After our assembly, we are going to be having a great meal together. Everyone is invited, and we are looking forward to the opportunity to sit down around several tables and to enjoy each other's company in the fellowship of the occasion. There is something about eating together which appears to have always signaled the existence of fellowship, the joy of companionship, and also a bright outlook on life. The fact that we are invited to a meal together expresses the thought that someone cares about us and that there is a relationship that exists and that there is life to enjoy.
What would it be like if we had the opportunity, instead of inviting just each other to sit down together to eat, to eat with God - to enjoy a banquet in his presence , to have him signal his desire and his willingness to have fellowship with us, to honor us with everything that he has to enjoy, and to calm all of our concerns about the state of our lives and about our futures? Do you realize that in scripture there are occasions where that very thing happens? In fact, I have been able to locate at least three such situations when people actually have the privilege of sitting down with the Lord and enjoying the occasion.
The first happens in Exodus 24 and what a time it is in the time of the life of the people of Israel! They have committed themselves already to hear what God says and for him to be their God and for them to be his people. They have gathered around Mt. Sinai, and Moses has gone up to meet the glory of God, and the stipulations of the covenant have been set forth. Now in Exodus 24, God has representatives of the people to come up, and he has Moses to lay before them what God will require of his nation if they are to be his people. Moses delivers to them all the words of the covenant. The people agree that "all that the Lord has spoken we will do." God is offering them a relationship, they are accepting the relationship. Grace is being extended; faith is accepting, and now that covenant is ready to be sealed. Moses kills the sacrifice, and he takes half of the blood and casts it upon the alter. That blood is then sprinkled upon God, so to speak. The wrath of God against sin is settled there in what he provides for himself. And then the other half of the blood is taken and sprinkled on the people. That relationship is established. These are God's people. He is their God and they are committed to walking through life together. And in Exodus 24, verses 9 and following, the Bible says, "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."
There are two details there which are so significant. First, these individuals saw God's glory. They beheld him. He is separated from anything unclean or unholy. There is a sea of stone like clear sapphire there around God displaying his glory and the wonder and impressiveness of his holiness. People didn't see God in the guilt of their own sin without the holiness of God consuming them. But these people in a covenant relationship with God saw God. Second, He didn't lay a hand on them. He didn't express judgment toward them. He didn't indicate that anything was standing between them and him in this covenant relationship. They ate and drank as if to express their communion with God and their fellowship with God. What a wonderful situation it was!
Unfortunately, as you know, that commitment was not kept. They departed into sin to unfaithfulness and evil. God, however, did not give up on man. He promised through the prophet Jeremiah that in the days coming he would establish a new covenant and that it would be a covenant in which forgiveness of sins would be provided and would be prominent. And that these people, who would be his people, would have his law written on their hearts and his will written on their mind. They would be people who would want to do his will.
We move forward then to the ministry of Jesus toward the end in Matthew 26. It is the last night. Jesus is about to be betrayed, and he will be handed over to evil men and then will suffer for us all. But that night he was meeting with his disciples. They were eating the Passover Supper. The Bible says in Matt. 26:26, "Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread and after blessing it, broke it and gave to the disciples and said, ' Take, eat, this is my body.' And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them saying, 'Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'" You notice there again first the removal of any hindrance to fellowship - the forgiveness of sins. Secondly, the establishment of covenant relationship through blood - this time the blood of the Son of God.
There is that situation in which Jesus is telling them to take and to eat and then to drink the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine of that meal. But then he said something else in verse 29. He said, "I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." That statement has been taken at least two different ways. There are some, of course, who take the view that Jesus was saying in that statement that he would literally drink this fruit of the vine on this earth again in some earthly kingdom at some later date. The problem with that is that it doesn't fit with what the rest of the New Testament says about the nature of the kingdom, and it doesn't contain the thought of there being the literal drinking of literal wine. He is talking about a new method of drinking, a new method of fellowship with them in this meal.
In I Corinthians 10, it is interesting that the apostle Paul is dealing with loyalty to the Lord alone. Some were tempted to eat of meat sacrificed to idols and to make that some sort of a communion with those idol gods that existed at Corinth. But Paul asked them in I Corinthians 10:16, "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ?" The word that is translated communion is the same word elsewhere translated fellowship. It means a "sharing in" or a "participation in." And here is the idea that when we drink the cup, we are communing in or sharing in or participating in the blood of Christ, the offering of it, the covenant that it established, the fellowship that it signifies, and all the promises which it purchases. Paul continues, "The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of (or we all commune in) the one bread." There is that idea of communion, sharing in, participating in a common (the word common is the heart of communion) meal - not one that is just intended to gratify the desires of our bodies, but one which is intended to express fellowship with the Lord and commitment to his covenant as his people.
Jesus said in Matthew 18:15 that "Where two or three of you are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of you." I put those pictures together, and I believe Jesus was saying that he would drink the fruit of the vine in a new way with his people by being in their presence, communing with them as they remember his body and his blood. When we observe the Lord's supper with that in mind, we are communing with each other in benefits of the Lord's body and blood. We are communing with him by faith in his presence with us now.
The third case of this meal together in God's presence is the great picture of the wedding feast of the lamb. The Jews' practices of marriage involved a betrothal in which the two were considered to be husband and wife though they had not yet begun to live with each other as husband and wife. And then there was that period of preparation where the groom made ready a place, a home for the couple, and the bride prepared herself for the beautiful wedding occasion which would occur. And then there would be that time when preparation had been made, when the feast was ready, and when the celebration would begin. Very often in the New Testament Jesus used the picture of this kind of a banquet to say that people are going to come from the north and the south and east and west and they are going to sit down at the table in my Father's kingdom. Matthew 8:11 and Luke 13:29 would be examples of that.
