(January 16, 2021) Maureen McQuillan shares…
In these trying days of the worldwide covid-19 pandemic, its associated troubles, and regular TV bad news, it’s great to relax. Even to take a short break away from home driving around the refreshing open countryside minutes from where we live and enjoying the beautiful scenery.
Often, I spot sheep relaxing round the paddocks, those fleecy animals that cause me to reminisce about them, about shepherds and David’s refreshing Psalm 23.
Some folks have wrongly associated Psalm 23 with death … often Robert has its reading requested by non-churchgoers at funerals. But I see it as an encouraging psalm about life – a good life here and now not just in eternity, filled with the love and kindness of God!
David had been a shepherd in his youth. Although he’s talking about God removing doubts and fears, I see verses two to four of this psalm as reflecting on his own responsibility to ensure the flock under his care would be at rest, need of food and water supplied and, when frightening disturbing threats came along, his promptness to defend using shepherd’s weapons (and muscles as in 1Samuel 17:34-36a).
A thoughtful and fearless shepherd, David knew to care for these emotional animals (Yes, not only are humans emotional… a 2009 report published in Animal Welfare describes sheep are capable of experiencing a whole range of emotional feelings from fear to anger, despair, boredom and happiness).
It’s like verse five summarises it all in a nutshell… that he as a shepherd would look after this flock even when enemies were nearby, that he’d prepare a table; a vast spread for his flock to the point where they were ‘full’ i.e., overflowing with satisfaction. Verse six is a great wrap-up confirmation… ‘Surely’ (think ‘Most certainly’) David reassures that this caring, providing and protecting will continue!
But there’s more here. David not only knew how to care for his flock; he also knew and acknowledged God as the heavenly shepherd who cared for him and knew all about his emotions and needs!
David is reflecting on the goodness of a loving, caring, creative, providing and protective God! Consequently, there’s something very deep in this psalm, even the first verse – ‘The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want’ (emphasis mine).
Some Bible scholars believe that David possibly wrote this when he was grief-stricken and heartbroken in what may have been the darkest hour of his life due to his son Absalom’s rebellion. When one considers this, we see that troubled David is making a strong two-part declaration when he boldly states that no matter what’s going down…
1) God is his shepherd!
2) Consequently, he will never be in any need!
Regarding David’s declaration of his heavenly shepherd’s caring, these two versions come across equally strong –
- Message: ‘… I don’t need a thing.’
- NIrV: ‘… He gives me everything I need.’
As we Christians consider ourselves God’s flock, this is very encouraging… as is the Luke 12:32 scripture below!
Christians can – indeed ought to – strongly agree with David because Jesus, our Lord, said,’ I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep’ (John 10:11). The writer of Hebrews named Jesus the great shepherd (Hebrews 13:20) and Peter called him the chief shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). And… Jesus acts as the Father would (John 5:19, 6:38, 10:15, 14:31)!
A sad psalm? No way! David immediately moves on to quickly state some aspects of his heavenly shepherd’s goodness – which, if we really trust God, we too can take on board. Let me just share on one…
Verse five speaks of a table prepared for us amid trouble. Some translations call it quite a spread!
- A banqueting table (Good News Bible; GWT)
- A six-course dinner (Message)
- A feast (NIrV; NLT)
- A delicious feast (TPT)
- A Shulchan (Orthodox Jewish Bible).
‘Shulchan’ indicates a ‘king’s table.’ King’s tables weren’t skimpy but lavish! As I consider New Testament scriptures (too many to itemise here) about King Jesus’ caring for us and his provisioning, I think of this table as a banqueting one of life set before us right now, on which is every good thing to meet every need and emotional upset.
Dictionary explanations of ‘banqueting’ indicate ‘elaborate, special, sumptuous feasts.’ Amazingly, this feast is prepared right before (neged, ‘in front of’) our ‘enemies.’ Often our enemies are the likes of fear, upset, frustration, doubt, unhappiness, loneliness, distress, sickness and other emotional upsets – and we need revitalising.
And Jesus, our great shepherd, has encouraged us to feel free about asking for help (John 16:23). He is king overall and not only offers precious salvation but also protection, provision, peace, joy, healing and more.
In these troubling days ongoing bad news, many need to participate in such a sumptuous refreshing table! Indeed, all needy people need to hear about this banqueting table of abundance. Let’s keep sharing the John 3:16 good news invitation that anyone who repents from sin and claims Jesus as Saviour will not perish. Converts immediately become part of today’s banqueting party; accepted in the beloved (Ephesians 1:6MKJV).
Christians have partaken of the first and most important item from this banqueting table – salvation. We’ve been brought out of the kingdom of darkness into God’s glorious kingdom of light (Colossians 1:12-13). Jesus, our king, has given us an abundant life, full and satisfying (John 10:10) that began the moment we became a Christian.
There’s a complacent darkness, spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically, in this ongoing troubling time. However, 2021 Christians can confidently approach the serenity of God’s banqueting table in faith and with thanksgiving partake of an inheritance that will never perish, spoil or fade (1 Peter 1:3-6).
Note also, as it’s a special table prepared by the highest authority, we must be properly dressed to approach it. In other words, a special garment is required. This thought brings back a memory…
Decades ago, in our South Australia days when Robert was AoG State Secretary, we received a special invitation to attend Government House for a banquet commemorating the Queen’s birthday, and to meet the governor and other dignitaries.
‘Formal Dress Only’ stated the distinctive card, and Robert had to hire a black evening suit (his ‘monkey suit’!), whereas I did all right… he bought me a stunning new outfit!
Properly attired and on presenting the invitation, locked outer doors opened to admit us. After a ceremonious introduction to the governor and his lady (bow by Robert, curtesy by me), we were ushered into the large banqueting hall to enjoy rich hospitality and mingle with other guests such as our famous Don Bradman. And… all at no admittance charge!
Not only did Jesus pay the price in full through his Calvary sacrifice so that we can freely approach his well-stocked table and meet with him, but he also provided the necessary garment, the pure, untarnished robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).
Of course, we don’t approach a ‘real’ table today… we simply come before the Lord in believing prayer, and trusting him in expectancy of needs met, even as David did!
We’re always welcome to this refortifying table, a forerunner of the great one (date unknown!) when we’ll finally meet Jesus face to face.
Meantime, by faith we can partake of a wonderful table prepared for us even amid life’s troubles and difficulties. On it is everything we need to enjoy his presence and life itself, to be overcomers of life’s problems, and to be built up to serve him in Holy Spirit anointed power.
Got needs today? Answers lie in the Lord’s refortifying banqueting table.