“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…” Psalms 23:5 ESV.
In earlier posts in the ‘Shepherd series’ we learnt that God provides for all our needs both material and spiritual, and that He defends us against our enemies. This verse gives us a fuller understanding of the wonderful victory that God intends for us. God will prepare a table in the presence of our enemies – this means that He will lead us to victory and raise us up before all those who laughed at us and predicted our defeat.Victory is certain because God is ‘Jehovah Saboath’ or the Lord of Hosts. The chariots of His angelic army surround God’s people to rescue them from all harm and danger.
So, God has promised to vindicate us in the presence of our enemies. Upon this promise, God’s servants throughout history, built their lives. We, Christians, have one enemy – and only one – though many may unwittingly (or deliberately) serve as his agents. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 NKJV).
Numerous OT witnesses testify that the confidence the believer places in God is always vindicated – and our vindication is often displayed before the eyes of those who hate us, and desire to see our downfall. Joseph, the slave was raised to be a ruler in Egypt; the Red Sea parted before Moses and the Israelites; barren Hannah became the mother of many children; David recovered all that his enemies carried away; Daniel was saved from the lion’s mouth; Jehoshaphat’s enemies destroyed each other, leaving him to carry home treasures from a field full of plunder and fallen enemies. And there are many, many more instances, in the history of God’s people, where He remembered their tears, came to their rescue, and changed their disappointment to triumph.
The devil delights to see us fail, fall and come to a miserable end – and he works ceaselessly to achieve these objectives. Yet, it is he, not us, who is destined for a fall. We share in the victory of Christ who proclaimed “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you” (Luke 10:18-19 ESV).
At the crucial hour when the enemy strikes in terrible violence to pull us down, and destroy us, God has one command for us: “Stand!”
Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:13-14 ESV)
To Jehoshaphat – “Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them… You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you…” (2 Chronicles 20:15-17 NKJV).
In describing the spiritual battle we all must face, Paul writes to the Ephesians – “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil… Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:10-13 NKJV)
This final stand is crucial – otherwise, the enemy attack can seem so overwhelming, that we may feel powerless to do anything but turn back and wave the white flag of surrender. Yet, the final assault is not for us to tackle, for the battle belongs to the Lord.
Daniel describes the ‘little horn’ fighting the saints. In that dramatic vision, the veil was stripped away and heaven opened before his eyes. He saw the Ancient of Days taking His seat on the throne, and the Son of Man being ushered into His presence to receive all authority, and very importantly, the saints being engaged in a battle with the little horn, which they appeared at first to be losing –
“As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom” (Daniel 7:21-22 NKJV).
Although the saints appeared to be on the losing side, they remained in the battle and did not walk away. In standing firm, we will see victory, and the utter ruin and defeat of the enemy. What does our stand consist of? At the Last Supper and at the time of His passion, there are 3 things that Jesus commanded His disciples to do in order to experience victory.
1.“Remain in Me”. We remain in Him, by an act of faith, even if we do not fully understand all that this involves. We must consciously and deliberately identify our lot with Christ’s, and acknowledge that we belong to the household of God. We must seek to walk as he walked. As we remain in Him, the life giving sap flows from the Divine Vine into the branches, producing much fruitfulness and victory. As Jesus prepared to take up His cross, He pronounced the defeat of the enemy. So, our abiding results in the defeat and judgment of the enemy.
“Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out” (John 12:31 ESV).“… The ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over Me” (John 14:30 HCSB).“… about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged” (John 16:11 HCSB).
- “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12 ESV).
By washing their feet Jesus gave His disciples a demonstration of the manner in which they should love one another. This act of humility symbolises willingness for self-abasement in the service of another. It also shows the need for us to carry another’s burdens and lighten their load; and to restore them if they fall or defile themselves in any way. Such love and service for our fellow believers is in such contrast to the ways of the world, that its ruler stands condemned and powerless.
- “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41 NIV).
The enemy watches for an opportune time – when our level of alertness is low – to strike us on the heel, and make us fall into sin. This is what happened to Simon Peter, who, despite his willingness to follow Jesus to death, abandoned the Lord in the hour of trial. It is difficult, in the natural, for any of us to remain vigilant except through prayer, and like Peter seated at the table with the Lord, we are most vulnerable in the hour when we feel confident in ourselves. Peter fell into sin a few hours later. But the Lord, in His faithfulness, forgave and restored him, as He will do for all of us if we repent. In contrast, we see another episode in Peter’s life, when he remained calm, despite being arrested and awaiting trial, because the saints prayed, and God miraculously delivered him.
Jeremiah 33 gives us a vivid description of the celebration that awaits us –
“Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security… I will cleanse them from all the sin… and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me. Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honour before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it.’ (Jeremiah 33:6-9 NIV)
In conclusion, we see that God has prepared a wonderful deliverance for us – in our personal lives as individuals, and also together as the body of Christ. The battle belongs to the Lord, His armies surround us, and He will take His seat on the throne to declare judgment in our favour. We, as the people of God, look forward to our day of celebration.
Father, reveal Yourself to us as the Lord of Hosts, who fights our battles and gives us the victory. Help us to overcome, and be triumphant over this world, the flesh and the devil. For we put our confidence and hope in You alone. We ask this in the name of Jesus.