Psalm 23 (God of Blessings) pt.6
All Scripture is taken from the New Living Translation
Today we are finishing up the series on the Goodness of God based off Psalm 23.
We’re going end today on verse 5…
Psalm 23:5 is one of my favorite pictures to get in my mind when thinking of the goodness of God and how well He takes care of me…And us…When going through battles.
Psalm 23:5 – “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.”
The Psalmist here (King David) is talking to God about God, and I must believe he is speaking from experience, and the relationship he has with God…
Not only did King David fight many battles… He was also very close with God.
And King David, it looks to me, envisioned God Himself preparing a feast for him in the middle of a battle… In the presence of his enemies!
Picture this; God Himself preparing a feast for you… A feast of all your favorite foods… And this isn’t something that’s just thrown together… This is a well thought out, prepared feast!
In the King James Version is reads, “You prepare a table for me…”
And the Hebrew meaning for table in the context of this sentence literally means, “The king’s table.”
So, we’re not just talking about any table here, this is a feast meant for a king…
One of those long tables you would see in a king’s castle…
And guess what? We are the guest of honor… It’s me and the King… You and the King!
And it’s a feast that God prepares for us that we get to sit down and enjoy in public… Not only is this for all to see… It’s done in front of our enemies!!!
If all my enemies are watching this, I see this taking place on the battlefield.
And while this is taking place God says, I’m going to honor you and anoint your head with oil…
In the Old Testament days kings, priests, and prophets were publicly anointed with oil as a way of symbolizing God’s favor being upon them…
Anointing the head with oil was also a way of showing hospitality to guests…
And lastly, shepherds would pour oil on the sheep’s head as a way of keeping a certain parasite from spreading through the herd.
The anointing of oil could mean, favor with God… God extending hospitality to us as the honored guest at the feast… Or it could literally mean protection.
Also, let’s keep in mind that this feast is not something reserved for the mountain top experiences in life…
As followers of Jesus, we have three enemies we will always be dealing with here on earth
The world around us: The world is always after us… If you’ve ever dealt with injustice, oppression, racism, nothing seems to work out right, being overlooked, the world just seems to be against me…
These are things that happen in the world around us that catch us off guard and bring us down.
Satan is against us: We should already know what comes with this one… he hates all of God’s creation especially mankind and will use anything he can to defeat us!
Our sinful nature: Sometimes the biggest enemy we have is ourselves… Always want to do good, but always drawn to things we ought not be doing.
This passage in verse 5 is a powerful truth in the Scriptures… When we’re in the midst of a battle, not before it, not after it…In the middle of it!
God wants to throw a feast for us… When everything is coming against us, God wants us to know how much He loves us, and He wants to encourage us…
And this blessing isn’t done in private, it’s done publicly in front of our enemies…
What do we do when it seems all is against us? We cry out to God!
Psalm 5:11-12: “11But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy. 12For you bless the godly, O LORD; you surround them with your shield of love.”
During a battle, passages like this should be like sitting at a feast prepared by God!
When we seek refuge in our Shepherd there is joy, there is protection, and we are surrounded by His love… God’s love for us is beyond comprehension!!
Remember one of our enemies, satan, will do all he can to get us to think God doesn’t love us… To get us to think we have to fight this on our own!
Picture this; You’re fighting for your dignity, fighting for justice, fighting for your health, your marriage, your sanity….
Whatever it is you’re fighting for it seems like the enemy is closing in and there’s no victory in sight… All the sudden the King of Kings walks onto the battlefield and puts His arm around you… In front of everyone… And say, “Let’s take a break you look weary.”
And He brings you to a huge tent surrounded by guards, these would be angels, and He sits you down at the king’s table with all your favorite foods in front of you…
As He’s serving you, Jesus says, “I want you to fill up, eat and enjoy, let’s talk, because I want you to know how much I love you, I feel like you’ve forgotten that in the midst of this battle… Be encouraged because I’ve been fighting beside you this entire time.
Nobody can get to you with Me by your side… I love you and I’m proud of you… So let’s forget about everything for a minute while we hang out and I want you to get replenished and encouraged. This fight
isn’t over, but you got this… We got this!!”
All of this is done in front of your enemies… They can hear it all too!! This is how our Shepherd takes care of us during our battles!
