The Bible begins and ends with meals. It starts with a well-furnished orchard and the eating of forbidden fruit. It concludes with a marriage supper of the Lamb. Countless meals get consumed and enjoyed along the way. Psalm 23 describes one of the most famous, where David's Shepherd God serves as divine host: "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows."
The picture is that of a desperate fugitive who comes on a camp in the wilderness. Strangers welcome him into a tent. They've just sat down to eat and invite him to take a seat. He relaxes and takes a deep breath and begins to enjoy. Then his accusing and vengeful pursuers arrive too. They want to ask the host whether he's seen their prey. But entering the tent, they see the man gathered with family around the table. They immediately excuse themselves and withdraw. They know it would be a great act of hostility to the host to trouble a guest at his table.
While eating the forbidden fruit created fugitives, dining with the LORD God of Israel means safety and blessing. Like the time the LORD appeared to Abraham at his tent (Gen. 18:1-15). Three strangers arrive and Abraham prepares a fine feast for them. He offers a little bread to eat, and water to soothe their feet. While they relax with that, Sarah bakes bread and Abraham butchers and grills a calf. It sounds like he also churns up a little cottage cheese. The next thing you know, the LORD God promises Abraham a return visit at a set time, where Abraham and Sarah will celebrate the birth of a son, Isaac. Both visits bring laughter.
In our modern world, we give testimonial dinners to show appreciation for someone. The ratification of treaties and international agreements are accompanied by state dinners. We carry on an ancient custom in so doing. A meal signifies friendship and hospitality. When your son or daughter brings home for dinner someone they have been dating, you know the relationship has moved to a new level. When a child shares a candy bar or part of their lunch with another child, it may seal a friendship.
When the LORD God of Israel ratified the covenant with his people (Exodus 24), he invited 70 or so of Israel's leaders to ascend the mountain and enjoy a feast. Meanwhile Moses and Joshua climbed a bit higher to receive the covenant engraved on tablets of stone. We're told (vv. 10-11) that the 70 "saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there was something like a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. God did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; also they beheld God, and they ate and drank."
We might wonder what they saw while they ate. We might wonder how long the feast lasted. "The glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel ... Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights" (vv. 15-18).
What do you see when you come to the communion table of the Lord Jesus, when you come to his covenant meal? What does it mean for you in terms of safety and sanctuary, friendship and blessing, God's promise and God's presence?
Pastor Jim Byrne
The faithful presence