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The 23rd Psalm pictures God as a shepherd. We are the sheep under his care. However, the imagery seems to shift in verse 5, which reads, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” Sheep do not eat at tables, nor drink from cups. So what is this verse telling us about the care of God when we depend on him like sheep depend on a shepherd?
The picture of the table is that of a king preparing a banquet for a guest.* The king’s generosity to the guest is witnessed by the enemies, who can only watch. Anointing the head with oil was done as a special honor to a guest at a feast. The olive oil was probably spiced to have a pleasing aroma. Jesus mentions this practice in Luke 6:42. The overflowing cup was also a symbol of generous hospitality. The host of the banquet lavished drink on the guest.
God’s care for us is not simply providing the basics. He doesn’t just provide our daily needs, guide us in righteousness and protect us from evil. God is so extravagant! He treats us like honored guests at a sumptuous banquet! It seems to echo Ephesians 1:8 which says God lavished his grace upon us.
Don’t just see God as the shepherd, see him as the king pouring out his goodness on us!
*”Psalm 23, ‘…table in the presence of my enemies…'” StackExchange, edited June 17, 2020, https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/15552/psalm-23-table-in-the-presence-of-my-enemies.
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