Spring, Snakes and Psalm 23

by: Larry Davies | Feb 1, 2010

“Snow is melting, the sun is shining… spring is here at last!” Are you ready? Spring may be about sunshine and beauty but for me it’s more chores and yard work. There are sticks and debris from winter snowstorms to pick up. One spring day, I was outside and the chores were nearly finished so I strolled around the yard to admire the view. A sudden movement caught my eye. Slithering up the steps toward the entrance to our house was the longest black snake I’ve ever seen.

“Now what do I do?” The snake wasn’t poisonous but I certainly didn’t want to annoy him. (Was it a him? Do you really think I checked?!) Maybe if I wait he can slink off to hassle someone else. But Nooo, this snake was obviously after something on the other side of our doorway. I never saw a snake so aggressive. At one point while slithering up the doorframe his head was over the top of the frame while the tail almost touched the bottom making him at least twenty feet long. (Would you believe 6 feet?) I definitely had a predicament on my hands. Now what do I do?

Quietly and menacingly the snake draped his body over the top of the doorway and waited. Seconds later, my wife, Mell appeared at the same doorway. “Please, don’t open that door, Honey!” I yelled. She stared at me quizzically, glanced up, saw the snake, screamed and ran off.

With the aid of a neighbor, I quickly moved the snake and uttered a sincere prayer of thanks. It was frightening seeing that huge snake draped over our doorway. Suppose my wife had actually walked out the door and the snake dropped over her shoulders? (I don’t even want to think about it.) Suppose he had gotten into the house? (We would have moved! Just kidding… I think?)

I write this because life can seem pretty humdrum at times, full of daily chores. Then a sudden movement catches our eye and out of nowhere comes a slithering snake of dilemmas. You wait hoping he’ll slink off and hassle someone else, but Nooo, this snake is more aggressive. He’s perched over the doorway waiting for an unsuspecting soul to pass underneath. For example:

  • You receive a call from the doctor’s office. They want to see you right away.
  • A sleepy driver runs through a stop sign directly in front of your car.
  • The school office reports your child absent for the last three days.
  • The manager calls you into his office to explain the meaning of downsizing.
  • Our nation is at war. Terrorism can strike anytime… anywhere.

Do you remember this portion of Psalm 23? “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil.” This passage seems to be talking about food but that doesn’t make much sense in a Psalm about sheep and shepherds. Until one day I discovered David is really writing about snakes. Did you say snakes? Yes, you heard correctly… Snakes!

In mountainous regions, a “table” describes a flat section of land. Before entering a new “table,” a good shepherd inspects the ground for holes, potential hiding places for poisonous brown snakes. Then he “prepares the table” by pouring thick oil in each snake hole. The shepherd then “anoints” the sheep’s nose and mouth with the same oil making the surface too slippery to bite.

Good shepherds who lovingly care for their sheep do that… What a relief!

We don’t like to admit it but snakes do exist and they will occasionally attempt a bite. God, our loving shepherd, inspects the “tables” before us, providing safety and when an occasional snake does break through we are anointed with the oil of comfort protecting us from the poisonous bite.

Are there snakes perched on your doorway ready to strike? Have they soured your disposition and challenged your faith? Get out a Bible and read Psalm 23 again. Read the words slowly and think about what it would be like for you to personally receive the Good Shepherd’s anointing oil of protection. “Wow! I feel safer already. Do you? Now if only someone would clean up my yard!”


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