God Is With Me to Celebrate
Leslie B. Flynn points out that the main part of hospitality is hospital. He writes, “Ancient travelers, whether pilgrims or businessmen, fared poorly when venturing beyond their own country. Thus, religious leaders established international guest houses in the fifth century. These havens were called “hospice” from hospes, Latin for “guests.” With the coming of the Crusades, the importance of the hospice increased greatly. Pilgrims, crusaders, and other travelers found hospices, by this time run by religious orders, the only reputable guest houses of the era. Soon after the Crusades most of these institutions began to specialize in the care of the poor, sick, aged, and crippled. During the fifteenth century, secular interests took over most entertaining of travelers, so the hospital restricted its function to care and treatment of the sick and handicapped. But originally it meant a haven for guests.”*12
This is similar to the image that we see here in this verse. David describes the fact that even though he has been in the place of enemies, God is a haven for us as Christians. We come to Him to receive care and we come to Him to celebrate.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (Psalm 23:5, CSB)
Psalm 23:1-3 showed us that God is with me in renewal. Psalm 23:4 revealed that God is with me in the valleys of life. Psalm 23:5 shows that God is with me in celebration. Life has its ups and downs, its twists and turns. This verse reminds us that God will take me through the valley and He will provide and protect me. Scholars look at these verses and sense that there is a change. The imagery shifts from God as Shepherd to God as Host.
I believe that both can be in view here. I believe that the image expands to another duty of the shepherd which is to protect the sheep against enemies. At the same time, God is revealed to be more than just the Shepherd. He is the Grand Host. The emphasis changes from leading to protecting. God’s presence protects me from my enemies. While my enemies are on the outside, God is with me inside hosting a celebration. God is my Host and wants to celebrate with me.
English pastor John Stott notes the change in this way:
The scene changes. I am no longer out of doors, but indoors; no longer a sheep in a flock, but a guest at a banquet. My divine host has prepared a table before me. It is not a secret feast, but enjoyed in the presence of my enemies, because when he satisfies the soul, it cannot be hidden from the world.3
When you go through the valleys, and you come out of the other side, you may be weak. Enemies may want to take advantage of you at that moment. Yet, God is there to protect and while He protects, He also encourages you to celebrate. Elihu shares this insight with Job. In describing the recent challenges in Job’s life, Elihu shows how God’s grace acted in Job’s life:
“Indeed, he lured you from the jaws of distress to a spacious and unconfined place. Your table was spread with choice food.” (Job 36:16, CSB)
There are times in my life when I go through challenging times, and I wonder what God wants me to do. There are times when I see the enemies around and I wonder what God will do. What does God say? Partake of my joy. Here we have three objects that remind us that even though it’s tough in the world, God is to provide me my sense of joy.
THREE OBJECTS THAT REMIND ME OF THE JOY OF GOD IN MY LIFE
“…in the presence of my enemies…” (Psalm 23:5, CSB)
The setting of this text is that idea that even if things are going badly, you still have reason to celebrate with God. Here, David says that he is in the presence of his enemies. Yet, he still had a reason to celebrate. Jon Courson notes the contrast in this way:
Our Shepherd doesn’t remove us from our enemies. Instead, He prepares a table in the midst of them. You can be attacked all week, wavering and wondering about your faith. But when you come to the Lord’s Table, you’re refreshed. In the presence of my enemies—when Satan is condemning me, when I’m aware of my own failure and shortcomings—I come to the Lord’s Table and remember once again that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses me from all sin.4
First, I can celebrate with God because God seats me at His table of God’s grace.
God seats me at His banquet table of God’s grace
“You prepare a table before me…” (Psalm 23:5, CSB)
The first sense of joy happens as I enjoy time with God. He invites me to a banquet feast. His grace in my life is like a banquet feast.
The table is a symbol of joyous times, of times of joyous fellowship. When you come to eat a a table, you expect to have a good time. You satisfy your stomach and you enjoy it. People get together at Christmas time to enjoy one another’s company. Company dinners, family meals, are all times when we celebrate with one another.
We went to the Keetes Center this past week to eat at College of the Ozarks. This is a restaurant where students of the college prepare meals for guests. The food is grown at the college. The milk is collected from cows on the college grounds. Sausage is prepared from hogs that are raised and slaughtered. The restaurant’s menu is farm to table, literally. A host seats you and a waiter takes your order.
God wants the same thing with you. He wants you to spend time enjoying His company. He serves you as a host serves a table. What does a host do when you come? The host seats you at a table. He sets the table and he serves you. You choose from the menu and he goes to have it prepared for you. Then he serves you that meal. He comes to see how you have enjoyed the meal and then he asks whether you want dessert. That’s how God’s grace works.
You may see enemies outside, but at this table, God’s grace is for you. He doesn’t want you to worry about the enemies out there. God invites to His table that He has prepared for you. The Bible is God’s menu from which He wants you to select your meal. Second, I can celebrate with God because God anoints me with His oil of celebration.
God anoints me with His oil of celebration
“…you anoint my head with oil…” (Psalm 23:5, CSB)
The banquet table always leads to an anointing. God’s word will anoint your spirit. The Word of God invites the Spirit of God in a celebration. I consume the Word of God and I am filled with the Spirit of God. If God’s word is the meal, then God’s Spirit is the oil of refreshment. When you look at every time that a person anoints themselves with oil, it is part of a cleansing ritual.
