You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Do you remember the kid’s game, musical chairs? You know, the one where a song plays and the players walk around a circle of chairs and when the music stops, everyone scrambles to sit down. Because there are always fewer chairs than people, not everyone gets a seat and they are “out.”
Life can sometimes feel like a game of musical chairs. It’s as if we’re all moving carefully, our eyes fixed on the things we need until something happens and there is a mad scramble for scarce resources. Part of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak is the fear that there won’t be enough. Another company might get the payroll protection money our company needs. Someone else might get the job that will replace the one we lost. Even small things that we may have taken for granted a few months ago can be hard to come by as the supply chain for staples like toilet paper, eggs, and meat have been disrupted. So, we can be tempted to scramble and hoard, fearful that the music will stop, and we’ll be the one left without a chair.
Here’s the good news that comes to us from Psalm 23 — God has a seat reserved for us at his table where there will be more than enough to go around. There will be no scrambling for a place. Not one of God’s children will be left standing when the banquet meal is served.
So far in our journey through Psalm 23, we’ve seen that Yahweh, the great “I AM” is also our loving Shepherd who gives us everything we need. In the second half of this beloved Psalm, David pictures God as the host of a grand banquet who showers his guests with gracious hospitality. This week, we’ll reflect on the overflowing abundance that God offers to those who come to his table.
Since we’re working on memorizing Psalm 23, let’s read slowly through all six verses. Think about what each phrase means to you. How does Psalm 23 shape your thinking about who God is?
Psalm 23 (NIV)
A psalm of David.
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 darkest valley,
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 your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
In times of uncertainty and crisis, there is no better place to fix our eyes than on God who loves, guides, protects, and provides.
You prepare a table before me… (Psalm 23:5)
Once again, Jesus had drawn a huge crowd of people. According to Mark 6, even though Jesus and his disciples had tried to get away to rest, a crowd followed. When he sees them, Jesus was filled with compassion for them because they were “sheep without a shepherd,” so he sat down and taught them “many things” (Mark 6:34).
As the day came to a close, the disciples become concerned because they were a long way from town and there was nothing for the people to eat. Jesus challenged the disciples to feed the crowd, and when they were unsure as to how, Jesus took five loaves and two fish and multiplied it so that 5000 people were full and satisfied. There was so much food that everyone ate what they wanted and there were twelve baskets left over.
These lost sheep were not only taught by the great Shepherd, they become guests at his feast. Jesus demonstrates the heart of Yahweh and it’s the same as what David describes in Psalm 23 — he is lavish in his care and provision.
In the flow of Psalm 23, we see threat giving way to triumph. In verse 5, the scene changes from dark valleys to a banquet hall where a gracious host provides extravagant hospitality. In the ancient world, and in many places today, only the wealthy could afford to throw a party with abundant food and drink. In the ancient world, Kings would throw banquets for their honored guests.
Every culture has times when people come together to celebrate special occasions, and we love it when the gathering has at least a hint of extravagance. After all, it’s the out-of-the-ordinary touches that mark the occasion as special. In America, we enjoy plates piled high at Thanksgiving dinners, beautifully frosted cakes and cheerful balloons at birthday parties, beautiful decorations and rich desserts at Christmas, and gorgeous dresses, lovely flowers, and scrumptious buffets at wedding receptions. Good hosts honor their guests by laying out their best. Lavish meals in a beautiful setting are a sign of the host’s welcoming generosity and a symbol of the their joy in showing abundant hospitality to their guests.
God’s table is no different. God’s abundance is on full display, and we are welcome to the King’s banquet as those who have been redeemed. In the previous verses, David depicts himself, along with all of us, as helpless sheep unable to care for ourselves. Although our Shepherd is faithful to lead us, we are prone to wander off the right paths. Like those sheep, we are stubborn, easily spooked, and are very likely dirty from our journey through the wilderness. Yet David confidently proclaims that the God has prepared a table for us.
In Christ we have been forgiven and scrubbed free of sin. Because he was moved to compassion for us, we are no longer lost or dirty. The King has brought us into his palace, and celebrates our arrival as a special occasion. The setting is beyond compare and the meal he provides is extravagant and will more than satisfy.
At God’s table there is a place card with your name on it and a seat that no one else will take. So take a deep breath, remember the superabundant, over-the-top generosity of Yahweh, and rest in his love.
Do you ever fear that resources are scarce? How can remembering that God has a table prepared for you help deal with stress and anxiety?
Sit quietly before the Lord and imagine yourself as a guest at his table. What provisions are you grateful for? What do you need? Take all your cares and concerns to him today even as you praise him for his generous hospitality.