Shepherds go early in the season to the high places where the sheep will graze for the summer~ to look over the land and prepare the “table”lands or plateaus for them. The shepherd will distribute salt and minerals over the range at strategic spots for the benefit of the sheep during the summer. The loving shepherd will find the best locations for camps and will take drastic steps to eliminate any poisonous weeds. Another chore of the shepherd is to clear out the water holes where his flock will drink~ getting rid of debris of leaves, twigs, stones and soil. He may have to open springs that have been overgrown with grass or weeds. It is all his work, his preparation of the table for his own sheep. What love the shepherd has for his flock.
Just because the shepherd has taken such care of the “table land” does not mean that the sheep will not have problems there. Predators still attack; poisonous weeds still grow; storms come; etc. but the sheep have come to trust the shepherd. They know that his protection is sure; they can rest in him, even in the midst of their enemies.
We see the parallel to our “sheeplife”. Our good shepherd is going ahead of us in every situation, anticipating what danger we may encounter. It is in our rest in Him, of confidence in His care, trusting His presence to be our shield and safety that we have calm and comfort. Do we understand what it cost Jesus to prepare the table for His flock? Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus laid down his splendor, His majesty, His position to be found in appearance as a man…he humbled himself to death, so that we might live. God loved the world so much, that He sent His only son~ to redeem mankind. What love? What sacrifice? What cost? We cannot fully fathom its implications.
The word table itself means “a meal or spread or a place of communion and fellowship”. What an inviting picture we have in these words. It speaks to relationship. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies,” (Psalm 23:5) God desires relationship with each one of His children (sheep). He invites us to fellowship and communion with Him. John 10:10 Jesus tells us that He came to give life to the fullest; abundance; overflowing life…Just as the shepherd is thrilled to see his sheep thriving on the high plateaus during the summer months, our Shepherd is so pleased when He sees me flourish on the tablelands He has provided; that He made possible.
What enemies surround you? What battles are you fighting? In the midst of them, God is calling you to commune with Him. There are times when God has to carry us to the table, because we are not strong enough to get there on our own. But isn’t that just like our loving, Tender, Good Shepherd.