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Come And Dine!

Psalm 23:5 is loaded with comfort and encouragement.
"Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over
."

The depth and beauty of the imagery in this Psalm is so impressive.
There are many parallels, and many connections between the care and oversight of the Shepherd
and the care and oversight of our Lord.
There are also many parallels between the nature and tendencies of the sheep and of our own
human nature and tendencies.

As we come to these last two verses, we notice a sudden shift in imagery.
The imagery changes from that of a shepherd and his flock to that of a gracious host
with his house guests.

This psalm is the testimony from David, who is believed to have written Psalm 23.
It is believed that David wrote this song late in his life.
It was probably written while he was running for his life.

He was hiding from his son, Absalom, who had seized the throne in Jerusalem.
Can you imagine how it must have hurt David to know that his own son had led a coup
that made him king, and now, he was hunting his father, David, to kill him.

In verse 5, God set a table for David in the presence of his enemies.
David cannot expect any help from the army or his friends.
All his resources are gone, and he is in hiding.
It was here in the solitude of the desert that David sought and found the help
and resources of God.
He learned that God had been, and will always be the One who will help him when no one else will.

It is here that David calms down, and allow his soul to catch up to his body.
David had learned that he could go on without all the power and prominence.
He also learned that he could not make it, if he was malnourished and empty on the inside.

So, God prepares a table for David in the midst of his enemies.
It is here that David finds the still waters that quenched his spiritual thirst.
He finds refreshment, and he renews his commitment to follow God wherever God leads him.
After his early experiences as a shepherd, David was in a unique position to write this psalm.
He used his own experiences to detail the workings of God.

As this psalm began, David is relying on God as his only source of provision and protection.
He also found in God the rest, refreshment, and restoration that he needed.
David looked only to God for protection.

God spreads a sumptuous meal before him -- a great banquet, in the presence of his enemies.
This picture encompasses all the figures David has used before, and those were that
God feeds and provides, and He leads and protects, and is a gracious host.

He is also knows that one image and experience of our God is not enough to express God's character.
God's nature cannot be limited by one image.
David is saying that even in the wilderness, God provided a table for him in the presence of his enemies.
He learned again that God will provide.

The table that God had provided for him was a place where David met God, and after being fed by God,
he was ready for the battle.
God had provided a meal for him in the very "presence" of his enemies.
In fact, God prepared a table for David in spite of them.
This table was the proof of God's divine blessings.

For the sheep in Psalm 23:5 that abundant provision was on a mountain plateau.
This is similar to our idea of a table; the pasture is the ground upon which the sheep eat or graze.
It is important that we understand the kind of preparations that the shepherd had to make
in preparing this table.
There was so much work that the shepherd had to do in preparing the pasture before
the sheep would arrive.
This work was extensive, and it was also a weary and tiring work.

The shepherd would decide in advance where the sheep would make camp each night.
He would also decide which glades or basins would be suitable for light grazing,
and which meadows would be best for heavy grazing.
So, there was a lot of planning involved.

Then, the shepherd would investigate the plateau, and check for the presence of poisonous weeds.
These poisonous weeds had white flowers that looked appetizing to the sheep,
but even a nibble on one of these flowers would produce paralysis and death.
So, the shepherd had to remove these weeds from the pasture.
This involved a lot of bending, and getting down on his hands and knees for many hours,
to pull up these weeds by the roots.
The survival of the sheep depended upon his thorough work.

The shepherd also had to be sure that the sheep had easy access to water after they arrive.
That meant that he had to clear out all the debris, and the branches and the leaves
that had clogged up the pools or streams.
He might even make an earthen dam which made the pool of water safe for the sheep to drink.

Also, as part of the preparation, the shepherd would look around at rock formations
and in the pasture for any traces of predators, or of enemies that would be a threat to the sheep.
The predators could be mountain lions, wolves, or bears, or other threats.

It was also important that the shepherd would examine the ground for the presence
of snake holes and for the nests of varmits.
Many sheep are been bitten on the nose by snakes as they graze.
So, when the shepherd found a snake hole, he would take some hog fat, and burn it
at the opening of the nest.
Then, when the snake emerge, he would hit it on the head and kill it.

This preparation could not be accomplished in one or two hours in the afternoon.
It could take several days, or even several weeks to get everything ready.
It could require several trips up the mountain to get all this work finished.
So, preparing the table for the sheep was a considerable investment for the sake of his sheep.

In Psalm 23, the shepherd is leading his sheep up to this table, up to this rich and lush mountain plateau.
In order to understand this 5th verse, we must remember where our text has been leading us.
In verse 4, the shepherd is leading his flock through the dark and treacherous valleys
at the base of the mountain.