It leads to a beautiful picture that occurs in Revelation 19 toward the end of the New Testament. Here is a situation where the enemies of God's people are falling, one at a time, and where the period of great turmoil is over, and where worship to God is being expressed. The reason for this as stated in Revelation 19:7, "Let us rejoice and exalt and give him the glory for the marriage of the lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure (and we are told that that fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints)." These people who have been communing with the Lord around his table all along through their lives and that period of preparation have now come to the situation where the wedding feast of the Lamb is to occur and the angel said, "Write this: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.' And he said to me, 'These are the true words of God.'"
Truer words were never spoken. To those who were privileged to finally sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb and to commune with him in person and to commune with the Father around the table - there is no greater blessing than that. That expresses the Christian hope - what we long for - what we are preparing for - what we have been promised.
Those three instances of eating at God's table, if you really think about it, tells us a story of the scope of the Bible from beginning to end. People in Moses' day ate and drank and beheld God. People under the new covenant eat and drink and commune with Jesus. Finally the day will come when God's people are brought to the glory of his own presence and will sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb and eat and drink.
Now brothers and sisters in Christ, I want to say to us all this morning that this thought ought, as the old song says, to hold everything to us. It is not merely a passing thought. It is something which defines the reality of our lives and which calls for a response from us each Lord's day. The stories that are told in scripture about eating in God's presence are not just sweet stories. They are challenging truths.
First, this picture says that this is to become the priority in the lives of God's children. In Luke 14, Jesus tells a story about a man who prepared a great banquet, a great supper. He invited people. They committed themselves to come. He went about the business of preparing. Everything was ready. He sent out his servants to tell everyone "The supper is ready; come to the feast." One guy says, "Well, I know I promised you I would come, but now I can't come. I have bought a piece of land and I need to go look it over." In their customs, that guy had already been invited and he had promised. Now he had other priorities. The second fellow says, "Well, I am sorry but I have just purchased a team of oxen and I need to go try them out." The third guy says, "Well, I have married a wife." You understand, in their customs that didn't just happen. All three of these fellows were saying, "I have different priorities. Supper with you means nothing to me."
You fellows, suppose you had asked that special young woman out to dinner. You have a question you would like to ask her. You have made all the arrangements at the nicest restaurant in town, the most expensive place you have ever been. You have asked her if she would go with you to supper, and she has said yes. You get everything ready. With your heart in your throat, you drive over to her house to pick her up. You ring the doorbell. You can hardly stand it while you stand there and wait. Her mother comes to the door. You say "I am here to pick up Susie." She says, "I'm sorry but Susie has a movie on TV she says she doesn't want to leave." Why would we be willing to do that same thing to God?
Secondly, this picture of supper with the Lord should bring forth a sense of appreciation in us. Look at the trouble to which God has gone to invite us to commune with him. In Matthew 22, Jesus tells a similar story about a man who has prepared a great wedding feast. He gets everything ready; he sends servants to let folks know that the feast is ready and they start killing his servants, abusing them. Finally, he says, "Just go out into the highways and hedges and tell everybody to come in. I want people at my feast." He provides wedding garments for everybody to wear to show that they are glad to be there. And there sits an old boy who doesn't appreciate the privilege enough to put the wedding garment on. The master of the feast says, "Sir, I am going to have you cast out to where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. If you don't want to be here, you don't have to be here if you don't appreciate it any more than that."
It calls for priority; it calls for appreciation, and third, supper with God calls for confidence and hope. There is a renewal that takes place in our own spirits and our own outlook on life and our own view of things as we commune with the Lord. That picture in Revelation 19 comes to people who have been worn out by the world and what the world has done to them. Some of their own brothers and sisters have been persecuted to the point of death because of this. This thought of the marriage supper of the Lamb causes rejoicing for good reason. Leon Morris, writing about this says, "It was a great point for the church in the conditions in which she found herself. In those troubled days of persecution, Christians needed to know that it was the persecuted saints who were blessed and not their persecutors," and so the ones invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb.
And then another writer says that this statement about that blessed invitation "should affect the Christian's whole outlook. It should restore his sense of proportion and therefore his assurance, his hope, his confidence, courage and joy. It makes his problems manageable now."
We meet on the Lord's day, the first day of every week, as the church. It is to sit down around the table in sweet communion with each other and with our Lord. It holds the meaning in our minds of everything God has done and everything God will do. It challenges our sense of priority, the depth of our appreciation and the extent of our confidence regarding the Lord's future. Let's have that in mind today as we share the Lord in the Lord's supper.
We will be observing the supper we just observed on the first day of each week until the Lord comes. That is what the New Testament calls for us to do. But each time we do so we remember that he will come. So we do anticipate the feast for which we wait as the song said. That reminds us that it is important for the bride of Christ, his church, to be clothing herself in the righteous acts of the saints. It might be this morning that you need to renew your dedication at that very purpose. If you as a Christian have been clothing yourself with something other than the righteous acts of the saints, then the New Testament calls for us to confess that and to pray about it because the Lord is faithful and righteous to forgive us. If on the other hand you have not yet accepted the invitation to that feast, then it is our privilege to remind you that all things are ready.