Summary: A 20 minute walk through Psalm 23:5 and putting into context for St Thomas' an Anglican Church in semi-rural Hampshire, UK.
Sunday 4th November 2012 11:00 – The Living Room @ St Thomas, Fair Oak
Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak through them;
Take our minds and think through them;
Take our hearts and set them on fire with love for Yourself, Lord Jesus.
Good Morning!! I am about to speak to you about the best and most important verse in psalm 23. Which is obvious, it must be, it’s the one that I was asked to do and I am AWESOME!! Remember this; it will be important at the end.
The light turned yellow, just in front of him. He did the right thing, stopping at the traffic lights, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the junction. The tailgating woman was furious and honked her horn, made several crude hand gestures, screaming obscenities in frustration, as she had missed her chance to get through the intersection, dropping her cell phone and her makeup in the process. As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer. The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands help up. He took her to the police station where she was searched, fingerprinted, photographed, and placed in a holding cell. After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects. He said, ‘‘I’m very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, giving the guy in front of you the finger, and cursing at him. I noticed the 'What Would Jesus Do' bumper sticker, the ‘Choose Life’ license plate holder, the 'Follow Me to Sunday-School' bumper sticker, and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk, so naturally... I assumed you had stolen the car.''
This story is not initially all that relevant to psalm 23, I think we’d all struggle to find it in any academic bible commentary or scholarly journal, but the message is important. We will get back to it later.
1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4Even 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. 5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Let's have a little overview of Psalm 23. This psalm, or hymn, is usually classified as a psalm of confidence in the Lord’s care. It uses two images: the Lord as Shepherd who cares for the sheep (vv. 1–4), and the Lord as Host who cares for his guest (vv. 5–6). These images would be familiar from everyday experience (for David’s own, cf. 1 Sam. 17:34); but they also evoke other ideas common in the ancient Near East (including the OT), with the deity as shepherd of his people and the deity as host of the meal. In worship, the faithful celebrate God’s greatness and majesty; and when they sing this psalm, they see his majesty in the way he personally attends to each of his covenant lambs. He is the shepherd for Israel as a whole; and in being such, he is the shepherd for each faithful Israelite as well.
Today we are looking at verse 5. So here we go, until today, the verses looked at from psalm 23 have been about the Lord as shepherd, now we begin to see The Lord as Host 23:5–6. Some have argued that the image of shepherd and sheep is still present here; but the mention of a table, of putting oil on the head, the cup, and the Lord’s “house,” all show that the psalm now describes the faithful person as God’s guest at a meal hence “prepare a table”. The enemies are powerless to prevent the enjoyment of God’s generous hospitality perhaps they are there as captives at a victory celebration, or maybe there is a more interesting meaning. Goodness and mercy, or “steadfast love” is the assurance for the faithful that God has showered his grace upon them. For a non-Levite to dwell in the house of the Lord is to have ready access to the sanctuary for worship (PS 27:4). As the ESV footnote explains, forever is literally, “for length of days”; this may simply be another way of saying all the days of my life, but is more likely to be meant as “for days without end” (PS 21:4; 93:5, “forevermore”).