Feeding us – Nourishment and strength Spending time with us – Encouragement and fellowship Anointing us with oil – His favor and protection is upon us… And all can see His blessing is with us!
Often when God wants to bring us to a place of victory, job promotion, better health, marriage restored, justice served, whatever it is, He wants us to succeed…
What God wants for your life no man can stop from happening… But we gotta fight for it!! Nothing is easy, right?
Job 36:15-17: “15But by means of their suffering, he rescues those who suffer. For he gets their attention through adversity. 16 “God is leading you away from danger, Job, to a place free from distress. He is setting your table with the best food. 17 But you are obsessed with whether the godless will be judged. Don’t worry, judgment and justice will be upheld.”
During his affliction, Job was concerned with what was going on with those around him… Why aren’t they getting their due justice, judgment must be served!
Isn’t that what we do too? We cannot be concerned with what is going on around us!
We have a Shepherd, a Savior who is taking care of that… What we must do is picture Him leading us from danger, freeing us from distress, and preparing a feast for us so He can put His banner of love over us!
Far too often we’re concerned about our critics, and it causes unneeded stress and worry, and I wonder if it keeps us from experiencing the goodness of God in the middle of a battle.
When the Vineyard was going through some stuff in the 90’s and critics were talking bad about John Wimber and the association of churches he oversaw… John did not feel the need to defend himself… While most people would!!
Then a well-known pastor from a well-known denomination spoke up in defense of John Wimber and the Vineyard (It’s in the book, The Quest for the Radical Middle), putting all accusations to rest!
While others are attacking us, God wants to spend time with us, protecting us and leading us from danger… As a good Shepherd would do for His sheep
You see, God prepares in advance the feast for us, the blessings for us to enjoy…. In front of our enemies… And God will silence those against us!
We have to trust His process!
Psalm 31:19-21a: “19How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. 20 You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in your presence, far from accusing tongues. 21Praise the LORD, for he has shown me the wonders of his unfailing love. He kept me safe when my city was under attack.”
This series is all about the goodness of God… “How great is the goodness You have stored up for those who are in awe of You.”
No matter how hard the battle… Maybe you’re going through life right now holding on for dear life… Feels like a roller coaster you can’t get from!!
Before that battle even started, God began preparing a feast for you… It’s a well-prepared feast meant to strengthen and encourage… Or maybe it’s a victory feast waiting for you after the battle….
But in the meantime, what do we do? We stay focused on Jesus and honor Him with the way we live… With our business, our interactions with others… The way we think, act, and talk…
When it seems like everything is against us, we need to honor Jesus in all we do…
The best way to honor Him is by reading His word, spending time with Him in His Word because then we learn more about Him and how He feels about us…
It also teaches us to love those around us… To love our enemies… To forgive those that hurt, insult, and offend us… To focus on Jesus and don’t get caught up in the arguing a bickering with others…
Colossians 3:17: “ And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
We cannot expect to get through battles if we are not in God’s Word on a regular basis… Reading it, studying it, and meditating on it!
I want to end with one more passage on the final feast the Bible speaks of…
Isaiah 25:6-9: “6 In Jerusalem,[a] the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world. It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat. 7 There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. 8 He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign LORD will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. The LORD has spoken! 9 In that day the people will proclaim, “This is our God! We trusted in him, and he saved us! This is the LORD, in whom we trusted. Let us rejoice in the salvation he brings!”
We will have many battles to face here on this earth, but if we stay close to our Shepherd, reading His Word, meditating on it day and night…
At just the right time He will provide for us a feast in the presence of our enemies…
And we all, as followers of Jesus, have the final feast to enjoy when Jesus sets up His throne to rule and reign forever!!
- The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
- He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams.
- He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name.
- Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for You are close beside me. Your rod and Your staff protect and comfort me.
- You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.
- Surely Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.
A FATHER’S HAND
A Mother’s Story:
My son Gilbert was eight years old and had been in Cub Scouts only a short time. During one of his meetings he was handed a sheet of paper, a block of wood and four tires and told to return home and give all to “dad.”
That was not an easy task for Gilbert to do. Dad was not receptive to doing things with his son. But Gilbert tried. Dad read the paper and scoffed at the idea of making a pine wood derby car with his young, eager son.
