Summary: The table that is prepared is the highland where the sheep will spend the summer, what does it mean that God prepares this table for us.
A forest ranger is making rounds in a remote part of the wooded reserve when he comes across an unkempt man, sitting at a make-shift campfire, and, to the ranger’s astonishment, eating a fish and a bald eagle.
The man is consequently put in jail for the crime. He was soon brought to trial for his crime.
The Judge asked the man, “Do you know that eating a bald eagle is a federal offense?”
“Yes, I do, Judge,” replied the man, “but if you will let me argue my case, I’ll explain what happened.”
“You may proceed.”
“I got lost in the woods and hadn’t had anything real to eat for two weeks,” the man explained. “I was so hungry, I was eating plants to stay alive. Next thing I see is a Bald Eagle swooping down at the lake grabbing a fish. I thought ‘if I startled the eagle, I could maybe steal the fish.’ Low and behold, the eagle lighted upon a nearby tree stump to eat the fish. I threw a stone toward the eagle hoping he would drop the fish and fly away. Unfortunately, in my weakened condition, my aim was off, and the rock hit the eagle squarely on his poor little head, and it killed him. I thought long and hard about what had happened, but figured that since I had killed it, I might as well eat it, since it would be more disgraceful to let it rot on the ground.”
The Judge says he will take a recess to analyze the defendant’s testimony. Fifteen minutes goes by, and the Judge returns.
“Due to the extreme circumstances you were under and because you didn’t intend to kill the eagle, the court will dismiss the charges.” The Judge then leans over the bench and whispers: “If you don’t mind my asking, what does a bald eagle taste like?”
“Well, Your Honor, it is hard to explain. I guess the best comparison I can make is, it’s a bit more tender than a California Condor, but lacks the tang of a Spotted Owl.”
Today we’ve come to the fifth verse of the 23rd Psalm, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Let’s stand and read the Psalm together. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
I’ve got a confession to make this verse has always bothered me a little bit. Especially as I’ve read through the first four verses and seen just how well the analogy of the sheep works in our lives. It’s all going so well and then we hit this thing about preparing a table before me and while it’s a beautiful thought, it doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the passage. And the whole anointing my head with oil thing, that doesn’t seem to fit either, I mean I know that Samuel anointed David’s head as king, but what does that have to do with sheep. So here’s this beautiful passage, one of the most loved in all the Bible, but it seems to go off track. Or does it? Because as I did the research on this passage I realized that the passage was fine, it was my understanding that was off.
See the issue was with my understanding of the word table and our new understanding of how David is describing the life of the sheep. You’ll remember that we last week we discussed the fact that the first three verses all describe things that a sheep could discuss across the fence with a sheep of a different flock as they graze in their shepherds pastures. But last week marked a change, the sheep began to move. Because of their thin skin sheep have to be moved away from the extreme cold of winter and the severe heat of summer. They move from the low pastures up to the pastures in the high land. In both cases these are fields that the shepherd has scouted in advance and yes prepared.
When the shepherd brings the sheep up to the highlands they have to have someplace to graze. We talked about it last week, sheep don’t to well on mountainsides, that’s not what they’re made for and it’s why they travel through the valleys. But they’re going someplace. If they’re going to the mountains then they have to find a flat place to graze, a high pasture land that’s going to be their goal. See as the sheep are moving through the valley to their destination, a mesa or plateau where they will stay until winter approaches. Mesa is the Spanish word for “table.” David wrote it exactly right. In the Psalm the imagery he is using is of the sheep moving through the valleys and to the high pastures, the table top.