Rewind to Psalm 23:5. When the shepherd and his flock reach the summer ranges known as tablelands, the shepherd must prepare the pasture. This involves searching for ample water, and removing poisonous plants. And He must do so in the presence of enemies—wolves, coyotes, and bears. In a very real sense, the shepherd has prepared the table.
Just as God spread a table in the wilderness for the children of Israel, He prepares a table of nourishment for us in the wilderness of sin and stress. There is rest for the stressed when we allow God to prepare our table and we feast on His provision.
Another enemy for sheep is the nose fly. The larvae can burrow into their flesh and infest their nasal passages, causing intense irritation. The sheep will often beat their heads against trees or rocks to rid themselves of the pain. To remedy this situation, the shepherd anoints the sheep’s head with oil.
There are things that drive us to distraction as well. Our Shepherd sends the Holy Spirit to “anoint” us with His peace. The evidence of the Holy Spirit in your life is not speaking in tongues, but contentment—peace in the presence of enemies and irritations. There is rest for the stressed when we receive a daily anointing from the Holy Spirit.
With a prepared table and a daily anointing of the Spirit, the result is an overflowing cup. The overflowing cup is a powerful symbol of acceptance. Some scholars interpret “cup” as a drinking trough for the sheep. A manager is a feed trough found in a stable that is also used for watering animals.
The manager was God’s “cup” into which He poured His love for humanity in the form of His Son—our Immanuel, which means “God with us.” God wanted to be with us forever, so He poured and poured and kept pouring until the manger overflowed with the Laughter of Heaven, and Joy unspeakable. Rewind to Luke 2:10-12 to see how the angels announced the news of God’s overflowing cup.
As Bethlehem’s shepherds bowed low before their Shepherd-Savior in the water trough, they saw God’s table prepared for them. Here was the living bread that came down from heaven that would more than satisfy their soul hunger. Here was the living water from which they could drink and never thirst again. Here was the I AM wrapped in flesh, and because of Him we can say, as David did, “I have everything I need. My cup overflows.”
If your relationship to God is lacking great, abundant, and overflowing joy, the manger in your heart may be empty! The Lord may not be your shepherd. Is the Christ who was born in the “manger-cup” enough to provide peace in the midst of your pain? Is He enough to forgive your greatest failure or cover your deepest shame?
Rewind to John 21:1-14 to see how Jesus restored Peter after his greatest defeat. After denying his Lord, Peter thought he would never be welcomed at the Lord’s table again. Have you been there? So ashamed of your broken promises and repeated failures that you gave up hope that Jesus could ever love or want you?
What Jesus did for Peter should give you hope. “Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast’” (John 21:12). Jesus didn’t part the waters. He invited Peter to breakfast. Jesus prepared a meal. And he does the same for you. Every time we partake of worship, every time we sit at the communion table to partake of the elements of His broken body and spilled blood, we are welcomed home as was the prodigal. In the presence of judgmental older brothers, in the presence of stone-throwing accusers, in the presence my own guilty conscience, He prepares a table before me. He anoints my head with the oil of forgiveness and the cup of His grace towards me overflows!
You don’t have to understand how you got to the table or how His grace works. Just accept it! The sheep doesn’t understand why the oil repels the flies or how it heals its wounds. All the sheep knows is that something happens in the presence of the shepherd. And that’s all you need to know this morning. Acceptance happens in the presence of the Shepherd. (See Romans 5:20.) He’s pouring His grace on you today. Accept it and let the Laughter of Heaven and the joy of the Lord overflow in your life. –Pastor Randy