MY CUP RUNS OVER: THE OVERFLOWING LIFE
“Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; thou hast anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
In the Valley of Virginia, lived a man who loved to hunt. He owned a large farm. Living in the woodlands of his property were many kinds of animals. He would often stalk them for miles and then they would disappear at the same place each time. He could see nothing. It was as if they had vanished into thin air.
He could hear running water at the place where the animals vanished. He followed the sound, and it led between two rocks that from a distance look like one rock. There he found a large cave hidden from view. He had owned the property for many years but did not know about this place. He went in and found a large cavern with water flowing through it. This was a haven for the animals and had allowed them to escape his gun.
Such is the picture of verse five in Psalm 23. Beneath the full exterior of life lies the hidden chamber of the soul with all of its wonder and glory.
The psalmist is saying, “I have discovered this about God. My life is hidden with Him. In this protection is the ever- flowing stream that comes from deep beneath the surface and flows to give victory in all of life’s conflicts.”
In verse five, the image of God as Shepherd shifts to an image of God as Host. He does wonderful things for us as our Host. The first is
A DIVINELY PREPARED TABLE.
David was king of Israel. He had to protect his people from the danger of invasion by enemy armies. He tells us of the lessons he learned during those times of national danger. In the presence of his enemies he had found a place of refuge. With danger all around, the Lord prepared a table.
But he had in mind more than just enemy armies. He knew that the greatest enemies were spiritual and emotional. The apostle Paul expressed it like this: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12). David thought in terms of people as enemies, but now in the Christian era we do not think so much about people being enemies, and yet there are people enemies of the cross today. So, in the presence of physical enemies, disease, death, danger, all of the things that would pertain to the physical, God is preparing a table. Also, in the midst of spiritual and emotional enemies, the table is full of spiritual food. A table like David envisioned in ancient times had several meanings.
The first was protection in the midst of distress. In the East it was the custom to invite one as a guest to your table and then while the guest was there, it was understood that he was protected even with the life of the host. David is saying to us, “I am permitted to come to the divinely prepared table, and I know that I am protected here to the very extent of the life of the Almighty.”
When we come to the Lord’s table in celebration of the Lord’s Supper, know that it is a divinely prepared table – one that did cost the life of Jesus. He offered us protection at the cost of His own life.
God does not promise to protect us from all danger – for danger is common to Christian and non-Christian alike, but he does protect us from fear. Although we live in the midst of danger, we do not have to live in fear for the Scripture makes it plain that perfect love casts out fear. And he has just stated, “I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.” (v. 4).
I am not protected from hurt, for as a Christian I am hurt by the events of life, but I am protected in my spirit from cynicism about life for I am privileged to dine at the divinely prepared table. I am not protected from failure, for at times I fail, but I am protected from pessimism. And in the midst of failure I can look with a bright and optimistic spirit to the future for, you see, I am privileged to be a guest at the divinely prepared table. I am not protected from illness and disease, but as I eat at the divinely prepared table, I am privileged to be protected from a spirit of complaining, ill will, and murmuring about my lot in life. I am not protected from bereavement, death, and sorrow, but I am protected from hopelessness and despair. And so, in the midst of spiritual, mental, and physical enemies David is saying, “I’ve learned one of the deepest lessons of life – that I can live on the resources of God.”
The second thing that the table means is sustenance in the midst of conflict. Some of you have been on the battlefields of the world defending our country and have had to eat what the soldier knows as K rations. You know how that cold food tasted on the battlefield and it gave you strength to fight on. What is on the divinely prepared table? What do we eat? Look carefully and you will see the Bread of Life. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35). Look carefully on this table and you will see the fruit of the vine. Jesus said, “I am the true vine and my father is the vine dresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, he prunes it, so that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1-2). When we partake of the fruit of the vine, we produce the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23).
The table also means fellowship in the midst of loneliness. Don’t you enjoy sitting around the dinner table with your family or friends? One of the things we enjoy most here at Friendship is the fellowship meal which we share together. It is a perfect setting for anyone who is lonely. The spiritual teaching of every meal served at church is that we must learn to live on the resources of God.
