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.
This week in Psalm 23:5, the vivid imagery continues but the metaphor shifts away from sheep and a Shepherd to a picture of even greater intimacy. We’re an invited guest at our Lord’s personal table, a table set for two.
From sheep to honored guests
As I think about it, perhaps, this transition suggests a growing relationship with the Lord. We graduate from sheep to honored guests at the King’s table. As we mature, along with more responsibility, we’re given more privilege.
After all we are human beings created in His image. We’re aware, intelligent and empowered by Him to battle with our enemies.
Often we revert
Of course, often we revert to being wayward sheep. Because we’re both selfish and naive, we determine what we want from God without considering what He knows is best for us. Then when He fails to meet our narrow expectations, we’re prone to resume sheep behavior and stray in search of elusive comfort. While we wander, we’re vulnerable to enemy attack. And sadly, we miss the opportunity to be anointed and fully satisfied at His table.
A Better Way
There is another way. We accept our seat at the table He has prepared for us. Leaning on His strength and with the confidence He provides as His anointed agent, we contend with our enemies and even defeat them. As the King’s honored guest we dine with Him. Our cup overflows. We experience fullness and God’s abundant blessings.
Let’s look at this passage in parts.
You prepare a table before me
The Lord is MY host. He prepares a table for Me. I’m a picky eater. I call myself a flexitarian because of my idiosyncrasies when it comes to food. My preferences are whole food, clean, no meat, organic local produce and limited dairy and gluten. On occasion if dairy or gluten is meagerly incorporated it has to be exceptional quality with no preservatives or additives. Oh …and eating from plastic or paper is never my choice. Is your head spinning yet? I know, I’m not a popular guest.
But my Lord knows all that. In fact, He knows my tastes, better than I know my tastes. I can have confidence that the table He has set for me will be prepared especially for me. I can dig in without hesitation. And I’m certain the staff of Downton Abbey could learn a few things from the exquisite tailor-made spread that He has prepared.
In the presence of my enemies
David, the author of this Psalm, loved the Lord which gave him a sense of security. David depended on God to be his protector and guide which built great trust. Now, having lived a full life with the Lord, seated at THE Kings table, in the presence of his enemies, it was as if David could boldly say to his greatest adversaries, I dare you! I’m with the King.
So it is for us when we accept our reserved seat at our Lord’s personal table. It’s as if the Almighty King says to my enemies… I’ve got her back. She’s with me. Better still, I’m not just any guest. My Lord places claim to me as His adopted daughter. He chose me. I’m His heir, co-heir with Jesus Christ. The all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving Lord of the cosmos defends insignificant Me, whom He adores. The way I see it, God Himself is a threat to my enemies… “mess with her, and you mess with me.”
You anoint my head with oil
The Lord commanded the prophet Samuel to anoint David to be king in the place of Saul. 1 Samuel 16:13 “And from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.”
To anoint someone was to set them apart to be gifted by God for their calling. The oil was the outward sign of the inward transforming and empowering work of the Holy Spirit. To be anointed means to receive the blessing of the Lord, the appointment of the Lord, and the joy of the Lord.
2 Corinthians 1:21,22 “God anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come”
One thing is certain…Because our Host does the anointing, we are forever changed.
My cup runs over.
Of course it does. There is nothing stingy about God. He gives generously to all who come to him. He is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)
The word cup refers to portion – literally in Hebrew it means ‘my life’. God makes my life overflow. I experience abundant grace and purpose. My heart spills over with uncontainable joy.
Merging scripture with reality
As is consistent with the rest of this psalm, verse 5 paints a peaceful picture. But, to claim that verse as an accurate representation of my present day reality sometimes feels forced.
My fantasized picture
When I think of being anointed and my cup overflowing the picture I conjure is one with no aches and pains, a flourishing ministry, few responsibilities, a luxurious amount of time and extra money in the bank. The scene includes my attentive husband, also with plenty of time, and two adult children who only make excellent decisions and rise up and call me blessed.
Instead, like is true for many of you, I’m surrounded. Stressful circumstances, pressures, inadequacies, and debilitating fears encircle. Why am I surprised? The enemy is real.
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy….
1 Peter 5:8. … Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
Sometimes, often times, God’s will and God’s way is in the presence of our enemies. God doesn’t offer us an escape from our problems, but rather triumph over them, peace in the midst of them and overflowing joy in spite of them.
How is that possible? To quote Louie Giglio, “Don’t give your enemy a seat at your table.” When you do, you settle for less than what He has for you.
The picture that Glorifies
In the end, I know the picture that would give my Lord the most glory. I’m sitting peacefully in the midst of my enemies and I’m ok. More than ok, my cup runs over. And look carefully…you’ll see His reflection on my face.
Questions to Ponder
- Close your eyes and imagine being a guest at your Lord’s personal table. A table prepared especially for you.
- What enemies would be swarming?
- Think about your anointing. How has God gifted you and for what purpose?
- Write down how your life overflows with God’s abundance.
- Close your eyes again. Imagine yourself seated at the table the Lord prepared for you. With your eyes fixed on Him note how undistracted you are in spite of all that surrounds you. Pay close attention to your contentment and joy. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.