Psalm 23 5 Message: In our Psalm 23 4 Commentary article we heard about God protecting us from enemies. And those enemies that are beaten back by the shepherd’s staff sometimes are forced to watch as the shepherd lavishes us with goodness, according to verse 5 of Psalm 23.
5 Thou preparest a [table/feast] before me in [the presence/plain sight] of mine enemies:
thou [anointest/refresh] my head with oil; my cup [runneth over/overflows/is completely full].
Psalm 23 5 Message: Still About Sheep?
Some think that at this verse David drops the shepherd/sheep metaphor. Others think that David continues to use the metaphor, and that now he’s speaking of a shepherd pulling out weeds that would be deadly to the sheep. And so, with the deadly poisonous weeds lying all around them, the sheep are able to graze on the healthful weed-less grass.
Psalm 23 5 Message: Protection from Enemies
I’m not sure that either of those interpretations is the case. I think we’ve been following along on a sheep’s typical day. Being led out to pasture and to the watering spot. Being led from there on right paths, but ones that sometimes lead through dangerous places. And now, here the sheep are once again on a broad plain where they have yet again found sustenance. And the enemies are all around. And yet with this protecting shepherd with his rod and staff the sheep may safely graze.
Psalm 23 5 Message: David was Protected
And of course, in David’s life this reality worked itself out on numerous occasions. David was kept safe even while King Saul was pursuing him to kill him. Before that, he was protected from that lion and bear that he fought with to save his sheep. He was protected from Goliath. From his other foreign enemies. From his son Absalom. All the while, David would have surely sensed from time to time that it was as if God had prepared a feast for him right in the midst of all his enemies.
Psalm 23 5 Message: Death and the World for Christians
And for us Christians, we have two major enemies mentioned in the New Testament – death and the world. 1 Corinthians 15 assures us that we have victory over death. And 1 John 5 tells us that we have victory over the world. We have victory over death through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have victory over the world through our faith. And yet death is still a real and present enemy and so is the world. And so, we as Christians experience this dynamic that David is speaking of here. The Lord protects us and takes care of us even in the presence of death and the world. The final victory over these two enemies is coming, but is not fully realized yet.
And so God provides protection for his sheep.
Psalm 23 5 Message: Refreshment and Healing
And he also provides refreshment and healing for us. That’s the second line of verse 5.
He anoints his sheep’s heads with oil. The cup he provides for us overflows. What do these images represent in the real-life shepherd-sheep relationship?
Psalm 23 5 Message: Anointing Our Head with Oil
Well, apparently toward the end of the day when the shepherd would lead his sheep back to the sheepfold he would check their heads for wounds and insects. He would have oil and apply it to abrasions. This would have a healing and refreshing effect on the sheep.
Psalm 23 5 Message: Overflowing Cup
The cup was apparently filled with water. And if the sheep were thirsty they could take a drink. If they were feverish they could dip their snouts in the cup and cool off.
Psalm 23 5 Message: Relief Like Job
So, to apply the shepherd metaphor to our situation, God does allow us to suffer, doesn’t he? He lets us endure some difficult times. But you’ve also experienced periods I’m sure where, like our Old Testament brother Job experienced, the Lord lets up on the suffering and gives you times of rest and refreshment and healing. That’s part of his pastoral provision for you and me. There are valleys and maybe that’s the majority of what we experience. And yet, there are these times of rest that he graciously gives to his sheep.
Psalm 23 5 Message: To Verse 6…
Well, finally David ends the psalm with a note of thankful contentment in verse 6 which we examine on our Psalm 23 6 Commentary article.