”You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (Ps. 23:5a)
In Western U.S. such as Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming sheep grazing ranges are referred to as “mesas” – the Spanish word for “tables.” It appears that David’s use of a table in Psalm 23:5 is actually a reference to the entire high summer range.
Sheep are well suited for vegetation management. On the Paonia Ranger District range in Colorado, sheep are used to graze areas of tall larkspur a week or so ahead of the incoming cattle. This prevents the cattle from getting a lethal dose of the poisonous alkaloids that are found in the larkspur plants. It also allows different livestock producers to use the same area of land without the need for fencing.
Raising sheep is a labor-intensive operation. Early in the season, even before all the snow is melted, the shepherd is surveying the summer range, and preparing the tableland for their arrival. Salt and other minerals are strategically placed around the range to benefit the sheep.
Can you picture young David walking over the summer range leading his sheep? He keeps a sharp eye out for poisonous plants and pulls them up before the sheep can reach to them. No doubt he has armfuls to get rid of for the safety of his flock.
In a similar fashion, our Good Shepherd goes ahead of us in every situation, anticipating the danger we may encounter, and praying for us that our faith might not fail. Jesus did this for Peter when Satan wanted to tempt him and sift him like wheat. (Luke 22:31-32)
The shepherd must also keep a keen eye out for predators. On the Paonia Ranger District in 2001, 171 sheep were killed by coyotes, 110 by bears, and 27 by poisonous plants.
And again, we take courage in the fact that our Good Shepherd prepares the table for us by protecting us against the wiles, snares, tricks, and treachery of the evil one. Always we are subject to his attacks. Jesus has provided us with the “amour of God” as our protection. Putting on the “amour” is our responsibility (Eph. 6:11-17)
Prayer: Dear Lord, prepare the table before me by keeping me close to you.