June 11, 2014

Feasting at the Shepherd’s Table

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies . . .” (Psalm 23:5)

Some say that the psalmist changes here to another metaphor, from a shepherd to a host at a banquet. Therefore this verse refers to the various feasts that point to the marriage supper described in the book of Revelation. “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” (Revelation 19:6–9)

Others say no, this is still the metaphor of the shepherd. They say David is thinking about the high places or tablelands where the shepherd takes his flock to graze, protecting them from any wild animals or other dangers as they enjoy security and the clime of such pastures.

This signifies the loving care of God, our Shepherd who says, “The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you . . . (Jeremiah 31:1–4)

Unsure of either view, I did a little research on that Hebrew word for ‘table’ and discovered that it is an odd one, not used in many places, but the significant reference was in Ezekiel where it refers to the tables where the sacrifices were killed. “. . . in the vestibule of the gate were two tables on either side, on which the burnt offering and the sin offering and the guilt offering were to be slaughtered. And off to the side, on the outside as one goes up to the entrance of the north gate, were two tables; and off to the other side of the vestibule of the gate were two tables. Four tables were on either side of the gate, eight tables, on which to slaughter . . . . on which the instruments were to be laid with which the burnt offerings and the sacrifices were slaughtered . . . . And on the tables the flesh of the offering was to be laid.” (Ezekiel 40:38–43)

Maybe David was thinking about those tables, and if he was, then his words pointed to the sacrifice of Christ, prepared before me in the presence of my enemies — for the salvation of my soul.

One other use of ‘table’ also is for a different part of the temple, the Table of Incense. “The doorposts of the nave were squared, and in front of the Holy Place was something resembling an altar of wood, three cubits high, two cubits long, and two cubits broad. Its corners, its base, and its walls were of wood. He said to me, ‘This is the table that is before the Lord.’” (Ezekiel 41:21–22)

Incense is about prayer so this table represents the place of prayer, where praise, petitions, intercessions and thanksgiving were offered to God. For me, this strikes home. It describes the table prepared in the presence of my enemies where God meets with me and where I feast on His presence and enjoy His loving care and fellowship.

In the richness of this metaphor, it must also be noted that those tables of sacrifice were originally used for sheep. Eventually the Lamb of God died there, but still God asks His lambs to put to death anything that threatens our fellowship, all sin and selfishness.

One day, at that glorious marriage supper, there will be no threats. Sin will be eradicated and all threats defeated. Yet right now, the table is prepared in the presence of my enemies. For that, I need to feast very close to my protecting Shepherd.

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