In the immortal 23rd Psalm, David pens words that comfort believers, warm skeptics, and stop everyone who see’s beauty in poetic muscle. Did these strophes spill from his heart one night while he guarded his sheep? Did he hear the sound of an enemy to his flock, and stare down menacing red eyes in pitch dark? Each lamb would pass under his hand come evening, to sleep under his watch. As shepherd, he would stretch across the open side of the refuge, using his body as a final defense. This Psalm invites us to take the position of lamb, under our Good Shepherd’s care.
Yet, David doesn’t stop at the metaphor of lamb, but invites us to a table. Intimate God, asking us to sit down, to bring all our faculty with us, because He has something He needs to say. He breathes into David’s intuitive and artistic pen, assurances that a fiercely loyal Shepherd accepts our condition, because He knows it’s not our conclusion. When we look at the theology pressed into the image of a table set for two, its mystery has no face, but it does have a heartbeat. Here we feel the ‘thump, thump, thump’ of God anticipating our arrival.
“He prepares a table…” Every morning God sets a table for us to dine. He stands waiting there, for humility drapes him, the Lamb of God. This Lamb- Shepherd, an impossible mix of perfect love and sacrifice, too humble to shout at us, if we decide not to linger over his lavish spread. He will wait, rather for our heart to warm, and come to Him because we want to, rather than He insist on our presence. That way, perfect love meets imperfect devotion, and is swallowed up in a silent hug, greeting us every time with a huge smile.
He waits for us to pass under His hand.
“He anoints our head…” Every morning puts the oil of gladness on our crown. Why oil? Why anointing? In psalm 117 we get a hint, as oil runs down the beard of Aaron, symbolizing brother’s dwelling together in unity. If for a second we doubt our standing with God, let this symbolism lift our countenance up into the eyes of our first-born, Brother. He sees right through us, yet lifts the oil and baptizes us with it, to allow our hearts to sit at peace, full of confidence that we are one, undivided and now indivisible with his Spirit living in us. Drenched by the oil from his hand, we are satisfied in Him, because in Him is perfect relationship.
He stretches across the open space, so we may safely enjoy Him.
“Our cup overflows…” Every morning He fills our cup to overflowing. The invitation to dine, his readiness to receive us at table, the oil running freely like joyful tears, all does something to a heart that has become something less than supple, in the daily sojourn through the world. Now, as we are overwhelmed by lavish love, we look inside the cup, and ask the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, to once again cleanse us. When He does, He then fills it, and it spills down the stem, and stains the tablecloth. That blood red stain reminds us that once for all we are sealed unto Him, and daily we may come for immediate and unconditional forgiveness for our tepid hearts.
He sings over us through the night watch.