Jump Start # 2524
Psalms 23:5 “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
The is the champion of all the Psalms. This is the most known of the Psalms. We read it at funerals and we see it printed, cross stitched and listed in so many places. Over verse describes both difficulties and blessings. And, such is life. It is rarely all one or all the other. Life is a mixture of hardships and blessings; good days and bad days; sunshine and darkness.
The verse begins with the Lord preparing a table for us. The setting is a meal. If God is making it we know that it will be wonderful. All that God does is good. It’s hard to imagine what the Lord would put before us on a plate. But it’s not the food that is emphasized here, but the setting. It is a difficult one. The table is in the presence of our enemies. We don’t like that. How can we eat, if our enemy is watching us? All of a sudden, a great meal is ruined. It’s ruined by the atmosphere and the presence of our enemy. We are not told why our enemy is our enemy. Did we do something to turn them against us? Or, as it often is, the enemy hates us because the enemy hates God.
Rather than hiding us from our enemy or keeping our enemy at a far distance, the table is in the presence of the enemy. Could the enemy join us? Would the enemy sit across from us? Most of us would no longer want to eat. Our enemy has caused us to lose our appetite. We can’t enjoy what the Lord has prepared because we must keep an eye on the enemy. At any moment, he might strike us. Danger lurks with the enemy near. Now, we wonder, why would God do this? Why would God put us so close to the enemy. How can we enjoy a meal with the enemy upon us?
It is these kinds of thoughts that make folks ponder about the big picture of things. How can God be for us if He is putting us around the enemy? How can God care for us when there is enemy nearby? Life isn’t always sunshine. Life isn’t always easy, simple and smooth. Dealing with the enemy makes us realize that this certainly isn’t Heaven. It teaches us to trust God. It reminds us to be sharp, watchful and careful. We must be on our toes. Don’t get careless. Don’t take risks and chances. The enemy is around us. We are in the presence of the enemy.
The other part of the verse describes a blessing from God. Anointed with oil, just like a priest or a king would be. Chosen. Special. And, in the context of sheep, how wonderful that would feel. It reflects the care of the shepherd and a longing to make the sheep happy and content. And, it wasn’t just a few drops of oil, but the cup overflows. Overflowing with blessings. Overflowing with generosity. Overflowing with love.
Blessings and challenges—that’s what this verse reveals. We love the blessings and we hate the challenges. But here they are, in the same verse and in the same sentence. Enemy and oil—and what these two together reveal are the major principles of trust and thankfulness. We trust God when we are among the enemy and we are thankful for blessings.
The trust factor keeps us from running. It is God who has placed us before our enemies. God wants us to be there. Possibly God wants our enemies to see something in us. God is giving us an opportunity to let our lights shine and to demonstrate trust in conflicts and trials. These are the times we pray deeply and often. These are the times when we stand upon the principles that we have learned and believed in. Trust God. As Noah did. Trust God as Daniel did. Trust God as the Lord did. No action statement is given here. He does not say, ‘Fight your enemy.’ Nor, does He say, ‘Flee from your enemy.’ Here is a table and God wants us to sit there. That setting may be where you work. You may be the only Christian there. Oh, how you wish to be somewhere else. Toxic, dysfunctional, worldly, ungodly, obscene, offensive and bathroom humor—and you certainly do not fit in. But there you are. Have you considered that possibly God wants you there. In all that darkness, there is you. In all that is wrong, there is you. In all that vain, superficial and selfish talk, there is you. Your table is among the enemy. It may be your family. Related by blood, but that is about all you have in common. Dog eat dog, well describes the drama and tension in many families. Why can’t you be in another family, you think. Could it be that God has you there for a reason. Possibly He wants you there. A table in the presence of our enemies.
The thankful factor is equally important. It’s easy to take blessings for granted. We have so many and as the passage tells us, indeed our cup overflows. God gives us more than enough. God is abundant in kindness towards us. And, for that, we ought to be thankful. We don’t deserve what God has done. Thankful for all that God has done for us. We express thankfulness by saying it, praying it and living it. The thankful person doesn’t complain, he’s thankful. The thankful person isn’t negative, he’s thankful.
It’s hard to keep the balance and to keep both of these principles alive within our hearts. It’s hard to be trusting and thankful. Challenges and enemies scares us. Blessings can spoil us. This is something that we must work upon to keep the right spirit within us.
Trusting and thankful—tables before enemies and oil upon our heads. Days are like that. Life is like that.