“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5
As the father of three boys, I’ve seen my share of spilt drinks. When it comes right down to it, my boys have come by their problems honestly with drinks and cups, as I’m a “spiller.” Not just as a child, but even as an adult. I’m one of those people known as “sloppy drinkers.” While it is amusing to my friends, it is somewhat embarrassing when I’m out in public. As a pastor called to administer the Sacrament of the Altar, it can be very embarrassing, but I’m happy to say I’ve only spilled sacramental wine once. It happened to be my church organist at the time. She was the last to receive the sacrament and so she had to walk back to the organ bench with the whole congregation looking at her. She had a big wine stain down the front of her dress. She was a good sport about it but all the time she walked back to the organ my face was as red as the wine stain on her dress!
My boys have spilled their share of drinks. But we don’t make a real big deal about it. One of our favorite running jokes is that when they spill milk, one of us will say, “No use crying!”
Of course, often times a spilled drink is the result of too much drink in a cup. In this case, it is true that there can be too much of a good thing.
But the psalmist makes a case that with God’s blessings you cannot have too much of a good thing. He makes this point with the words at the end of verse five, “my cup overflows.” Such a picture is familiar to most people. The picture is God’s blessings come into our lives, so much so that we overflow with blessing.
Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way, though, does it? I’ve gone through times in my life when it has felt that God’s blessings barely wetted the bottom of my cup and were far from overflowing it. I say I’ve “felt” that way because it really isn’t true. It is when I go through these times that something or someone reminds me to pray and dive deep into God’s Word. When I start to get deep into the Word I see that while I may not be overflowing with material blessings, I am overflowing with the greatest blessings God has to give: the blessings of love and forgiveness. God’s love is perfect in that He loves us no matter what we do or say to Him. And He is always ready to forgive.
I had a professor in the seminary that used a phrase that I will never forget as long as I live that really shows what the Psalmist meant when he said “my cup overflows.” It was a class that taught us some of the distinctive characteristics of the Holy Ministry. We were studying the doctrine of forgiveness and how it relates to Confession and Absolution. He said these wonderful words, “Jesus has more forgiveness than we have sins.” These eight little words mean the same thing as “my cup overflows” and constantly affect my life as I live as a child of God.
“My cup overflows” also gives us a picture of liquid spreading out from the cup across a table. That’s how God’s love in our life also works. He pours out His love on gives and us so much that we overflow with God’s love. Through us God’s love reaches other people and flows into their lives. God’s love overflows in our lives and we become the source of God’s love in other people’s lives.
There are two other phrases in this verse. “You anoint my head with oil.” This literally happened to King David when Samuel poured oil on his head as a youth to show that God chose him to be king of Israel. Today we see it as the time when God made us His children and heirs in Holy Baptism. While this happens once in our lives, the phrase is not in the past tense. It is a continuing action, just as the power of Baptism is a daily thing in our lives. As Martin Luther taught us, “the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” While we’re baptized once in our lives, we live in our baptismal grace daily and would do well to remember that God forgives us daily just as we sin daily.
The other phrase, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies,” is a little obscure. One way to look at this is that God continues to bless us and love us even while we face our enemies, including the devil. When we become a child of God we are not transported directly out of this life into heaven. We still live out our lives here on earth. God is promising to always be with us as we struggle with evil in the world and as we tell the Good News about Jesus to a world lost in sin and death. Even so, He is also preparing our place in heaven where we will feast at His table forever.
How do I know? God accepted a sacrifice for all people; the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross. That was truly hell for Christ. He took it for us, in our place. Now God never forsakes His people ever. And because of Jesus Christ, the last part of Psalm 23 is the most glorious.