You prepare a table – Psalm 23, Part 3

5You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

– Psalm 23

Sometimes I feel entirely unwelcome to approach the Lord. For example, if I’m worked up about something I resist turning on worship music, because I think I need to cool off and “get it together” at least a little bit first. Or I unfairly yell at my kids, so I try to de-stress a bit on my own instead of opening up a Psalm. Or I delay prayer, because I already asked God about this a million times and now need to just get over it.

Anyone else relate? Sometimes I think we can believe the Gospel, but still operate as though we’re able to settle accounts ourselves. 

Still, consistent with everything we’ve already seen, this psalm continues to highlight The Lord, the Good Shepherd, the main character. He takes care of everything. And he honors us.

The whole concept of these verses are so contrary to what we traditionally see. Kings are served. Kings order requests. Kings have servants take care of things for them.

But the Good Shepherd, the Great King, is a hospitable caretaker. He prepares a table for us. We can sit at his table, with him, without fear of our enemies, because our God protects us. We aren’t on defense, rather our attention can be on our feast, on our host. For if our God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31-32)? 

He anoints our head with oil. He regards us as his guests. He invites us into his glory.
He gives us more than we could ever need. 

But I think the greatest irony here is that we used to be enemies of God (Romans 5:10). We are the ones that should be cast out, destroyed, defeated. But instead, we have a table prepared for us. We are called friends (John 15:15). Because, as Romans continues, “we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10). We are at peace with God.

The Good Shepherd, the Great Host – He is good beyond what we ever could deserve. We didn’t earn our spot at the table, he gave it to us. We don’t anoint ourselves, he honors us. We used to be his enemy, he reconciled us. We should have received the cup of his wrath, instead we overflow with his spirit.

Regardless of circumstances, He is always worthy of worship because of who he is. But he is also delightful to worship. And he has invited us in.

As a mom, I prepare the table for my family all the time. I put sprinkles and whipped cream on everything it doesn’t even belong on. I make their favorite foods (or at least what was their favorite yesterday). I toss in some healthy options… and I call. “Come eat!”

And my little darlings continue their laps and race by the table to see if anything looks worthy of slowing down for. They debate. 

I invite them to every meal. I desire to sit with them. I want their bellies filled and their bodies to grow. But ultimately, they choose how they respond.

It’s a loose analogy, but God doesn’t force anything either. He has laid out everything for us and desires to be with us. He prepares the table and fills our lives with invitations to know him, to sit with him, to experience him. We choose how we respond. 

Sometimes I may not feel welcome to approach God, but if he died for us when we were sinners, would he not honor his invitation to us once he’s declared us friends? We very well, and probably will need to make behavior changes at times. But even and especially on our worst days, let us accept our place at the table. Let us come to him. Let us receive from him. 

The beauty of the Gospel is that the Good Shepherd is the Great Host who takes care of everything. We were never made to settle accounts on our own, nor could we even do it with our greatest efforts. We have nothing to resolve or reconcile apart from Him, because he is sufficient and generous to do it all on our behalf. The battle is already won, and in Christ we are fully his. Our Shepherd has called us friend.


Sit with this Shepherd. Call him yours. Open his Word and listen to what he says. Ask him about everything that you don’t understand. Confess to him all your hesitations. And watch him move. Let him open your eyes that you may see him.

5You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Observe – What does it say? 
How would you summarize the text?
Who prepares the table? Who anoints the psalmist’s head?
Who is the table in the presence of?

Interpret – What does it mean? 
How does God define his children? (Ephesians 1)
What is someone’s typical posture towards enemies? 
In Christ, what happens to our position before God? (Romans 5:6-11)
(2 Kings 6:15-17)
What does it mean to be anointed with oil? (1 Samuel 16:14, Psalm 45:7, Luke 7:46)
What does it mean for our cups to overflow?
What great feast do believers have to look forward to? (Isaiah 25:6, Revelation 19:6-10)

Apply – What does it teach us about God? 
What must be true of his character?
How does the text portray the presence of God? 
What does it say about the generosity of God?
How does the way you live align with the actual character of God?
How does it point to the Gospel? 
Who continues to be the lead person in the psalm?
Why is God so good and generous to the psalmist?
What is our relationship to God without Jesus? (Romans 5:10)
How does it apply to your life?
Is there anything God is calling you to do?
Are there any “enemies” or people against you in life that you can have peace around?
In what ways is your cup overflowing, that you can be a blessing to someone else?


Dig deeper – Sermon, Ben Stuart

Our Eternally Faithful God

Christ and Competitors for Our Affections

Sing – Raise A Hallelujah

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