“You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings” (Psalm 23:5, NLT).
In the fifth verse of the 23rd Psalm, threats are turned into triumphs. Leaving the dismal valley of the shadow of shadows, several transitions are evident. The scene moves from out of doors to indoors. The imagery changes from a sheep in a flock to a guest at a banquet. And the shepherd? He becomes the host of the feast.
There are three words in this verse that I focused on this weekend in worship. The first word was the word TABLE. In Bible times, shepherds would go to new pastures ahead of the flock to do advance preparation work. Before the flock could safely graze, the shepherd would need to eliminate any poisonous weeds that could provide health concerns for the sheep. Some scholars suggest that the shepherd would also survey the pasture for snake holes, and pour oil in and around the holes, making the serpents prisoners in their homes. When all of the safety concerns were settled, the flock would be introduced to its new feeding grounds.
David cited that God prepares a table for his sheep in the presence of enemies. So what does that mean? One obvious take is that God’s love for us is public and demonstrative. His love for his children is not secretive. When I was in high school our principal would often make announcements to the student body discouraging P.D.A.—Public Displays of Affection. God is not like that. He lavishes his love on his children for the entire world to see.
An alternative rendering of this phrase merits mention. The Hebrew word translated “enemies” can also be translated “opposites.” A person who is my enemy is certainly “opposite” of me. But it could also be taken in reference to the word table. If taken this way, David could be suggesting that the table that God provides is opposite to the tables where he formerly sought fulfillment, only to walk away dissatisfied. The loving faithfulness of God led David to “trade tables,” walking away from the tables that left him empty to God’s table that provided meaning and satisfaction.
Either way is not a bad way to think about this phrase.