Some of you may have read a wonderful book called Evidence Not Seen. It’s the story of a woman named Darlene Deebler Rose who spent four years in a Japanese prison camp during World War II.
During that time she faced threats and torture and sickness and every conceivable type of torment at the hands of her captors. In that book she shares an account at one point when she was extremely weak. She had been very sick. She had just come through that, but she could hardly stand up when the guards came to the door, and they were required to stand up and bow as the guards came to their cells.
She was just so weak and in that weakness she began to crave a banana. She wanted a banana. Here’s what she says,
Everything in me wanted one. I could see them. I could smell them. I could taste them. I got down on my knees and said, "Lord, I’m not asking You for a whole bunch. I just want one banana." I looked up and pleaded, "Lord, just one banana."
Then I began to rationalize—how could God possibly get a banana to me through these prison walls? I would never ask the guard. If he helped me and was discovered it would mean reprisals. There was more chance of the moon falling out of the sky than of someone bringing me a banana.
Then she describes the next day after she prayed that prayer and a whole series of events that led to a guard coming to her door. She said,
I heard the guard coming back and knew he was coming for me.
She says how she was expecting that he was going to take her and beat her.
Struggling to my feet, I stood ready to go. He opened the door, walked in, and with a sweeping gesture laid at my feet bananas. "They’re yours," he said, "and they’re all from Mr. Yamaji."
Now in the story Mr. Yamaji was the commander of another camp where Darlene had previously been held. This man had a fierce temper. He was a vicious, cruel, angry man and incredibly this ruthless commander had been softened through Darlene’s witness to him in that previous camp.
Now here he shows up at this camp and gives a messenger bananas to take to Darlene. She said,
I sat down in stunned silence and counted them. There were 92 bananas. I pushed the bananas into a corner and wept. "Lord, forgive me. I’m so ashamed. I couldn’t trust You enough to get even one banana for me. Just look at them—there are almost a hundred." I knew in those moments that nothing is impossible to my God. "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies."
Are you looking at the enemies or at your Host? He has conquered every enemy and ultimately all of those enemies will bow before Him. You see the 23rd Psalm squarely faces the reality of death and darkness and evil and enemies. It doesn’t pretend like they don’t exist. God’s not offering us an escape from our enemies but triumph over our enemies.
Yes, the valley of death and deep darkness exists, but I can walk through it, and He will be with me. Yes, there is evil, but I don’t have to fear it. I don’t have to have dread. I can have His comfort. Yes, there are enemies, but He hosts me in their presence. And right in that context we read these two phrases: “You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.” In the presence of my enemies.
You see what God does for us? Sometimes we work so hard to escape from pressures and problems, to manipulate and connive our way out of them that I think we miss some of the greatest blessings God has in store for us. Some of us never experience what our Shepherd or our gracious Host could and would do for us if we’d give Him the chance.
A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.