Psalm 23 is telling us how to live by faith. So now, David says the Lord spreads a feast for him, in the presence of his enemies. We know the Lord is with him in dark valleys. What about when enemies are near?
David still speaks to the Lord personally, ‘You prepare a table for me.’ He needs what the Lord can do when it comes to enemies. He knows how to fight and has done very well, but that’s not what he wants to talk about. He wants to tell us how the Lord looks after him.
Earlier on, Israel doubted that God could look after them. ‘Can God spread a table in the desert?’ they asked (Psalm 78:19). They didn’t like the way God was leading them. And then, the Lord gave them food—regularly (Exodus 16:4). But now, David refuses to complain. He says, ‘God provides a feast—right where I am being threatened by enemies!’
But why a feast when there’s enemies around? Battle rations would be more appropriate—something to eat while you keep your eyes open for threats. No. This is a feast, with all the usual extras.
The host has anointed his guest with oil—a courtesy expected in those days. And when it comes to the wine, his cup is brimming over. The host is eager to say that there is no lack when it comes to wine. There’s nothing going wrong at this banquet!
But what about the enemies? People who get angry with us want to be the centre of our attention. ‘Look at me’ they are saying. ‘I am a threat to your well-being!’ If they succeed in getting the core of our attention, the Lord has been pushed to the edges. Our situation has become compromised. We have become embattled—meaning that the battle has become our core issue.
David says ‘No’ to this. The gracious provision of the Lord—the green pastures, the restful waters, the restored soul, the guidance in right paths, are all still happening. The shouting from the edges doesn’t change what is going on between him and the Lord.
The Lord can keep our hearts full—as at a feast—while we are still in the presence of enemies. And this is just what we need. When critics say our faith in God is superstition, and our obedience to Christ is repression, and our hope of heaven is a fantasy, we need a mouthwatering enjoyment of God, and his goodness, and his power. Enemies only have the power God grants to them (John 19:11).
And when our enemy, Satan, taunts about our personal failures, we need to know that our Shepherd has got them all covered—totally. The reason we are feasting in the presence of enemies is because Christ has won the major battle against our accuser. There is no valid reason for him to accuse us because Christ has borne our sins, and the accusations we deserve.
To help us sense what this is like, think of Peter. He is surrounded with enemies accusing him of being a follower of Jesus. He fails badly. But the Lord had already told him this will happen. And he has followed this up with, ‘Let not your heart be troubled.’ And, ‘I go to prepare a place for you’ (John 13:38—14:2). We need to know the Lord is always ready to spread a feast for humbled sinners (Revelation 3:20).
In another time of trouble, Nehemiah told people in Jerusalem, ‘the joy of the Lord is your strength’ (Nehemiah 8:10). He also told his hearers to go home and have a feast! They needed to know that this was not a bad day but a good one!
Enjoying the Lord is vital. We need time out from the battle to taste the goodness of God, to drink in his word, to talk in a relaxed way to our Shepherd.
So, there’s a feast to have. Keep your eye on the opposition but focus on what God has given, and is giving, and will give. Relish him, and our enemies are already at a disadvantage.