Psalm 23:5-6


Great Commission Church

Psalm 23:5-6
Intro: This message is the final installment in our 3-part series on the most famous chapter in the Bible. The final verses of the Psalm will add two more reasons why David lacks nothing because God is his shepherd. So far we have – He Settles Me Down, He Refreshes Me, He Brings Me Back, He Guides Me Up, He Calms My Fears…

illus: 4 decades after the failed French Revolution, a French magistrate came to the US on an official visit. He used the occasion for an unofficial investigation into the success of American democracy. He published his findings in a two-volume classic, Democracy in America. Toward the end, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “I have recorded so many considerable achievements of Americans, if anyone asks me what I think the chief cause of the extraordinary prosperity and growing power of this nation, I should answer that it is due to the superiority of their women.” In almost all Protestant nations girls are much more in control of their own behavior…in the US, Protestant teaching is combined with a very free constitution and a very democratic society, and in no other country is a girl left so soon or some completely to look after herself.”

David moves the imagery from the shepherd and his sheep to the host and his banquet.

Psalm 23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.


You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies

How does a man spread his fame and boost his reputation in traditional Middle Eastern culture?

A man gains his status in the community by means of his table. The hospitality he lavishes exalts him more than the material things he possesses.

Strangers and neighbors alike discuss tables where they have been guests. Such tales spread from one town to another and are handed down from one generation to another. There is considerable gossip about how guests and strangers are entertained.

In Middle Eastern culture, when you want the community to know that you have acquired wealth, you do not buy an expensive car or a large house on an expansive estate. 

Instead, you host meals with three times as much food on the table as the number of guests can possibly eat. 

What does “prepare a table” mean?

This phrase “prepare a table” cannot mean “to set the table” because in ancient near eastern culture people eat without using individual plates or eating utensils. 

Instead, they eat by tearing off a small piece of flatbread and using it to lift food from the common dish to the mouth. Each bite starts with a fresh piece of bread. There is nothing to do to “set the table.”

If there are no utensils to set on the table, then preparing a table means cooking the food. Who does that?

In that culture, it is the women and the servants. The master of the house provides the food. The ladies and servants prepare it.

Prov 9:2 She [Wisdom] has slaughtered her meat, she has mixed her wine, she has also furnished her table.

Prov 9:5 “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.”

The same scene appears in the story of Abraham and his angelic visitors (Gen 18). The guests arrive and Abraham insists that they rest and eat. The angels accept the invitation, so Abraham hurries to his tent to give instructions.

Gen 18:6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes.” 
Gen 18:7 And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it. 

In a gesture of utmost respect, Abraham stands while his guests eat, but Abraham does not prepare the food. 

In Psalm 23, God is a shepherd who leads his flock (man’s work). He is not a servant. Therefore, “you prepare a table” refers to the work of a woman. This is less surprising than you may think.

Gen 1:27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 

God is spirit. He is neither male nor female, but the characteristics of both come from Him. 

illus: Vishal Mangalwadi, Christian philosopher, minister, and philosopher from India illustrates the difference the Scriptures make regarding the family unit. He began his service to the poor by training Village Health Workers (VHWs). They began by teaching the villagers how to stay healthy, prevent diseases, and cure simple ailments. The village families wouldn’t allow women to attend the classes. After a few months the missionaries bonded with the VHWs (young men) and they began to speak freely. One night the VHWs announced: “You Christians are very immoral.” Vishal replied, “What do you mean?” (he was stunned). “How are we immoral?” They explained, “You walk with your wives holding their hands. Our wives walk at least 10 ft behind us. You take your sister-in-law to the market on your scooter. Our wives are too modest to sit behind our bicycles, and they cover their faces in front of our fathers, uncles, and older brothers.” Vishal was speechless. But his brother, Vinay, had lived there longer. He responded with brutal directness: “Come on, you guys! You know perfectly well that the truth is exactly the opposite. You do not allow your wives to uncover their faces in front of your fathers and brothers because you trust neither your father nor your brothers nor your wives. I allow my wife to go to the market with my brother because I trust her and I trust my brother. Our wives can walk in the fields with us and visit you in your homes because of higher moral standards. You chain your wives to your kitchens and imprison them behind their veils because you are immoral.” To Vishal’s utter amazement, everyone of the VHWs agreed with Vinay without a whisper of protest. They knew what was in their own hearts. There is a simple connection between morality and liberty – liberty to the status of women – and the status of women to the strength of a society.

For God to take on the actions of a woman in Psalm 23 is biblical and normal. 

