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“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over” (Psalm 23:5).
As I sit down to write, there’s a table before me with many interpretations of this well-known Bible verse. One of my favorite attempts to unravel this Scripture comes from Elizabeth, age 8: “Be kind to your enemies, and I’ll make you a king.”
King David treated his enemies with kindness and became a king. But I think he had something else in mind when he wrote this psalm.
“God prepares a life with enemies in it for us,” says Jessica, 9. Well, this also has possibilities. David was an unknown shepherd boy until he heard Goliath taunt the armies of Israel. Certainly, the Lord can use enemies to test us and to teach us how to trust him. As David said when facing Goliath, “The battle is the Lord’s.”
“The enemy is around you, and God can help you,” says Scott, 10.
Some experts believe the scene shifts to the banquet table of the king; however, I’m going to stick with the shepherd and his sheep. The summer grazing ranges in the high mountains are known as tables. In Spanish, the word for such a place is “mesa,” which means “table.”
The picture here is fit for a postcard: sheep grazing in a luxurious pasture on a high mountain plain. Before the sheep arrive, the shepherd has removed poisonous weeds, killed venomous snakes and driven away lurking predators.
Now, we come to the oil as in “You anoint my head with oil.” Bethany, 7, has the right idea when she says, “When he puts oil on our heads, he blesses us.” Adrianna, 8, is also on track: “God anoints our head with the Holy Spirit.” Both are true in the lives of God’s people.
But in the context of sheep peacefully grazing on a high mountain plain, there’s a fly in the ointment. Except here it’s more than a figure of speech.
The nose fly can harass sheep literally to death. They deposit their eggs in the damp mucous membranes of the sheep’s nose. The eggs hatch to form worms, which make their way into the sheep’s head. For relief from the severe inflammation, sheep will beat their heads against rocks and trees.
At the first sign of these pesky flies, the alert shepherd will apply a special ointment to the heads of his sheep so they can continue to graze peacefully.
Life is full of small things beyond our control that can “bug us.” By allowing the Good Shepherd to anoint us, these irritations are counteracted by the presence of God’s Spirit.
“’My cup runs over’ means that God gives you so many blessings that they are uncountable,” says Sean, 10. Or it could mean “God is more than you ask for!” says Derek, 9.
One picture the overflowing cup suggests is the shepherd providing water for his skittish sheep. They’re thirsty but instinctively fearful of rushing river water because their heavy wool makes them vulnerable to being swept away by the current.
Running water has to be channeled into a vessel so that it’s still. “He leads me beside still waters.”
“Jesus’ love is filling my cup,” says Ester, 8.
Think About This: God has prepared a place for you where he will pour blessings into your life.
Memorize This Truth: Please see Psalm 23:5 above.
Ask This Question: Are you willing to follow the Good Shepherd to the place where he can bless you?