“You prepare a table before my enemies…(2)”
Jeremiah 23:1-6, Psalm 23:1-6,
Today’s message is a continuation of the sermon last week coming from the same text. We have covered that in David’s time the land of Israel was mostly rocky hills as we can see from the Bible. If we look at Deuteronomy 11: 11, “… but the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven”, we understand that the land of Israel God had given them after they came out of Egypt was a land of hills and valleys which depend on heaven for water from the rain of heaven. They could not irrigate water like in Egypt since they did not have a river like Nile in Egypt. They could not do much when it comes to providing water and food on their own. But if they looked to God for provision for what they needed, they had everything because God provided. All they needed was to learn to trust God. Those Israelites had to learn to depend on heaven/God for water and food, and it was not easy.
Think about it. In Egypt, they worked; they labored hard to survive. As slaves, they not only worked for Egyptian masters but also, they work for themselves to eat and to drink. They had to provide everything they needed on their own with the meager resources they could find around them. They worked and worked slaving themselves under Egyptians. Although they worked hard without resting, they barely had enough to survive. If they did not work, that meant hunger and starvation.
Israelites left Egypt out of slavery to be under God’s reign to be protected and to be provided for. Israelites confessed that God is the Lord and the Sovereign over their lives. They no longer had to serve the Egyptian masters, only God they could serve. God became their God, the Lord, the Sovereign and their master, and they did not have to labor to provide for them: water and food. As long as they were in the fold of God, following God’s guidance, they had everything.
Those of us, who left “Egypt” to become God’s children, confessing God as our master, our shepherd to be protected and be provided by our God, find it not easy to just to depend on God. Like sheep we are prone to astray, wandering off from the fold, from the green pasture which is provided by God to the rocky hills and valleys that are barren, –no food, no water, only hunger, thirst, and death exist. When we are placed in rocky hills and valleys, practically we cannot do anything providing for us with our own hands but to look to God for what we need, –food and drink. Yet, we are so used to doing things and to provide things with our own hands, and it is not easy to just to trust God and not doing anything. That is why we often leave the fold of God and going astray. When we are astray, we covered last week that God forcefully makes us lie down in his green pasture and leading us to the restful water. God forcefully puts a stop to our driven life in the rocky hills and brings us back to the green pasture he provides and leads us to the restful water.
Verse 3, “He renews my life…”. In Hebrew, it means “He restores my soul” or he brings my soul from its errors or wanderings. God intentionally comes to us who are in the rocky hills not finding the way back and brings us back to the path of righteousness. In other words, on our own, we cannot walk in the path of righteousness and holiness. We have to be led in the path of righteousness. God shows us and leads us to the path. The question is whether we hear God’s voice every day to be led.
On another note, how a comforting thought is it that God personally comes to us to bring us back, not just once or twice but all the days of our lives as long as we let him. Remember? Sheep are prone to wander, not just once or twice but all their lives they prone to go astray. But as long as they remember their shepherd’s voice and follow, they will be brought back. I am praying for those people who have gone astray, not having a relationship with God, I pray that they would remember the God they sang, “Jesus loves me this I know…” I pray that they remember the warmth and the love they felt while they worshiped and learned about God while they were growing up.
Verse 4, “Even though I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me.” As a finite being, we are to go through the “valley of the shadow of death”. That is a given in life without exception. As I numerously mentioned that Christian life is not guaranteed of it rose strewn journey.
“The valley of the shadow of death”, or “the darkest valley” may denote the most severe and terrible affliction, or living hell or living death experience, that we humans ever could come under. Not only the death we have to go through, literally and spiritually, but also we humans go through the shadow of death, the darkest valley in life, troubles, afflictions, miseries, and tragedies. For some people, the valley they go through is deep indeed, dark, and miry so some are lost or die spiritually, emotionally in that valley, but not the sheep who are found in God. The first thing we have to note here is that when we go through the shadow of death, we are not alone, but God is with us. When we look at, “For you are with me”, this “with me” comes from the word meaning “to stand.” So the word means more than just “with me.” It means “standing with me,” or “helping me stand up.” Which means we are not left alone even at the moment when we might feel that we are left all alone. God stands with us helping us to stand up in the face of terrible afflictions, sufferings, and tragedies.
“Your rod and your staff” which denotes guiding and comforting. Our shepherd guides us with his rod and sustains us with his staff. There is a woman in her 20’s, who once was very beautiful but whose beautiful face was disfigured to the point that no one could detect her former beauty in her contorted face due to the car accident she was involved in. The car was exploded in fire and she has seriously burned her whole body including her face. She and her family were going through literally living hell. She fell deeper and deeper into the darkest valley of despair and suicidal wishes. But God was there comforting her with his staff and guiding her with his rod through so many surgeries for so many years. Her face is irreparable, and she cannot function fully with her burnt body, yet God gave her new perspectives in life and she came out of her tragedy so completely that she became an icon of hope to those people who think that they have lost everything and that they had no more hope to look for in their lives. She was asked once whether she wants to have her beautiful face back she once had. She answered that if she had a choice between her life with beautiful face but little to no faith in God and the life with the current face, contorted and disfigured, but having God in her heart guiding her every moment in her life, then, without hesitation, she would choose the current life with disfigured face having God leading her life every moment. She experienced God guiding her and comforting her. She came to know how loving and comforting it is to be in the bosom of God being held and loved. When we go through the shadow of death, God’s people find underneath them are the everlasting arms of God, guiding and comforting.
Verse 5, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”
“Prepare” means to “arrange in an orderly fashion”, to “set in order”, to “furnish”, to “ordain”, to “lay” or to “set in a row”.
Table: the root word for table, in Hebrew, means to “shoot forth, grow long, spread, stretch forth”. The table one can find only in a palace or mansion, which means “feast” or sumptuous “meal” here in our context.
“In the presence of our enemies”.
In Hebrew, the word enemies mean “adversary, be in affliction, besiege, bind up, be in distress, enemy, oppress, pangs, to be in a trouble”. Meaning, it’s distress, pangs of trouble, oppression, affliction in our life, they are our enemies.
So if we read verse 5 closely to its original meaning, *In the midst of great trouble and distress and affliction, in an orderly way, God lays-out and organizes a long table of provision and sustenance for each of us – for you and for me.
God gives us provision in lavish form, right in the midst of our troubles. I think the provision can be a number of things depending on what’s going on around us– it could be a comfort, rest, friends, heartfelt peace, provision, financial resources, food, a help, a family that loves us or hope — hope for another day.
What does it mean?
1)Providing comfort and peace to enjoy what is prepared for us. If enemies surround us, normally, no peace but anxiety, fear, and worries, but in the midst of the terrible situation that threatens us to devour, we can have peace and serenity God provides. Our soul is not moved or agitated but finds rest in God’s bosom.
Anoint my head with oil: at the wedding, guests were anointed with oil, a symbol of merriment, joy, and happiness
My cup overflows: when visited, the owner of the house filled the cup of the guest to the brim, signifying abundance
*God prepares a table for us, on which we find living water and living bread, Jesus Christ, the very Himself.
The greatest enemy of ours is Satan who tries to prevent us from having a rich fellowship in God through Christ our Lord.
God anoints us with oil= we need the anointing of Holy Spirit to have living water gushing within us, filling our hearts with Joy and happiness only found in Christ Jesus.
My cup overflows= my cup of salvation overflows and reaches to our neighborhood, to our village to our country and to the world!
Amen and amen!!!