It takes no small amount of intestinal fortitude to face the year ahead with positive expectations without giving in to perpetual discouragement and sometimes despair. Life is rigorous. Disappointments abound. But, when internalized correctly, the Word of God provides sustaining and undergirding encouragement.
Psalms 23 is probably the best known and favorite of all Scriptural passages. A divine sense of great comfort typifies the Psalm, which pictures Jesus Christ as the Great Shepherd of the sheep. The Lord’s shepherding provides the sheep with quality care, quality leadership, quality provision, and quality fellowship.
Yet, it is verse five that stands out as a veritable source of encouraging undergirding for any day and every day: “You prepare a table before me in in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over.”
The truth of the matter is that we live in a hostile environment. We live in an “unholy land,” which is constantly surrounded by the manifested devices of the devil. It is the devil who attempts to victimize those who strive to find faith in the midst of life. He makes it appear as though there is no hope, that we are all under his thumb, and that we are all defeated.
But, consider the implications of this verse five. In the face of all that the devil attempts to convince you, the Lord more than capably countermands it. While the devil says you are “Defeated,” the Great Shepherd says that you are “Victorious!”
While the devil says you are “Damned,” the Great Shepherd shouts “Saved!”
While the devil says you are “Poor,” the Great Shepherd shouts you are “Rich!”
While the devil says you are “Hated,” the Great Shepherd shouts your are “Loved!”
The Lord provides so much spiritual good for us. It is good that caters to our every need. It is good that enables us to enjoy every day. It is good that empowers us to endure every difficulty. It is good that elevates our emotions. It is good that emboldens our thinking. It is good that gives our surroundings a higher perspective.
Second, the Great Shepherd “anoints our head with oil,” which makes us special to Him. A person was anointed with scented oils to make them smell good and presentable, as a gesture of respect, and as a representation of the presence, power, and sanctification of the Holy Spirit. Comparatively, the Great Shepherd anoints us with the status of being joint heirs with Him, the adoption of son-ship, as a royal priesthood, and as kings. We are celebrated as being important to the Lord! You cannot beat that with a stick!
Our “cup runs over” with assurance, forgiveness, grace, love, providence, and power from the Lord. Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Also, says the Scripture, “Prove me now herewith, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of Heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
We got more going for us all of the time than we realize! You cannot beat it with two sticks, come to think about it!
To top matters, the Great Shepherd gives us a blessed hope: “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Our present life here on this earth is just a temporary placement for us. We have a far better place that we may surely expect. Again, the Lord said, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am you may be also.” We may expect that our lots in life will see vast improvement for tomorrow, and that gives reason to deal with our lots in life today.
If it were not for these blessed hopes, then we would have every reason to be bummed out. But, we can face tomorrow with some happiness-giving expectations. I am telling you—-having God in your life makes a difference!
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.