In studying the 23rd Psalm, we have explored the Shepherd’s care for His sheep in the midst of trying circumstances. In order to understand the last two verses of the Psalm, we should identify ourselves as weary travelers while God is the gracious Host. Our Host calls us to rejoice in His grace towards us when we are struggling with anxiety. He offers abundant joy and satisfaction right now, in the middle of our trial.
Verse five gives three indicators that point to the joy and satisfaction God wants for the weary traveler’s life. First, notice that He has seated you at his table. This isn’t just any old table. The Hebrew word here points to a feast or ceremonial table. Picture the Thanksgiving table with all of the food spread for festivity and celebration. God has spread a table of celebration, a feast table before us. There is great joy in that!
Second, your gracious Host anoints your head. The word for “anoint” in the Hebrew literally means “to become fat” or “make fat.” Fatness in the Ancient Near Eastern society was a sign of abundance and prosperity. So, when the Host “anoints my head with oil,” he is pouring out his prosperity and abundance. The pouring of perfumed oil over a guest’s head was an ancient symbol of sharing prosperity for the purpose of joy and festivity.
The third indicator that God offers abundant joy and satisfaction right now is the reference to the overflowing cup. Your Host offers you the cup of blessing. It is simply overflowing and will not run dry; it is poured lavishly to the point of spilling out of the cup. This is the cup of satiation or filling that brings enjoyment.
Perhaps you’re saying, yeah that’s great, we have a feast table, some oil and an overflowing cup…but what about the situation that has caused such anxiety in my life - the change, the circumstance, the enemy? True, the adverse circumstances haven’t been removed. Notice how the enemies are still there: “in the presence of mine enemies.” They’ve just been distanced, diminished, dimmed into the background. The weary traveler has found safety and immunity at the table of this gracious Host. The Bedouin law of hospitality has extended the protection of the Host around you (Gen. 18:1-8). The strength of your gracious God has encircled you. You are under the tent flaps of the Almighty and have no need to be anxious. The Hebrew in this section emphasizes the strength of this Host – he sets a feast before you in conspicuous sight of those who oppose you, those who are hostile to you, those who seek to oppress you – your enemies. You sit and dine while they drool in the distance with contempt, unable to touch you! Your gracious Host has extended his grace to you! Stop being anxious!
But HOW? Focus on the feast instead of the foe! Rejoice in the grace of God. He offers satisfaction, celebration, and satiation amidst your trial and difficulty. He has spared no expense in pouring out his blessings. He has demonstrated the depth and abundance of his grace – set your sights on that. Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
At the banquet table of the gracious Host there is abundance and joy right now. We don’t need to wait for the circumstance to change before we can be satisfied.
When we are struggling with anxiety, we need to rejoice in the gracious Host by recognizing the abundance and joy available in Him right now.
Next time, we will finish up Psalm 23, a powerful polemic against anxiety, by focusing on the heartbeat of our pursuing God.