THE TABLE PREPARED FOR ME
I’M HOPING THAT ONE OF THE THINGS YOU ARE SEEING IN THIS STUDY IS JUST HOW SMART DAVID WAS TO USE THE SHEPHERD AND SHEEP COMPARISON. EACH OF THESE VERSE SHOW A DIFFERENT WAY THAT WE ARE LIKE THE SHEEP AND THAT GOD IS LIKE OUR SHEPHERD. VERSE 5 IS NO DIFFERENT.
THIS VERSE HAS THREE SPEARATE CLAUSES IN IT, EACH IMPORTANT IN IT’S OWN WAY.
HE PREPARES A TABLE FOR US
IN THE PRESENCE OF OUR ENEMIES
HE ANOINTS OUR HEADS WITH OIL
AND SURPRISINGLY HE GIVES US THE RESULTS OF ALL THIS, WHEN HE SAYS “MY CUP OVERFLOWS.”
WHAT WE’RE GOING TO DO TONIGHT IS LOOK AT EACH OF THESE SEGMENTS AND SEE HOW THEY APPLY TO OUR LIVES.
POINT ONE: HE PREPARES A TABLE FOR US
WHEN WE STUDY A PASSAGE OF SCRIPTURE, WE CAN DO IT ONE OF TWO WAYS. THE PRIMARY METHOD I BELIEVE WE SHOULD USE IS EXPOSITORY, WHERE WE STUDY THE WORD DIRECTLY AND HAVE THE PASSAGE DEAL WITH THE POINTS WE WISH TO MAKE. THE SECOND FORM OF PREACHING IS WHAT WE CALL TOPICAL. TOPICAL PREACHING BEGINS WITH AN ISSUE THAT THE SPEAKER WANTS TO PREACH ON, AND SHOWS HOW THAT PASSAGE AGREES WITH THE TOPIC.
THIS PHRASE IN PSALM 23 IS OFTEN USED FOR BOTH TYPES OF PREACHING. IF WE CHOOSE TO LOOK AT IT TOPICALLY, IT WILL SHOW US GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY OVER OUR ENEMIES IN THIS WORLD. IN LOOKING AT THE PASSAGE THIS WAY WE SEE A LITERAL TABLE BEING PREPARED AND ASK THE QUESTION WHY.
WHEN WE VIEW THE TABLE IN THIS WAY WE CAN SEE IT AS A TABLE OF VICTORY. IT WAS A PRACTICE DURING THESE TIMES IF A KING WAS VICTORIOUS OVER ANOTHER THAT THERE WOULD BE A GREAT CELEBRATION. THE VANQUISHED ARMY WOULD BE MARCHED IN FRONT OF THE CONQUEROR. NO DOUBT THIS CELEBRATION WOULD INCLUDE A FEAST FOR THE CONQUERING KING, WITH A VERY LAVISH TABLE PREPARED FOR THE CELEBRATION.
WEBSTER’S DICTIONARY DESCRIBES “VICTORY’ AS “SUPREMACY AND SUCCESS OVER STRUGGLE”. THE TABLE THAT GOD IS PREPARING IS THE TABLE OF VICTORY, OUR VICTORY OVER SIN AND THE STRUGGLES WITH SIN. AS CHRISTIANS WE ARE PEOPLE WHO ARE DESTINED TO BE OVERCOMERS.
JOHN 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
ROMANS 12:21: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
REVELATION 17:14: They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”
THE PREPARED TABLE IS A TABLE OF REFRESHMENT. THERE IS A SPECIAL ANTICIPATION ABOUT SITTING DOWN TO A SPECIAL MEAL. JUST RECENTLY WE CELEBRATED THANKSGIVING. WE HAD A THANKSGIVING DINNER IN FREDERICTON THAT WAS REALLY ENJOYABLE, AND THE FOOD WAS GREAT.
LES AND I CAME BACK ON SUNDAY NIGHT SO THAT WE COULD HAVE THANKSGIVING DINNER TOGETHER AS WELL. WE HAD IT ALL PLANNED OUT BEFORE WE LEFT WHAT WE WERE GOING TO DO, BECAUSE WHEN WE WENT TO FREDERICTON WE DID NOT EXPECT THEM TO HAVE A THANKSGIVING DINNER.
