You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. —Psalm 23:5
As the geography of Psalm 23 progresses, we have now reached the high plateaus and tablelands where the shepherd’s muscles are put to the test. There are rocks to disgorge, briars to clear, pastures to cultivate for the flocks, water to be channeled, and mountain lions to be driven away. Our Shepherd provides for us even in remote places, even in the presence of predatory foes.
Sometimes we encounter human enemies, scheming coworkers, unpleasant neighbors, or hostile family members. Worse enemies lurk within us—selfish thoughts, filthy minds, jealous attitudes, or bitter spirits. Most dangerous of all are satanic spiritual forces prowling around like roaring lions looking for sheep to devour.
Our Shepherd delivers us from all foes. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28).
The Lord anoints us with oil of the Holy Spirit, soothing our hurts, nicks, cuts, bumps, and bruises. And as He tends to our needs, we can say, “Our cups run over!” Providing water for the sheep was hard work. In places without a natural source of water, wells were dug by hand with crude shovels. In Genesis 29, for example, Jacob came upon an enormous well in Mesopotamia that serviced three different herdsmen. At a certain time each day, the workers would roll a stone from the mouth of the well and haul up the water, pouring it into troughs till they overflowed. To the psalmist, such a scene illustrated God’s overflowing blessings in our lives.
One day when I was checking on our sheep, I was alarmed to find that the horse had taken a bite out of the ear of one of our ewes. I didn’t see it happen, but there was no doubt that a good portion of her ear had been torn away by the horse’s teeth. At first I didn’t know what to do, but I thought of this verse of Scripture. Grabbing a bottle of olive oil from the kitchen, I washed the damaged ear and rubbed that olive oil into the wound. It seemed to soothe the sheep, and after several treatments, the wound healed. Later as I was talking to a sheep farmer about it, he said, “Oh, yes, that’s a little trick we use at livestock shows. If we’re showing a sheep and she gets a nick or a cut, we rub a little olive oil on it, and it does the trick.”
There is no grudging in God’s benevolence; He does not measure out His goodness as the apothecary counts his drops…. God’s way is always characterized by… overflowing bounty. —F. B. Meyer
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