The trip through the dark valleys was necessary to get to the place where the shepherd was leading them.
He's leading them up the mountain to the green pastures above the tree line.
That is necessary for us to understand that in relation to verse 5 because the table that the Psalmist
is talking about in verse 5 is not a table as we know tables -- a table with four legs.

The table which the Psalmist is talking about needs to be understood in a figurative sense
as a table of abundant provision.
And that is the image that David is expressing to us.
David wants us to see that this is the kind of preparation, and the kind of work
and the kind of sacrifice and investment that our good Shepherd has made for us.

"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; My cup overflows
." ( Psalm 23:5 NIV)

Notice the emphasis on the the word, "You".
"You" is used two times in this verse.
Each time "You" is used, there is a specific plan.
"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies."
"You" is the Lord Himself.

The sheep need protection.
The sheep have many enemies.
Some of those are wolves, coyotes, bears, ticks, and snakes.
Sheep are defenseless animals.
They don't run fast.
They don't have sharp teeth.
They don't have claws.
So, they do need protection, and the shepherd is the only one who can protect them.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.
If the shepherd put their meal on the ground, they would feed not only on the food,
but also on the bacteria that were there.
So, the old shepherding practice was to use little raised tables.
These sheep were being preserved from their enemies.
Then the shepherd will lead his sheep into the newly prepared pasture,
which is free from poisonous plants, and they eat in peace.

That's the message we find in Psalm 23:5.
We see the Shepherd's tenderness and commitment for the sheep – sheep who are dumb animals;
and the sheep who aren't aware of all the hours the shepherd puts in on their behalf.
Yet, the shepherd is not driven to receive any gratitude, and certainty not by the sheep's ability
to repay him or reward him for all his hard work.
OH! No!

The shepherd is driven and motivated by the fact that the sheep are under his charge,
and they are utterly and totally dependent upon him for all things.
If the Good Shepherd does not prepare the table, the sheep are doomed.
It's as simple as that.

Of course, David is never just talking about sheep.
He is also talking about people, and he is using the vividness of the natural world of sheep
and shepherds to give us this wonderful psalm.
Isaiah describes the Lord as Shepherd (40:11) as well as a host inviting to a feast
with unlimited and infinitely satisfying food and drink (55:1-3), where the presence of enemies
is eclipsed by the Lord's presence.

In Psalm 23, we learn about the shepherd's diligent and loving, sacrificial preparation
for his sheep which also applies to what the Lord has done for us.

"Thou preparest a table,"
Nothing is hurried, there is no confusion, no disturbance, the enemy is around us
and yet, God prepares a table, and the Christian sits down and eats as if everything were just perfect.
God provides a magnificent banquet for us.
He not only has the provisions to feed us; He also has the power to protect us.
And, even though we are surrounded by enemies, we can sit down at this table with confidence,
knowing that we can feast in His perfect protection.

God's people do have enemies.
The Bible teaches that every Christian has many enemies and we will have them
as long as we live.
Christians are pilgrims and strangers here on earth.
We are runners in a race.
We are sheep in a sheepfold.
We are only branches on a vine.

The Bible says that we are soldiers engaged in a battle against spiritual enemies.
The Christian faces three terrible enemies.
They are the world, the flesh , and the devil.
All three enemies are always ready to defeat us.

The world is an enemy to every Christian.
1 John 2:15 tells us to "love not the world."
God's Word teaches that to be a friend of the world is to be an "enemy of God." (James 4:4).
The Bible teaches that the "world" is always contrary to the ways of God.

The term "the world" is used in several ways in the Bible.
It sometimes speaks of the created world – the rugged mountains, the ocean waves,
and the beauty of a sunset.
These are not in themselves a threat to our spiritual welfare.
The created world is not our spiritual, enemy.

The word, "world," is sometimes used to speak of people who make up our society.
But God loves the people of the world, and we are commanded to follow His example.

The "world," which we are not to love, is the man-centered way of life which ignores God.
It operates on selfish principles and ungodly standards.
The philosophy of the world says that the only important thing is "this life."

The principles of the world are power, pleasure, greed, selfishness, and ambition.
The "world" is a system of values that comprises a way of life that is exciting and colorful.
It is also seductive and wonderful, and as a result, we are constantly in danger
of getting caught up in it, and giving spiritual values second place in our lives.

The Scripture (1 John 2:16-17) breaks worldliness into three parts.
Worldliness includes the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.

The "lust of the flesh" (sensualism) is a craving for anything that gratifies the senses.
There is a legitimate satisfaction of bodily needs, but when it dull our senses,
it becomes an animal-like self-indulgence.
When we allow the appetite for food to become excessive; and when we permit the exercise
of sexual relationships to become illicit – all this is sinful and worldly.

