When I was eight, I memorized Psalm 23 to recite before our church. I climbed the steps, turned to face the audience, and promptly came down with the worst case of stage fright anyone’s ever experienced in the history of stages.
Other than that awful moment, Psalm 23 has stuck with me. But recently, it became like new when I was struck by an image from verse five:
You prepare a table before me in the midst of my enemies.
Psalm 23 is attributed to David, the shepherd king, and in this wild verse, the shepherd sees his threats but he doesn’t square himself to fight back. He doesn’t reach for a slingshot or a staff or a sword. He doesn’t run. He doesn’t hide.
He sits down.
In the midst of his troubles, he sees a table set for him deliberately, and he sits down, tucks in his napkin, and (I imagine) eats.
I couldn’t shake the image. What did David know about warfare and trouble that I don’t know? David’s enemies were literal killers (lions and bears, Goliath the giant, Saul the manic king who hunted him for almost a decade), and though my enemies aren’t the same, they’ve still felt consuming: crippling self-criticism, fears in the dead of night about God’s goodness, questions about evil that don’t seem to have answers, anger, racism that sabotages my theology, and misogyny.
But what if I learned to fight my enemies by sitting down to feast?
It’s a question that has changed my life. As I’ve sat with Psalm 23, my eyes have been opened over and over again to what I’ve become consumed by in search for scraps. I beg for crumbs when all along, there’s a table groaning with good food and a chair with my name on it.
David’s feast is the answer to my enemies.
Instead of scathing condemnation for myself and the people around me, when I sit down at the Psalm 23 feast, I find a platter heaped with my favorite fried, lightly glazed donuts, delicious little pillows of tender compassion and serene acceptance. I find an unending basket of chips and queso, a little bowl of happiness in the form of thanksgiving and gratefulness to ward off the worry. There’s a pot of pinto beans, like my grandmother used to make, to remind me that if evil seems endless, love never sleeps. There’s also a fresh-baked apple pie à la mode with a flaky, buttery crust, to comfort me while I give space to my anger and find that it was grief all along. A bowl full of perfectly ripe Georgia peaches sits on the corner of the table, and as I tear into them, the juices drip down my chin, a reminder that God is both a righteous judge and the payment for my sin.
This Psalm 23 feast is abundant beyond our wildest dreams, and everything we need is before us. So, how do we learn to sit and eat? We learn to receive God’s love and acceptance, just like Jesus did.
When Jesus was getting baptized, the heavens opened, and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17 NIV). He hadn’t begun His ministry, fed the five thousand, walked on water, raised the dead, or died sacrificially, and still He was entirely loved and accepted by God. And if we are in Christ, so are we.
The goodness of God takes many forms at David’s Psalm 23 feast. It is the answer to every fear that keeps us up at night, to every surge of anger that takes our breath away. And it is ultimately expressed in Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. Jesus’ body was broken for us, His blood was spilled for us, and this is the feast of goodness God prepares for you right now, in the midst of your enemies — His abundant love, grace, help, and presence.
The table is prepared for you, just like it was prepared for David. Just sit down and eat.Leave a Comment