Saturday, October 23, 2021

Psalm 23 - Part 5 - A Table in the Presence of My Enemies

 Often, I don't sleep very well.  I have a hard time getting to sleep, and I regularly wake up in the middle of the night and then have a hard time getting back to sleep.  One of the things I've found recently that helps me get back to sleep is to meditate on different excerpts from the Bible.  I've been rather fixated on the 23rd Psalm for a while (and my success rate of falling asleep after thinking about it has been pretty good), so I thought I'd do a series of posts on my thoughts on it.  This is part 5 of my 'meditations' on Psalm 23.  

You Prepare a Table for me....

Have you ever tried to eat when you were anxious?  Until I was married I didn't really draw an association between how I felt when I was eating and indigestion I felt afterwards.  However both my wife and my daughter have more sensitive stomachs than I, and it is definitely 'a thing' with them.  They both need to be emotionally relaxed when they eat and have 30 minutes or so of downtime after they eat.  If that doesn't happen, the meal doesn't sit well - at all.  I was honestly skeptical of this when I first married my wife, but after living with her for almost 30 years I've had enough proof to convince me that some people need to eat in a calm, relaxed environment.

Food and table preparation in Biblical times was generally the work of a subservient person.  Here's is a picture of God, the Good Shepherd, as our servant king.  He prepares a table and a meal for us!  What does the table God prepares for me look like, I wonder?

What does God's prepared table look like?

...In the Presences of My Enemies

Who is my enemy?  My original perspective was that the 'enemy' in this verse was the 'enemy of our souls' and his minions.  John 10:10  1 Peter 5:8  With that perspective, this phrase just feels like a bit of an 'in your face, devil' statement to me.  God can not only protect me, but prepare a table for me - which is much more than just feed me.  I don't have to eat on the run - its not a take-out dinner.  I can sit down to a real meal.  

Some interesting examples of 'eating in the presence of my enemies' from the Bible:

  • David ate at Saul's table.  Saul wasn't exactly best friends with David.  On multiple occasions Saul tried to kill David.  One could definitely consider Saul as one of David's enemies.  
  • David living (and eating) among the Philistines in Ziklag for over a year, running from Saul.  They were definitely enemies of Israel at the time - one of the reasons David thought it would be safe to hide from Saul there.
  • Even the Last Supper with Jesus and his disciples in Jerusalem could be looked at this way.  Judas was at that table, and Jerusalem was full of Jesus' enemies.

When I consider all of these situations, it reminds me of the words to Surrounded - a song we play at church sometimes:  It might look like I'm surrounded, but I'm surrounded by You.  2 Kings 6:15-16

David just finished reminding himself that God is present, even in the valley of shadow of death.  And here we find his enemies 'present' as well.  I should not be surprised when I face trouble.

Asking myself again...  Who is my enemy?  Everyone probably has a different answer to this question - something I didn't actually consider until I discussed this passage with my wife.  What if I have a personal enemy, at school or at work?  What if there is someone in my life that I have a vehement disagreement with?  God tells me to love my enemies...  Does that mean I should be sharing my place at this table God is preparing for me with them?  Jesus seems to strongly suggest this!  

Pronouns in Psalm 23

I find it interesting that halfway through this Psalm, the pronoun used for referring to God as a Shepherd changes from 'He' to 'You'.  As soon David starts referring to death, fear, and enemies, David's relationship to the Shepherd seems to change.  I find it comforting to know that:

  • God wants me to know that He's closer, more available to me when I find myself in dire straights
  • David wanted God to be closer to him when he was in life-threatening situations (as would I)

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