This weekend, my pastor continued his series on The 23rd Psalm. The text was:
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:- Psalm 23:5a (KJV)
Compare the translation of that verse in the King James Version to that found in The Message:
You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing.
The latter is what we often think of when we read this passage but is that what it really means?
I know very little about sheep. Not only was I raised in the city but Minnesota is not exactly known for it's sheep. I know more about corn, soybeans and dairy cows than I know about sheep. Many years ago, I read an excellent book by the late Dr. W. Phillip Keller who had spend his boyhood in Kenya and had in fact, been a shepherd during his lifetime as well. In the 1970's he wrote a book entitled "A Shepherd's Look At the 23rd Psalm". Unlike myself, he knew a thing or two about sheep.
The table David referred to was not a dining room table. It was what is known as "the table land". It's a great place for grazing but it is also out in the open.
Today I learned that before the shepherd took his flock to "the table", he would visit it himself. He would carefully scout out the land for anything that would endanger his sheep. He looked for predators and if necessary he would trap and kill them before he brought the sheep there. He looked for poisonous plants and removed them, lest the sheep ingest them and become sick or even die. The shepherd took note of any dangerous areas where a sheep could get hurt. If necessary, he would fill in pits, remove stones and so forth. There was good feeding on the table land the shepherd wanted to ensure the safety of his sheep before he brought them there.
Since there could be a lot of work involved, this was not something which could be done quickly. Great care had to be taken to make sure it would be a safe place for his sheep. It could take a number of days before everything was ready. Then and only then did the shepherd lead his sheep to "the table".
God does the same thing for us. It might not seem that way to us. All we can see is the challenges God allows us to face. What we don't see is the countless dangers He protects us from on a daily basis.
A number of years ago, I wanted to become more aware of some of those unseen, behind the scene things which God did. I wanted to be more sensitive to how He prepared the table for me so I asked Him to help me become more aware of his "fingerprints". To see more than just the briefest of glimpses would be too much for us to comprehend but I am very grateful for what God has allowed me to see. It has helped me to understand that even when I am in danger and I feel like I am surrounded by my enemies, Jesus, the Good Shepherd has gone before me, preparing the way. It has given me the confidence to know that I face nothing without His permission and therefore though I might not be able to see it, what I endure is either for my good, the good of someone else or both. It enable me to remember that all His ways are good and sure and when I follow Him, I have nothing to fear. Wherever I go, whatever I face, I am safe because the Shepherd goes before me preparing the table before me in the presence of my enemies.
P.S. There is much more to this verse but I will save that for another blog!
Very interesting explanation of this verse. It puts a new light on the words. I am curious, does a shepard refer to the land where he puts his flock as a "table or table land"? keep blogging. - bibleguy
Thanks for opening my eyes to a well known verse. We here in NZ know our sheep but not to the same extent that you have outlined for we have no real Predators here that would harm the sheep and the paddocks would have been checked on a regular basis for any danger - like a water hole etc.
Blessings. Look forward to more of the same.