You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Psalm 23:5
Who wouldn’t want to have Psalm 23:5 happen to them? I mean, you have The Shepherd preparing a feast for you and anointing your head with oil and filling your cup to overflowing with God’s own specialty beverage, which has to be amazingly delicious. And the idea here is not just a one time feast or a one time anointing or just one cup overflowing, but rather a continuous lavishing of The Shepherd on you…on me…His stubborn self-absorbed sheep!
Sounds great, right?
Until maybe we catch the phrase, “in the presence of my enemies.” We may not be real comfortable with that idea. We like our enemies at a distance; out of sight and out of mind. We don’t want enemies lurking about or invading too close to our personal space. We avoid contact with the enemy at all costs. We may even be tempted to tell God to get those enemies out of our banquet hall or we won’t be able to enjoy any of the feast or specialty drinks.
But, as is always the case with God, The Shepherd knows what He is doing and the enemies will stay “in presence”. To help us understand, the why of our enemies being present at our feast lets expose just who are the enemies. Some of these categories are obvious, but some may surprise us.
First let’s first expose the category of the true mortal enemy; the bad guy or bad girl (don’t want to exclude the females here.) This is a person who has actually done us or someone we love physical harm, maybe even caused the death of someone we love. This person may or may not have been convicted of their crime, but the guilt of what they have done is not disputed. They did physical harm. Interestingly, whether they have been convicted or not, the trauma of being such a victim and its affect on our daily lives is always with us. Even if we never speak with them or communicate with them in any way, this enemy is with us. How much influence and power we allow this person to have on us solely depends on how much we believe Psalm 23:5.
The second enemy category is that of a social enemy. This person, again, male or female, has harmed us, but not physically. By a host of means, this person has harmed us materially, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually or any combination of these. This enemy can be very sly and deceptive and in one simple Tweet can transform a comfortable and full life into a disheveled heap of disaster and pain.
This category differs from physical harm in several ways. One, is that there is often less legal recourse to the victim. Or, as is often the case, the justification for legal action to take place just isn’t there. Two, often there may be no way to “prove” the harm has been done though with so much of this type of harm happening on social media in our modern culture, the proof is always “out there somewhere”. Three, it is often harder for us to separate ourselves from these enemies. And, four, sometimes…we must admit that sometimes, these enemies are only in our own minds. Or, at the very least, the extent of their harm to us is only in our minds. But, whether with concrete evidence or with our own conjecture, the social enemy ends up being in our presence 24/7 and 365 days a year…year after year, after year. They seem to always be in our head and, if we are honest, we let this enemy camp out there…in our head. We deny this vehemently to anyone and everyone who will listen, but our social enemies are ever present with us at the table feast.
Sadly, the third category of enemy is the group enemy. Social media has exasperated a hundred fold the power of group enemies. Group enemies use the power of the “crazed mob effect” to perpetrate their true enemy terror on an innocent soul or on a whole populace. From the online girl bullies perpetrating lies about the person who doesn’t fit in at their school to radical beheading haters who laugh at their own vile videotaped executions…true group enemies feed on a mob mentality. Group enemies rely on the fact that a single person would never treat another human being with the planned cruelty, but the promise of anonymity allows the mob group to do just about anything to others and even enjoy being as cruel an enemy as possible.
The flip side of these true group enemies is the plight of false group enemies. In most cultures, these people groups are considered enemies simply because of the color of their skin or their religious beliefs. For them, simply existing is tantamount to treason in their culture. The largest percentage of Christians around the world live as such enemies in their countries though they do not commit any criminal offense save for the one of loving Jesus. In the good ‘ole USA it is hard for us to imagine such a daily existence though we may not be far from joining our brothers and sisters around the world who truly sit in the presence of their enemies every day.
The fourth enemy we face is much harder for us to admit and face because the fourth enemy is ourselves! This enemy goes with us everywhere we go. Sits everywhere we sit. Sleeps where we sleep. This enemy is relentless! We try to hush this enemy up with meager results. Maybe we exercise three hours a day or we eat three hours a day. We may drink or smoke or shoot up daily just to keep this enemy at bay for a little while. We buy clothes and toys and houses and pay for people to keep up all the barns we fill up just to quite the enemy. But until we realize it is The Shepherd who sets our table called life, we will never win the victory over the enemy of ourselves.
The fifth enemy is the curse of this world which gives us all kinds of disease and sickness and pandemics like Covd-19! The curse also gives us man’s ill treatment against man and against the animal kingdom and against Creation itself. The curse pits creation against creation and the powerful against the powerful leaving the weak in their destructive path.
And the sixth and final enemy is the Father of Lies, Satan! He sets in motion the hate groups, the bullies, the criminals. He spreads the lies of prejudice and superiority. He glamorizes evil and calls “old fashioned” evil. He tries to exchange The Truth with his lies and he tries to sabotage The Shepherds table. Notice I say, he tries to. Ultimately, he cannot and never will. But he can keep us from the table that is set before us. That is the real battle and one we must win and one we can only win through Jesus Christ!
Until heaven, we will always have enemies around us, but if we stay seated at the table the Good Shepherd has set before us then we will feast heartily, we will be blessed (on God’s terms, not America’s terms) and our lives will overflow for God’s Glory!