Psalms 23 is one of the best known scriptures in the Bible. In it, David speaks in great simplicity and power about about the comfort and protection of God. For centuries, Psalms 23 has provided peace to people going through great distress, loss and pain. If you are in such a place right now, I pray that this scripture will come alive for you today and meet your every need.
You may know verse 5 of Psalms 23 says, “thou preparest a table in the presence of my enemies”. After reading this for years, I recently investigated a few questions I had:
- Why would God prepare a table for me, in front of my enemies?
- What is the table?
- Who are my enemies?
- How is it all prepared?
- What does this mean to us?
As I studied this section of Psalms 23, I was reminded how rich, specific and meaningful each word of the Hebrew language is compared to our English language. After studying this section of Psalms 23 I keyed in on three words:
Keep an eye out for the intense love God has for you in these verses, especially if you are heading into or are in deep waters.
The Hebrew word for prepareth means to “arrange, to “set in order”, to “furnish”, to “ordain”, to “lay” or to “set in a row”. The english meaning of the word “ordain” is to establish or order by appointment, decree, or law. God is not just “preparing” as you and I would prepare eggs for breakfast. He is ordaining something special, he is setting things in an orderly way, he is arranging things, he is laying things out, he’s setting them in order. For me, this implies that God’s kind of preparation is very intentional, very planned, very orderly….bottom line….everything’s under control…under the control of God…he is actively setting things up for you. To me this says something powerful about God’s personal interaction in our lives.
Thou Prepareth a Table…
“You prepare a table”….I have never quite understood this business about a table….and am still not sure I really do, but I’ll try. The Hebrew word table (shuehan) means “spread” and implies a meal; another translation says “feast“!! The Contemporary English Version says: “You treat me to a feast, while my enemies watch.”
God chooses to prepare (ordain, set in order) a meal or feast for us, right in front of our enemies. Who said God was not daring….he is completely undaunted by any evil or troubles…..that, my dear friend, is probably the best news of your life. God is not afraid of anything, period. He actually provides for us as we are under attack by distresses and evil.
The meaning for “feast” or “meal” here, for me, is provision or sustenance. God gives us provision in lavish form, right in the midst of our troubles. I think the provision can be a number of things depending on what’s going on around you – it could be comfort, rest, friends, heart-felt peace, honest co-workers, a salary, food, a nice boss, family that loves you or hope — hope for another day.
The root word for table, interestingly, is shalach, which means to “shoot forth, grow long, reach forth, sow, spread, stretch forth”. That an interesting way to think of our feast – as stretching forth – I think of those long dinner tables in palaces where food (provision) stretches forth and grows long! God’s table of provision is well stocked and piled high! This single idea should rock your world.
Thou preparest a table before mine enemies….
Who are our enemies? Is the enemy a murderer, Satan, the world system that is opposed to God’s system? Again, from the Hebrew dictionary, the word enemies means “adversary, be in affliction, besiege, bind up, be in distress, enemy, oppress, pangs, to be in a straight (trouble)”. So, the word enemy does not just mean a singular force that is against me, like Satan. It’s much more than that, it’s simpler and more applicable to our lives. It’s distress, pangs of trouble, oppression, affliction. All of us have had those – got any now?
You can make up your own Psalm 23:5 based on the original Hebrew words, but for me it can almost read…..
God you arrange, you set in order, ordain and furnish (with great attention to detail) a feast of all sorts of provision that is piled high and stretches out a long way, right in the middle of all my distress, my pangs of trouble and my afflictions.
In the midst of great trouble and distress and affliction, in an orderly way, God lays-out and organizes a long table of provision and sustenance for each of us – for you and for me. If you are going through a time of trouble and distress, cry out to God and ask him to show you the provision and hope he’s created just for you and then…..then…put your faith in the God of the universe who wants to be active in our lives.