Psalm 23. And today we have come to the second set of parallel thoughts in the chiasm structure that I described in the last two weeks. In the Hebrew structure, "He restores my soul" (of verse 3) is in parallel with (and filled out by) the phrase in verse 5, "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies."
God initiates this covenant meal
And the first thing that I see in both phrases is that God initiates this covenant meal. The table belongs to Him, the food belongs to Him, He spreads the table, and He invites us to this table, He sustains us and restores us. It is all of grace. It's not because we were so good that He restores our soul. It's despite the fact that we need restoration that He is for us. It is not because we are so good that His enemies are our enemies. On the contrary, it is sheer grace that has made us change sides.
He does so because our soul needs restoration
The second thing that I see is that the enemies in verse 5 explains why my soul needs restoration. Verse 5 says, "in the presence of my enemies." That's an interesting phrase — he is having communion in the presence of his enemies. Were David's human enemies always around him? I doubt it. But his demonic enemies were. You might not think that you have any enemies, but you do. The church worldwide is surrounded by billions (and possibly even trillions) of demons who would love nothing better than to do us in. And the reason I come up with the figure of a minimum of billions is by simple logical deduction. And let me just share two of many passages that the Puritans used to deduce such huge numbers. Revelation 9:16 says that just one of Satan's armies, located at the Euphrates River, had two hundred million demons in it. That's just one army, and elsewhere we find that Satan has armies of demons in every country of the world. Daniel talks about a demonic prince over every country. So if one spot within one country had a quarter of a billion, what does the whole world have? It's kind of scary to think about.
Secondly, the first twelve verses of that chapter describe the demons that were unleashed in the first century just on the country of Israel, and it speaks of there being so many, that it was like a locust plague that completely blots out the sun. How many locusts are in such a locust plague? Well, Egypt just recently had a tiny locust infestation of just 30 million. They weren't worried about it at all. In 2005 there was a locust plague of billions of locusts in Australia. And in my lifetime there have locust plagues on the level that Revelation 9 speaks of — completely blotting out the light of the sun. When I was in fifth grade the sky turned dark at midday. I ran out for a couple seconds and ran right back in because I was getting completely scratched up. No fun. So most people take that passage as referring to billions and billions of demons. So you have at least billions in Israel, 200,000,000 at the Euphrates, and demonic armies in other countries. And Revelation 20 tells us that at the end of history when demons are once again unleashed from the pit, there will be so many demons unleashed for a short period that they will be innumerable - like the sand of the seashore. No wonder Satan could afford to waste a whole legion of demons on one man in the Gospels.
My point in bringing this up is that most people don't think about demons. And they should. They don't realize the constant threat that demons provide in harassing every Christian and trying to destroy every church. Week by week I personally need to be restored by the Lord's Table because I feel the weight of demonic opposition within this church. And many people are oblivious to it. And yet those demons can tempt us, they can move our hearts just like they moved David's heart, they can turn couples against each other, they can move people to gossip, they can cause bitterness between members for no good reason. In Matthew 13 Jesus said that these demons can snatch the seed of the Word out of our hearts almost as soon as the Word is sowed by the preacher. They don't want the Word of God to take root. There is a reason why Paul admonishes us in Ephesians 6 to continually put on the whole armor of God and continually resist Satan. Any Christian worth his salt is daily battling with demons. It's no wonder we need restoration. God spreads this table to restore our soul in the presence of our enemies. And when we are refreshed by faith, we are strengthened and prepared to go out and fight the good fight once again. This was standard Puritan theology.
His covenant is secure despite our enemies
And that brings us to the third point — that His covenant with us is secure despite those enemies. God knows about those enemies, and He knows about the times that we have given in to their temptations. Yet time and again, He spreads a table before us in the presence of our enemies. What wonderful, wonderful, grace He has provided for us in this meal. Jesus promised that no one can pluck us out of the Father's hands. In fact, He has given us so many promises of our security in His grace, that every one of us should be able to sing "A Mighty Fortress" with Luther, and do so by faith. That hymn says, "and though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God has willed His truth to triumph through us. And so these two parallel thoughts are yet another support for the central theme in verse 4 that even though we may walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we need fear no evil — for God is with us. Is that not a great promise to come to the Lord's Table with?
So let's go to the one who initiated our salvation, who sustains us in our salvation, and who will finish our salvation despite our enemies. As Paul worded it, "...being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ..." (Phil. 1:6). Amen. Let's pray.