“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…” Psalm 23:5 ESV
When the Israelites moved in the desert for 40 years, they were fed with manna from heaven. Each morning, like dew on the ground, manna fell from above, and the people who left their tents to gather their daily portions of food never returned to their families empty handed. For 40 years, their enemies waited for their large company to die out from starvation or other travails of living in the wilderness, surrounded as they were by warring tribes, snakes and wild beasts; but were disappointed.
Earlier in the Shepherd series on the topic of God our Provider, we learnt of His faithful provision. This scripture verse goes further, and we are taught that God’s miraculous provision and deliverance will be prominently displayed in full view of our enemies.
If we study the history of the nation of Israel, we see how faithful God is to the hundreds of promises that He made to their forefathers. He pledged that even after the Israelites had broken their covenant with them, He would remember their love for Him in the ‘days of their youth’ and gather them from all the lands where He had scattered them to restore them to the land of their fathers. Two thousand years after their dispersal, we are privileged to see the restoration of the State of Israel. He has also granted the Jewish people honour in the sight of all nations, and their excellence in every field has been unquestioned.
From the time of Abel, God’s servants have been attacked by powerful enemies intent on their annihilation. They seem all powerful – and appear to be succeeding – for a time, but there inevitably comes a point where God intervenes to deliver His own. The enemies are then forced to yield, and either to acknowledge the favour of God on the lives of His servants and His power to save them, or else to find the tables turned, with the destruction they planned being turned back on their own heads. David who had numerous enemies prevailed over them despite his apparent lack of power or strength, because God was on His side. Haman, who sought to destroy the Jewish people, was set up for his own downfall.
God’s deliverance served as a testimony to His faithfulness, truth and power to the unbelieving world; and the Bible records their words of amazement –
- Abimelech to Abraham – “God is with you in all that you do.” (Genesis 22:21 ESV)
- Pharaoh (concerning Joseph) – “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” (Genesis 31:38 ESV)
- Pharaoh to Moses, on seeing that the mighty hand of God was stretched out on behalf of his Israelite slaves – “This time I have sinned; the Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Plead with the Lord…” (Exodus 9:27-28 ESV).
- The Egyptian army – “Let us flee from before Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.” (Exodus 14:26 ESV).
- Balaam (who was paid by Balak to curse Israel) –“I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot change it. No misfortune is seen in Jacob, no misery observed in Israel. The Lord their God is with them; the shout of the King is among them. There is no divination against Jacob, no evil omens against Israel. ” (Numbers 23:21, 23 NIV)
- Nebuchadnezzar to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego after they emerged unharmed from the furnace where he had thrown them, “…there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” (Daniel 3:29 ESV)
The difference in attitude (and outcomes) between the believers and unbelievers was summed up by David, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.” (Psalm 20:7-8 ESV).
We tend to underestimate God’s faithfulness and zeal to vindicate us before our enemy. As Zechariah wrote, “Thus said Jehovah of Hosts: I have been zealous for Zion with great zeal, With great heat I have been zealous for her” (Zechariah 8:2 YLT).
God often vindicates His servants in the very places where they suffered disgrace. “I will appoint them for praise and fame in every land where they were put to shame” (Zephaniah 3:19 NKJV). He blessed Hannah, who was taunted by her rival for her barrenness, with six children, and her firstborn, Samuel, whom she had dedicated to the Lord – served God and led the nation of Israel with great integrity and dedication.
The question before us is by what means we may experience His vindication and deliverance as a reality in our own lives. The answer is simple – by faith. Hebrews 11 records the victory of God’s people over various limiting circumstances through faith. Again and again, people who put their faith in God were not disappointed. “Women received their dead raised to life again” (vs. 35). Every setback and failure would give way to triumph, barrenness to fruitfulness, defeat to victory, shame to honour. The enemy who came against them in one direction had to flee in seven.
All this calls for a response from us. We must get rid of doubt and unbelief – which ties up the hand of deliverance, and delays our victory. Just as the Israelites were commanded to get rid of all leaven from their homes, we must, with all diligence, purge out unbelief. Remember the wanderings of the Israelites. They doubted God’s love (“Has God brought us here to kill us?”), His power (“Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?”), and grumbled endlessly. All that generation of chronic doubters had to give way to a new generation of rock solid believers who took God at His word and conquered. When that generation arrived at the gates of Jericho, the giants within ‘melted with fear’, and the walls literally crumbled at their shout of triumph.
The ultimate victory of God’s people has been in those times and places where God deliberately withheld their earthly deliverance; yet they stood firm in their faith, never denying His name or changing their allegiance. As they emerged triumphant over every limitation and hardship, that the world, the flesh and the enemy could possibly impose on them, the power of the cross was mightily displayed before the hosts of Satan. The author of Hebrews describes the sufferings many endured for the sake of Christ – they were tortured and would not accept release because they hoped for a better resurrection. “They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy” (vs 37). They taunted death itself, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory” (1 Corinthians 15:55 KJV).
The final victory which God has intended for them and us, has been recorded in vivid terms by the apostle John. The self-denying faith exercised by God’s people will be instrumental in the overthrow of Satan and the setting up of Christ’s kingdom – “Now… the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (Revelations 12:10-11 NKJV).
God sets up a table before us in the presence of our enemies. They may gloat for a while as we struggle or stumble, but our deliverance is at hand, and it will be so great that everyone will be astounded. The wagging tongues will be silenced, and the mockers will be in disgrace, on the day that God vindicates us. So, at times when we feel weak or tired from the long trial we may have endured, we must remember that our victory is at hand, and rejoice, and say with all the saints and God’s angels – “Come, Lord Jesus!”
Father, thank You for the victory that You have promised us. Help us to remain steadfast, believing in the triumph of the cross over every onslaught of Satan. The day is coming when You will turn things around in full view of those who mocked us; and great will be our joy on that day. Amen.