My wife and I sat in a room of fellow missionaries outvoted to carry out a ministry I felt led by God to do. They had a number of excuses why, none of the least of which was that I was “too new” to pull it off. It was discouraging to have not a single person support our desire. The team leader, against the wishes of the rest of the team, allowed us to proceed with the ministry. Honestly, it didn’t feel any better to be granted permission to move forward by this leader, particularly since I knew in the past quite regularly, he gave people what he would say frequently “enough rope to hang themselves”.
Within that first year, every one of the team members joined us for various activities and then watched us launch it into the hands of a full-time national partner who continues to lead this ministry that Brenda and I were “too new” to pull off.
In all sincerity, I held no grudge against those teammates, in fact it was a learning experience about who I would put my trust in, particularly when I had to face trials alone. But I will say, it did feel pretty good to let all those who doubted and antagonized us, watch God use us to launch that new ministry. One man in particular wanted it as “a part of the record, that he was against it”. If anyone was against it, he was. So there might have been a little too much satisfaction watching him watch things grow and blossom.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Psalm 23:5
So many times we see our enemies seem to prevail, to win battles against us and those we love. How many times have we wrestled with God about them “getting away with it?” But here in Psalm 23:5 it is our turn.
For those of us who are weary, tired, afraid, beaten and abused, the Shepherd talks of rest and restoration, but here the Psalmist described the Shepherd’s “rolling out the red carpet” for us. It’s a feast! He prepares enough, more than enough for us to eat and to drink, so much that it’s overflowing. He wants to ensure that we have enough for our body and our soul.
Have you ever walked into a house when they clearly weren’t prepared for you? We feel awkward. Here the Psalmist describes a situation where the host is fully prepared, knowing what it feels like for a guest to be received in such a manner. The host is prepared, He has prepared with great thought and planning. In fact, the word carries with it the idea of “expert planning” has gone into this occasion.
Next, He treats us to the highest of honors for a guest, He literally treats us like royalty by anointing with oil. That is the ultimate welcome of any host to a guest.
With no anger or malice intended, we are seated in full view of those who have persecuted and mistreated us. They are not invited to partake, only to observe the reward of being a sheep loved by their Shepherd. And perhaps, just once we get the opportunity to observe that those who resist those who follow the Shepherd, do actually get what they deserve… eventually.
Now I’ve never sat down for such a meal literally and I’ve never been welcomed with oil. But there have been moments in time that I could look back on that were pretty close. Times when God provided above and beyond my needs and even my expectations, times where because of my faith I have been treated far better than I deserved, and even at times seen the enemy’s pride deflated because of God’s working.
Sometimes, when we face the valleys, the trials and the darknesses, it’s good for us to reflect back to the moments our Shepherd provided above and beyond our needs and prevailed against our enemies so that we could see it in plain sight. The memory of His promises fulfilled can help carry us through until His next feast for us.
Dr. Ronald J. Barnes Jr.
President / CEO