Summary: A sermon based upon Psalm 23:5
“Thou Preparest a Table before Me in the presence of My Enemies”
Psalm 23: 5
I think that we can all agree that a table is for eating. However, a table can also make a statement. I can remember when my Grandma received a set of Franciscan Desert Rose Dishes for her and Grandpa’s 50th Wedding Anniversary. When we would go to their house for holidays or special occasions, Grandma would always have the table set just right with those beautiful dishes. Grandma was so proud of those dishes and they only came out when the most important of guest were eating. Grandma always valued her family, and to her, they were the most important of all people, second only to Her Shepherd Himself.
David picks up this theme with the words, “Thou Preparest a Table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” In some of the finest sheep country of the world, especially in the Western United States and Southern Europe, the high plateau of the sheep ranges are always referred to as “mesas” or as we know them from the Spanish word for, “tables.” You can see these same “mesas” her in Arizona as you wind your way up through the ravines and canyons and when you reach the top, instead of a rugged rocky pinnacle, you fine a large flat plain which is considered by sheep herders to be prime grazing land.
Just like my Grandma considered her family to be of great importance and love to her, a shepherd conveys his sheep as having incredible value to him and he goes to great length and trouble to prepare that “mesa” that “table” prior to the sheep’s arrival. The shepherd; goes ahead both to “get rid of things” and to “add things,” so that everything will be just right for his flock.
The shepherd knows there are two things to get rid of: First, there are the poisonous weeds. In certain areas the white Camas flourish. These little weeds, with their white bell-shaped flowers can be mighty pretty to look at, but if a sheep grazes on them, in short, order, the poison in that weed will paralyze the sheep, and death is eminent. Second, there are the usual wild animals we have so often referred to. The shepherd intentionally spends times walking throughout the Table-top area, wanting to be seen, leaving his scent, if you will, intentionally making the wild dogs, or mountain lions wary and uncomfortable. The good shepherd leaves nothing to chance when it comes to the welfare of His flock.
Therefore, I must stop and ask myself what are the things that the Shepherd might want to intentionally get rid of in my life. What are these poisonous weeds for me? Are they the little things in life that whittle away at my spiritual well-being? Are they activities that perhaps are a real joy to participate in, but if I’m not careful to keep them within limits, could actually begin to blind me to even greater opportunities to use my time, talents, and treasures in my Shepherd’s service, thus to the point of endangering, even paralyzing me? Is it possible that I could get myself “poisoned” to the point that I miss one of the greatest blessings we can have – that of ministering and caring about and for one another? Maybe the poisonous weeds even make us feel it is more of a bother that infringes on our time, than an opportunity to enjoy the Good Shepherd’s blessings and promises when He says to us “Give and it shall be given unto you” and when He speaks of our rewards when He says, “When you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it unto Me”.
In addition, those Predators, just what might they be in our lives? John identifies them in large terms when he tells us that our enemies are: The World, which has a way of reminding us that what we have is never quite enough, we always desire more and more; The Flesh, which reminds us that we’re best off if we stay in charge of our lives and destinies and not allow “Our Shepherd” to be in control; and The Devil, who in one of a thousand ways is trying to discourage us from taking God seriously. James refers to Satan as a “roaring lion” seeking to devour us.
The Shepherd also goes ahead of his flock to add or ensure that certain things are prepared and ready. He checks the water supply; He looks for the best places for His flock to bed own. In other words, He pays special attention to every detail ensuring that His flock has the best possible stay at “His Table.”
His Table, this table. You cannot help but note how the Shepherd permits no one less than Himself to be the one to prepare it. He doesn’t ask His disciples, He doesn’t ask even the angels, how good it is to know that Jesus Himself is the one who prepares “our” table. He is the one who goes ahead of us, leading us in every situation, anticipating what dangers we may encounter and keeping us safe. Are you going into the hospital soon (and we all do at one time or another) – He will go ahead of you to prepare the way. Will some type of danger creep into your life soon that you are not aware of? Well He is aware of it and He goes before you to prepare “your table.”