The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
This iconic psalm has captured the imagination of God’s people for thousands of years. For the People of God, both Jewish and Christian, this image, God as the benevolent shepherd, is an image of comfort and peace and faith.
But often times the focus of our reading of this Psalm is rooted in its admission that God cares for us, and this is certainly true. But the real power of this psalm is that it affirms this:
The God whom we serve is not immune to pain, to struggle, or to evil. He knows the ways in which we struggle and fear and suffer and worry and tire.
We find out that the Good Shepherd is not only aware of such realities, but even more still that he is present in the midst of them.
And so we return to perhaps the least memorable line of this psalm:
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
God prepares a table for us in the presence of those who come against us. He anoints us to affirm, in the presence of our enemies, our identity in Him, and the cup he pours for us cannot hold all he has provided.
The table of the Lord has been prepared for us this day in the presence of our enemies, in the presence of a world that serves values and priorities that are foreign to the Kingdom of God, and he does so not only for our provision but for the transformation of those who oppose us. It is here at this table that our identity is affirmed again as those anointed by God in the power of the Holy Spirit, and we have come to take of a cup that will never run empty and which has enough for all, the body and blood of the Lord Jesus poured out for all creation.
So as you come this morning to the table which the Lord has prepared for us, may you be aware of both the enemies who surround you, and of the people of God with whom you gather this morning.
May we come in the confidence that God has prepared this table for us and for the whole world, that we are loved, and that no matter the valley or the mountain we find ourselves upon, it is there that God has prepared his table for us.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow [us] all the days of [our] li[ves]: and [we] will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
O God who has led us out of Egypt,
who walks with us in the wilderness of this life,
who forgives our trespasses and sins,
who provides for us in ways too innumerable to count,
we come to the table you have prepared for us this morning.
May we find strength and nourishment for this day and the days to come.
May we be reminded that your table is spread in the world and for the world.
May we come today looking to you as the shepherd of our souls and find rest,
for you are our Shepherd, and with you all will be well.
In the name of the Good Shepherd we thank you.