The Christmas holidays are often full of family, good times and fond memories. Then it ends. Abruptly, even rudely. The calendar flips to January 2nd, and life normal rolls in and washes away the sand castles sculpted during the festive season. Post-holiday stress is a real thing for many. Fatigue, loneliness, anxiety, doubts and depression push in, surrounding and threatening.
Psalm 23 presents the image of the Lord as the shepherd of our soul. There is nothing wrong with that association, but in verse 5 the Psalmist shifts the metaphor to the Lord being our host. We read:
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Ps 23:5 NIV)
It was in the midst of difficulties when enemies surrounded the Psalmist that the Lord invited him to sup at his table. This act of hospitality was a declaration to all that God was for the Psalmist that he was welcomed and beloved. The difficulties facing the Psalmist did not impede God’s hospitality. In fact, God sought out the Psalmist because he was harassed and hemmed in.
Not only was the Lord’s hosting supportive it was restorative and sufficient. A good host offered oil to soothe the wind-withered and sun-parched skin of a guest. This image speaks of refreshment and renewal. The overflowing cup expresses that the Lord’s hospitality is not meagre, but abundant and more than ample to meet the needs of his guests.
As we enter 2019, the enemies that surround us are much different from what faced the Psalmist. It makes no difference whether we are assailed by post-holiday stress or some other shadowy uncertainty or concern, God is offering to host us, to declare that he is for us and that we are his beloved.
Michael W. Smith captures it well in the song Surrounded (Fight My Battles) with these lyrics:
It may look like I’m surrounded but I’m surrounded by You
This is how I fight my battles
As we begin the new year, may we fight whatever battles lie before us surrounded by Lord and empowered by His presence!