“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
I have always been mystified by this verse. I have mostly read it as a description of God’s provision: a table set with mercy and blessing after a victorious battle; or something like a future hope to set my eyes on after a life spent battling the enemy. But this verse also has the echo of the ram prepared for Abraham; not in his presence; but just beyond, on the other side of his choice, in the presence of his enemy—which is Abraham himself—his “wanting.” And that lead me to reconsider: This psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd,” the fifth verse included, is about a lamb.
The purpose of the lamb is not be cared for—not to be guided—“for its own sake.” The purpose of the lamb is to be sacrificed.
I now imagine God preparing a table:
All is darkness; all is shadow; all is valley; all is enemy—eyes hungry—hearts devouring. Yet, in the center of the darkness, is a table. A lone figure stands in candle light; the only light in the valley; setting the table. It is the Shepherd. The Father. Waiting. In the presence of the lamb’s enemies—those hungry wolves and snarling lions leaning on their cushions— the shepherd clears the center of the table: the place the lamb will be laid. Like the cross being prepared for Christ. The lamb walks toward it. Accepting. Letting go. Listening. Following. Obeying. The Father, the shepherd, anoints the head of the lamb with oil—marking it—to reveal its purpose, like Jacob poured oil on the stone to reveal the center of the world. The center of the cross. It is time for the purpose of the lamb to be revealed. It is time for the king to satisfy his purpose—to take ultimate responsibility for his kingdom. The lamb lays in the center of the table and exposes his neck. The Father, the shepherd, raises his knife. Blood pours out; stains the wool, covers the threshold between darkness and light; protects, saves—cup after cup—guards all portals from death, opens them to life—to freedom.
And all this done in full view of his enemies— the Philistine, the Pharisee, the Saducee, the Roman, the Pharoah, the king and the governor, the Caesar, the slave, the zealot, the Jew, the gentile, the pious, and the pagan—crowded around the table. What a powerful image! And goodness and mercy follows. THEY FOLLOW. They ensue as a result of lamb’s willing acceptance of the Shepherd’s plan. A plan for victory over the powers of darkness through living sacrifice.