WE STARTED OUT BY MAKING PUMPKIN PIES AND HAD THE HOUSE FULL OF THE AROMA OF DRESSING THAT WAS JUST RIGHT. IN THE MORNING THE TURKEY WENT INTO THE OVEN, WITH THE PROMISE THAT AS HE HAD GIVEN HIS ALL FOR US, THAT WE WOULD ENJOY IT WITH ALL WE HAD. THEN WE WENT FOR A NICE DRIVE TO SEE THE LAST OF GOD’S SCENERY FOR THE YEAR. WHEN WE RETURNED HOME WE PREPARED THE VEGETABLES. IN ABOUT HALF AN HOUR WE WERE SITTING IN THE LIVING ROOM WITH CANDLELIGHT AND A WONDERFUL THANKSGIVING DINNER, AND THE PERSON I’M MOST THANKFUL FOR, MY WIFE, SITTING RIGHT ACROSS FROM ME. I LOOKED FORWARD TO THAT FOR WEEKS AND I WAS NOT DISAPPOINTED.
THIS TABLE IS A TABLE SET FOR ROYALTY. THIS IS SOMETHING THAT WE SHARE WITH DAVID. YES DAVID WAS ROYALTY AS KING OF ISRAEL, BUT HE WAS ALSO ROYALTY AS HE WAS THE PROPERTY OF THE KING OF KINGS AND HELD A KINGLY INHERITANCE, AS DO YOU AND I. NOW THE INCREDIBLE THING ABOUT THIS IS THAT THIS TABLE IS NOT PREPARED BY US FOR THE KING, BUT THE KING OF KINGS IS PREPARING THIS TABLE FOR US. AS ONE PERSON SAID “GOD HAS PUT AN APRON ON FOR YOU.”
EPHESIANS 2:6-7: And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
REVELATION 19:6-9: Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) 9 Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
THIS IS INDEED A TABLE THAT I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO SITTING AT.
BUT AS WE LOOK AT THIS FROM AN EXPOSITORY VIEW, WE’LL GET A MUCH DIFFERENT PICTURE, BUT EQUALLY AS ENCOURAGING.
THE SEASON THAT PSALM 23 IS TALKING ABOUT IS SUMMER. THERE ARE SEVERAL REFERENCES IN THE PSALM THAT INDICATE THIS. WE KNOW THAT IN THE SUMMER THE SHEPHERDS WOULD BE MOVING THE SHEEP FROM THE LAND NEARBY THEIR HOME, UP TO THE HIGHLANDS WHERE IT WAS COOLER AND THERE WAS PLENTY OF FRESH GRASS AND WATER. THE TABLE MENTIONED HERE IS ACTUALLY NOT A TABLE AT ALL, BUT RATHER THE PLATEAU IN THE HIGHLANDS THAT THE SHEPHERD TAKES HIS FLOCK TO FOR THE SUMMER.
THIS PHRASE SAYS THAT THE SHEPHERD PREPARES A TABLE SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? IT MEANS THAT THE SHEPHERD PROTECTS HIS SHEEP, AND HE DOES SO IN AT LEAST FOUR WAYS.
1. THE SHEPHERD GOES BEFORE THE SHEEP TO PREPARE THE LAND. THE SHEPHERD DOES NOT JUST START OUT FOR THE HIGHLANDS WITHOUT A PLAN. THE SHEPHERD SCOUTS THE BEST PLACE TO GO, SOMETIMES EVEN BEFORE THE SNOW IS COMPLETELY GONE. HE BRINGS A SUPPLY OF SALT AND MINERALS THAT WILL BENEFIT THE SHEEP AND PLACE THEM IN STRATEGIC PLACES. HE WILL FIND OUT THE BEST PLACES TO CAMP. HE WILL CHECK FOR POISONOUS WEEDS AND AVOID OR CLEARS THESE AREAS. PREPARING THE LAND IS PART OF PREPARING THE TABLE IN THE PRESENCE OF HIS ENEMIES.
2. HE GOES BEFORE US TO CLEAR THE LAND OF WILD BEASTS. HE LOOKS OUT FOR ANY WOLVES, COYOTES, COUGARS, AND BEARS. THIS WILL KEEP THE SHEEP AT PEACE. YOU AND I FACE THE BEASTS OF THIS WORLD AS SATAN USES THEM. REMEMBER WE HAVE BUT ONE ENEMY, AND THAT IS SATAN. HE ATTACKS US IN A NUMBER OF WAYS, SEEKING TO DESTROY US.
