23rd Psalm - The Table
Despite the age of the text, the prophetic and wise nature imbedded in scripture gives it a remarkable ability to remain relevant for use today. Palm 23 has survived a journey of thousands of years to reach us here today to inspire, teach, encourage and help us understand ourselves and God.
For me the 23rd Psalm resounds of promise, a testimony and assurance that one will do something or that a particular thing will happen.
We read in verse 5 -
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Enemies is quite an intense word and at first glance, perhaps fits more appropriately in the ancient world or armies and battles between nations. However by definition – something that harms or weakens – it still very much relevant for us today in that it would relate to anything that would try to take us out, challenge and cripple us and give us a false sense of self.
When you read through the Old Testament, in most instances the people did the actual fighting. God dind’t swoop in and destroy Israel’s enemies on their behalf. Similarly, our enemies are always present for us to face off against but God promises to provide what is needed to navigate and deal with them effectively.
These enemies can take the shape of stress, anger, depression, injustice, prejudice, uncertainty, fear, anxiety, loneliness, self esteem. These can be our modern day enemies or adversaries. Yet using the metaphor of ‘the table’, scripture is full of imagery around how God promises to supply us with what we need to tackle there enemies in our lives.
- Give me today my daily bread (Matt 6:11)
- I am the bread of life (John 6:35)
- Manna from heaven (Exodus 16)
These examples of prayer, people and situations are ways and means in which God can prepare our table, supplying what we need to deal with our ‘demons’ well.
In recognising what God has provided and laid before us, it opens us up and provides space to discover and embrace our true selves, who God made us to be and what we are capable of. This is what the next verse refers to; you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.
This ancient imagery, speaks to knowing who you truly are, realising your calling and purpose in life e.g. David’s calling to be king over Israel.
But rather than achievement, status or position, I suggest calling is better defined as knowing who you are as a person, discovering and living out of our true identity regardless of our professional, cultural, financial, intellctual and gender status. This aspect actually helps bring definition to our purpose.
Consequently, dealing well with our enemies – internal/external - in Christ, brings a sense a security and self assurance that doesn’t drive us to be independent and self defined, but comfortable in who God created us to be, happy and content to remain in the house of our divine creator rather than trying to construct our own.
The last supper is a perfect example of these ideas. Jesus seated at a table, sharing food with his betrayer (i.e. enemy) but in confidence about who he is in God, what he is called to do and the impact this act will have on humanity.