the Comforter also gives orders. In the early church, leaders were gathered together in prayer. “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” (Acts 13:2–3)
In this situation, the Comforter told them what to do, even naming names. In a later situation, He also gave them very specific directions . . .
And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16:6–10)
First the Holy Spirit prevented action, then He urged them to go another way. While I realize this was vital in building the church, the Spirit has not changed. When I don’t know what to do, He comforts me with specific instructions about the action He wants.
Elizabeth Elliot was asked how she organized her day. She said, “Do the next thing; you always know what it is . . .”
The Shepherd’s staff is so like the Holy Spirit. Through Him, God directs each of His sheep. He lays this Staff alongside me and directs me in the best course of action. My part is simple; don’t resist the Staff but let it be my comfort and my guide.