The "lust of the eyes" (materialism) is a covetous itching to have what we see.
It is the selfish desire that tempts us to want things that we really don't need.
It is the longing to possess, the desire to get, the eagerness to acquire.
The "lust of the eyes" is dreaming about that new "something" which we just have to have.

The "pride of life" (egotism) is the desire to elevate our own prestige and prominence.
It is the desire to inflate our own reputations.
It is an attempt to turn the spotlight on ourselves.
The "pride of life" is putting on an air of "being somebody."
It is a vain display of who we are – by the way we talk, or how much money we spend on a wedding, etc.

The "world" exerts a powerful influence on us.
It would like to dominate our personalities and mold our thoughts.
This kind of worldliness is the enemy of God.

The flesh as described in the Bible is also an enemy of the Christian.
The "flesh" is our human nature with its natural tendency to sin.
The "flesh" is sometimes used in the Bible to speak of "meat."
Sometimes it refers to the skin that covers our bony skeletons (the skin and tissues
and blood of the human body).

But here, the word "flesh" refers to our fallen self-centered nature (sometimes called "the old-man"
or the "Adamic nature").
The Bible tells us that we are born with a heart that is inclined to sin, and that this bent to do wrong
will be with us throughout our life.
A Christian has two natures – the new life which he received when he accepted Christ,
and the old sinful nature called "the flesh."

The new nature is controlled by the Holy Spirit.
The old nature is characterized by sinful desires.
When the sinless new nature is placed alongside the depraved old nature with which we were born,
there is conflict.

Galatians 5:17 describes it as the "flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh;
and these are contrary the one to the other,
" and then, specific sins of immorality and false worship
and hostility are named.

Even our most lofty actions are sometimes tainted by selfishness and pride,
and are expressions of the flesh.
It is possible to pray in order to impress others with our spirituality.
It is possible to give money in order to be applauded for our stewardship.
It is possible to witness in order to be praised for our evangelistic zeal.
Such activities (if performed out of selfish motives) are of the flesh, and are not pleasing to God.

The flesh has a tendency to rejecting authority.
It tends to be lazy and slothful.
It is quick to develop vengeful thoughts.
It is slanted toward the worship of self (our abilities, our strength, our cleverness, our ideas, our good looks).
These are fleshly appetites that must be controlled with the help of the Spirit of God.

The "flesh" also manifests itself in more subtle forms.
The new man (the new nature in us) has a need to feed upon God's Word,
but the old man (the flesh) will try to keep us too busy to do that.
The new man will desire to be a peacemaker, but the old man thrives on controversy.
The new man tries to be patient with people and witness to them, but the old nature doesn't care.

Satan is also an enemy of the Christian.
He orchestrates both physical and spiritual harm.
He uses whatever means he can to get us to to destroy our faith in Christ.
When torture causes Christians to curse God -- it is Satan who does the torture.
When we have feelings of apathy and laziness, it can be traced to his influence.

The Bible affirms that Satan is the chief enemy of God and man.
When the parable of the wheat and tares was recounted in the book of Matthew,
the story revealed that Satan was the enemy of God who put evil people among the good.
(Matthew 13:24-43)

His influence in the spiritual realm cannot be overstated.
He tempted Jesus with sin after the Saviour had been in the wilderness for 40 days.
He is the father of all lies (John 8:44), and he used lies to tempt the first man and woman into sin.

Ever since then, he has used trickery to tempt people to sin.
He made Judas believe that 30 pieces of silver was more important than his allegiance to Jesus.
He convinced Ananias and Sapphira to lie about the money that they received from the sale
of their property.
The Bible says that Satan "fashioneth himself into an angel of light." (2 Corinthians 11:14)

All people who teach deceptive doctrine are taught by Satan. (Revelation 2:9)
He can't stand it for people to know the truth of God.
In fact, all sin is traced to the devil.
"He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning.
For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil
."
( 1 John 3:8)

The Bible describes him as a deceiver, a liar, a murderer, an accuser, a tempter, a prince, and an evil one.
He beguiles and seduces and opposes and deceives and sows tares and hinders
and tempts and blasphemes.

He is personable; he is intelligent; he is destructive.
He has his own synagogue (Revelation 2:9).
He has his own gospel (Galatians 1:6).
He has his own ministers (11 Corinthians 11:15).
He has his own doctrine 1 Timothy 4:1).
He even has his own communion service (1 Corinthians 10:21).
Satan will do all he can to hinder our Christian lives.
He is constantly battling for the soul of the sinner as well as for the life of the saint.

