I have been thinking quite a lot lately about the 23rd Psalm. It reminds us of the care of the Good Shepherd for his sheep. As I reflect on my life story I can only give thanks to the Shepherd for his care throughout my life.
Verse 5 says, “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” In beautiful Hebrew poetry, David, the inspired writer, continues to describe the lavish provision the shepherd makes for his sheep. He is reminding us that the Lord doesn’t mete out his blessings with a medicine dropper or a thimble. He is generous in his provision for his people.
When the Near Eastern shepherd anointed his sheep with oil, he was applying a remedy for the irritations caused by insects and parasites. The oil-based medicine was also to treat injuries the sheep might have incurred. Bruises and wounds would need the shepherd’s gentle doctoring. “You anoint my head with oil.”
This text reminds us of the Holy Spirit. (In the Bible oil is one of the symbols of the Spirit of God.) John 3:34 says that “God gives the Spirit without limit,” abundantly, generously. We who follow the Shepherd can pray for the fullness of his Holy Spirit when the irritations and injuries of life threaten to distract and defeat us.
When David wrote, “My cup overflows,” he was expressing gratitude for the ample provision of God for him. A cynic might say, “Well, David could say that. He was a king. He had power and wealth. No wonder his cup overflowed.”
But David’s experience is a reminder that the abundant spiritual life is often lived in spite of tragedy and and pain. David had his cup of sorrow as well as his cup of blessing. His beloved son Absalom led an insurrection against him. His trusted advisor Ahithophel betrayed him. His wife Michal mocked him. Another son, Adonijah, tried to steal his throne, to name just a few of his troubles. Yet here he gives praise to God for the overflowing cup of spiritual blessing.
As a pastor I have prayed with and stayed with people in countless painful circumstances. I have seen them respond with grace and courage even when facing suffering and death. I have heard their words of testimony about the way God provided for them in their hour of need. Their words have sounded very much like David’s: “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
Pastor Randy Faulkner