This verse troubles me to be honest.
It seems to suggest that when we walk the path of righteousness/justice, when we accept the trial and trauma of the path of justice and experience the loss of status and security that it brings, ultimately, we will be vindicated by God and have the chance to gloat before those who resisted us, hurt us, tore us down, treated us with derision and disrespect.
I understand and appreciate the idea of vindication, of the restoration of our dignity and of our status as God’s faithful children. That is vitally important. But I find the idea of gloating over those who resisted, shamed, treated us with disrespect, troubling. Ultimately to me, this does not sound like God’s brand of justice. Instead of creating wholesome community, it sounds merely like a reversal of order. The oppressor becomes oppressed and the oppressed the oppressor. I get how tempting that sounds. I’ve got some bullies from my high school days that I would enjoy a reversal of roles with. But that isn’t actually the Kingdom of God. That isn’t the ‘new thing‘ that the prophet Isaiah promised God was doing. It’s the same old thing, but with different actors. Hierarchy and oppression remain the system, but with different actors and agents.
So, even if the Psalmist meant it that way, how should we interpret it so as to understand and apply it faithfully to the larger message of the word of God?
I would suggest that we interpret this feast of justice, security and status in the light of the feasts that Jesus created and hosted before and after his death. He ate with the wealthy and powerful as well as the poor, the sick and the socially unacceptable. All were at the same table. He shared a meal with the disciples who would betray and abandon him. He would gather them together, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee for another feast of reconciliation and empowerment after his resurrection.
That is how we should understand the table in Psalm 23:5. It is not a table where roles are reversed but in the same old game of hierarchy and oppression. Instead it is a new game, a new way of relating to one another. It is a table at which the oppressed are given renewed status before God, and a table at which the oppressors are confronted by the sin of their actions, but then recreated, instructed, empowered, to be the humans God created them to be. It is a place in which all are restored to dignity, both those oppressed and those who lost their dignity through oppressing. That truly is a new thing. That is justice in the realm of God.