“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”

Many of life’s most important moments happen over a meal. Look back over your own life and think about how many of your life’s key moments happened at mealtime. Marriage proposal, pregnancy announcement, promotion decision, and peacemaking will probably come to mind. The best holidays are holidays with a wonderful meal: Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter. But in Psalm 23: 5 David shared a strange meal – He said, “you prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”. What does this mean for you?

Jesus wants to spend one-on-one time with you.

Since David talked about a “table”, some say David dropped the shepherd figure in Psalm 23 and shifted to another metaphor – a gracious host providing a lavish meal. If this is the meaning, it’s pretty incredible to think that the God of the universe is setting the table for you and for me. A table full of food is so people can eat and drink and acquire strength for their bodies. It is also a place of fellowship between the host and the guests. The Lord is with us, not the enemies. The banquet speaks of a victory celebration. With Him on our side, we have the ultimate victory.

But if David kept the shepherd & sheep metaphor, does this change the meaning? In many areas, plateaus in the mountains are known as ‘mesas’ That’s the Spanish word for ‘table’. These areas have been referred to as ‘tablelands’ for centuries. During Spring and early Summer, a shepherd would travel up to these areas to get the area ready for the sheep. He would pull weeds and poisonous plants and have everything ready for them to graze. The shepherd prepares the table while the enemy (wolves) watch.

If we take both pictures together, God prepares a banquet for His people and the shepherd cares for His sheep. Both are absolutely true. Your Divine Shepherd wants to spend time with you

Time with Jesus is not easy.

Though there is a table, there is also the “enemy.” Somehow it seems so unchristian to admit we have enemies. But Jesus never denied the reality of enemies. He just told us how to respond to them: love, forgiveness, prayer, and do good to them.

One advantage of going to the tablelands, though it’s steep going up, once up there are no places for the predators to hide. They can’t sneak up on the sheep and attack them. As the shepherd took the sheep to the tablelands, the enemies would watch. Wolves, coyotes, cougars and bears would remain on the rim watching and waiting. But as long as the shepherd was with the sheep, they would not attack. The sheep were safe to enjoy their meal.

David realized when he became king, that he was on display. God was good to him and blessed him, but there were those who wanted him to fall. As we grow in our faith and receive God’s blessings, there will be eyes on us. Some are wanting us to fall. As long as we are close to the Shepherd, we will be okay.

Another thought is that God blesses us and orders our lives every day, even when life feels hard and hostile. The enemies are still there but God has it all under His control. It doesn’t catch Him by surprise. There’s nothing the enemy can do about it. Not only does God supply me with a lavish banquet, He does it so those people who don’t like me will see how God treats me and realize that God loves me.

Imagine a dinner in the presence of your enemies. Suppose you invited those you had a run-in this past year to a dinner Jesus had prepared. All those who hurt you, disappointed you, and offended you were invited. At this mental banquet, what lessons would you be grateful for that they taught you? Rather than ask why they treated you badly, you could ask what’s wrong with me that you would treat me that way?  Rather than ask what’s the matter with this person, ask why am I so bothered by their words/actions? What can we learn from those who we consider our enemies?

Jesus is never surprised with whatever surprises you.

Nothing in this verse talks about actually sitting at a table. It simply says the table is “prepared.” The Shepherd gets the table ready before we need it. Our Divine Shepherd not only prepares the table, He prepares everything. The Lord is never surprised at what happens in our life because He prepared it. He will not let us need something that He has not already supplied. The table is spread before the hunger comes.

It is good to remember that our Shepherd has been there ahead of us, coping with every situation that would otherwise undo us. It reminds me of the incident when Jesus warned Peter that Satan desired to tempt him and sift him like wheat. But Christ pointed out that He prayed that Peter’s faith might not fail during the desperate difficulty he would encounter. So it is today. Our Good Shepherd is going ahead of every situation, anticipating what danger we may encounter, and praying for us that in it we might not give up.

Every place and circumstance I come to, the shepherd has been before I arrived. Every provision was met before I was even aware I needed it.

So what can you do?

Tsavo Lion Restaurant in Bali (Indonesia).

  1. Identify your enemies. Who are the enemies in your life? How can/should you respond to them?
  2. Thank God. In what way has God prepared your table? How has he taken care of your needs before you knew you needed them?
  3. Keep walking. The path to the table can be steep, but the rewards are great. What are your greatest challenges as you walk to the table?
  4. Enjoy the company. Jesus has prepared a spiritual meal for you. Focus on Him not the enemy.

Though the Shepherd prepares a table in the presence of your enemies, don’t give the enemy a seat at your table. We sit at the table with the Good Shepherd, but the enemy is prowling around the table and wants to sit down. He wants to bring his own chair and interrupt your meal with Jesus. Once the enemy gets a seat at this table, he will start to speak to you. If you hear the following phrases in your head, you’ve given the enemy a seat at your table:

  • You’re never going to make it.
  • There’s something better at someone else’s table.
  • You’re not good enough to sit at the table.
  • Everyone’s against you. Look at all your enemies.

You’ll know that you’ve given the devil a place at your table when he attacks you in the same areas that the shepherd has provided.  The enemy always looks to attack what God has provided in order to cause us to believe that God is not present in our trouble.  

  1. He attacks your joy.
  2. He attacks your peace.
  3. He attacks your identity. (God can’t bless who you pretend to be)
  4. He attacks your faith.

What do you do when you realize you’ve given the enemy a seat at your table?  

  1. Remember the promise of provision. Remember all that is prepared for you on the table.  The Lord is the Good Shepherd who leads and guides. He protects and provides.  He is with us and He equips us. His presence brings peace.  
  2. Recognize the sound of His voice. Lock eyes with your shepherd and listen to His voice only.  Most of us have far too many voices and messages vying for our attention in this world.  We have to learn to dial in the right voices in our life. 
  3. Own the invite list. This is your table.  You’re in charge of the invite list.  Tell the devil that he’s not welcome to sit at your table and eat your food.  The Lord prepared the table before you. That means you get to decide who sits there.  
  4. Understand the real goal of the enemy. The devil isn’t after you as much as he’s trying to get to your Shepherd through your hurt and pain.  It always wounds the father to see the son hurt. The devil looks to take you out not just to hurt you; it’s really about him hurting your Heavenly Father.  He wants to crush the heart of God. 
  5. Elevate your gratitude game. Take some time to thank your Good Shepherd for all He has provided for you.