The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leads 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 my enemies: thou anointeth my head with oil; my cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
This is one of the shortest psalms written and one that so many people are familiar with because it is often read at funerals. However, this is not a psalm of or about death, it is poem to the beauty of life.
I just finished reading a book by Max Lucado called “Traveling Light.” This book and others I have read do an excellent job of expounding on this psalm.
However, none of the books or commentaries I have read about this psalm have ever given me the explanation of one sentence that has always been puzzling for me.
A shepherd is responsible for a herd of sheep. This is a simplistic definition for a very difficult task for the shepherd. For these animals are not very bright and need constant care and guidance. Therefore, it may seem a bit simplistic or even a bit condescending when we are referred to as sheep.
Our shepherd, Jesus, cares for us in such an overarching way that we want or need for nothing; all is provided and cared for.
Yet, one line was always been left unexplained. He prepares a table before me (for me) in the presence of my enemies. One commentary said that the table was the grass to eat but the psalmist already spoke of the green grass. Or it has been said it is a place of safety. Yet, that too is covered under the rod and staff of protection and direction. And in just the line prior it is stated that we need fear no evil.
Therefore, what is this table and why is it prepared for us? I think the answer lies in who we are as a chosen people. We have this wonderful table prepared for us, yet all around us are those who we perceive as enemies, foes, people who have hurt us or wish to hurt us.
Before, I come to the table I must wash my hands, I must bow my head in thanksgiving, and then…
Yet, can I truly come to the table before I have offered forgiveness to those who have hurt me? Can I truly come if I myself am in need of forgiveness?
Not only am I in need of forgiveness but I must forgive before I can come to this table. Furthermore, since this table has been prepared to overflowing then the next imperative is that I must invite those around to join me. I can not take of these abundant blessings unless I am open and willing to share it with all.
Furthermore, we can see that the table was prepared by the shepherd and that it is piled high to overflowing. All is given to us as gifts from above. Therefore, we can rest in the assurance of more.
This is why this remains one of my favorite psalms, it is always fresh and alive and there is always something new to be seen and experienced.
This shepherd is always with us, leading us on, giving us rest, anointing our heads, and challenging us to live with him in harmony with our brothers and sisters.
Yes, there is a bounty in the Lord.
Yes, more than enough.
Yes, to life with the Lord.
My dear friends I ask your forgiveness for a period of quiet with no words from me for a time. I ask that you accept this as an offering of bounty from my heart to yours.