Food for (hopeful) thought
A promise in my morning’s Bible reading grabbed me:
“On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’” (Isaiah 25:6-9)As I chewed on this, as it were, more meals came to mind.
God put us in a fruitful garden at the first, where eating with Him in the cool of the day would surely have been part of the glorious routine (Genesis 1:29, 2:16, 3:8). We chose another meal and were thrown out of the restaurant into the wilderness. Food became scarce and hard to come by (Gensis 3:17-19).
Yet still God wanted us to eat with Him. Having rescued His people from slavery in Egypt (commemorated in the Passover meal, Exodus 12) and gathering them to Mount Sinai, He invited Moses and some of the other leaders to be with Him and eat with Him:
“Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.” (Exodus 24:9-11)The Old Testament priests continued this practice in the Tent of Meeting, and later the Temple. They were to represent the people before God, and when they had made sacrifices to pay for their sins, they were to eat some of what had been given (Leviticus 6:25-26, Deuteronomy 18:1). This was not mere practice, it was a promise…
Psalm 23 is famed for its description of God as a shepherd. There is a feeding theme again (“green pastures,” verse 2) but then the good shepherd becomes a master chef:
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (Psalms 23:5)Isaiah’s prophecy that we started with continued and developed this idea. Is it any wonder, then, that we so often read about Jesus eating with people? Matthew throws a feast for Him (Mark 2:14-15), as do Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), Simon the Leper (Mark 14:3), and Martha and Mary (John 12:1-2). God with us means us eating with God. These are unlikely guests of God, as Jesus explains in a parable:
"The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come.” (Matthew 22:2-3)The parable concludes with the feast being eaten by those who never thought they would be invited in, as the king says:
“‘Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.” (Matthew 22:9-10)All of this is in Jesus’ mind when He organises a last supper with His disciples. God’s original intention that we enjoy the fruits of His creation with Him; our rejection of His generosity; His condescension in allowing us to eat in His holy presence; His promise of a banquet to come unlike any other with rich food and good wine but no tears and no death to sour the taste; His knowledge of what it will cost Him to pay for that…
“And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 22:14-16)So it isn’t just to prove that He is not a ghost that Jesus eats with the stunned disciples at several of His resurrection appearances (Luke 24:30-31, 41-43, John 21:12-13)!
We now find ourselves between meals. That glorious feast Isaiah saw is still to come. In case you had any doubt, the final book of the Bible reassures us that it is being prepared:
“And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ [Meaning Jesus and the Church] And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’” (Revelation 19:9)
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month.” (Revelation 22:1-2)Next time you take the bread and wine of communion, then, remember that you’re recalling not just the past but the future:
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26)This guaranteed promise is the hope of all who accept God’s offer of a feast through Jesus. It makes every meal an opportunity for worship. The provision of energy for a few more hours is pointing to eternal life, and the joy of delicious food and drink is a brief taste of the delight you will know forever in God's presence.