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
Rosie J Williams says
I loved this post! Your word pictures are fascinating!
I am also drawn to the table wondering what is on it smack in the middle of our enemies. A cup of blessing? Fruits of the Spirit? Bread of life? I wrote about this in my book Repurposed Faith. God bless your day!
Thanks so much for reading, Rosie! The table is so fascinating, isn’t it? I could be here all day!
Beautiful word picture this morning, Sarah. Thank you!
Thanks for reading Andrew 🙂
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
That is so beautiful. The way you put it. We can feast at the Lord table any time of the day. He is always there for us. I have saying in my kitchen. It says “Christ is the head of our house a guest at every be meal, a silent listener to Every conversation”. So Christ is. We can feast at his table any time of the day. By feasting at his table we are spending time in his word and prayer. Christ is that silent listener to our every conversation. Christ feast with us every day at our tablets. Even when we eat ordinary food and spiritual food. That is spending time in his word and prayer. So it is so good to know this. Plus to know in Psalm 23. The Psalm of David that the Lord is our shepherd. David was a shepherd boy and God used him. God can use us as well. Our God is amazing. Love you all incourage. Keep you all in Prayer. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
I love that saying! Just wouldn’t be a feast without Jesus…
Becky Keife says
“But what if I learned to fight my enemies by sitting down to feast?” Wow, Sarah. What an intriguing (convicting and inspiring) question! I’m going to have to mull this over for a while. What a counter-cultural, upside-down, lavishly loving, always-good God we serve. So grateful to have your words here on (in)courage!
Thanks for reading Becky! I think I’ll spend a lifetime mulling over this verse…
Beth Williams says
Loved the word pictures you painted. Psalm 23 is full of vivid imagery. David clearly knew the goodness of God & realized there was nothing in this life to fear. He could feast on God’s wonderful bounty of love, grace & mercy. Praying we can all sit at the feast & kick those worries & lies to the curb. Enjoyed the image of your feast! Great post!
Thanks so much for reading Beth!
Sarah, I somehow missed this! I love your words here, and I’m going to be sitting with them for awhile, letting the questions circle around in my thoughts for awhile today. Thank you for this post!
Thanks so much for reading Tasha 🙂