Sunday, December 28, 2014

Our Cup Runneth Over, Part 2

Having been to Israel many times, I have witnessed with my own eyes the deep, dark valleys of the Judean hills. In these potentially treacherous gullies (called "wadis" in Hebrew), danger may well lurk for unsuspecting sheep.These recessed valleys might well be valleys of "the shadow of death" for sheep or even their shepherds. Today, these valleys continue to provide cover for wild animals to prowl and pounce upon the unsuspecting. It is not "evil", i.e., moral corruptness, that the sheep must fear there but, rather, the danger of what might await in the unknown darkness.

However, we are reassured that the sheep do not traverse this valley alone. God the shepherd protects His sheep by means of the shepherd's two common tools of the trade -- a heavy rod, to beat off attacking animals, and a staff, to keep the sheep in line and on course. Our Lord uses these tools with his "sheep", even today and offers the same protection and guidance with us as He did with David, three thousand years ago.

*You prepare a table before me in my enemies' presence; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows!*(v. 5).

 David sets aside the shepherd/sheep metaphor of verses 1-4 and in the final two verses switches to s metaphor of host and guest.The Lord is viewed as a host who honors David, the guest, with abundant provisions and hospitality. A private table is laid out before David by his host. Anyone who has partaken of Middle Eastern hospitality knows full well the elaborate and abundant meals that are so typical of that tradition! Course after course is laid out; appetizer upon appetizer, entree upon entree, dessert upon dessert. David's language vividly creates a sense of ongoing and bountiful provision. This is not just one trip to the all-you-can-eat buffet but, rather, a lifestyle as this divinely prepared banquet is never-ending.

Furthermore, David reveals that God is providing this elevated level of blessing in full view of David's enemies. This "feast-ival" is happening right in front of hostile faces and leaves no room for doubt as to whose side the Lord is on. The divine host has spared no expense or amenity.

As was customary in Biblical times, the host anointed the head of his honored guest with oil. David's cup cannot contain the blessing the Lord is pouring out. Can you relate? Have you ever felt that way? The holidays are a splendid opportunity to take a moment and meditate on the times you have felt this way in the past year. What is the level of your cup?Have you viewed it as only being half full? Half empty? Or does it overflow?

*Assuredly, goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever*(v. 6).

David, as a member of the covenant people of God, is confident that God's goodness and love will pursue Him the rest of His life.Note the irony here--instead of David's enemies (v. 5) in hot pursuit, instead, David is pursued by God's love!/Hesed/, the Hebrew word translated, "love" means God's loving loyalty to His people, His steadfast love which never ceases (Lam. 3:22).This level of loving commitment is as equally applicable for God's New Covenant people as it was for Israel. We can run but we can't hide from the relentless pursuit of the Lord's goodness and love for us. Sooner or later it will catch up to us and we will be showered with blessing after blessing.

The imagery David utilizes in Psalm 23, although ancient, is timeless. God is portrayed as both provider and protector and as both shepherd and host. The psalm is particularly concerned with the personal aspect of God's protection and provision for the single, individual sheep. This means you! It has been my purpose to provide a fresh and refreshing study of a very familiar psalm, and it is my prayer for all of you that in the coming year God's goodness will catch up with you and overtake you, with the result that you will dwell in His presence all the days of your life, both in this word and the world to come.