The writer of the twenty-third Psalm became the King of Israel.ÊThroughout his life, David had known and felt the presence of God.ÊHe grew up in Bethlehem, the youngest of eight brothers. As a young man, he cared for his father’s sheep. The Bible tells us that as the shepherd, he had some hair-raising experiences. He once killed a lion who was attacking the sheep, and another time he killed a bear who was after the flock. Not every day was routine.
David was not only an outdoors man, but a skilled harpist. His musical ability earned him entrance into the palace where he played for King Solomon. David’s music comforted the king when he was suffering from depression. There in Saul’s court, David learned about the strategy of war and the problems of governing a rebellious people.
David was well-known for his victory over the giant, Goliath, which made him a favorite in the minds of the Israelites. Because of his popularity, Saul became jealous of David and plotted to kill him on more than one occasion.
When Saul died, David was elected the King of Israel. During his reign, he placed a great emphasis on Israel’s religious life. Life was good for the people.
During the height of his success, David fell in sin and committed adultery with Bathsheba. To cover up his sin, he had her husband, Uriah, killed. However, God did not let these acts go unnoticed. After Nathan, the prophet, had confronted David with his sins, David had a new understanding of God’s grace.
After reigning for forty years, David died at the age of seventy. His psalms have blessed millions as they bore testimony to God’s love in many of life’s difficult times.
In the last two verses of the twenty-third psalm, David gives us his picture of life when he writes, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
With these verses, the Psalm moves from the pasture to the banquet table. With symbolical language, David sits at a banquet table. For David, life had been a banquet. God had not only provided him with the necessities of life, such as forgiveness, redemption, healing his diseases and life in the eternal Kingdom when his days on earth were over, but also luxuries that enriched his life. He describes these luxuries as God “anointing his head with oil.” His cup was not only full, but “over-flowing.” Some of these luxuries were God’s daily presence, the fellowship of faithful friends like Jonathan, and strength to do things which otherwise David could not have done on his own power.
We don’t know when in his life David wrote this Psalm, but I would like to believe it was near the end of his stay on this earth. If not, then I like to picture David sitting on the porch of his mansion, reading the last verse of this Psalm and saying to those around him, “These are some of my last words and testament that I leave for generations to come.ÊThese words describe what life has been for me.”
How do we view life? Is it with regret or thanksgiving? Do we think about what we could have done or become had we not messed up some of the opportunities we had? Or do we look at the great experiences and opportunities God has given to us.
Think through your life. What great days we have had! I recall being invited to give the opening prayer at the Republican National Convention the year Ronald Reagan was nominated for his second term as president. I was introduced to the convention by Senator Howard Baker. After I finished the prayer, the Senator shook my hand and said, “We don’t know one another, but after hearing your prayer, I know we are brothers in Christ Jesus.” What a thrill!Ê
What a thrill it was each Sunday morning to greet Tom, a man in our congregation with Down-Syndrome. Tom gave me that beautiful smile each weekend and told me he was on his way to the restaurant to have pie. What a beautiful personality this handicapped person had. He won a big place in my heart.
As we review life, do we find ourselves to be angry or amazed?ÊDo we think of the way some people have treated us with their unkind remarks and selfish acts which made life extremely difficult for us? David could have thought about the times Saul was so unfair to him, and even attempted to have him killed. David could have wondered why Saul did not appreciate all the wonderful things he had done for him. We might wonder why we had to put up with the injustice that had come our way. Why did we always get the short end of the deal? We never had the opportunities our siblings had. Our parents did not care for us.
Yes, there are many who close their life with a lot of bitterness and can only say that life has been unfair. But thank God, life does not have to be viewed this way. Rather, we are amazed at how wonderfully we have been treated by so many people. Think of the joys we have had with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Whatever difficulties life presented turned out to be blessings as we received a new appreciation of God’s grace. David’s summary is brief. God has blessed me, and now I am going to be with Him forever.Ê
That is how Mrs. Ostrus described her life only a short time before she died. As a young pastor fresh out of the seminary, this old saint told me about her blessings. “God gave us a beautiful farm on which we could live. He gave me a caring husband, a wonderful son who has been blessed with great vocal talent. (Her son, Merrill, was an opera singer. At least once a year Merrill came home and often sang in church. On that Sunday Mr. and Mrs. Ostrus sat there proud as peacocks. But more than that, He gave me His Son, Jesus, and soon He will come and receive me into His heavenly home where He has a place for me.”
What a testimony. This happened fifty years ago, but I remember her witness as if it were yesterday.
How will we be remembered? What will our closing days be like? Why do so many choose Psalm 23 as their favorite Scripture passage?
The answer is clear. It answers some of our first experiences of dealing with a dying person, but certainly not the last.
These blessings were the necessities of life, but God also showered David with luxuries as described in the words, “thou anointest myÊhead with oil, my cup runneth over.”Ê