“He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies”
This verse of Psalm 23 is usually not one that is given much attention. Honestly, it can be a bit confusing. One of the first things that popped into my head the first time I really started to study this particular verse was, “Why doesn’t God just take our enemies away instead of preparing a table for us in their presence?” Doesn’t it seem like it would just be easier for God to remove our enemies, rather than to set a table before us in their presence? God certainly has the power to remove any enemy we have in front of us, so why not just get rid of them so we can relax?
Where did this come from?
The actual origin of this verse is pretty cool and really sheds some light on the meaning of setting a table in the presence of enemies. The meaning has to do with the way shepherds made a pasture safe for sheep to graze in before the sheep arrived in the pasture. Shepherds were known to carry a variety of tools with them while they were shepherding. They had their staff for guidance of the sheep, their rod for protection of the sheep, their sling for hunting and self-defense, and oil which was used for a multitude of things. The oil was usually carried in a hollowed out horn or a bladder of some sort and was used for several reasons while shepherding, but with regard to preparing a pasture for the sheep to graze in, it was used for safety.
Before shepherds would allow the sheep to enter a pasture to graze, they would walk every square foot of the pasture looking for holes in the ground about 1.5” – 2” in diameter. These holes in the ground of a pasture are known to be home to poisonous snakes that lie in wait for a sheep or other animals to start grazing in the pasture, then come out and nip the animal on the nose which causes swelling and difficulty breathing. Eventually this would result in closing the airways completely as well as an increased heart rate; the combination of these two things would usually kill the animal a short time after the bite takes place.
To prevent the snake bites from happening in the first place, the shepherd would take his staff or rod and put the end of it in the hole, then pour oil into a groove toward the bottom of the staff, allowing the oil to run into the snake hole. This would lubricate the hole which would prevent the snake from making it up to the top of the hole to harm the sheep; they would just keep slipping back down into the hole when they tried to slither out to harm the sheep. Once the shepherd was finished pouring oil into every snake hole in the pasture, he would then allow the sheep to come and eat in the field. The shepherd was literally preparing a table before the sheep in the presence of their enemies.
Isn’t it amazing how God…
Isn’t it amazing how God does the same for us in our lives? God does not remove the dangers in our lives, but He does provide us with the proper protection to be safe when we are surrounded by our enemies without being harmed. God anoints us spiritually with His oil, like a Good Shepherd, not allowing any harm to come to us. Sometimes, we can get caught up in the fact that we are surrounded by our enemies and end up feeling hopeless and helpless. Distraction and misdirection are tools the devil uses to make us lose focus on God. The devil loves when we feel hopeless because he knows he has found a way to make us doubt our relationship with God.
It seems that every time you go deeper with your faith and start to feel closer to God, the devil increases the temptations in your life tenfold. You can always tell when you are on the right path to a better relationship with God because that is where the devil is waiting to tempt you. Even Jesus, once He was baptized and God’s voice thundered from Heaven announcing “This is My Son”, faced temptation immediately afterward by being driven into the desert by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil! The devil knows that a relationship with God is a dangerous relationship. The devil does not stop at one temptation. Scripture tells us that after Jesus rebukes the devil, the devil departed from Jesus until an opportune time: Luke 4:13 Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.
- We never stop being tempted.
- We are not perfect in our human form.
- We need God to protect us at all times.
God knows and understands that the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. He created us this way. We need the Shepherd! Our close intimate relationship with God makes the devil nervous. That’s why he steps up his game when we get closer to God in our hearts. He uses whatever tricks he can to keep us from becoming holier. When you feel temptation, know that you are on the right path to getting closer to God, and know that you are making the devil nervous! Also know that with God by your side, you have the power to resist that temptation.
It will be OK!
Trust in God in all things and know that He will always lead you through the tough times – even if you do not understand why He has led you there to begin with. Spend some time today reflecting on where you are tempted to pull away from God, and ask God to be there with you to fight that temptation and overcome it. You are never alone when God is at your side…and He is always at your side!
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