A Shepherd and Generous Host - Psalm 23:5
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.” (23:5 NKJV)
Psalm 23 opens with the image of a shepherd, specifically equating Yahweh to a shepherd. In the Bible and the broader Ancient Near East culture, leaders, kings and gods were called the shepherds of their people. So Psalm 23 speaks of Yahweh as both King and Shepherd.
But in verse 5 David the author switches from the imagery of a Good Shepherd to one of a Generous Host. There is a table that implies a feast of some kind with guests (and enemies) present.
Now in the Yee family household, my wife Kati is the better cook but I’m the more consistent cook. That means most nights I come home and gladly make the meal. I might defrost some chicken, use the sous vide gadget Kati bought me or make a wine-reduction sauce to accompany the meal. Even though I’m not an expert chef, I certainly know the joys and effort that goes into making a meal that is healthy, balanced, creative and enjoyable.
Just pause and consider for a moment that David is saying that God makes and
serves the meal to us! He not only cooks for us but He is the Host who prepares the party to welcome and honor us. Because He “anoints my head with oil,” I know I am a welcomed guest at His table. In a sense He is exalting my stature as He displays His kindness toward me “in the presence of my enemies.” For David, perhaps he had specific enemies in mind that God confronts with this show of kindness. So I am reminded that this is not Pollyanna. Psalm 23 depicts real life where enemies exist even at the table. David himself may have sang this song as Saul hunted him down. This is not just a promise for those who have died and gone to be with the Lord. No, this is a promise for us right now in our current state of troubles. This is God’s provision amidst the dark valleys and enemies we face every day in this life. God doesn't always eradicate the enemies in this life but provides for us as we face them.
For me and you perhaps the enemies are sickness and hopelessness that can plague our world right now. God is displaying His great kindness as our Host, filling our cup so that it “overflows” with good drink befitting a special meal. Jesus comes to mind again. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). In Jesus, we know we have the Bread of life in our lives, we have the provision of the filling of the Spirit each day, and the Father keeps anointing us with His kindness (Lamentations 3:22-23).
I hope you’ll consider Psalm 23 as a Psalm for everyday life. This is a Psalm for
you right now.
Living Out God’s Word
Meditate on Psalm 23 this week. What are you afraid of? Who are your enemies? What would it look like if God filled your cup overflowing? What is God saying to you as you considering His desire to “anoint your head with oil” today?
“Lord Jesus Christ, We are so thankful to you that you have said, ‘Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.’ We are thankful for the ease with which you walked upon this earth, the generosity and kindness you showed to people, the devotion with which you cared for those who were out of the way and in trouble, the extent to which you even loved your enemies and laid down your life for them. We are so thankful to believe that this is a life for us, a life without lack, a life of sufficiency.” Dallas Willard, Life Without Lack (p. xiii).