The block of wood remained untouched as the weeks passed. Finally, mom stepped in to see if I could figure this all out. The project began. Having no carpentry skills, I decided it would be best if I simply read the directions and let Gilbert do the work.And he did. I read aloud the measurements, the rules of what we could do and what we couldn’t do.
Within days his block of wood was turning into a pine wood derby car. A little lopsided, but looking great (at least through the eyes of mom). Gilbert had not seen any of the other kids cars and was feeling pretty proud of his “Blue Lightning,” the pride that comes with knowing you did something on your own.
Then the big night came. With his blue pine wood derby in his hand and pride in his heart we headed to the big race. Once there my little one’s pride turned to humility. Gilbert’s car was obviously the only car made entirely on his own. All the other cars were a father-son partnership, with cool paint jobs and sleek body styles made for speed.
A few of the boys giggled as they looked at Gilbert’s, lopsided, wobbly, unattractive vehicle. To add to the humility, Gilbert was the only boy without a man at his side. A couple of the boys who were from single parent homes at least had an uncle or grandfather by their side, Gilbert had “mom.”
As the race began it was done in elimination fashion. You kept racing as long as you were the winner. One by one the cars raced down the finely sanded ramp. Finally it was between Gilbert and the sleekest, fastest looking car there. As the last race was about to begin, my wide eyed, shy, eight year old ask if they could stop the race for a minute, because he wanted to pray. The race stopped.
Gilbert hit his knees clutching his funny looking block of wood between his hands. With a wrinkled brow he set to converse with his Father. He prayed in earnest for a very long minute and a half. Then he stood, smile on his face and announced, ‘Okay, I am ready.”
As the crowd cheered, a boy named Tommy stood with his father as their car sped down the ramp. Gilbert stood with his Father within his heart and watched his block of wood wobble down the ramp with surprisingly great speed and rushed over the finish line a fraction of a second before Tommy’s car.
Gilbert leaped into the air with a loud “Thank you” as the crowd roared in approval. The Scout Master came up to Gilbert with microphone in hand and asked the obvious question, “So you prayed to win, huh, Gilbert?” To which my young son answered, “Oh, no sir. That wouldn’t be fair to ask God to help you beat someone else. I just asked Him to make it so I don’t cry when I lose.”
Children seem to have a wisdom far beyond us. Gilbert didn’t ask God to win the race, he didn’t ask God to fix the out come. Gilbert asked God to give him strength in the outcome. When Gilbert first saw the other cars he didn’t cry out to God, “No fair, they had a fathers help.” No, he went to his Father for strength.
Perhaps we spend too much of our prayer time asking God to rig the race, to make us number one, or too much time asking God to remove us from the struggle, when we should be seeking God’s strength to get through the struggle. “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13.
Gilbert’s simple prayer spoke volumes to those present that night. He never doubted that God would indeed answer his request. He didn’t pray to win, thus hurt someone else, he prayed that God supply the grace to lose with dignity. Gilbert, by his stopping the race to speak to his Father also showed the crowd that he wasn’t there without a “dad,” but His Father was most definitely there with him. Yes, Gilbert walked away a winner that night, with his Father at his side.
God … the Father?
Have earthly fathers helped or hurt your view of God as your Father?
People say funny things to a kid who’s lost his dad. Well, they seemed strange to me, at least. “You’re the man of the house now,” one aunt told me at my father’s funeral, dabbing her eyes with bunched-up tissues. “You must take care of your mom and sister.”
As a kid just finishing third grade, I wasn’t sure what to make of this. I certainly didn’t feel like a man. And I imagined that this honor wouldn’t get much mileage in everyday life. One does not say to one’s mother, “I won’t be eating my vegetables tonight. I’m the man of the house now.”
Another thing people said — once we started attending church — was that God would be my father now. God, they told us, was the “father of the fatherless,” the “protector of widows” (Psalm 68:5). Could any other truth be more relevant for our family?
They meant well, I know, but I recognized that the word father, as it applied to God, didn’t have precisely the same meaning as the language used to describe a guy who lives with a mother and some children. Yes, God was the powerful Creator, the source of wisdom, truth and love — but He wasn’t going to be there to help a kid with his math homework, throw a football around or build a dog house together. The Architect of snowflakes and solar systems wasn’t available for taking 10-year-old boys out for breakfast to talk about what sex means.
God … as a father? It sounds nice. But I knew better. A real father was in a home — not on a throne.