1 PETER 5:8-9:
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
John 10:10: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
AS WE WALK WITH THE SHEPHERD HE WILL PROTECT US WHEN THE ENEMY STRIKES.
3. HE GOES BEFORE US TO CLEAR OUT THE WATER PLACES. THIS TELLS US THAT HE IS NOT ONLY OUR PROTECTOR BUT OUR SUSTAINER. THIS ALSO SHOWS US THAT THERE IS NO SITUATION THAT OUR SHEPHERD HASN’T ENCOUNTERED AND OVERCOME.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
AS THE SHEPHERD PREPARES THE LAND FOR THE SHEEP, SO TOO DOES THE GREAT SHEPHERD PREPARE THE LAND FOR HIS SHEEP. NOTE THAT HE DOES SO IN THE PRESENCE OF HIS ENEMIES.
I WANT TO THINK NOW ON THIS ISSUE OF THE TABLE BEING PREPARED IN THE “PRESENCE OF OUR ENEMIES.” NOW I WANT YOU TO TAKE A FEW MOMENTS AND THINK OF SOME OF THE GREAT ENEMIES OF THE SHEEP. YOU MIGHT THINK OF LOINS, BEARS, WOLVES, AND YOU WOULD BE RIGHT.
PETER KELLER WRITES OF HIS EXPERIENCE OF SHEPHERDING…”THIS VERSE REMINDS ME OF MY ENCOUNTER WITH COUGARS. ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS THESE CUNNING CREATURES CAME IN AMONG SHEEP, CREATING GREAT HAVOC IN THE FLOCK. SOME WERE KILLED, THEIR BLOOD DRAINED AND THEIR LIVERS EATEN. OTHERS WERE TORN OPEN AND BADLY CLAWED. IN THESE CDASES THE GREAT CATS SEEMED TO CHASE AND PLAY WITH THEM IN THEIR PANIC LIKE A HOUSE CAT WOULD CHASE A MOUSE. SOME HAD HUGE PATCHES OF WOOL TORN FROM IT. IN THEIR FRIGHTENED STAMPEDE, SOME HAD FALLEN AND BROKEN BONES OR RUSHED OVER ROUGH GROUND INJURING LEGS AND BODIES. THE AMAZING THING IS THAT IN EACH AND EVERY ATTACK, I NEVER SAW THE COUGAR.”
THESE FEROCIOUS ANIMALS DO POSE A GREAT DANGER TO SHEEP BUT DID YOU KNOW THAT SOME OF THE GREATEST DANGERS COME FROM ANIMAL WE CAN BARELY SEE. ANIMALS LIKE: THE WARBLE FLIES
THE DEER FLIES
MOSQUITOS & GNATS
MOST DANGEROUS THOUGH FOR SHEEP ARE THE NASAL FLIES
THESE NASAL FLIES BUZZ AROUND THE SHEEP’S HEAD ATTEMPTING TO LAY THEIR EGGS IN THE DAMP MUCOUS MEMBRANE OF THE SHEEPS NOSE. IF THEY ARE SUCCESSFUL, THE EGGS WILL HATCH IN A FEW DAYS IN THE FORM OF A WORMLIKE LARVAE. THEY WILL WORK THEIR WAY UP THE SHEEP’S NASAL PASSAGE INTO IT’S HEAD. IT CAN CAUSE BLINDNESS AND LITERALLY DRIVE THE SHEEP INSANE.
IT CAUSES SEVERE IRRITATION FOR THE SHEEP. TO RELIEVE THE ITCH THE SHEEP WILL:
BEAT THEIR HEADS AGAINST A TREE
RUB THEIR HEADS ON A ROCK
ANOTHER INTERESTING THING HERE IS THAT ONE OF SATAN’S NAMES, “BEELZEBUB”, THIS NAME ALSO BELONGED TO A PHILISTINE GOD “BAAL-ZEBUL” WHICH MEANT LORD OF THE FLIES OR DUNG. WHEN JESUS CALLED SATAN THIS NAME HE WAS COMPARING SATAN TO THE GOD OF THE FLIES.
A SECOND CONDITION THAT OFTEN EFFECTS SHEEP IS CALLED SCAB-TIME. THIS IS HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS AMONG SHEEP. IT IS CAUSED BY MICROSCOPIC PARASITES THAT INFECT THE WOUNDS, ONLY ON THE HEAD. IT IS A DISEASE THAT CAN SPREAD VERY FAST FROM INFECTED TO NON-INFECTED SHEEP. AGAIN THERE IS ONLY ONE TREATMENT FOR THIS CONDITION.