When a host anoints a person with oil, that is a reminder that this will be a celebration. It is a form of hospitality. Banqueters in the ancient world were often treated by a generous host to fine oils that would be used to anoint their foreheads. This provided not only a glistening sheen to their countenance but also would have added a fragrance to their persons and the room. Oil preserved the complexion in the hot Middle Eastern climate.5
In Luke 7, Jesus reminds Simon the Pharisee of the fact that he was not a great host. Instead, a woman who came asking for Jesus’ help showed more honor to Jesus. She celebrated with Jesus.
“You didn’t anoint my head with olive oil, but she has anointed my feet with perfume.” (Luke 7:46, CSB)
In the Gospel of John, we see that while Jesus is in Jerusalem for the final week of His life, he stays at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Mary takes time to be a great host by anointing Jesus with oil.
“Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair, and it was her brother Lazarus who was sick.” (John 11:2, CSB)“Then Mary took a pound of perfume, pure and expensive nard, anointed Jesus’s feet, and wiped his feet with her hair. So the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (John 12:3, CSB)
Judas complains about this, but the point is the host wants to honor the guest, and the host does that by extravagance. Mary takes effort and extravagance to honor Jesus. God, when he says here to anoint my head, God is saying He wants to honor me as a guest at his table.
“You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of joy more than your companions.” (Psalm 45:7, CSB)
The oil in this case is usually perfumed oil, oil that gives off a fragrance. The idea here is that a person is celebrating my presence by making everyone notice it. The person being anointed is the center of the celebration. The perfume gives off a smell that tells everyone that this person is special. This is how God feels about you.
Third, I can celebrate with God because God fills my cup of blessing to overflowing.
God fills my cup of blessing to overflowing
“…my cup overflows.” (Psalm 23:5, CSB)
God fill me with blessing to overflowing. The picture here is that my cup overflows with plenty of drink. Again, the picture is of excess. The cup is saturated with the goodness of God. How does the cup overflowing work in my life? The cup overflows in my life so that I may share my blessings with others.
“Lord, you are my portion and my cup of blessing; you hold my future.” (Psalm 16:5, CSB)
I spend time with God and He shares insights with me that God uses to help other people. It’s as simple as that. This is one of the reasons you spend time with God on a regular basis. He wants to share with you so that you can be His instrument to impact the lives of others.
Missionary author Isobel Kuhn learned this while a student at Moody Bible Institute. She was invited to give a devotional message during her Junior-Senior party, but she was running short of time. It finally boiled down to a half-hour at supper, and Isobel was faced with a choice: Should she go down and eat at mealtime? Should she skip supper and try to prepare her devotional message? Should she put God first and give that half-hour to Him?
The bell rang, and her roommates left for the dining hall. For a moment, Isobel wavered, but then she threw herself on her knees, overcome with fatigue, and whispered, “Lord, I choose You!” A sense of God’s presence lifted her spirits and seemed to restore her strength. As she half knelt, half lay there by her bed, praying and meditating, certain thoughts came to her mind, devotional truths for her own soul took shape.
She later recalled, Quietly, but point by point, He outlined for me the devotional message I needed to close that evening’s program. It was an unforgettable experience and an unforgettable lesson.
When time came to leave the room, she slipped into the party, and at the end of a Dutch scene, she shared the simple message God had given her. It seemed perfectly appropriate to the occasion and much needed. Such a hush came over that festive scene that I knew He had spoken, and I was content.
Twenty years passed, Isobel made a return visit to Moody Bible Institute while on furlough from her work in China. As it happened, it was the day of the Junior-Senior party. As she toured her alma mater, she heard one of the workers say, “One Junior-Senior party stands out in my memory. I forget who led it but it was a Dutch scene and the devotional message blessed my soul. I’ve never forgotten it.”I was thrilled through and through, Isobel later wrote. Of course I did not spoil it by telling her who led that devotional. In God’s perfect working, the instrument is forgotten. It is the blessing of Himself that is remembered.6
Giving out of the overflow that God provides for me can happen on various levels. This happens on a spiritual level and it happens on other levels as well.
Emotionally, I give from what I have. Financially, I give out of what God generously gives to me. Relationally, I give to others as healthy as I am.
After their ill-fated journey to Florida in 1528, Cabeza de Vaca and three companions sailed around the American gulf coast to Texas and then walked across Texas on their way to Mexico City. They sailed across the mouth of a great river on the last day of October. They did not know they were at the mouth of the Mississippi, but they realized the river had to be massive, for they could dip their buckets into the salt waters of the gulf and bring up fresh water to drink. At that point the mighty river roared into the gulf impetuously and voluminously, overcoming even the salty depths of the ocean.
The Christian life is like that. We live in a polluted world. Yet, even now we can dip our vessels into life and out of guilt find forgiveness, out of aimlessness find direction, out of meaningless find purpose, out of immorality find purity, and out of falsehood find truth. Out of a horribly profaned world we can still draw up all that we hold to be holy and true.7 This happens when we come to God’s table and celebrate life with Him.
1 Leslie B. Flynn, 19 Gifts of the Spirit (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1975), 109.
2 Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 455.
3 John Stott, Favourite Psalms: Growing Closer to God (Mill Hill, London; Grand Rapids, MI: Monarch Books, 2003), 27.
4 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: Volume Two: Psalms-Malachi (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 29–30.
5 Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Ps 23:5.
6 Robert J. Morgan, Real Stories for the Soul, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 36–38.
7 Virgil Hurley, Speaker’s Sourcebook of New Illustrations, electronic ed. (Dallas: Word Publishers, 2000), 38–39.