[Rev. Gerrit Vos (1894-1968) was the long-time pastor of the Hudsonville, Michigan Protestant Reformed Church.]
"Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over." Psalm 23:5
"A Psalm of David."
Yes, this would be of David. It certainly is his style.
There are two main parts to this psalm: the Shepherd and His sheep; and the Host and His guests.
The contents are the same: the care and the feeding of the Shepherd; and the feast of the Host and His guests.
The meaning? After length of days under the loving care of God, we go through death to God's House. And goodness and mercy now and forever.
In my particular text you may see the bountiful Host Who makes a feast for the oppressed; which Host prepares the oil of gladness for the sorrowing; and Who hath a marvelous fulfillment for the hungry soul.
Here is the host.
He prepares a table before the very face of his guests. There is joy in that: it awakens the appetite.
We receive the impression that this "table" includes food and drink in plentiful quantities, and of great delicacy. In other words, a feast is spread before the very faces of the guests.
And the people who are invited to this feast are the oppressed.
Not only is this table prepared before my very face, but the host has seen to it that the same table is prepared in the very presence of the enemies of his guests.
Note the word "enemies."
Literally, according to the original, the word means "to press down, to press in, to compress, even as the grape in the wine press."
In other words, they are the people who would put me in a place that is too small for me.
The whole picture, therefore, is that my host prepares a dainty and plentiful table for me, unto the sustaining of my life which the compressors desire to extinguish.
Hence, they see that their work is vain, and that I know this.
The explanation is not difficult here.
The Host is Jehovah and the guest is God's child. The compressors, the enemies are the World, Satan, and the Flesh, the three arch-enemies, compressors of the church of Jesus Christ.
The prepared table is Life for God's people, through Jesus Christ our Lord. You read of that in Colossians 3:4, "When Christ who is our life shall appear then shall ye also appear with Him in glory."
Christ who is our life! Behold, the table of Psalm 23.
How eminently fitting! The text tells me that the table is prepared before my very face. Now read your gospels again and see how our life is prepared before our face in the coming, suffering, death on the cross, burial, and also the resurrection and ascending of Jesus to heaven.
All is done before our faces, and in the presence of my compressors.
The whole history of salvation, with the Cross and the glorious resurrection as its center, is prepared before the face of the church, and in the presence of Caiaphas, Herod, Pilate, and the whole crowd of murderers.
And here is the hardest blow for these murderers: they ultimately see that they even must serve to have this meal prepared. Judas, the Sanhedrin, Herod, and Pilate, they all have their part to play in the drama of the ages. Such is the wisdom of God!
And now we hear of the Oil of Gladness for the sorrowing.
Do not think for one moment that the guest escapes unscathed. Oh, no.
Even in the very morning of salvation we have heard it already: "and thou shalt bruise his heel."
The heel of the church is bruised.
Primarily this is said by God to the devil who would bruise the heel of Jesus. And he did. He ultimately got Jesus on the Cross.
But it also refers to all the bruising of the church through the ages.
The text is imagery.
In Eastern lands the guests were anointed so that their robes emanated a delightful fragrance.
This Host does likewise. And not sparingly, because the original Hebrew indicates that. You could read the text: Thou makest my head to shine with an abundance of oil. Note the Dutch translation: "Gij maakt mijn hoofd vet met olie."
Oil, in God's Word, is a figure of the Holy Ghost.
Thus the oil in the candlestick in the Temple. Thus in the vision of the golden candlestick in Zechariah 4:1-6. And thus in Isaiah 61:3. The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me because the Lord hath anointed Me.
It is rather clear why this should be so, for oil is the source of light and light is the very life of God. Thus the Holy Ghost is Workmaster of all the light and the life which is from God and which is transposed to the whole church of Christ.
That life of the Spirit is very fragrant.
It has the power and capacity to make one glad. For instance, read Psalm 45:7, "Therefore, God, thy God, hath anointed me with the oil of gladness."
Hence, the viewpoint is still the Host and His guest. Here, at the table of the Lord, he is anointed abundantly with the oil of gladness. Therefore, he is anointed with the Holy Ghost.
And that makes all the difference in the world.
Yes, the child of God is hurt by the compressors, his enemies.
Yes, he often cries. (In reality the Christian always cries to God: Oh! great and glorious God! We are killed all the day long for Thy sake!)
Yes, he is bruised by the devil, the world and the flesh the whole day of his life on earth. The fight is always raging.
But in the midst of the fight the Lord anoints the guest with the Holy Ghost, and that makes all the difference in the world.
Are we dishonored? Yes, and yet we are honored.
Are we put to shame by evil reports? Yes, and yet we are raised up again by a good report.
Are we called deceivers? Yes, and yet we are true.
Are we the great unknown? Yes, and yet we are well known.
Are we dying? Surely we are, we are in a thousand deaths often. And yet, behold, we live!
Are we chastened? You know we are, and yet, we are not killed.
Are we sorrowful? Oh yes, yet always rejoicing. (Let him who is wise understand this.)
Are we poor? Oh yes, dreadfully so, but we are making many rich.
Have we nothing? You know it, we are the offscouring of the world, and yet, we possess all things. See II Corinthians 6:8-10.
If you do not have the Holy Ghost, you will not understand any of this.
We are at the same time the most sorrowful creatures alive, and yet, we are also the most happy of all.
While Paul was bound, in the stocks, in the dungeon, with blood seeping through his ragged, dirty clothes at Philippi, he prayed and sang the Psalms of David. That was because of the Holy Ghost in him.
When Jesus hung on the Cross He exhibited a picture of utter forsakenness, and yet, never before or after did the glory shine in Him and through Him as at that moment. His Crucifixion was His glorification.
This guest also. He is the oh so weary child of God. But he sits at the table of the Lord and is anointed with an abundance of oil of the Holy Ghost from the viewpoint of joy and gladness.
Hence, the happy song of David's Psalm belongs to the table of the Lord.
Moreover, his cup runneth over.
What does that mean?
That is all imagery, figurative language.
The guest at this table has been pressed sorely.
He is empty, hungry, forsaken.
But the Host will take care of him.
When an Eastern host would express that his guest was very welcome, and when the host wished to express that he possessed plenty unto the comfort and happiness of his guests, he would ask the guest to hold up his cup and then he would pour the wine and keep on pouring this wine until it would overflow the cup and fall on the carpeted banqueting floor.
Then the guest knew himself to be doubly welcome.
Must I explain this figure?
Alright: here goes:
The free-will brigade always begins by saying that Jesus' blood is sufficient for thousands of worlds.
I will say that too, but I would say that His blood is sufficient for untold millions of worlds, for He sustained the eternal wrath of God.
It is like the sun whose light shines past our world in a thousand directions. Also where there is no earth.
Did you ever see the many hundreds of little apples under a tree in harvest time?
The river of God is full of water.
God is the overflowing Fountain of all good.
In the New Jerusalem there are twelve crops each year, for the Tree of Life gives her fruit every month for the healing of the nations.
All these things point up the inexhaustible riches of life, of life eternal, love, lovingkindness, and utter salvation of the Lord God in Jesus Christ our Lord!
Yes, from out of the depths we cry to Thee, O God!
Yes, but there is a table which will be set before mine eyes in the day of Christ. And then Jesus shall drink also of the new wine in the House of His Father. It will be a feast of plenty and it will be sweet!