During the summer months, the sheepherder makes the trek with his flock up the mountainside to the high plateaus of ranges called tablelands. Before this can happen, it is necessary for him to recon the route. David had this in mind, having firsthand knowledge of the preparation necessary. It was a tedious, meticulous task involving removing by hand any poisonous vegetation that might harm or even kill the sheep if ingested. It also meant clearing out debris or rebuilding dams from watering holes along the path, while taking note of dangerous areas to avoid where predators could easily lie in wait for unsuspecting wayward lambs.
The shepherd makes a preliminary trip, then yet several other trips prior to the sheep’s arrival, carrying with him minerals and salt to be “distributed over the range at strategic spots.”(Keller). He decides where they should and should not feed, and where they should set up camp. Likewise, Our Lord, the Good Shepherd, goes before us to prepare the table, even in the presence of our enemies. He knows each of us and often He removes some temptations or distractions and even dangers that we have no strength to overcome as young lambs.
Scripture refers to Satan “as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour”. Our Savior knows every trick of the enemy and, even in the presence of harm, keeps us safe when we remain close to Him. It is often in those wayward moments that we drift away from His side, that we find ourselves in imminent danger.
When we come to the communion table, we reflect on the awesomeness and magnitude of the price He paid for us; He who became sin for us so that we would become the righteousness of God through Him, set free from sin to live a “new, free, fresh, abundant life.” It is His desire for us to live our lives on a higher plane. Not insulated from the presence of fear and danger or peril, but comforted by His presence. May this hymn’s chorus be our prayer continually:
Lord, lift me up, and let me stand,
by faith, on heaven’s tableland:
A higher plan than I have found,
Lord plant my feet on higher ground.Rev.Johnson Oatman, Jr. and Charles Gabriel. “Higher Ground”
Keller, W. Phillip. A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1970. 2007