How many times have I read or recited Psalm 23? Yesterday, I heard the fifth verse of that classic song of David as if for the first time:
"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows."
As a teenager I became a follower of Jesus. I looked forward to the time when I would be a mature believer and experience a deeper relationship with Christ. I imagined in that blessed state I would be peaceful at all times. I wouldn't have any problems. I would discern the Will of God quickly and easily and never be distracted or perturbed. And I wouldn't have any enemies. Clearly, I never considered the implications of Psalm 23:5.
Despite years of experience to the contrary, I still sometimes find myself thinking a victorious Christian life should involve absence of difficulties. If I have problems, it must be because I've done something wrong. Enemies couldn't be part of God's plan, could they?
As we all have, I have been dogged by a number of enemies throughout life. Some are inevitable, like death.
People die. When they die we experience death, the last enemy that will be conquered according to Revelation.'Yet even in the presence of that enemy, the Lord has promised to feed us, care for us, even honor us with the anointing of oil, and provision of the fruit of the vine. We are never alone. He always cares for us.
One of our grown children has long struggled with a difficult medical condition. He lives with us and the struggle continues to this day. We periodically need to change our plans and adjust our lives to care for him. Of course it is our joy to do so. God has not thus far miraculously healed our son. But He provides. We find ourselves at the table of the Lord. He sends His Holy Spirit with wisdom and comfort. We laugh, we cry, we feast … in the Lord's presence but also in the very presence of this enemy: sickness.
In Central Asia we lived day in and day out in the presence of physical, political or religious enemies. One never knew who the betrayer might be. In fact, it strikes me that even at the most important meal of the Bible, the Last Supper, an enemy was at the table. But Judas, and the Enemy who drew him into betrayal could not prevent that most essential feast.
We had a rich life in Central Asia. We experienced God's grace and favor in the midst of our enemies. God didn't remove our enemies. He provided for us in their presence. God has foreseen all of our enemies' resistance and attacks in our lives. He hasn't promised to eliminate them, though he sometimes does. But he has promised to care for us even 'in the presence of our enemies.' How great is our God!
What enemies are you facing today? What does God's provision for you in their presence look like right now? To learn more about Elizabeth's adventures in Central Asia check out "Everyone, Everywhere" by her husband and former executive director for Jesus Film Project®, Erick Schenkel.