“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…” (Psalm 23:5 ESV)
The shepherd’s duty as we all know is to feed and protect his sheep. The foolish and helpless sheep have no means to overpower the wolves prowling about to devour them. What gives them power, and victory over the dangers they face, is the presence of their shepherd. The victory that our Master and Shepherd, intends for us goes beyond immediate deliverance from the hands of our enemy. He has promised us a great victory celebration where He will lay out a table and with His own hands serve us, in the presence of our enemies. So great is His love for us.
The King’s Table
To be invited to the king’s table was considered a sign of great favour bestowed on a privileged few, often as a reward for loyalty and service to the sovereign (1 Kings 2:7). Before the very eyes of the enemy who hates us, and conspires to see us disgraced and destroyed, God will prepare a table filled with choice food, and invite us to dine with Him. He will vindicate our confidence in Him, and show the scoffers that “He is a Rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him”, and “those who trust in Him will never be ashamed”.
“Indeed, He lured you from the jaws of distress to a spacious and unconfined place. Your table was spread with choice food”. (Job 36:16 HCSB)
Faith for Victory
In Psalm 78:19, the psalmist Asaph, while recounting the unfailing faithfulness of God throughout their history, lamented the past faithlessness of their own ancestors in the desert – ‘They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?”’ (ESV). In contrast, David asserts his confidence that, “You make ready a table for me in front of my haters: you put oil on my head; my cup is overflowing” (Psalm 23:5 BBE).
For the Israelites who left Egypt, the failures and bitterness of their past slavery, so filled their horizon that they could not see beyond it, to believe that something much better was being prepared for them. “Who will do us any good?” They refused to believe that anyone would or could do them any good, even if the One promising them the land of milk and honey was God Himself, who had delivered them from Pharaoh, and the armies of Egypt.
Abraham had very little personal experience or historical knowledge to go by, when God called Him. He probably knew of the Lord’s dealings with their ancestor Noah, and how their family had been rescued from the flood. But, on receiving God’s call – along with a magnificent promise – he set forth unhesitatingly exchanging the comforts of a settled life in affluent Chaldea, for a nomadic existence in dusty tents. “He considered Him faithful, who had made the promise…”
When we contrast the outcomes in the two situations, it is not hard to see, that the believing ones are invariably rewarded, while the unbelieving ones fail to see the promises fulfilled. So, we like trusting sheep ought to follow our Shepherd, even though for brief periods of time He may lead us through barren rocky places or dark valleys, because in the end we know, He will most definitely bring us to the place of abundance and victory.
From Failure to Triumph
Abraham set forth, believing God’s word. The Bible says that he did not waver through unbelief, yet when we study the details of his life, it does seem as though he did stumble a few times, especially in the matter of trying to raise a family through Sarah’s maid, Hagar. Yet God, while assessing the whole course of Abraham’s life, overlooked such episodes. In the eyes of the Most High, the fact that Abraham plodded on, in obedience, living his days as a wanderer in the Promised Land – despite the delays, stumbles and setbacks – was sufficient proof of his faith, and his faithfulness.
So Abraham’s straying into Egypt, his lying to Abimelech about Sarah, and even his faithless experiment with Hagar, were all forgiven, and forgotten. What an encouragement this ought to be for us that God will, likewise, forgive and overlook our failings – and bring His promises to pass. God, the perfect Judge, is also a very merciful One.
Like us, Abraham was tested, and this is why he is called the spiritual father of all believers. Some of these tests exposed his weakness and vulnerability, but others ended in victory. Many of these tests happened in full view of his enemies. In an age when childlessness was considered a disgrace, God ordered the childless Abram to change his name to ‘Abraham’, meaning the ‘father of a multitude of nations’. How Abraham’s enemies must have laughed to hear his new name. Yet, it was in front of those very enemies that God performed a miracle, and vindicated his faith.
The Table of His Presence
Under the Old Covenant, God instructed the Israelites to set up a table containing the bread of His Presence in the sanctuary. Under the New Covenant, we are invited to eat of this bread, and drink the wine, and so partake of His body and blood, and therefore of His victory. At the Communion Table, we therefore announce, partake, and celebrate the victory of our Lord, knowing that soon He Himself will arrive to sit at the head of the table. The seemingly interminable waiting period should not weary us and cause us to slumber, but we must constantly depend on the Holy Spirit for a fresh supply of His anointing and strength.
“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.” (Luke 12:37 ESV)
The table is also the place of fellowship. What will satisfy us most at the banquet table is neither the delightful food, nor the blessed company of our fellow diners, but the presence of our Lord Himself. He will be seated at the head of the table dressed in royal splendour. Each of us will feel so intimate with Him as He shows us the full extent of His love for us, just as He did for His disciples at the Last Supper (John 13:1).
Then He will rise, put away His royal robes, put on the uniform of a waiter, and serve us – to show us how much He valued and appreciated the fact that we had walked with Him and trusted in Him, in this age we now live in, but which will then be past. On that joyous occasion, the enemy will have been vanquished – sin and death will be no more. But we will sit with the Beloved to celebrate everlasting life.
Father, thank You for the wonderful promises of victory. We believe in Your promises, and thank You in advance for the day when we will see these things with our own eyes. Like Abraham, help us not to waver or be faithless.