The Promise of Divine Favor - Part 6 of Walking Through Grief with the 23rd Psalm

Friday, July 29, 2016

cup overflowing
"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows." Psalm 23:5 (NIV)

Probably the most difficult task I face as a pastor is helping someone navigate the painful pathway of grief after the loss of a loved one. No training, college degree, book or any other resource can really prepare you for such a difficult task as this because everyone is different. Each person I help is different, reacts to grief differently, and has a unique set of circumstances surrounding their grief. Yes, grief is extremely difficult for anyone to navigate through, but I can tell you with great confidence that it can be done.

As I have walked with dozens of people through this process I have discovered that grief makes us feel disconnected with God. It can make us doubt God's love for us at times and make us question what we believe not only about God, but what we believe about ourselves. When our emotions are rubbed raw and we are left wounded and hurting, we are the most vulnerable to attack from Satan. His tactic is to try to convince you of things that are not true. He is relentless in his attempt to convince you that God has abandoned you and that he is angry with you.

David experienced this first-hand and we see it throughout the book of Psalms. I want to point out that the 23rd Psalm is not written in the context of a young, innocent boy sitting on a hillside watching sheep all day and playing his harp. It is not pie-in-the-sky, everything will be okay platitudes. It is written by a man who has first-hand experience of walking through great loss, disappointment, betrayal and deep hurt. It is a personal journey of a man walking with God through the difficult journey of grief and that he promises the same for you in your grief. It is David's story of how he discovered God's divine favor through his journey of grief.

In verse five of the 23rd Psalm David paints a powerful picture of how God responds to us when we experience grief. There are three objects that he uses to show us a 3-pronged promise of his divine favor over us. Each of these objects remind us of God's promised favor.

The first object is the table. There is no greater way to show someone how much you love and favor them than by preparing a lavish dinner for them and taking the time to serve and wait on them at your table. This is the picture David is painting of our Shepherd. When grief seems to rob you of your sense of God's love and favor, know that he is preparing a table before you and he will personally wait on you. It is in that moment that the Master takes on the humble role of the servant. This is exactly what Jesus did at the Last Supper. He prepared a feast for his disciples and fed them and washed their feet. I can think of no greater proof that you have God's divine favor than that. In your grief sit back and enjoy the feast that is prepared for you and simply let the Shepherd care for you.

The second object of favor is oil. When the King wants to show you that he is extending his favor to you, he invites you to the palace to dine with him. After dinner he then pours his finest oil on your head as a seal of that favor. Dinner gave you a taste of his favor but the oil now gives you the aroma of the King's favor. It is proof to you and everyone that comes near you that you have been with the King and you have his favor. It goes further than that too. First, the stench of death has now been replaced with the wonderful, sweet smell of God's presence with you. Second, it brings a sense of joy in the midst of mourning - a joy in being reminded of God's love and favor over you. It is also a reminder of the joy that God feels over you.

The third object of favor is the cup. The cup speaks to the King's favor that will go far beyond this meal. It is a symbol that it will follow you everywhere you go and that the King promises that your cup will be forever full to overflowing. God wants you to know that he doesn't give you just enough to get by. He always gives you "more than enough." He gives us more than we deserve and much more than we could ever expect. If God is ever guilty of anything it is lavishness. He is a big God and he always does things big. That is his character.

I don't know if you noticed it or not, but David is proving God's favor to us through our physical senses - sight, smell, and taste. These three of the five senses play a key role in how we react to life. The table shows us through the sense of sight that God's favor is upon us. The oil shows us through the sense of smell that God is overjoyed with us. The cup shows us through the sense of taste that God lavishes us with his favor. David wants you to know that God's favor is real and tangible. You can see it, smell it, and even taste it. When you are feeling overwhelmed in your grief and beginning to doubt if God loves you, take a few moments and ask him to open your eyes to see his table before you. Take a deep breath and allow the aroma of his oil of gladness to permeate your nostrils to remind you of his divine favor. And finally, drink from the cup of his overflowing provision so that you can taste and see that the Lord is good.
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