As you know from the last four weeks, I've been working through the 23rd Psalm. Please enjoy the final part today:Psalm 23 verse 5 and 6: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.
In verses 1-4, we read of the comforting shepherd over his flock. Verses 5 and 6 go into a different setting. Verse 5 tells us about being an honored guest at God's table. We start with a table set in front of our enemies. David had seen numerous wars and threats on his own life. To say that God prepares a table in front of his enemies is to say that God’s care over his own is more powerful that the concern we have about our foes. To say it wasn’t easy for David to stand up for what he believed in is an understatement. In fact, he faced down a king for it. Who are your foes? Who attacks you or tries to destroy your name for your stand as a Christian?
If you aren’t a Christian, maybe this is a concern for you. Have you had trouble with the fact that people might very well make fun of you or reject you because of your faith? Both God the Father and his son Jesus Christ were clear that they will honor those who go through pain because of their faith.
Anointing our heads with oil is another thought along the same theme. This is to say that God treats us as honored guests. It was tradition in Biblical times to anoint a guest's head with sweet smelling oil. This is how much God cares for us! He anoints us and calls us his own.
Just as evil follows us in the valley, so does the good of the Father follow us. Verse 6 does not state that we will not go through tribulations, but it does say that when they come, we can rest assured that God is following along as well with his grace and peace that passes all understanding.
The last phrase of this passage states the inevitable end for all believers of God…to dwell in the house of the Lord forever. It is only fitting for the writer to end on this note. After all the burdens, all the trials. After being counted by the Lord's rod of grace, and being protected by his staff. After all this…we will dwell in his house forever.
Here I am, preaching this message in a hospital. What does Psalm 23 mean to you? What does it mean for any of us who have been in a hospital? What I want you to know more than anything is that God cares. He really, really cares. Not as a being so far removed from your life that you won’t be able to find him, but as the loving shepherd who counts his flock constantly to make sure all of his own are with him and healthy.
Even if you don’t feel pain at the moment; maybe you’re a staff member or you’re here today for routine reasons, I bet you know someone who is in pain. You might know someone who heard this passage at a funeral of a loved one and they might still be in pain over it. Would you share with them soon about our God who cares? Alcohol can delay pain for a time, depression can make a person wallow in pain, but only God moves through pain. Our God can move inside of Darkness. Our opening verses of Genesis speak to us of a God who created light out of utter darkness. Take that with you through your day.
Would you live your life so that others might see God? Would you accept his restoration so that others can see how you react to failure? Would you openly discuss your trials and how God is at work? God does work, and he can work in your unsaved friends and family as well. But to get this peace, to be led personally by our shepherd through the darkness, they must be his sheep. If that makes you want to serve, please pray that God will help you to do so. And if you already share your faith with others, I hope that this study has helped you understand that ridicule and pain are not punishments for you because of your testimony, but rather the continual promise of our God that he will never leave you or forsake you.