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April 05, 2024

Three Ways Our Good Shepherd Sustains Us

Free Daily Devotionals from Open the Bible

This article is based on the book Green Pastures, Still Waters: 31 Days in Psalm 23 by Pastor Colin Smith.

My son, Andrew, is a long-distance runner and has completed the Ironman triathlon (swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, run 26.2 miles) several times. The Ironman is a wonder to behold. How in the world do these people keep going?

Maybe the question for you is not about the Ironman, it’s about life. How will you keep going? What will sustain you when you feel tired, drained, jaded, and spent? David tells us how God sustained him in the verse we are looking at today:

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Psalm 23:5

God often uses material things to speak to us about spiritual things. And here God uses three things we can touch and handle—a table, oil, and a cup—to communicate how He sustains us.

The Shepherd Sustains You by Giving You Strength

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Psalm 23:5

Take in this scene. You arrive home after a hard day at work. Someone is in the kitchen cooking. You say, “Let me help.” But this person says, “Sit down. Let me prepare this for you.”

So, you sit down and watch as this person prepares a meal before you. When it is done, you come to the table, and as you eat, your strength is renewed. That’s the picture.

Here’s the question. Who would do that for you? David says that the person who does this for him is the Lord Himself!

Notice, this is present tense. It is not something God did a long time ago. It is not something God does once in a while. It is what God is always doing for His people.

God uses this picture to tell you that He will sustain you by giving you strength. As your body is strengthened by a good meal, you will be sustained as the Lord Himself feeds you.

But there is something else here: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (23:5, author’s emphasis).

David’s life was an unrelenting battle. In his early years, he was a shepherd, despised by his older brothers. Then he lived as a fugitive, hunted by King Saul. When he became king, he inherited a divided kingdom, where rival tribes were filled with resentment and distrust.

In his later years, David suffered as his family was torn apart by cycles of abuse, violence, and death. At one point, he had to flee for his life when his own son led a rebellion against him.

How in the world did David keep going? How will you keep going in the light of the many pressures, burdens, conflicts, and troubles of your life?

God prepared a table for David. He renewed David’s strength even in the presence of his enemies. And what God did for David, He can do for you.

Psalm 23 Devotional Book
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The Shepherd Sustains You by Giving You Purpose

You anoint my head with oil. Psalm 23:5

Oil was used in the Old Testament to commission certain people for the work God had called them to do. Prophets, priests, and kings were all anointed with oil because God had given them a particular assignment. If the table speaks of new strength, the oil speaks of new purpose.

There is a beautiful description of how Aaron was anointed with oil as a sign that God had chosen Him to serve as high priest: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!” (Psa. 133:1, 2).

This was not a little oil rubbed onto Aaron’s forehead. The anointing oil was poured out over his head. It ran over his beard, dripped onto his collar, and soaked into his robes.

When David says, “You anoint my head with oil,” he must surely have had in mind the day he was anointed king: “Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward” (1 Sam. 16:13).

The oil speaks of God giving purpose, a calling, an assignment. In the Old Testament, only a few people were anointed with oil. But in the New Testament, all of God’s people are anointed with the Holy Spirit.

A sense of purpose sustained David: “God has given me this work to do. I’ve been called. I’ve been anointed.” If you lose sight of why you are here and what God has called you to do, you will soon be tired, jaded, drained, and spent.

But God has work for you to do. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

Find out what God has called you to do and pursue it. And as you do, God will sustain you.

The Shepherd Sustains You by Giving You Joy

My cup overflows. Psalm 23:5

There is a version of Christianity that goes like this: In this world you will be surrounded by enemies, but you have to get through this. And if you do, you will be blessed in the end. When your life in this world is over then you will have joy. Life stinks, but heaven is coming.

But that is not what David is saying here. He knew plenty of trouble in his life, and yet he says, “My cup overflows—here in this fallen world, with all that I face and all that I suffer, even now while my enemies are still present, even here in the dark valley.”

Jesus said, “In this world you will have [trouble]” (John 16:33). But He also said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).

From the fullness of the grace of Jesus we have received one blessing on top of another. His grace just keeps coming. It overflows.

  • When Isaiah describes God’s forgiveness, it is not enough for him to say that God will pardon. He says that God will abundantly pardon (Isa. 55:7).
  • When the psalmist describes God’s hope, it is not enough for him to say that with God there is redemption. He says that with the Lord there is plentiful redemption (Psa. 130:7).
  • Paul speaks not just of the riches, but of the unsearchable riches of Christ(Eph. 3:8).
  • Jesus speaks about giving us not just life, but abundant life (John 10:10).

When the prodigal son returned home, the father did not meet him with reluctant grace: “You’ve decided to come back? Better make sure you don’t mess up again.” No. The father ran out to meet him, embraced him, kissed him, put the best robe on his back and a ring on his finger.

The father did not say, “There’s a cold hot dog in the fridge.” He said, “Bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.” That’s what David experienced. “My cup overflows!”

The Invitation

The Good Shepherd is inviting you to find strength at His table. He is holding the oil, ready to anoint you for a new purpose. He is offering the cup of blessing so that your joy may be full. Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice,” and when you hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, there’s only one way to respond. And that is to follow Him.

Give up being self-owned and self-directed. Submit yourself to the Good Shepherd. He will give you new strength, new purpose, and new joy. Begin a new life today in which you follow the Good Shepherd. Give yourself to Him—believe Him, trust Him, obey Him, follow Him.  

Colin Smith

Founder & Teaching Pastor

Colin Smith is the Senior Pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He has authored a number of books, including Heaven, How I Got Here and Heaven, So Near - So Far. Colin is the Founder and Teaching Pastor for Open the Bible. Follow him on Twitter.
Colin Smith is the Senior Pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He has authored a number of books, including Heaven, How I Got Here and Heaven, So Near - So Far. Colin is the Founder and Teaching Pastor for Open the Bible. Follow him on Twitter.