In the Presence of the Hateful (Psalm 23:5-6)
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. —Psalm 23:5-6
It has been sweet to bask in the comfort of the 23d psalm these past few weeks. It is here that we are drawn into David’s description of the compassionate care of his Good Shepherd. Jesus cares for David intimately. What child of God would reject this Good Shepherd’s presence? In his presence, we have no wants. We have calm and rest and are led by still waters. So comforting is Jesus’ intimate care for His children that they can declare with confidence, “I have no fear of evil,” while walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
Oh, how we need to rehearse this truth, that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is with us in every situation! Still I struggle with fear. I fear for my family. I fear for my health. I fear for my safety. I fear for my freedoms. I fear for my life. I fear man. The list goes on. Why?
Because I have a functional theology problem. Even though I know the Good Shepherd is with me, I don’t fully believe it. My fear is evidence that I don’t trust that the Shepherd is perfectly good in the midst of my circumstances and situations, and that He is with me. My lack of faith makes me weak and vulnerable to the attack of the enemy. Rather than declaring, “I fear no evil,” I am consumed by it.
Can you relate to this? If so, verse five offers a startling illustration to help us with our unbelief. While those who hate us are watching, the Good Shepherd is setting a table before us. Enemies are not OK when good things happen to those they hate. Here, the Good Shepherd displays the fullness of who He is. As His guest, we receive a rich provision from the very hand of our Lord. If God were not with us, we could not stand in their presence. Because God is with us, our enemies can do us no harm.
Even more amazing, Jesus anoints our head with oil. In Old Testament passages, anointing oil was a consecration to priesthood, kingship, or service. This is a most remarkable anointing.
How fitting a response for we who know our limitations and understand our weaknesses, to declare, “My cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life!"
When we understand that we don't deserve any of His goodness—not one drop of His mercy—and ponder that we "shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever!” it should bring us to the foot of the cross, undone, repentant, eyes on Jesus, and hearts overflowing with gratitude!
This is fear-fighting truth! Fight the fear of man with this truth. Fight the fear of sickness with this truth. Fight fearful circumstances with this truth. Fight the fear of the valley of the shadow of death with this truth.
No matter what comes your way, because the Good Shepherd is with you, your soul is secure.
Are you distracted or even consumed by fear? How might this psalm help you fight unbelief?
Do you have a hard time accepting that the realities of this psalm are yours? Why?
What would it take for you to joyfully and confidently claim verse six for your own?
How can you encourage your family or friends with Psalm 23?