Isa 42:13 The LORD shall go forth like a mighty man; He shall stir up His zeal like a man of war. He shall cry out, yes, shout aloud; He shall prevail against His enemies.
Isa 42:14 “I have held My peace a long time, I have been still and restrained Myself. Now I will cry like a woman in labor, I will pant and gasp at once.”

In Psalm 23, God is described as a good shepherd who cares for His sheep. He also acts like a woman by preparing a meal for the guest at His table. This psalm is a story of a good shepherd and a good host. 

“in the presence of my enemies”

This tricky phrase means something like “He demonstrates costly love to me no matter who is watching.” 

People who are hostile to me will observe what He is doing, and He fully understands that their hostility to me will soon be extended to Him as a result. He doesn’t care. He offers love to me anyway!

illus: In the parable of the prodigal son, the village hates the prodigal. They would have thrashed him upon his return if his father had not intervened. They were ready to break the qesasah jar and cut him off permanently. Yet the father ran the gauntlet for him on the public road at great personal and physical cost. There was a celebration later that night, but it was not to welcome the prodigal home. It was a banquet in honor of the costly efforts of the mistreated father in reconciling his rebellious son to himself. The fattened calf was slaughtered because it would feed nearly 100 people. The community was invited to the celebration even though they despised the prodigal son for shaming his father and their village by losing his share of the estate to the Gentiles. They won’t go to the party on his account. But they will attend a banquet to show honor to his father. Thus, the prodigal son could say to himself that evening, “My father has prepared a table for me in the presence of my enemies.” 

You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over

Anointing in Scripture took place for a variety of reasons: consecration/inauguration (Isa 61:1); wounds/sores (Luke 10:34); those in need of healing (James 5:14); act of hospitality (Luke 7:35ff)

Luke 7:46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 

In Psalm 23, David is describing a public meal where his enemies are observing the festivities. This public anointing of oil to show acceptance and honor would undoubtedly infuriate those opponents of David.

The host is sparing no expense on David’s behalf. The wait staff are even hovering. Every time David takes a sip, one of them quickly rushes over to refill his cup (“my cup runs over”).

illus: Our honeymoon came 8 years after we married. Went on our first cruise. The service was like nothing I had experienced. One evening at the formal dining I made a mistake and chose the duck over the filet mignon. I was still polite in those days, so when I took the first bite of the duck and didn’t like it, I tried to hide the wince. It was subtle, I thought. But immediately the waiter scurried over to me and asked if there was something wrong with the meal. Did I not enjoy the duck? I shook my head, and he said, “No worries, I will bring you the steak.”

David knew full well that the treatment he was getting from the host of the banquet was extraordinary. 


Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life

David picks up the shepherd imagery again. On the way home at the end of each day the shepherd knows of the danger that a wolf or some other predator stalking the returning flock, watching for a young or injured sheep to lag behind and become easy prey.

In a pleasant twist, David notes that with God as His shepherd something other than a predator stalks him. Instead of a hungry wolf, it is the goodness and mercy of God that follows him home!

“Goodness” represents what is useful, efficient, pleasant, beautiful, kind and right. Therefore, David first observes that instead of being surrounded by the evil of the dark valley, he is surrounded by God’s goodness.

illus: Recall that David passed through many troubles, several of which he brought on himself. There was his sordid affair with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11), not to mention incest and murder among his children (2 Sam 13). To this we can add the civil war that climaxed with the killing of his son Absalom by David’s commanding general, Joab (2 Sam 18). During those days, how was he followed by good? Some of the time the good was behind him, protecting him, but he chose to turn away from it. But he remembered it when he reflected on his life.

“Mercy” is that famous term for God’s loyal covenant love that makes up the heart of His gracious dealings with His people in the OT.

In Psalm 23, David affirms that he lives his life, with all its dangers and fears, knowing that God is following behind him with an air-tight promise to keep him and more than enough grace to cover every sin. David is being chased by God’s lovingkindness.

Not everyone can claim this confidence.

1 Tim 5:24 Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. 

What is following you?

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever

Psalm 27:4 One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple.

Where is God’s temple now? It is the gathered church humbly seeking the face of their loving bridegroom. (Eph 2:19-22)

1 Cor 3:16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 

1 Peter 2:5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 

David declares that he will be a worshiper of the LORD for “the length of days” or the rest of his life.


I need to come to the table God has prepared for me.

I need reassurance of His goodness and mercy.

I need to renew my commitment to dwell in His house as a worshiper.