You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Psalm 23:5
You and I have a natural desire to run from danger. We’d rather our enemies stay at a nice safe distance, preferably out of sight where we can convince ourselves they don’t exist. And we tend to believe that if God is for us, He’ll agree with our plan.
But God teaches something very different about His approach to enemies. Our opening Scripture reveals a truth many of us overlook. God prepares a place of lavish provision for us right where our enemy is. He leads us into situations where we have to look the enemy in the face. And there, in his presence, He anoints us with the power to defeat him.
Have you ever wondered why God sent Pharaoh and his army to pursue the Israelites after he had finally released them? Perhaps you’re not familiar with the story. The people of Israel had been crying out for deliverance from 400 years of slavery in Egypt. God sent Moses with a promise of rescue and revealed His mighty power with ten plagues in the land. After losing his firstborn son in the final plague, Egypt’s Pharaoh ultimately relented and let God’s people go.
It was finally over. Centuries of oppression and slavery had ended, and God’s people began their journey toward the land God had promised them. Then Exodus 14:4 jumps from the pages of Scripture, bringing with it confusion about God’s character.
“And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so.
You read it right. Scripture is clear. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart against the Israelites and led him to pursue them. I imagine you may be disturbed by the questions that first stirred in me. Why would a loving God do that? Does He care so little about the people?
And this is precisely where the breakdown of our faith begins, dear one. The prince of the power of the air whispers questions about God’s motives and character, and in those moments of doubt, we partner with him against God.
The Israelites certainly did.
When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? 12Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” Deuteronomy 4:10-12
Immediately, the Israelites believed the worst of God. See, God isn’t good. He led us out here to die in the desert. There’s no Promised Land, only pain. We should’ve remained slaves.
The serpent hissed his lies, and the Israelites believed him.
Well, most of them anyway. One kingdom son knew God face to face and refused to wear the shackle of slavery any longer. He stepped into his divine identity—unbound by the world’s limitations—and unleashed heaven’s power through his faith.
And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Moses knew God’s heart and refused to believe the deception. Instead of succumbing to fear, He stepped to the edge of the Red Sea. At God’s Word, Moses lifted his staff in faith, and creation bowed in obedience to its Creator. Winds began driving back the water that held them within reach of their enemy, and God Himself moved behind them as they waited all night for the sea to part.
Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, 20coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. Verses 19-20
Defying the enemy’s message, faith raised God as a shield between them, until all of Israel could cross through the sea on dry ground.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.” 27So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threwthe Egyptians into the midst of the sea. 28The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. Verses 26-28
Love moved God to send Pharaoh into that wilderness, dear one. He wiped out the entire Egyptian army, securing the future safety of His people. They wouldn’t have to fear Egypt’s pursuit again. The path to Israel’s salvation became the mechanism for Egypt’s destruction. Beloved,
deliverance for God’s people simultaneously destroys their enemies.
But we’ve got to be willing to stand with God in the enemy’s presence. We’ve got to stop grumbling against God and longing for the familiar comfort of our slavery. We have to reject the hiss of the serpent, who whispers that God isn’t good and means to destroy us. Instead, we must believe in the character of the God who loves us and refuse to question His motives. We’ve got to settle the debate in our hearts over whether God is good.
He is, beloved. His motives are always pure. And He loves His children too much to allow them to remain bound in fear. When He leads you into a wilderness place where the enemy seems to have cornered you, He has merely set you up to manifest a victory, delivering you and destroying your enemy in the process.
Trust His heart for you, dear one. Don’t fear His tables of provision because of their location. In Him, you are always safe. You need only believe.