A couple years ago, I went to Antigua - folks often say An-teeg-wah, though I learned upon being there a week, it is An-teeg-uh. It seemed to take forever to travel from the West coast of the U.S., but getting to waterski on the Caribbean Sea, it was all worth it. So cool! (pictured below) and even more so was the culminating event! (pictured above) I remember walking out on the sand that night looking at the long table prepared for a large group of us, thinking . . . ‘is this what Heaven will look like?’ Look at the sun’s rays shooting around the striking clouds above the water1. Only God.
In Psalm 23, David has made a turn from being the much-cared-for-sheep of the shepherd, to the guest of a grand host. David now says, ‘Thou preparest a table before me’ . . . is this what he was talking about, from Psalm 23 verse five--this beautiful, long banquet table with golden chairs, rays of sunshine in the background? Hmmm.
Here’s the verse in full:
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
While David has turned from being the sheep cared for by the Shepherd, we do well to take note that he has still not left the dark valley. And in that setting, his Shepherd, who promises to be with him, sets a table for him.
We have two scenes we hold in tension here - (1) our Savior, our Shepherd who invites us to an intimate setting with him . . . an invitation to relationship with him. O how I love that! With him, we are never a face in the crowd; rather, we are always sought out, sought after on a one-on-one basis.
And then there is a forward-looking glance when we are invited to the table our Lord has prepared for us in Heaven (2). What a day that will be! I shall never forget the feeling of being in the Upper Room in Jerusalem where Jesus ate his last meal with his disciples on the same night when he had told them he would be leaving them … leaving them to go before them to prepare a place for them . . . a place to be with him, a place of forever. John 14.2-4 O yes indeed, he will welcome us to himself at a dinner forever.
Either way, it is ours to respond to the invitation - table for two, ours to r.s.v.p. for a relationship with our Shepherd now - on a day-to-day basis.
Table for many, when we will get to dine with him at the table he has prepared for us, and that forever. I mean, that picture from Antigua . . . could it look any more like Paradise? I think not! Yet, whatever our Shepherd has prepared for us will exceed even such a table.
Funny thing though, and don’t miss this important point in the psalm: our Shepherd prepares for us a table in the ‘presence of our enemies’. As long as we live, ‘enemies’ will always be hanging around. It is ours to give them a seat at our table, or not. Enemies? Oh yes. We remember that the sheep were passing through the valley of the shadow of death, right? We have not yet left that place . . . and though the Shepherd reminds us of the choice we can make for our future, even still he invites us to a present relationship with him, though our enemies may be round about.
‘Enemies - what in the world?’ you query.
Perhaps your enemies are those physical things/temptations that might take you down.
Perhaps your enemies are the lies that you believe in your own mind . . .
-I’m not good enough
-I will never measure up
- I’m not pretty or smart enough
Or in this crazy season in which we find ourselves, Covid-19/civil unrest, you say to yourself,
-I don’t know if I’m going to make it through . . .
-Nothing will ever be the same and I’m not sure I can deal with that!
[I confess that this thought nags at me a bit as I’m not so different than you]
And yet - though enemies might surround - our Lord invites us in to dine with him,
and anoints our heads with oil. Crazy thought that last, but simply needing context. The guest of the ancient Middle Eastern host would have been anointed with precious oil, indicating his sweet value.
So our Lord does not just invite us, but he sets a table for us - though enemies may lurk about, trying to take a seat at our table - and in front of all, he anoints our heads, he honors us by the eastern custom of anointing with precious oils.
Thank you, Lord of hosts, for setting a table of plenty for us,
for honoring us uniquely,
and welcoming us to your table,
making a home for us forever. Amen.
* - My husband's company award trip. Incredible.