The Bible – A Staff

by A. R. Wright

The word “staff”, in the biblical sense, is not used much nowadays. We are more familiar with the walking stick or cane. There are many references to the “staff” in the Bible, however. Jacob set out from the old home with his staff in his hand; David went to meet Goliath with his sling and his staff; the disciples were sent forth on their missionary journey with only a staff in their hand. As we set out on the journey of life, with all its dangers and perils, it is all important that we take with us the most wonderful staff of all- the Bible.

The Bible is:

A Staff For All

When we think of a staff, we usually think of the elderly. In Zechariah we have the beautiful picture of the aged leaning on their staves[1] watching the children playing at their games. And today some of you boys and girls doubtless have seen a Grandpa’s or Grandma’s cane. Staves are mainly for the old. Children have little real use for them.

How different it is with the staff of the Bible! It is for the aged. It is very precious to Grandma and Grandpa. But it is for the young also. David, as a young lad, needed his shepherd’s staff, and you young people need the staff of the Bible if you are going to journey safely through life. You cannot take it with you too soon.

A Staff For Use

Some staves are more for ornamental use. Their owners take them with them just for the sake of appearance. I expect you have sometimes seen a well-dressed young man walking jauntily along, whirling a beautiful walking stick in his hand.[2] The stick is of no real use to him. It is merely for show.

And it is, alas, sadly possible to treat the Bible in this way. It is possible for young people to carry it with them on the Sabbath just for the sake of appearance. It is possible for them to have it in the home nearly as a kind of ornament. I am persuaded of better things though for you young people. I trust that you will all learn to use and to love the Bible in the days of your youth. It is important that you take good care of this staff, but this does not mean that you are to keep it in a glass case. The well-thumbed Bible tells its own story, a story of something put to its proper use. You remember, in “The Killing Times”[3], young Andrew Hislop confronted his murderers with the Bible in his hand. Needless to say, it was not there for show. Even in the moment of death he was using it.

 A Staff For Protection

In biblical times, the staff was used for protection. People carried it as a means of defense against animal and human attack. David, the shepherd lad, had his rod and his staff, and these were a great comfort to him as he kept his father’s flocks on the lonely hills of Bethlehem. They were his protection against the lion, and bear, and human robber. And today there are times when we are glad to have a stick in our hands. When you have to bring in the cows, or when you have to go to a house where they keep a rather fierce dog, it is a comfort to have a good stout Blackthorn.[4]

And the Bible is a great protection against evil. There have been times when it has protected from physical harm. Dr. Newton, in one of his books, tells how a family were saved from being murdered through the influence of a Bible. The robber, bent on murder, was actually hidden in the room where the family were assembled. Before retiring they brought out the Bible, read the 71st Psalm, and prayed. The words of the song had a wonderful effect on the robber and restrained him from a foul crime. He put away his weapon and later took the Bible with him! Later on, it made him wise unto salvation, and then the family learned of their great Deliverance.

And how often the Bible protects from spiritual harm! It is the staff with which we can overcome the devil as he goes about like the roaring lion- the staff which the Savior himself used to such good effect in the wilderness. Every time our Lord said “It is written”, he gave the devil a sound blow with the Bible staff, and at length he drove his foe from the field.

A staff For Correction

The shepherd often uses his staff for correcting the wandering sheep. The father occasionally uses the rod for correcting the disobedient child. The school teacher at times is compelled to use the cane to correct the unruly pupil.[5] And God, the great Shepherd, the great Father, the great Teacher, frequently uses the staff of the Bible for purposes of correction. The Bible is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”[6] As we read it carefully, prayerfully, it reproves and corrects. When we go astray it leads us to see our sin and folly, causes mental pain and distress, and brings us back to the straight path. Have we ever been corrected as we read thoughtfully Exodus 20, Psalm 15, Matthew 5-7, 1 Corinthians 13, Galatians 5, or Ephesians 4? Remember it is not the amount you read which counts, it is what you take in and apply to your own life.

A Staff For Support

One of the most striking pictures that we have in the Bible is that of Jacob, the aged, blessing both the sons of Joseph and worshipping, leading upon the top of his staff. If that staff could have spoken what a tale it would tell! With it in his hand he had left the old home to escape his brother’s anger, and since then it had been his companion. Now in old age it is his comfort and support. And today we can still see the aged saint leaning heavily on his staff. And as we grow older, we should lean more and more upon the Bible, lean upon it for guidance and comfort. This is no broken reed which one day will let us down. It is a stout and trusted staff which will support us through life, and when life draws to a close, Psalm 23:4.

S. D. Gordon, in one of his books, tells of an elderly saint of God who for many years had served her Lord faithfully. She knew the Bible almost by heart and could repeat long passages from memory. By and by, however, her strength began to weaken, and her memory to fail. She seemed to lose, almost wholly, the power to recall what she had stored away. One precious verse remained, nevertheless. She would sit by the big sunny window of the sitting room repeating it over and over.

“I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”

2 Timothy 1:12

At length part of it left her and she would quietly repeat the words, “…that which I have committed unto him.” As she drew towards the end of her earthly pilgrimage, her feebleness increased. Her loved ones would notice her lips moving, and, thinking she might be needing some creature comfort,[7] they would go over and bend down to listen to her request. And time and again they found the old saint repeating to herself over and over again one word, “him”, “him”, “him.” She had lost the whole Bible except for one word. And she really had the whole Bible in that one word. She was worshipping, leaning on the very top of the staff!

[1] Plural of “staff”.

[2] Such jaunty gentlemen are a rare sight in our day!

[3] A record of Covenanter martyrs in the 17th century.

[4] Sometimes called a “shillelagh”, a wooden walking stick or club often made from a knotty blackthorn stick with a large knob at the top.

[5] Another allusion to a past generation!

[6] 2 Timothy 3:16.

[7] That is, something to eat or drink.

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