Satan's attacks are not always open and easily observed.
His attacks are subtle and crafty.
He is not a comic figure that carries a pitchfork.
He often comes as an angel of light.
It would be so simple to identify and defeat the devil, if he would come to us honestly
and say, "Good morning, I am the devil, and I want to get you involved in something
that will bring misery and wretchedness, and in the end, will dishonor your Saviour
."

It would be easy for us to say, "Get thee behind me, Satan," – but he doesn't come to us that way.
Satan uses the allurements of the world and the appeal of the flesh (the first two enemies) to try
and get us to do what God forbids.
One of his techniques is to bring discouragement.
He wants us to become downhearted and to lose assurance in God.
He works hard to bring depression and despondency into our lives.
At some point in our lives, the devil will do his best to implant in our mind
the thought that we have been a complete failure.

Another scheme Satan uses is to deny the truth.
He tries to break down the sacredness of marriage, the sanctity of human life,
and the absoluteness of moral standards.

The devil also seeks to instill complacency.
He will keep us from having a consistent prayer life.
He will distract us from the study of God's Word.
He will try to make us cowards when it comes to witnessing.
The devil is deceitful.
He will influence teachers of religion to present a mixture of truth and error – so that people
become confused, and mixed up, and uncertain about God.

In the Corinthians death is viewed as an enemy.
The grief resulting from death labels death as an enemy of of Christians.
Sin caused death.
Sin propagates death.
When sin is gone, death will also be removed.

God will deal with your enemies.
God will take care of our enemies.
"Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you,
than he that is in the world
." ( 1 John 4:4)

He will set a table before us – even in the presence of our enemies.
Psalm 23 started with remembering with gratitude that the Lord is my Shepherd.
And I lack nothing because He knows and supplies all my needs.
He knows when I need to rest so He makes me to lie down in green pastures.
Then, He leads me beside the still waters knowing that I need refreshing.

Many times He has restored my soul, and has led me in the paths of righteousness
for His namesake,
Then I was prepared to walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
but I wasn't afraid because He was with me.
He protected me with His rod and staff which was a comfort to me.

I was surrounded by my enemies, and needed nourishment, and just when I needed it,
He prepared a meal for me even though I my enemies were present,
I could was able to eat in peace.

What a great Shepherd -- what a great Lord!
I became His sheep almost 70 years ago, when I asked God to forgive me of all my sins,
and trusted Jesus to be my Saviour.
Jesus came into my life to stay, and has given me wonderful blessings.

We have a bountiful feast in Christ!
We see some of these wonderful blessings in Ephesians 1:3:|
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ
."
God has "blessed us with every spiritual blessing."
God does provide material blessings, but here the emphasis is on the more important spiritual blessings.

These blessings are certain and everlasting.
They are rich and enriching.
They are perfect and complete.
There is nothing lacking in them.
They are free to us.
We cannot earn them.
We do not deserve them.
They are all ours who are in Christ.

He chose us to be holy and blameless. (1: 4)
He predestined us to adoption. (1: 5)
He freely bestowed His grace on us. (1: 6)
He redeemed us, and forgave our transgressions. (1: 7)
He gave us an inheritance. (1: 11)

To get a more personal sense of what this means to us, we must say as personal affirmations.
I am chosen by God.
I am holy and blameless before Him.
I am adopted through His Son.
I am a recipient of His grace.
I am redeemed.
I am forgiven of all my sins.
I have been given an eternal inheritance.

He is the God of boundless resources.
The only limit is from us.
Our asking, our thinking, our praying are all too little; our expectations are too limited.
He is ready to lift us up to higher ground.

God has prepared a abundant feast for all who are His children -- for all who have been saved by grace.

Come And Dine

"Jesus has a table spread
Where the saints of God are fed,
He invites His chosen people, "Come and dine";
With His manna He doth feed
And supplies our every need:
Oh, 'tis sweet to sup with Jesus all the time!

The disciples came to land,
Thus obeying Christ's command,
For the Master called unto them, "Come and dine";
There they found their heart's desire,
Bread and fish upon the fire;
Thus, He satisfies the hungry every time.

Soon the Lamb will take His bride
To be ever at His side,
All the host of heaven will assembled be;
Oh, 'twill be a glorious sight,
All the saints in spotless white;
And with Jesus they will feast eternally."

Refrain:
"Come and dine," the Master calleth, "Come and dine";
You may feast at Jesus' table all the time;
He Who fed the multitude, turned the water into wine,
To the hungry calleth now, "Come and dine."
-- By Charles B. Widmeyer, 1907

Sermon adapted from many sources by Dr. Harold L. White