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Psalm 23 for Christmas

By Pastor Philip Howle
web posted December 26, 2012
RELIGION – You are reading this Christmas day, presents might already be opened, you are in your pajamas, and have a big meal coming, a Christmas meal, one of my favorite parts of the Holiday. There is family and food, the life that God intended! As we continue looking at Psalm 23 we move on to verse 5 “ You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…”

This verse has always thrown me off a bit. David works a sheep and shepherd metaphor for all that it is worth. We know that sheep don’t eat at the tables and use cups, so what is David trying to communicate to us at this point.
Davis is writing to us about that extravagant abundance that we ought to experience when living life close to the shepherd. As Christians on Christmas we ought to experience the fullest abundance imaginable. Why? Because our God is a generous God. Know of course I’m not writing merely about material things, though He does bless His people materially. If you are reading this you have a home and a computer. Of course we ought to on this day more than any other, know that God is generous with the things that really make life worthwhile: Love, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, joy, power, victory, and happiness. He pours out all of these things in abundance.

Sadly, some of us, like spoiled brats that did not get the toy they wanted this morning, are used to connecting happiness and abundance with material things. But when we do this we miss out on the biggest part of God's blessings. This morning if your only blessings are material ones, I feel sorry for you! Because God’s best gifts are so much better! 

Now what about these enemies and this table the shepherd is laying out? I mean I like to eat, but if I was surrounded by people that wanted to kill me, I would pass on leisurely eating a sausage ball.  A few weeks back I wrote, during various times of the year, the shepherd leads his flock to higher ground for better pasture. Phillip Keller notes that “These high plateaus have been called by the same name for centuries. In the US, Europe, and parts of Africa, they’re known as "mesas" — the Spanish word for "table." They've been referred to in various languages as "table lands” for centuries.”

David mixes metaphors here as he wants us see the image of a shepherd caring for his sheep and the image of God preparing a banquet for His people. Keller again notes how “During the spring and early summer a shepherd would visit the highlands once or twice to get them ready, knowing that his flock would make this journey in the coming months. He would prepare the table, so to speak, by pulling weeds and cutting out the poisonous plants that grow wild in mountain ranges. When the flock of sheep arrived, everything would be ready.”

But even as the land was ready, so were the enemies ready. They’re predators up in the mountains that did not live down below, such as wolves, coyotes, cougars, and bears. To quote Keller again he writes how the “predators remain on the rimrock, following the flock’s every movement, waiting for the chance to strike. Though they are always there, watching and waiting, they’re unable to make a move as long as the shepherd is watching his sheep.”

Now how does this affect us on Christmas day? God wants you to enjoy the birth of His son with all the wonderful joy that He can give and you can handle! I miss my grandmother. When she was alive, she would pile my plate overflowing with food (now I always managed to handle it OK!) She was not stingy; none of this “eat that and come back for more.” Just have all you desire honey!

God wants us to have all that we desire of Him; He is waiting to fill our plates! Jesus assures us of this in Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.“ But sadly, instead of hungering and thirsting for Jesus, we eat and settle for the spam sandwiches and stale chips of stuff and money. These things are our enemy of true joy!

So, have a Merry Christmas! Read Luke 2, pray a big prayer of thanksgiving with your family, enjoy a good meal, sing happy birthday to Jesus and enjoy all of God that you can handle today!

Pastor Phillip

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