“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” Psalm 23:5.
This scripture sprang to living color this morning as I read, and a myriad of memories flashed across my mind. When Wayne and I lived in Israel, we made numerous trips to the desert. Amid the arid, uncultivable hills and valleys, God faithfully spoke to us. Sometimes we drove for miles and miles along the Dead Sea in silence, watching the light and shadow play on the roughed terrain. We knew from experience that in the quiet waiting, God would speak direction, encouragement, or even correction. And how appropriate! Even the Hebrew word for desert “midbar” comes from the root “he spoke.”
Although I am rising from the recent onslaught of storms of epic death and loss with the pandemic, cultural wars, shifting societal morals, and betrayal with cleansing and renewed vision, my eyes still see a howling wasteland stretched before me of suffering and injustices. I ask myself almost daily, when will this end? The Lord spoke to me this morning that in this cultural wilderness He is setting a table before me in the presence of my enemies and that He fills my cup to overflow.
As He spoke, I imaged myself at a long, wooden table in the midst of this desolation of broken lives, irrevocable change, and instability. There the bright sun shone, and I felt it’s relentless pounding heat on my skin. The Lord asked, “Your table is long and empty—why not invite your enemies to sit with you?”
He continued, “Your cup overflows—so you have plenty to share.”
In modern times in the Christian world, I really don’t ever like entertaining the idea of having enemies. It sounds weak or that I may have unresolved issues. God forbid. Yes, there are those that I have disagreed with or that have caused pain or caused injustice. I indeed had and have enemies to invite to my long, empty table in the desert. I waited for the chairs around my table to fill—one by one the faces surprised me. Political figures filed in and people that I didn’t even know personally. Some how through the horrific events of the last two-plus years, I have built walls and created villains trying to navigate the load of shock and suffering we all have endured. In this moment of my life, most of my enemies truly became people I would never meet but that had deeply influenced my life by their decisions.
One by one, I imagined the offenses, and I forgave or asked forgiveness. The tears poured. I also realized in that moment that some were truly not enemies but individuals to blame when things careen out of control or there is absolutely no choice in the matters that cross paths daily.
Another level of cleansing emerged for me. I raised my vision from the temporal to the eternal and saw God as truly over all events. Through even this, I chose to cleave to his goodness and kindness.
In the sweetness of that moment, the Lord spoke a lot more at that table because he loves me so perfectly and unconditionally—and it’s those precious secrets between the Bride and the Bridegroom that I will ponder in the days ahead. For “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
This was a cleansing exercise for me. It is one that I plan to repeat from time to time. I know the circumstances and faces will change—somehow the generous act of forgiveness is never finished in this life. I’m embracing the promises of God fully for I know I will be forgiven as I forgive and continue to forgive.