The text is announced and I realize on hearing the words, “Psalm 23” I will not need to turn in my Bible; I know the passage by heart and I began in my mind to quote the familiar passage. I wonder, as I quote, how many times thru the years I have been in a congregation quoted the verses aloud just like I was doing this Sunday morning. There have been numerous occasions. Each verse has been precious at different times in my life.
I thought back to the times in my life when I found myself desperate for God’s provision for me or for the needs of my family. During those times, I have quoted the passage and found great comfort in the promise of that phrase: “I shall not want…”. It times of need the verse was quoted in faith – not knowing how or when but resting in the promise that He would provide for the need because He would provide… somehow. He always has provided and more than once I have quoted with needs met and strengthened faith: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want!”
Then there are other times when I have quoted the familiar passage with a heavy heart. I have sat in numerous funerals, emotionally drained, my eyes hot from tears that have fallen from my eyes, and have heard the words: “Valley of the shadow of death…” and found comfort. I have stood by caskets of various sizes and taken comfort in the fact that I do not have to fear death because “He is with me…”
But on this Sunday the verse of importance was different than it had ever been before. It was the phrase, “Presence of mine enemies…” that stirred my heart this time. The week had been filled with my ‘enemies’ presence. The attacks had been real and I was sitting in church that Sunday morning wounded and hurt from a battle waged against me from ‘my enemies’.
We all have enemies. We have all been attacked.
Have you ever been attacked by the enemy of emotion? Fear and worry can deal a powerful right clip. These two enemies are known not to fight fair and to kick you while you are down. Or there is the enemy of depression. This is an enemy that has welded his attacks at my heart and mind and caused me to feel like I was going down for the last time on more than one occasion! Enemies of emotion are powerful enemies to the heart of a Christian; their attacks are real.
Just living in a fallen world of sin can cause us to come under attack. Surrounded by the world’s system and values can bring attacks that are powerful. Have you been there? Have you felt the bullet of materialism hit your heart and upon its entrance found yourself filled with discontent or coveting those things which you cannot have? I have! Until this body of sin is redeemed and I am given a new body I will feel the war at times raging right within me! Battles of the heart can be ruthless.
Sometimes, the enemies are real. Sometimes, the enemy has a name and knows yours. Sometimes the enemy is persecution. In other countries the enemy of persecution has taken from Christian’s all they have on this earth; and they have found themselves living their earthly lives as vagabonds and fugitives. A persecution we have not known here in the United States. (At least not yet) Some have found attacks from their own family members; and the persecution has cost those relationships they once held dear. When the enemies of our lives are those we know, the battle can leave us deeply wounded.
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies…” The words formed on my lips; and it was if the Holy Spirit said, “These words are for you today!”
My mind’s eye went to a battle field – much like you would see in a scene from Narnia. Enemies, with swords drawn are ready for attack. Disarray and rubbish from fighting covers the barren ground. In my mind’s eye there is the crest flag of the enemy in front of me and I can hear the flag from my own brigade flapping just overhead. I look in front of me and I see the enemy – big and fierce and ready to take me down. I look down at my weapons and then look back up again. As I look up I see something different.
A banquet table is sitting in front of me. I can still see the enemy in the distance; but it appears that they have been frozen in motion; and now I cannot see them clearly because they are blurred. The only thing clearly seen is the beautifully set table just a few feet in front of me.
The wind is blowing over the hill and the fine linen table cloth blows in the wind just a bit. There are flowers adorning the table and the finest china is set and all appears ready for an elegant dinner. I look up from the table and I see a figure approaching. It is Jesus – a clean, starched, white apron is wrapped around His waist. He is holding a covered silver serving dish in His left hand; and He motions for me to come close and points at the chair at the table setting with his right hand.
It is then that I smell the food. I breath in deeply and smell the most delicious smell. (Like the smell of Sunday dinner cooked and ready when you walk through the door of your house after coming home from church.)
I find myself seated at the table and I feel Him right beside me. He opens the covered serving dish to reveal the most wholesome nutritious food I could possibly have that will strengthen me for the battle that my enemies engage upon me.
When the enemy is fear and worry He pulls back the lid and feeds me from His Word. He assures me that He is for me and that He will take care of me. He reminds me how He has never left me and will never leave in the future. As I partake of this ‘food’ he has placed before me I am strengthened from Him.
When the enemy coming over the horizon is materialism and discontent, He fills me with the truth that this world is not my home – I am just a pilgrim. As I eat of the feast He has served up for me my eyesight is adjusted and I am able to have an eternal focus. I am a citizen of heaven, the King of Kings is my Father and this world is not my home.
When the enemies are those who are familiar to me – people who know my name and my weaknesses who persecute me because of my devotion to Christ – He sees my hurt and nourishes me with the truth that “I am His and He is mine”. He assures me that no one can harm me. I am safe. I am His beloved. I eat of His prepared feast and feel secure in knowing that nothing will separate me from Him. Nothing!
When Christ is the focus of my life – the enemies stay blurred.
It is He who prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies. He, the Creator of the universe, serves me. A concept I can’t fathom; but know by experience to be true.
Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world washes feet, prepares feasts and serves those whom He loves. I know, I have tasted of His meal and been filled. I have been embraced by His love and been secure. He has cared for my wounds, and brought healing. He has searched for me when I was lost and carried me home. He has loved me when I was unlovable and assured me that He sees me as beautiful. Fed me in the battle and strengthened me for the war.
So when you find yourself face to face with your enemy – breathe in deeply and look for the food. He has prepared a feast just for you. When you stop and partake of all He has made especially for you - you will find nourishment and strength, (down to the last crumb of luscious dessert). As the enemy begins moving towards you again, there will be no fear. He has filled you; and with confidence you will say,
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life - because the Lord is MY shepherd…”