This is the time of year I really kind of wish I had a chest freezer down in the basement. The 20+ pound turkeys are on mega-sale, and the fresh cranberries will only be around for a month or so.
No matter, as the traditional American Thanksgiving Day feast that so many of us are blessed to gorge ourselves on will, by God’s grace, come around again next year. My sister-in-law is the usual head chef at our yearly family gathering. (Personally, I prefer to stay in the background and help with the clean-up.) The main thing with the traditional meal, however, is the fun and hilarity that can follow shortly after about the first ten minutes of feasting and before the tryptophan kicks in.
In fact, the whole sharing-a-meal-together goes way, way back in human history as a symbol of trust and fellowship, even intimacy, a concept which makes this word picture in the famous song of David somewhat perplexing—
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
Personally, I would find it a little disconcerting to feast on turkey and trimmings with terrorists surrounding the house!
At least until I consider this: sitting “at table” was an expression of three very important things.
- Comfort – food is one of the first things we equate with comfort, even from our infancy. As the child receives from the mother, the hunger is soothed and a bond is formed.
- Camaraderie – to be invited to someone’s table was a high honor, even close friendship and shared consequence and protection.
- Sustenance – from the word “sustain” meaning to support, withstand. Without food, legs get wobbly and standing becomes increasingly difficult.
Interestingly, God Himself prepares this table, He sets it by bringing about or allowing certain circumstances, difficult as they may be. There may be several helpings of pain, and few sides of loss and difficulty, but it is all with purpose: for my comfort in Him, my camaraderie with Him, and my sustenance from Him.
It is essential to understand that it’s not about the problem or circumstance; it’s all about Him, and vindicating Who He is, and who I am in Him. With that perspective, therefore, in the midst of these troubling circumstances:
- He comforts me by His Word, both logos and rhema, concerning each and every “dish” that is passed around.
“But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you.”
(Who is “the Comforter”? Holy Spirit)
- He grants me His camaraderie as He links His arm in mine, sometimes carrying me through the tough ones. I love the Amplified version which brings out the emphatic:
(Who is this Comrade-in-arms? Jesus)
- He sustains me as I embrace the situation by defining it as He does, seeing it as He does, living it out “in His steps”.
“Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.”
(Who is the provider? The Father)
The enemies are not in human form, but in the form of doubt, fear, anxiety, and confusion that threaten to terrorize me in the midst of life’s difficulties and disappointments. Those are the “unseen powers of darkness” that help the real enemy to “steal, kill, and destroy” what God has allowed on my table.
Notice that it doesn’t say the enemies go away, but in their presence—albeit they’re not invited to the table, because this is the table He sets for us. Which means He is in control of what/when things are served up.
Now, when I was a kid, you didn’t get up and walk away from the table until you are excused. That was just rude. Similarly, I am meant receive His comfort, His camaraderie and His sustenance in the presence of my enemies while I stay at the table He has prepared for me! And it’s only in drawing closer to Him that I can fulfill the purpose of that table, remembering that it’s not about me, it’s about Him.
Just a sidelight, but an important one, as the next line of the psalm promises:
“You anoint my head with [a]oil; my [brimming] cup runs over.”
So, while I’m sitting at table with Him, in the midst of the problematic feast and in the midst of my enemies, He anoints my head with oil.
Picture this: While at this table of whatever circumstances God has prepared, I’m holding my cup. As God pours the oil, it runs down into my cup, but as God continues to pour, the cup eventually overflows. With what?
For what’s on the table. God’s anointing flows through my obedience at the table, onto the table of circumstances and problems—UNLESS I get up and leave the table prematurely. (Which is spiritually rude, BTW.)
Say it again: as I am obedient to Him, trusting Him for specific situations, I will have His overflowing anointing to affect that situation for His kingdom. On the contrary, if I get up from the table without being excused, whether by my unbelief, my disobedience, my taking offense with those involved in the circumstance, I leave my cup of anointing at the table. Unused.
Which may also mean I won’t get to enjoy the sweet dessert once the initial table is cleared, either.
And who in their right mind wants to miss the pumpkin pie?