“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” Psalm 23:5
Middle Eastern people are some of the most gracious and hospitable in the world. Maintaining personal, family, and cultural honor is a guiding constant in these ancient societies. It seems that any kindness bestowed upon guests is done with great excess.
Recently, we had the privilege to visit northern Iraq yet again. House after house and time after time, the acts of generosity and lavish kindness were poured on us as we reunited with old friends and made new ones.
One of the most common customs in this part of the world is to share chai (tea) with guests and friends alike. Each of the chai glasses are set in a saucer, filled with hot tea, and placed on a serving tray to be brought to the table. Rarely does the host serve a cup of chai that is not filled beyond capacity and spilling over onto the saucer below.
Charles Spurgeon wrote of Psalm 23, “What condescension is this, that the infinite Lord assumes towards his people the office and character of a Shepherd! It should be the subject of grateful admiration that the great God allows himself to be compared to anything which will set forth his great love and care for his own people. David had himself been a keeper of sheep, and understood both the needs of the sheep and the many cares of a shepherd. He compares himself to a creature weak, defenceless, and foolish, and he takes God to be his Provider, Preserver, Director, and, indeed, his everything.”
As we sat in the homes of these precious people and drank from the overflowing cups of tea, we were constantly reminded of the goodness of the Great Shepherd as He has led us moment by moment. At every turn, we have been reminded of the great privilege to live in the overflow of the goodness of God.
This passage in Psalm 23 is about the excess of the Shepherd as he gently leads us along. As believers, we have the great privilege to live in the overflow of the bountiful goodness of our benevolent God. Our Shepherd delights in causing our cup to run over. Let us be content, not in that which He–“who daily loadeth us with benefits”–can provide, but in Who He is. The matter of contentment must be dealt with on daily basis, and our satisfaction–our contentment–must be found in the overflow of the Person of Jesus Christ.