Psalm 23:5-6 - You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Jokes and comedy shows sometimes focus on the unwelcome behavior of an eccentric relative at a family holiday gathering, or the overbearing guest who exhausts everyone with political views or tedious stories. That does not usually happen (we hope!) in real gatherings, but even less-than-welcome guests are just that, guests. They are not enemies. If we planned to dine with enemies, we would be more inclined to set up fortifications, not tables and chairs.
Jesus our Good Shepherd does not set up such defenses. He prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. We may not always be aware of it, but we do live in the presence of enemies. The devil, the temptations of the world around us, and our own sinful desires within us, always seeking to lead us astray. In our weak and fallen nature, we may at times welcome these enemies into our lives as guests. We wander from God's ways and seek the imagined "greener pastures" offered by the devil, the world, and our own desires. But Jesus is our Shepherd and Savior. He seeks us out through His Word, calling us to repentance and bringing us back to Himself.
Jesus Himself once came to the table in the presence of His enemies. On the night He was betrayed, Jesus gathered with His disciples in an upper room in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. At the same time, in the same city, Jesus' enemies also began to come together, "both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel" to do what God "had predestined to take place" (see Acts 4:27-28). As His enemies plotted against Him, Jesus and His disciples remembered the night when God brought His people out of slavery into freedom, the night on which the firstborn of Israel were saved from death by the blood of lambs painted on the doorframes of their homes. As Jesus celebrated that night of freedom, He gave to His followers the gift of His body and His blood.
On that same Passover night, according to God's design for our salvation, Jesus was betrayed into the hands of His enemies. He was condemned to death. On the cross, the Lamb of God shed His blood to atone for the sins of the world. On the first Easter morning, Jesus rose from the dead, victorious over every enemy, even over death itself. As the blood of lambs once marked the doors of Israel, the blood of the Lamb of God marks our lives today. Our risen and reigning Lord invites us to the table He has prepared. As we celebrate His Holy Supper, Jesus feeds us with His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins. Anointed by the Holy Spirit, we receive peace that floods our lives and overflows over into eternity, and we will "dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (Psalm 23:6b).
THE PRAYER: Jesus, through the gift Your body given and blood shed for me, I have peace, even in the presence of enemies. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler.
1. What are some of the things a shepherd does to tend a flock?
2. What does it say about God that He would prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies?
3. What's your favorite line or thought in Psalm 23?
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