August 15, 2023
Psalm 23, 5
1 The Lord Is My Shepherd. A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Even 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.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
There is a wonderful story which truly shows God's love and care during times of need. The prophet Elijah was allowed to experience it. Elijah committed himself completely to God's cause. This created enemies for him who threatened his life (1 Kings 19). Suddenly Elijah felt to be attacked by fear. He could see his life in danger and escapes into the desert. Tired and exhausted, he arrived "in the dark valley of the shadow of death" (Psalm 23:4). He felt to be at the end of his strength and loses all courage to live. But God intervenes and sends an angel to him. Read for yourself:
“Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went for a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it, and prayed that he might just die. ‘I have had enough, my Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for there is a long journey waiting for you. So, he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he travelled for forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.”
Elijah is allowed to sleep and thus regain his strength. He is woken up twice with delicious smelling toast and fresh water. God sets the table for him. God sets a table for him in the face of his enemies. He strengthens his body and soul and prepares him for his further journey.
Much, much later Moses, and Elijah will strengthen our Lord Jesus for his further way of suffering. Together with Peter, James, and John they meet on a high mountain. The evangelist Luke reports (Gospel of Luke 9, 29 - 31):
“As He was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses, and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfilment in Jerusalem.”
Jesus Christ, the Lord´s anointed, is strengthened by Moses and Elijah in the face of his many enemies who will later kill him in Jerusalem on the hill of Golgotha. Even before his death, Jesus gathers his disciples and eats with them. The evangelist Matthew reports (Gospel of Matthew 26, 26 - 28):
“While they were eating, Jesus took the bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
We Christians celebrate this holy meal and thus experience how God sets the table for us and strengthens our trust in Him. We experience the forgiveness of our sins. We share in the love of God in the face of our enemies. The names of our enemies are called “sin and death”. But they no longer have power over us. For Jesus Christ won the victory over death and the devil on the cross of Golgotha. In bread and wine, we share in his victory.
The German stamp which I am showing you today commemorates the celebration of the Holy Communion. It shows the chalice connected to the cross of Christ. Pieces of bread or hosts lie by the chalice. A dove symbolizes the presence of the Holy Spirit.
I wish you, that you may always experience the table fellowship with the Triune God. May God always strengthen your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
And may God commission you to an "angel ministry" to bring His love to exhausted and discouraged fellow human beings. Perhaps you can serve God through a fellow human being with fresh bread and fresh water? Or with toast and coffee or tea? Or with juice and some cookies? Or simply with a visit? May God grant you much creativity and a heart full of mercy.
Thank you for listening to me. I cordially invite you to the next devotion with stamps on September 1 with Psalm 23, verse 6. Until then I wish you God's blessing and preservation in spirit, soul, and body through the good shepherd Jesus.