Psalms 23 is probably the best known and favorite of all Scripture passages.
A divine sense of great comfort typifies the Psalm, which pictures Jesus Christ as the Great Shepherd of the sheep. The Lord’s shepherding provides the sheep with quality care, quality leadership, quality provision, and quality fellowship.
Yet, verses five and six stand as particular sources of affirmation and consolation for the believer in Jesus Christ. “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over … and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
You see, the Christian is an individual who lives life in a hostile environment, who is a pilgrim in an unholy land, who is constantly surrounded by the manifested devices of the devil. It is the devil who attempts to victimize those who have chosen to belong to God through faith Jesus Christ. Sin, sickness, oppression, depression, opposition, trials and death are the devices in his arsenal which make it appear as though there is no hope, and that we are all defeated.
But, in the face of all that the devil attempts to do, God through Christ elevates the Believer. God through Christ honors the Believer. God through Christ bestows great blessing on the Believer — all in the presence of the Enemy. Or, if you will, in his face, because Christ could care less what the devil says about us.
While the devil says “Defeated,” the Savior shouts “VICTORIOUS!” While the devil says “Damned,” the Savior shouts “SAVED!” While the devil says “Poor,” the Savior shouts “RICH!” While the devil says “Hated,” the Savior shouts “BELOVED!”
First, Christ blesses the Christian with a bounty of providential consumption right in the devil’s face. “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” The devil might toss us a bone at best, but Christ sets for us a providential feast full and fine on which we can dine.
Second, Christ blesses the Christian with a kingly anointing right in the devil’s face. “Thou anointest my head with oil.” A person was anointed with scented oils to make them smell good and presentable, as a gesture of respect, and as a representation of the presence, power, and sanctification of the Holy Spirit. But, from Scripture, we find that God’s children are anointed with the status of joint-heirs, with the adoption of sons, as a royal priesthood, and as kings. We are celebrated as being important and people of purpose in God’s plans — in the presence of the Enemy.
Third, Christ blesses the Christian to overflowing right in the devil’s face, for it states, “My cup runneth over.” God promises to overflow our cups. God overflows our cups with assurance, forgiveness, grace, love, providence and power.
William Willimon, the former chaplain at Duke University, was once invited to preach in an inner-city church. The service lasted nearly three hours, which exhausted the evangelist. “Why do these people want to stay in church so long?” he asked the pastor.
The pastor replied, “Unemployment runs nearly 50 percent here. This means that when our people go about during the week, everything they see, everything they hear tells them, ‘You are a failure. You are nothing because you do not have a good job. You do not have a nice car. You have no money.’ So, I must get their eyes focused on Christ. Through the hymns, the prayers and the preaching, I say to them, ‘That is a lie. You are royalty. You are citizens of the Kingdom of God.’ It takes me a long time to get them straight because the world perverts them so terribly.”
Christ, oh, most certainly, overflows our cup purposely.
Lastly, Christ will someday take the Christian to a Heavenly home right in the devil’s face. “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Can you not imagine the chagrin on the devil’s face when the soul and spirit of a born-again believer in Christ is escorted from his world to God’s Heavenly presence?
Such open praise and open reward are made possible because of Jesus Christ. From the grip of death and the devil, Jesus snatches Believers from defeat, and turns their earthly circumstances into great victory while in the presence of the Enemy.
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.