The second image is
A DIVINELY ANOINTED LIFE
“Thou hast anointed my head with oil.”
The culture of David’s time thought it proper to honor a guest with a sweet- smelling drop of oil on the forehead. It was an act of honor to the guest. It was also an act of love.
When Jesus was a guest in the house of Simon, a Pharisee, He reclined at the table and a sinful woman came and began to anoint him. “And turning to the woman, He said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with perfume. For this reason, I say to you, her sins, which are many have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little. And he said to her, your sins have been forgiven.” (Luke 7:44-48).
The anointing of the head also had implications of the healing of the sick. Our souls were sick in their own strength. But He has anointed us with the oil of the Holy Spirit and made us victorious.
The third image is
A DIVINELY FILLED CUP
“My cup overflows.”
The term “cup” speaks of our life situation. When Jesus was facing the cross he prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” (Matthew 24:39). David is saying in essence, “I have learned that God satisfies abundantly my innermost longings. I am fulfilled. I have learned to enjoy the exhilaration of my faith. I have found the spiritual dimension to life and my cup is full. I drink, and when it needs to be refilled, God makes it overflow. I bring my little cup and I say, “Fill my cup, Lord,” and He does. Richard Blanchard wrote both the lyrics and the music to this beloved hymn:
Like the woman at the well, I was seeking
For things that could not satisfy.
And then I heard my Savior speaking—
“Draw from My well that never shall run dry.”
Fill my cup, Lord;
I lift it up Lord;
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul.
Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more.
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole.
There are millions in this world who are seeking
For pleasures earthly goods afford.
But none can match the wondrous treasure
That I find in Jesus Christ my Lord.
So my brother if the things that this world gives you
Leave hungers that won’t pass away,
My blessed Lord will come and save you
If you kneel to Him and humbly pray—
Do you have an overflowing cup? We were never meant to be just saved and stop there – we were meant to have the fullness of God, the fullness of life. Jesus said, “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (John 10:10). If you are living just on the concept of eternal life, there’s a lot more that you need to know. Even in circumstances that are adverse to happiness, your cup can be filled. You can eat at the divinely prepared table. You can be anointed with oil of the Holy Spirit. Your cup can overflow.
The overflowing life is one that God is blessing. Are you living in a time right now when you can say, “I am enjoying feasting at the Lord’s table? ” “Well, you may say I have some extenuating circumstances. I’ve got some things that are just not right.” But when you learn to live on the resources of God, you have the strength, the will, and the understanding to put things right. You can live in the exhilaration of your faith.
If you were to take a survey asking the question, “What do you think is a good life?” Most likely the answers would be: having enough money to live on, enjoying health, having a family who loves me, and having something purposeful to do.” All of these are desirous and possible for the child of God, but the life He offers is much more. The blessed life is living according to God’s will which will give authenticity to our lives. Spiritual joy is different from earthly happiness. It is not an achievement in well-being, but the bestowal of God’s grace upon us. It is not the absence of difficult days or heartbreaking experiences, but it is the privilege of casting all of our cares upon Him who prepares the table in the wilderness and fills our cups to overflowing.
Philip Doddridge, a Congregational minister in the 1740s wrote of his experience:
“O happy day that fixed my choice on Thee, my Savior and my God! Well may this glowing heart rejoice and tell its raptures all abroad.
O happy bond, that seals my vows to Him who merits all my love! Let cheerful anthems filled His house, while to that sacred shrine I move.
‘Tis done, the great transactions done; I am my Lord’s and He is mine; He drew me and I followed on, charmed to confess the voice divine.
Now rest, my long- divided heart; fixed on this blissful center, rest; nor ever from my Lord depart, with Him of every good possessed.
Happy day, happy day when Jesus washed my sins away! He taught me how to watch and pray and live rejoicing every day. Happy day, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away!
Praise to His Name!