David likens the rough and difficult times in life’s journey to a dark ravine, “the valley of the shadow of death” (v. 4). His words provide calm assurance that God never leaves us along the way and that He chooses the right path leading to greater blessing.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.”
More often than not, it is during the difficult and challenging periods of our life that we draw close to the Lord seeking His protection. David poetically affirms this is the proper response to adversity. But, how do we react to God’s blessing?
As the shepherd leads the flock out of a deep ravine, the sheep move away from the threat of danger. Imagine them topping the crest of a hill with an expansive plateau coming into full view. There is grassland as far as the eye can see. To the sheep, it’s a grazing extravaganza—a sumptuous banqueting table with an inexhaustible supply of food.
It is at this point we get a glimpse of a proper heart attitude. David thanks God for His bountiful provision spread out like a banquet table before him. And then with a hint of irony adds, “in the presence of my enemies” (v.5). The enemies that tried to hinder his progress and destroy him in the valley of the shadow of death are now forced to watch impotently snarling and threatening as David feasts on God’s blessing of abundant provision.
With a heart overflowing with gratitude, David testifies that the Lord saved him from his mortal enemies and provided sumptuously within view of those same adversaries.
David continues, you anoint my head with oil, conveying the shepherd’s tender care (v. 5). Shepherds in ancient Israel routinely applied a strong insecticidal ointment to the head of each sheep that repelled pesky flies, mosquitoes and ticks. With the shepherd’s care, pests were prevented from irritating the eyes and nose of sheep.
Interestingly, it is often the irritating realities of life that keep us from fully enjoying God’s bounty. With the valley of the shadow of death behind us, our enemies are powerless to harm. We are in a place of abundant provision, but instead of enjoying those blessings, we fixate on the day-to-day aggravations.
Just like the therapeutic care of the shepherd, however, God’s word anoints like a salve when daily life robs us of the ability to enjoy blessing.
David never took God’s blessing for granted. He exclaimed with overwhelming gratitude, my cup runs over (v.5). This idiomatic expression creates a word picture of an overabundance or surplus of God’s blessing. David not only enjoyed every drop of God’s blessing, the fact that God’s provision was inexhaustible created the expectation for more.
That same attitude should characterize our response to God’s abundant provision, tender care and limitless blessing in our lives. When we express heartfelt gratitude, we are not only able to fully enjoy all that God provides, but like David, will be a vibrant testimony to God’s goodness.
1) Still Life with Fruits. (Illustrative image) (By Leopold von Stoll/[Public domain]/Wikimedia/Enhancement/MKM Portfolios)
Copyright © 2016 Charles E. McCracken, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.