NOW THE INTERESTING THING HERE IS THAT, JUST AS THESE CONDITIONS BEGIN WITH THE HEAD OF THE SHEEP, MANY OF THE TEMPTATIONS AND TESTS THAT WE FACE FROM SATAN BEGIN WITH THE HEAD AS WELL.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
JUST AS THE NOSE FLY LAYS EGGS THAT CAN BRING THE DESTRUCTION OF THE SHEEP, SO TOO DOES SATAN LAY EGGS IN OUR HEADS THAT WHEN BROUGHT TO FRUITION, CAUSE OUR SPIRITUAL DEATHS AND ROB US OF ANY CHRISTIAN VICTORY. EGGS SUCH AS:
EGGS OF DOUBT
EGGS OF ANGER
EGGS OF INSECURITY
EGGS OF FEAR
EGGS OF DEPRESSION
EGGS OF IMPURE THOUGHTS
EGGS OF BITTERNESS
THERE IS A TREATMENT FOR THESE CONDITIONS THAT THE SHEPHERDS HAVE. INTERESTINGLY ENOUGH, IT IS GIVEN TO US IN THE SECOND PHRASE OF THIS VERSE;
POINT TWO: YOU ANOINT MY HEAD WITH OIL
THE SHEPHERD NOTICES ANY DIFFERENCE IN THE BEHAVIOR OF THE SHEEP. IF THE SHEEP’S BEHAVIOR INDICATES THE POSSIBILITY OF NOSE FLIES OR INFECTIOUS SCABS, HE WILL ACT IMMEDIATELY. IN FACT THE POSSIBILITY OF THIS HAPPENING IS SO GREAT HE WOULD PROBABLY HAVE THE ANTIDOTE ALL READY MIXED AND READY TO USE.
THE ANTIDOTE IS MADE UP OF MANY INGREDIENTS BUT MOST OFTEN IT IS LINSEED OIL, SULPHUR AND TAR. THE SHEPHERD TAKES THIS AND SMEARS IT ON THE SHEEP’S HEAD. ONCE THE ANTIDOTE IS APPLIED, THERE IS AN IMMEDIATE CHANGE IN THE SHEEPS BEHAVIOUR: THE AGGRAVATION IS GONE
THE IRRITABILITY IS GONE
THE ANIMAL CAN LIE DOWN AND REST.
AS CHRISTIANS WE HAVE HAD AN ANOINTING AS WELL, BUT OUR ANOINTING HAS COME THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
1 JOHN 2:20,27:
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.
WITH OUR HEAD PROTECTED FROM THE INFULENCE OF THE EVIL ONE WE LIKE THE SHEEP CAN RELAX AND ENJOY OUR VICTORY IN CHRIST. IF WE ARE IN THE PRESENCE OF OUR ENEMY, HE CAN HAVE NO POWER IN OUR LIVES, OTHER THAN THE POWER WE ALLOW HIM, WHEN WE TAKE OUR EYES OF THE SHEPHERD.
WHAT IS THE RESULT OF GOD’S ANOINTING? IT IS THE LAST PHRASE OF THIS VERSE, MY CUP OVERFLOWS. HOW CAN IT NOT OVERFLOW. WE ARE GOING TO BE SEATED AT A BANQUET TABLE PREPARED FOR US BY GOD HIMSELF. WHAT A FEAST THAT WILL BE! SITTING DOWN WITH THE BLEST COMPANY OF THE AGES AND AT THE HEAD OF THE TABLE, THE BRIDE-GROOM HIMSELF. AND THEN JUST WHEN IT SEEMS IT CAN’T GET ANY BETTER, WE LOOK AT OURSELVES, AND SEE US DRESSED IN THE FLOWING ROBES OF THE BRIDE.
YOU AND I WILL ALWAYS BE BOTHERED BY SPIRITUAL NOSE FLIES AND SCABS. THEY CAN DO DAMAGE TO OUR SPIRITUAL LIVES IF WE ALLOW IT. BUT AS THE SCRIPTURES STATE GREATER IS HE WHO IS IN ME, THAN HE WHO IS IN THE WORLD.”, OR AS DR. STRONG SO APTLY PUT IT. “ YOU CAN’T KEEP A BIRD FROM FLYING OVER YOUR HEAD, BUT YOU CAN KEEP HIM FROM MAKING A NEST IN YOUR H