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“Who’s Invited to the Table? Her/Him/Me?”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Through the Written Word,
And the spoken word,
May we know Your Living Word,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Today’s Bible verse is where the rubber meets the road and we call a foul, but we also learn why the chicken has crossed the road!
Does anybody see a problem with what you just heard? (Oops, I did it again.) [Yes! The metaphors, while connected, are all mixed up! – You can’t “call a foul” at the “rubber meeting the road” – and while the “chicken” which may have “crossed” that same “road” is a “fowl” … – nothing in this sentence actually fits, right? (And you can’t really “see” something you just “heard”.)]
The classic metaphor of the Shepherd and the sheep, in today’s verse, are suddenly sitting at a banquet table with their enemies watching them eat.
I believe what David is realizing is that, while the Shepherd metaphor is a great metaphor – it is not great enough!
We are working our way through the 23rd Psalm. This Psalm opens by affirming that “the Lord is my Shepherd”, and we recognize that if God is our Shepherd – then we are claiming to be His sheep – God-trusting, obedient, Jesus-following members of His flock! So we ask, if we claim that, do we actually trust God with our lives, do we listen to/for His voice, do we go where and do what He wants? Always?
And, we see how “I shall not want” refers to our ultimate needs for God’s presence more than to our desires for success. Do we acknowledge God’s love and relationship to us? Always?
Then, that theme is reinforced by God’s command to enjoy the “Rest of our lives” in His presence.
We see how the Good Shepherd “restores our soul” – the lives in the flock and the life of the flock!
We learn that when our lives are restored, God offers us Paths of Righteous life-choices – to feed hungry, share our faith, sponsor orphans – not to earn God’s love or our salvation, but in response to God’s amazing Grace given to us through Jesus Christ.
And, we read that God is always with us – we celebrate to remember so that we can hope.
On Father’s Day we recognized God’s presence in the gift of rods and shepherd staffs for guidance and protection.
Today, we read from the Extended Bible, concentrating on the second part of verse 4 (P. 392 in our NIV). Listen to the Word of God, Psalm 23: …. —-
A Psalm of David
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need [ will lack nothing].
2 He lets me rest [makes me lie down] in green pastures. He leads me to calm [quiet] water.
3 He gives me new strength [ renews my soul]. He leads me on paths that are right [righteous; or straight]
for the good [sake] of his name [reputation].
4 Even if I walk through a very dark valley [or the shadow of death],
I will not be afraid [fear no evil], because you are with me. Your rod and your shepherd’s staff comfort me.
5 You prepare a meal [table] for me in front [the presence] of my enemies.
You pour oil of blessing on my head [anoint my head with oil; oil was a means of refreshment in a hot, dry environment];
you fill my cup to overflowing [ make my cup overflow; a cup of blessing].
6 Surely your goodness and love [loyalty; mercy] will be with [pursue; follow] me all my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord forever [for length of days].
Did you catch the metaphor shift? From Shepherd and sheep (which signify King and kingdom residents), to actual King and honored subjects, subservient and loyal serfs invited to the King’s banqueting table!
So, this metaphor swing forces two sets of questions in my brain. In reverse order, they are: 1) why “in front of my enemies”?, and 2) Who is actually invited to the Table?
So, why is the “table prepared in front of my enemies”? Right? We don’t normally invite our enemies over to observe us eat. That’s kind of creepy, even. So why here?
Iain Duguid, Old Testament professor at Philadelphia’s Westminster Theological Seminary, suggests that it has to do with final justice. David, the Shepherd-King who penned this Psalm, had faced many, many enemies – many of which mocked his God-fearing faith and fortitude, and threatened his religious devotion with extinction.
How many times does the Psalms cry out something like: “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? … How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (eg., Psalm 13)
It must have seemed to David, and to the watching world, that God had indeed forgotten him and allowed his enemies to rejoice in triumph!
In the last couple of weeks, I have listened to several of us ask the same kinds of questions: How much more, O Lord? How many more family members? How many more bills? How many more travel delays? Right?
But, now – David announces that he is seated at the King’s Banquet Feast – and his enemies are not! Vindication! Mock me if you want to, but it will not last for long! David helps us say, “This is why I can ‘fear no evil’ when I ‘walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death’! Because I know that ‘Thou art with me!’! Today, while seated at the King-of-kings’ Feast-Table, I can look back and recognize the ‘rod of protection’ and ‘the shepherd’s staff of guidance’!”
So, we can say, “I do not know how much more I can take! Denials, rejections, losses, fears, attacks – I do not know how to know You are here with me, God! But, along with David, I will believe You are here even when I can’t feel You! Even when I don’t hear You! Even when I feel abandoned and left to die! I will believe Thou art with me, and my Enemy has no power over my faith or my relationship with You or my eternal peace of heart and mind – my Shalom-Sabbath-Rest is in Your presence!”
But the second question is far more important! Who is invited to the table? Why her? Why him? Why me?! Let me start with Me! Because I have not earned steadfast love and mercy! Sometimes I fail to ask for forgiveness! Every day I might discover myself doing, saying or thinking something that dishonors God – and yet – He has indeed invited Me to the Table!
Him? He’s rude, selfish, loud, and obnoxious!
Her? She’s lazy, self-centered, brash, and her dog dumps on my lawn!
Peter? He’s about to deny Jesus … THREE times!
Judas? Well, we all know Judas! He turned against Jesus for a mere 30-pieces of silver!
The other Ten Apostles? They argued about who was best; who was most deserving; who had the best hair (OK, I know men – they argued about that, it’s just not recorded!)!
But guess what? All are at the Table!
Who’s invited to the Table? “God so loved the WORLD that He gave His one and only Son, that WHOEVER believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life! For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him! WHOEVER believes in Him is not condemned!”
So, who is invited?! That’s right – SHE is! Uh, huh – HE is! And, my friend, YOU are, too!
But just being invited does not get you a seat. Being invited simply opens the door! “WHOEVER believes in Him is not condemned; but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son!” (John 3:16-18)
Who is not invited? Satan is not invited! Satan is the one Enemy of the Gospel, of your faith and life, Satan is the one Enemy who mocks and derides us – Satan gets to watch us celebrate from across the hall!
Jesus knows the worst of our hardships. While on the cross, Jesus recites from Psalm 22 – “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?! Why are You so far from saving me?!” He was not enjoying the grassy pasture or the quiet water; He was not experiencing His Father’s presence while in that Valley of the Shadow of Death; His soul did not feel restored! But Psalm 22 concludes with David singing, “The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the Lord will praise Him. … All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before Him. … All the rich of the earth will feast and worship …. They will proclaim His righteousness to a people yet unborn—for He has done it!” (Psalm 22:1, 26-31)
What Jesus cries from the cross – His “forsakenness” and hunger and thirst and aloneness – becomes the foundation of our hope! We have far more reason than David had for confidently declaring, “I shall not want” and “I will fear no evil”! Our Good Shepherd has already laid down His life for his sheep! He’s already been raised from the grave! He has already put our last Enemy, death, to shame!
Duguid tells us that Jesus has promised to welcome us into His Kingdom, to feast at His Table, with all His saints from all time and all places!
That includes YOU as soon as you receive Him from God and believe Him to be our Savior and Lord! He is, indeed, our Good Shepherd! Amen!
Duguid, Iain; “You Prepare a Table for Me in the Presence of My Enemies”; TableTalk; August 2018; Pp. 22-23.