23rd MESSIANIC SYMBOL for the Advent Season: Shepherd’s Staff

DECEMBER 23:  Isaiah 40:11

He tends his flock like a Shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; He gently leads those that have young (NIV)

Sheep were very important to the people where Jesus lived. They were used for food and for sacrifices to worship God at the temple. Their wool made blankets and clothing for the Jewish people. Jesus would have talked to many shepherds, and He would have observed how sheep acted. He knew that sheep are not very good at taking care of themselves. They need a shepherd to help them find food and water and to protect them from wild animals and other dangers. Good shepherds cared for their sheep, even putting their own lives in danger to protect them.

Jesus described Himself as the good shepherd. He said: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). We are the sheep that Jesus loves. He died for us, and He loves and cares for each one of us. He guides us in following God’s paths.

We use a shepherd’s staff to represent a shepherd. Shepherds carry the staff to help them catch any sheep that fall. If a lamb falls off a steep cliff, the shepherd can pull it back to safety. David, the shepherd boy who became the most famous king of Israel, wrote a song about God as his shepherd (Psalm 23). In the song, he said “your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” The shepherd’s staff symbolizes the comfort we can take in knowing that Jesus is our shepherd, protecting us from danger.

Isaiah 40:11 describes a loving, caring shepherd, one who holds the little lambs close to his heart. We are those lambs. Jesus as the shepherd emphasizes the significance of the shepherds visiting the baby Jesus shortly after His birth.

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.
“Fear not!” said he; for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind,
“Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind.
“To you, in David’s town this day,
Is born of David’s line,
The Savior who is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be the sign:
“The heavn’ly Babe you there shall find
To human view displayed,
All meanly wrapped in wathing bands,
And in a manger laid.
“All glory be to God on high,
And to the earth be peace:
Good will henceforth from heav’n to men,
Begin and never cease.”

Nahum Tate (1625-1715)

Thank God for Jesus our Good Shepherd and for the gentle, loving care Jesus provides.

Ask God to use you to faithfully proclaim His kingdom which He, through Jesus, has established to shepherd His people.

Ever be near our side,
Our shepherd and our guide,
Our staff and song;
Jesus, Thou Christ of God,
By Thy enduring Word
Lead us where Thou hast trod,
Make our faith strong.

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-c.215)

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