The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths 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 comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
We’ve hit another section of this Psalm where we need to remember who was the author of this Psalm.
David was a Hebrew man living in the Middle East about 3,000 years ago. His world was very different from ours. (OK fine – I can’t speak for you – but it’s a lot different than mine)
If a modern, western person were to hear a phrase like: “make a meal for you with your enemy around, put oil on your head and your cup is overflowing” my guess is that the image may be something like “OK – so I’ll grab a quick bite to eat – GREAT…but now I have to wash my hair, AND my latte spilled out of my travel cup”
Not exactly the original intent.
First, we have something more like a feast – as the phrase “prepares a table” indicates. This is not drinking a cup of soup and running off. This is not eating a protein bar as it gets just the nourishment you need to survive. This is more. Remember “I lack nothing” is how this Psalm started. It’s not just enough, it’s more than enough.
Then there is the oil on the head. This is something that was done at the coronation of a king, but also at festivals and times of celebration. Anointing with oil was also something you did for an honored guest who arrived at your home.
My cup overflows. not just a bit of water to drink. Not even a full cup. but literally more than enough. So much that you can’t even hold it all at one time, and it’s spilling over it’s so much. Holding your water bottle under a raging waterfall kind of ‘full cup.’
However, there is one additional phrase in there that causes some difference in interpretation.
In the presence of my enemies
I’ve heard this discussed many ways. Some seem to view it as an almost spiteful way to eat. Your enemies are right there – and are hungry and tired – and you sit down to binge in front of them! That doesn’t seem in line with how God presents himself throughout scripture. The God of the Bible asks us to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us.
It seems more likely this image is supposed to show God’s protection. Remember, He is the shepherd with the rod and staff. Even though our enemies are there – within sight of us – they can’t hurt us. If God thinks it’s time for us to have a rescue, they can’t stop it. If God decides to spoil us with more than enough, others can’t destroy that. Even though they are close by – they haven’t been eliminated – we still have the feeling of safety to sit down and eat.
What a great image to hang on to when it feels like there are those who consider themselves your enemies, still within striking distance.
What kind of table is God spreading out for you right now?
Even though enemies, evil, sadness, sickness, death…may be right there.
In what tangible, specific ways is the Good Shepherd caring for you?
you give me so much, sometimes I can’t contain it all.
Help me to be generous.
When I have lots
When I have too much.
When I don’t think I have enough.
We pray that you would somehow be preparing tables for the people of Ukraine.
Even though others who act as enemies are in their presence.
Be their rod and their staff.
Help me be mindful and thankful today – and every day – of your protection