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Sermon 12/6/09
Psalm 23:5 –
The Servant


  Audio Sermon

The Servant

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows” (Psalm 23:5)

When I was in junior high school, the boy next door and I seemed to get along with each other very well. We talked and did a few things together, but then my family moved to another place and he and I lost touch – until high school, that is, and three things had changed when we met again. Both of us had been about the same size in junior high, but then I quit growing and he had never stopped getting wider and taller. He seemed literally twice my size! The second problem was that our previous friendship was over. It was more than dislike – he actually seemed to hate the very ground I walked on. And the third problem was that he now had a lot of friends and all of them seemed to find me annoying just like he did!

One day it all came to a head. I was walking across the high school yard and suddenly he was in front of me, challenging me to a fight. Many of his friends were surrounding us in one of those donut-shaped circles, and they all seemed to be smiling as they yelled at him to tear me apart. There were problems for me. First, it didn’t look like I had any chance of surviving longer than the next few moments, and second, I never thought that fighting made any sense. Whatever the reason for his hatred, I sincerely believed that fighting settled nothing. It decided who was stronger, but didn’t reveal who was right. It seemed like there was no justice at all in a fist fight. But there he was, producing a lot of adrenalin and here I was, producing none. I looked around and saw that I was “in the presence of my enemies

He screamed something that sounded like, “Let’s fight!” and I decided that all this was truly stupid. I looked him in the eyes and said, “No!” in a loud firm voice, and began to stride toward the donut-people. They had been cheering him on to squash me like a bug, but now they just looked surprised and moved aside as I walked through them. I believe it was the Lord who parted them and let me walk through and it did indeed feel like the Red Sea was opening before me. Somehow, even though high school continued for several months until we graduated, I never saw any of them again. The Lord had prepared “a table for me in the presence of my enemies.” I was safe. We are safe in Him.

We can reasonably expect that when we come to the Lord, we will be His servant and give ourselves to Him for the rest of our lives, not to mention our future life in eternity where joyful service will never end. In the writings of those who were part of the Christian Church, 2000 years ago, we find that many gave far more than most today would think about. Clement of Rome wrote, “We know many among ourselves who have given themselves up to slavery in order that they could ransom others. Many others have surrendered themselves to slavery, so that with the price that they received for themselves, they might provide food for others.” Amazing, isn’t it? In today’s world, it would be unthinkable to sell yourself into a life of slavery so the needs of others might be met. Yet “many” did exactly that.

What we do not expect, is that HE, Almighty God, is like a servant to us; attentive to our every need. As Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). His “yoke” is easy because He bears it with us and for us. As today’s Scripture reports about the intentions of God for our lives: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows” (Psalm 23:5).

To “prepare a table” is astonishing because that is what the waiter who serves the food in a restaurant does. We come to the restaurant and someone leads us to a clean table set with serving utensils, along with spices and napkins. A waiter appears, writes down our requests so the cook will know what to do, and then brings us the food. Are you thirsty? Ask him for water and he will bring it. Do you need a napkin? Ask him and he will bring one. But surely there must be a mistake, for how can our Lord be compared to someone who waits on tables?

And then, even more astonishing is the statement in our Scripture for today: “You have anointed my head with oil.” The substance called “oil” was mostly made from the fruit of olives and it was very expensive. It was a key part of the diet of Mediterranean peoples, it was used for lamps and was important for medicinal purposes. The body was anointed with oil after bathing and used before wrestling and other sports in the Olympic Games. But most important in the minds of those who lived at the times when Scripture was written, such oil was used to anoint kings and priests. And before you dismiss the idea that God would regard you as a "king" or "priest" as utter nonsense, consider Revelation 1:5-6, where it says, “…Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us KINGS and PRIESTS to His God and Father…”

David, who wrote Psalm 23:5, saw the enormity of the words he wrote, and he understood a great deal about the Messiah, the Christ who was to come. David was a “prophet,” (Acts 2:29-30), who said about the One who would be our Savior, “They have pierced My hands and feet… they divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots” (Psalm 22:16-18). King David was the lord of Israel, and yet he began Psalm 110:1 with the surprising words, “The Lord says to my Lord…” He understood that his "Lord" had a "Lord." He knew the Messiah would die for our sins, and he glimpsed something of what we call the “Trinity;” that more than One can still be One. You could say he was “ahead of his time,” but the reality is that he responded to the Lord and therefore was given understanding.

And what was David’s response to all this? He said in our verse for today, “My cup overflows.” Because He had faith in the Lord he was given more than he or anyone else could ever deserve. He experienced the grace, the unmerited favor of God and he was overjoyed. To some extent it is precisely right that our relationship with the Lord is one of service, but really it is the Lord who serves us. There are forces arrayed against us that are greater than we are and we cannot adequately defend ourselves. David saw that the Lord is our Shepherd; He leads us, protects, restores and is with us – forever. He prepares a “table” for us in the presence of our enemies. We are saved and we are safe because of our Lord.

How has the Lord done this? The answer is – through service on the cross: “He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows… He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4-6).

The ground of our salvation is death and new life in our Shepherd, Jesus Christ. He helps even those who reject Him, and we note that His patient love brings many to faith in Him. It’s time to stop running like those “sheep (who) have gone astray,” and trust in the Lord.

Dear Lord, forgive us for running away from the Your love. We love You, and we trust in You now. Thank You. We praise Your Holy Name. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
First Church On The Net
"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

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