He Lavishly Provides
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5
For me. personally, this verse, in this amazing psalm has always been hard to understand and thoroughly wrap my brain around. Is it just me? Maybe. But let me share some simple insights that have helped me make sense of this verse.
Let’s first remember that most scholars believe that this psalm is two seperate pictures, and NOT one picture all regarding a shepherd and his sheep. In viewing it that way, they explain that “the table in the preence of my enemies”, is a picture of The King, who has received and seated his vassal at a banquet table, that is lavish in every way and fully satisfying. As a guest of the overloard, all his needs are tended to – he is anointed with the customary treatment of an honored guest, his cup never is empty and his enemies observe this honored treatment.
It’s not difficult to see the analogy here. Jesus, our Shepherd, has indeed set a banguet table for us, His sheep, fully loaded with every benefit we could ever need, as we celebrate with our King at the Table of the Lord.
That picture in and of itself is encouraging and comforting. Who wouldn’t be satisfied with a covenant, victory feast set by the Lord, for you? And that may settle your mind and assist your understanding of a table in the presence of your enemies….You can stop reading if you are completely satisfied. But for a long time I was not.
Then I heard a teaching from a shepherd, on Psalm 23, that opened my eyes to Him lavishly providing for me in the presence of my enemies.
You see, in this Shepherd’s psalm, David is recounting a full year in a sheep’s life. You can see the progression:
- at home on the ranch
- then on to green pastures
- beside the still waters
- up through the dark mountain valleys
- to the high table lands of summer
At verse 5, the sheep are in the high grounds now, where the shepherd has previously made several trips to prepare the table land for them. He has laid salt and minerals over the land and pulled up poisonous, white, cammas flowers.The alert shepherd has prepared his land, in full view of the predators, and now the sheep have arrived at the high ground, the mesas, that are now ready, water holes cleaned out, repaired and refreshed.
And did you notice, the high plateaus of sheep ranges are called “mesas” or tables in Spanish and Swahali. Have you heard of Table Mountain, in Cape Town? David’s table was the entire range – the high, summer, mountain range.
It is in these tablelands, lavishly prepared by the Shepherd, that the sheep have settled down to banquet. There are predators, and poisonous plants, as well as storms and gales in this high country, but their table has been set. “Finding this tableland is finding the shepherd’s love”, says Phillip Keller.
You anoint my head with oil.
It is Phillip Keller again, who explains that “Summertime is fly time”.
During those hot summer months in the high country, flies and parasites surge. The nose flies that torment the sheep do so by depositing their eggs on the wet snout of the sheep. When they hatch, they form little worms that find their way into the nasal passages of the sheep’s head. There, they burrow into the flesh and cause swelling and severe irritation. This is so devestating for the sheep, it will literally beat it’s head against a tree, or rub it in the dirt to try and illeviate it. In some cases a sheep will do so even killing itself.
The entire flock is at risk during fly time and the only answer is to take a mixture of oil, tar and sulfur and apply it to the sheep’s nose and head. This requires multiple applications for the health of the sheep and the health of the flock. THIS is “anointing (the sheep’s) head with oil.”
My cup overflows.
It is during the summer, high mountain, tableland times that the sheep are fit, well and their strongest. No other season sees their health any better. But as summer turns to autum and autum to winter, stroms, cold, and blizzards arrive too. The shepherd goes through these storms alongside of his sheep, often warming them as they become chilled or frozen. Ancient shepherd’s used their wineskin with wine to warm them, whereas today’s shepherd may use a mix of brandy and water to warm them up.
During the winter and stormy season, the sheep can confidently declare, “My cup overslows”, because their shepherd has warmed their frozed heart during the long, cold winters. But even during the fall and summer months, with their good health and filled, four-part stomachs, their “cup overflows”. Each sheep is well cared for by their shepherd who has lavishly provided for them.
THAT all makes so much sense to me and helped me to understand what David was trying to convey about the shepherd’s care for his sheep. I hope it helped you too.
Here’s a wrap up summary.
The Lord has prepared for you a banquet of everything you need to make it through the season you are in. He has set in place all you need, for your taking. Staying close to Him in this tableland, will protect you from the wolves and poisonous fruit.
Whatever is bugging you, trying to rob you of your sanity, dignity, and maybe even your life can be overcome by the frequent application of prayer, Holy Spirit anointing, and submission to the Shepherd.
In every season, The Good Shepherd is right beside you extending love, care, provision, and protection. His grace is unlimited and His mercies new every morning. Your cup should never be empty, but rather overflowing- because His goodness to you is overflowing.
Lastly, it is the Shepherd’s desire to have His sheep live on higher grounds, above the mundane. So, if you’re not enjoying the banquet table of His provision daily, perhaps it is because you are not living in the highlands, the table lands.
For in those mesas, is where He lavishly provides.
- NASB Study Bible
- David Guzik, Commentary Psalm 23
- A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Phillip Keller, Zondervan Publishing, 1970, 2007