Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my exceeding joy; yes, with the lyre will I praise You, O God, my God!”
Psalm 43: 4, Amplified Bible
A quiet joy, which time can never destroy:
A joy through tears, through pain, through
This joy is God – ‘God my exceeding joy!’
And, sore and broken, sink I on life’s way,
I shall arise from beneath such weight appalling,
‘God my exceeding joy’ shall be my stay.”
J. Danson Smith
Today’s Study Text:
“Thou preparest a table before me.”
Psalm 23: 5, K.J.V.
Psalm 23 Part 19
“Our Bountiful Benefactor”
“God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Has there been a time in my life when I felt that my Shepherd had prepared a table of bounty for me?
Knowing that my Father’s gifts are so generous, how does this make me feel?
“There is much comfort in the three words ‘preparest for me.’ Because it would seem to indicate the anticipatory care of God…The table is spread before the hunger comes. The spring is bubbling in the shade before mother and child sink fainting on the sand. The angel of the Lord’s host has not only taken possession of the hostile country, but has provided of the old corn of the land. God provisions His castles before they are besieged. ‘Thou preparest a table before me.’”
F. B. Meyer
“God’s bounty is limited only by us, not by His resources, power, or willingness to give.”
Bruce Wilkinson, Prayer of Jabez, (2000)
Growing up in a busy household, where having company visit on a routine basis was the ‘norm,” the household chores got divided up. The task I was assigned to perform was making certain the table was set at mealtime. This meant I was responsible for seeing that the dishes, eating utensils, and linens were properly placed on our family table. As you may have already suspected, when I was young, at breakfast and dinner, everyone in the family gathered together to eat when possible. Suppertime especially fostered a regular routine that even existed after I married and left home. Probably because I grew up maintaining a mealtime schedule, along with making certain everything was correctly placed on the table, laying out an attractive and functional table-setting is something I enjoy doing even to this day. As the seasons change or during times when we celebrate special holidays, I like to decorate our dining table in a festive manner, to the point that friends and family alike are constantly asking me, “What does your table look like right now?”
It may be my enjoyment of carefully laying out the eating area in my own home that helps the passage found in Psalm 23: 5, resonate with me.
It is quite informative that David, a shepherd himself, shared the fact that as part of the duties performed by one who took on the responsibility of caring for a flock of sheep, not only did that individual act as a guiding shepherd, but they also were a benevolent host.
In his commentary on the passage, “He prepareth a table before me,” Kent M. French shares the “household imagery” which the Psalmist uses to give his readers a perspective of why the hosting responsibilities play such an important role in this Psalm, especially when we find there is a safe haven, prepared by a gracious host: “Samuel Terrien notes that the Hebrew for ‘prepare’ (arak) also means ‘arrange,’ and that Palestinian shepherds during the Ottoman Empire were known to travel ahead and ‘arrange’ a field for safe grazing. Upon arriving, the traveler finds a table, which in Hebrew (shulchan) connotes a kingly table, a banquet, a feast.” I find that the way author David Roper explains Psalm 23: 5 helps me more clearly understand not only the historical viewpoint conveyed in the words, “preparest a table before,” but also the physical and emotional implications as well. “The final two verses (of Psalm 23) place (the shepherd) in his tent, providing sanctuary, serving as a gracious host, spreading a lavish meal, overwhelming his guests with hospitality. The ancient shepherd’s tent was a safe house where ‘every wanderer, whatever (their) character, or (their) past might be, was received as a ‘guest of God’ – such is the beautiful name they still give him - furnished with food, and kept inviolable, his host becoming responsible for his safety. (George Adam Smith). It was this custom that David had in mind when he composed this line. “We are God’s guests! He seats us at His table; He welcomes all comers.”
Unfortunately, in a world where mealtime has become “fast-food” time, it may be difficult for us to understand the generosity of tent dwelling homes in the past, where weary travelers were not hesitant to stop and partake with those they may not have ever encountered before. This idea of unhindered hospitality is encouraged throughout Scripture. And as the author of Hebrews encourages, “Do not forget or neglect or refuse to extend hospitality to strangers, being friendly, cordial, and gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously, for through it some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13: 2, Amplified Bible).
For those of us who find the enjoyment we share with others at mealtime to be an essential element in our lives, the words penned by Henri J. M. Nouwen should strike a cord within our heart: “The table is one of the most intimate places in our lives. It is there that we give ourselves to each other. When we say: ‘Take some more, let me serve you another plate, let me pour you another glass, don’t be shy, enjoy it,’ we say a lot more than our words express. We invite our friends to become part of our lives. We want them to be nurtured by the same food and drink that nurtures us. We desire communion…Every breakfast, lunch or dinner can become a time of growing communion with each other.”
Is it any wonder that a shepherd who leads and guides his sheep in green pastures and beside still waters is also a shepherd who makes certain that a table of safety is provided for all those encountered on each journey.
But even more, our shepherd not only invites us to a sumptuous banquet feast, but offers us a celebratory dinner which serves to us as a reminder of our Shepherd who willingly laid down His life for His sheep.
In her book, My Cup Overflows, Shelly Esser relates the following story:
“A man booked passage on a ship that was crossing the Atlantic. He brought with him enough money to buy a ticket, a block of cheese and some crackers for the long voyage. The first few days the crackers and cheese tasted good, but eventually they became stale. Each day as he watched the porters carry large steaks, lobsters, chickens and other delicious foods to the ship’s guests, he became very hungry. In fact, he became so hungry that he grabbed one of the porters. “I’ll do anything to get one of those steaks,” he said. “I’ll wash dishes, clean rooms, even mop the deck.” The porter replied, “You bought a ticket, didn’t you? The meals comes with the ticket.”
There’s no need for you or me to try and survive on a diet of only cheese and crackers when our Shepherd’s gracious love has seen to it that a banquet feast has been prepared for each of us.
The Apostle John records these words in Revelation, “Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19; 9, K.J.V.). We have been invited to the feast. All we need to do is accept our Shepherd’s invitation and say, “Yes, I’ll come! Thanks to Your gift of eternal life, You can save a seat for me at Your table of bounty.”
He Supplieth All of My Need
Day after day His goodness I prove,
Mercies unfailing, new every morning,
Tell me of God’s unchangeable love.
Wisdom and guidance, strength as my day;
Grace for each trial, comfort in sorrow,
Blessed communion all of the way.
There’s not a void that He cannot feel;
Never a burden He cannot lighten,
Never a heartache He cannot heal.”
Thomas O. Chisholm, (1914)
“Lord, give us a new awareness of the overwhelming provisions You graciously give us. Cause our hearts to rise with joy as we grasp just how gracious You have been to us.”
Shelly Esser, My Cup Overflows
“I will surely and abundantly bless her provision.”
Psalm 132:15, Amplified Bible
“How blessed and wonderful, beloved, are the gifts of God…Splendor in righteousness, truth in perfect confidence, faith in assurance, self-control in holiness! And all these fall under the cognizance of our understanding now; what then shall those things be which are prepared for such as wait for Him? The Creator and Father of all worlds, the Most Holy, alone knows their amount and their beauty. Let us therefore earnestly strive to be found in the number of those that wait for Him, in order that we may share in (all) His promised gifts.”
Epistle of Clement
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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