For many people, it’s easy to say, “I do not have any enemies” without thinking too hard about it. We tend to think of “enemies” in geopolitical rather than in personal terms. I get that.
However, when I am too quick to dismiss the idea that I have enemies, it alters my reading of the 23rd Psalm, in which God “prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” If I have no enemies, then does God not prepare the table? Who are these “enemies” to which the Psalmist refers?
The word is not uncommon, appearing over a dozen times in the Psalms. It is one of the terms used to describe one of the two groups of people in the Psalms: the “righteous” and the “wicked.” Broadly speaking, the “righteous” are those whose relationship with God is characterized by abiding trust and utter dependence. The “wicked” (or “enemies”) are those who oppose God’s call to completely trust God and depend upon divine grace.
And so we might paraphrase Psalm 23:5 this way - “You keep providing grace for me, right when I need it the most.” For it is precisely in the presence of “enemies,” meaning those things that keep us from experiencing the fullness of a relationship with God, that we need grace the most.
God doesn’t give up on us. Ever. And God especially doesn’t give up on us when we need grace the most. In fact that’s when God doubles down on grace, pouring it out in abundance.
Someone reading this right now may very well feel like God has given up on you. It’s not true. I promise. And because God hasn’t and won’t give up on you, I won’t either. I promise. God is preparing a table before you, right in the presence of your enemies, right when you need it the most. And I would love to join you for dinner!