How do you react when someone wrongs you? Do you lash out in anger, attempt to defend yourself, or run away and hide? I’m afraid I usually try to hide. To the Lord, my husband, and internally, I may fuss and fume. But I always tried to avoid the wrong-doer, trying to avoid being hurt again.
Until Psalm 23, though not specifically about enemies, showed me that hiding is not the solution. It’s sort of like sweeping problems under the carpet. They don’t go away, and only turn into stumbling blocks for ourselves. I was doing it all wrong!
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows, (Psalm 23:5).
In the presence of my enemies was key for me. What a treasure trove of help!
In the first place, the Lord can’t prepare me a table in their presence, if I’m hiding from them, can he?
I used to think that a table prepared before our enemies implied a sort of gloating before them. Almost taunting them while we eat, leaving them to just look on. But this Psalm is a message of peace and stillness. And gloating sure doesn’t fit with those!
And in the second place, we’re commanded to love our enemies. But how can we do that if we’re avoiding them?
Love is more than an emotion.
It’s a verb, which means that true love and forgiveness must go further than words. Real forgiveness includes reconciliation. First because God not only forgave us, but he reconciled ourselves to him, (Romans 5:10). And we’re also commanded to reconcile with our brother before going to God, (Matthew 5:24).
Reconciliation is really only a fancy word for harmony or agreement. It means we try to reestablish a harmonious relationship.
And we can’t reconcile if we’re hiding from or avoiding the other person.
From what we know of David, the shepherd king, he undoubtedly worked at reconciliation. David’s heart longed for a right relationship with God and others. We know this from the way he treated his enemy Saul. Even when Saul was trying to kill him, David treated him with love and honor.
Most of us will have enemies in this life. Or hard things to forgive and get over. I’ve had many, and I’ve caused many.
Disagreements with close friends and family. People who have stolen large sums of money. And even marital infidelity on the part of my husband, years and years ago. And this latter was the hardest of all both to forgive and reconcile. Especially because we didn’t even know the Lord back then.
But somehow, even then I knew reconciliation is worth it. First because I loved my husband. And secondly, because I longed for peace.
Psalm 23 presents a beautiful picture of peace and protection.
With God as our shepherd, we will lack nothing. He will lead us into peace, plenty, and tranquility. Even preparing a table before our enemies.
Knowing David, he almost surely worked at reconciliation. But even when it wasn’t possible, he lived God’s peace. Eating fearlessly in his enemy’s presence.
Our problems may not necessarily go away. Our enemies may remain. But as God’s honored guest, because we have tried to do right, we will have shelter and provision. Our cup will overflow.
And all in the presence of our enemies.
But the Lord can’t fill our cup if it’s hidden away. Or if we’re lashing out in retaliation.
Forgiveness is never easy. It’s far easier to hide, spew venom, or lash out in defense. But it prevents us from feasting at our Father’s table, and prevents our cup from getting filled. It’s impossible to fill something that is spewing out.
But by walking the path of reconciliation, the Lord will lead us into rest, peace, and quiet. teaching us, and helping us to love our enemy, truly forgive, and work toward harmony. The relationship may never be restored to its former level, but we can learn to love and respect one another again.
And because we’re forgiving the way we want others to forgive us, our cup can overflow!
And then we can sit at the Father’s table, joyfully serving even our enemies — with an overflowing cup!