Feasting with God #22
A Table in the Presence of My Enemies
Text: Psalm 23:5-6
5You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
This psalm is in our culture today among the most beloved, because of the great comfort it gives. It begins with the personal care and comfort we claim from God, stating, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (23:1). The very sick or the dying have found comfort in the passage, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (23:4). God is present to the one who speaks this psalm, very close and providing comfort and care and guidance, and it moves us to let go of any reliance on ourselves and to yield to God’s caring arms, like a tired child in the arms of his parent.
The verses cited above are no different from the rest of the psalm; they speak of the same great comfort, but there’s something new: our comfort comes “in the presence of my enemies.” It seems as though we mean to gloat: that we’re showing off to our enemies, proving the riches we have and letting them starve or eat dirt. If we take that picture too far, it seems like we’re turning ourselves into the rich man who denied help to poor Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).
This devotional series is called Feasting with God for a reason. We are moved by these passages of Scripture to see the great blessings God provides for us, often spoken of metaphorically as a great banquet or feast. God feeds his people, so that we never go hungry. And the blessings of this food are explained in the passage above: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” The blessings that God feeds us with are goodness and mercy in this life, and dwelling in God’s house in eternal life. We have two sorts of blessings: blessings now, and blessings hereafter. These blessings are so great, and move us to such wonderful appreciation and thanksgiving to God, that we want to show them off, we want to share them.
Perhaps this means we share them with our friends, showing them what great blessings we have, as Peter writes encourages Christians to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15). Notice, they are the ones asking us. So they have to see the evidence of our hope. We hope in the blessings which we receive now, and which we will receive hereafter. That ought to be visible.
But the text speaks specifically of enemies. Christians have plenty of enemies. The whole world is full of sin, and sometimes it is our own sin which is our enemy. Sometimes it is the author of evil, the devil himself, seeking to tear us down. Sometimes it is other people, who see the things we teach and believe that we are close-minded, old-fashioned, bigoted. We can have courage in the face of all these troubles, however, because God provides a table of blessings before us, even before them. Even when these enemies are gnashing their teeth at us the worst, we have God’s blessings. And sometimes that means that those enemies will see our blessings as well. Sometimes those enemies will notice that our spirit is not broken despite their best efforts. Perhaps that will make those enemies lose heart, or perhaps it will cause those enemies to become jealous of our hope and blessings, and perhaps they’ll want to have some of those same blessings.
It’s always a good thing for our blessings to show. No, these blessings aren’t physical things—perhaps we’re blessed with a good job, a happy family, a nice house, fine toys and things—the real blessings that we show, though, are the spiritual blessings we have received: faith in the one true God, in his Son Jesus Christ who died to win us eternal life. Let the joy of that show on our faces. Trust the Holy Spirit to keep us safe and secure in that faith. And notice, it’s not up to us to try really hard to show it off. It’s God who prepares this table before us. Our faith rests fully and securely in him.
Dear Lord, our Good Shepherd, guide us as you have promised in green pastures and beside still waters. Restore our souls and lead us in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake. When we face death or deep darkness, help us to fear no evil, knowing that you are with us, comforting us with your Word. Prepare before us a table of sweet blessings that all our enemies may see. Confirm your election of us by keeping us in faith, making us sure of the goodness and mercy that follow us in this life, and of the hope of our eternal life, dwelling in your house forever. Amen.
Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.