The Son’s invitation
Yet it’s true that God presents himself as a father. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus makes more than 150 references to God as a father. For the Jews of that time, this was a new way of addressing God. (And it was certainly surprising to the Jewish leaders that a man could stand before them and claim that he was the Son of this Father.) While Old Testament writers sometimes described God using qualities of earthly fathers and mothers, Jesus referred to God using more informal, intimate language. He also invites us into this relationship, teaching us to address God as “our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). It is only through Christ’s work on the Cross that we are adopted into this family relationship (Ephesians 1:5).
Some people may have a difficult time relating to God as a father. Fatherhood is an idea that we’re all very familiar with, and we may project our expectations or experiences of what a father should be, or has been, onto our heavenly Father. A boy who longs for a dad has a hard time seeing God as capable of filling that role. A girl who feels she has to succeed in sports and school to earn her father’s approval may see her relationship with God in a similar way. For others, the word father may bring up memories of abuse or neglect. How tragic that such a beautiful facet of God’s character — that He is not a distant, impersonal ruler, but a warm and welcoming papa — is often tainted by the weaknesses of human fathers!
As a dad, I don’t want my presentation of fatherhood to hurt my kids’ ability to see God as their heavenly Father. But it’s perhaps more important that we help our children recognize the foundational truth here: that God, in all His power and glory, is best understood as a loving, intimate Father.
Glimpses of His character
Throughout Scripture, Jesus often illustrates God’s kingdom by using pictures that we are familiar with: seeds and soils, sheep and the Shepherd. For those who thirsted after truth, the parables of Jesus were profound, memorable windows into the nature of God. When Jesus calls God a father, we might think this is another metaphor: that God, while not being an actual human father, shares some similarities to earthly dads. But as Pastor Gene Veith writes, we should see God as the actual, literal father. “Earthly fathers have certain remote similarities to Him,” Veith says. “The essence of fatherhood is found in God, not in human beings.”
My daughter Mikayla recently showed me some photos she’d taken. There were pictures of flowers and horses, along with a series of snapshots I can only describe as “sisters jumping down stairs.” As I clicked through the photos, Mikayla talked about what those scenes had really looked like — how the flowers and horses had been more beautiful, the stair-jumping even goofier — if only she’d been able to get the focus, lighting and timing right. Hasn’t every photographer, whatever their level of expertise, thought something similar?
I tell my kids that just as a photograph can never capture the full experience of something, the pictures we have available to understand God are limited by our inherent inability to recognize the depth of His glory and goodness. The image of an earthly father, as a way of understanding God, is a good picture — and it’s made clearer the better dads do their jobs — but it is still just a partial glimpse at something much bigger.
God is the actual, literal Father. To help kids understand this, we can highlight the following five truths,
which paint a profound (yet still incomplete!) picture of our heavenly Father:
He is the source of life.
Fathers have an important part in contributing to the life of children. As you lead your kids, help them recognize how their heavenly Father is the source of all life. Visit zoos, aquariums and arboretums together, enjoying the vast spectrum of life that wouldn’t exist without our Creator Father.
Emphasize also that following God’s plan is the path to abundant life (John 10:10). And when we accept His Son as our Savior, we are given new life — adopted into the Father’s family (Romans 6:23). He lovingly corrects us. As the true Father, God’s discipline and correction are always done out of love (Hebrews 12:3-11). Help your kids recognize the ways that God’s Spirit corrects us in our everyday decisions and interactions with others, how we can feel Him prodding us toward decisions that reflect His love and truth, and how we feel convicted when we choose to disobey.
He provides for our needs.
Show your kids all the ways God provides for our needs. Celebrate rainstorms and apple trees and lakes full of fish. How much joy the true Father must receive when we enjoy all the good gifts that He has provided through creation (Matthew 7:11).
He gives us His wisdom.
We help our kids learn life skills and encourage them in their gifts and talents. But help them see that true wisdom comes from our heavenly Father. His inspired Word is the ultimate source of wisdom and truth (2 Timothy 3:16-17d).
He always welcomes us back.
We forgive our children when they mess up, and we try to help them make better choices in the future. Help your kids recognize that this is just a glimpse of God’s role in our lives. He is the ultimate model of forgiveness. We all mess up, but our true Father is constantly on watch for our return, running to us with joy when we turn back to His family (Luke 15:11-32).
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