Psalms 23 (pt. 8)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psa. 23).

Today, as we continue our study of Psalms 23, we will look at, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows ….” Many people continue the analogy of the shepherd, believing that “You prepare a table before me” refers to a shepherd feeding his flock. According to the metaphor, the table is a trough of some kind with feed being generously spread out in it. The “enemies” are the predators who have to watch idly as the all-powerful shepherd, whom they are afraid of, protects his sheep. The anointing of its head with oil refers to the treatment of wounds, and its “cup overflows” because of the abundance of water available for the thirsty sheep.

While I have no problem with the aforementioned, I prefer to think there is a transition from the shepherd analogy to one of an actual banquet. The phrase “prepare a table before me” is also used found elsewhere in the Old Testament. In Psa. 78:18-19, the author refers to Israel questioning whether God could provide for them after the “Great Escape” from Egypt – “They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?”  They wanted to know if God could provide for their daily nutritional needs. In Psalms 23, the table is not only prepared but also done so in the presence of his enemies. The inclusion of “in the presence of my enemies” means the Lord provides not only nutrition but also everything David needs to be victorious over his enemies. Heb. 13:6, “So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man [or evil] do to me?

As I studied the meaning of “anoint,” I realized there are many interpretations. One scholar believes it refers to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us. Another thinks it refers to the blessings of God, while yet another believes it is the weapons needed to conquer our enemies. I am going to return to the analogy of the sheep for a second. The animals could be tormented by flies who lay eggs in their nostrils, and their eyes and ears could also be the target of annoying insects. To prevent this, the shepherd would pour oil over the head of the sheep to act as a barrier against the attacks of the insects. When David spoke of the anointing, he may well have meant that God provides us with the tools to resist or overcome the attacks of our enemies.  2 Cor. 1:20-21, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us….”

Lastly, “my cup overflows” refers to the abundance of our portion. I discovered an interesting fact that points directly to this Psalm while studying this Psalm. When entertaining, the host would purposely overfill the guest’s cup as a sign that they were invited to stay as long as they wanted. That is a beautiful thought when we think of Psalm 23. Not only does God provide for our every need in abundance – He also wants us to know we are welcome to stay as long as we like.  When we are baptized into Christ, we have more than we will ever need and can never overstay our welcome. I want to end with two scriptures that perfectly illustrate all I have said today. Matt. 6:26, 30, Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?… But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you….”  Heb. 13:5b, “He will never leave us, “…for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

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