Appetisers to a Great Feast
Text: Is 25:6-9
Theme: There are magnificent benefits to responding appropriately to God's presence.
Need: comfort as we wait for Christ to return
Message: enjoy the appetisers as we await the full feast
Appetisers of a Great Feast
When I was younger I went to a camp in the Rocky Mountains called, Crowsnest Lake Bible Camp. During the couple of weeks there the campers take a trip up into the mountains. This trip was fun, but gruelling. We had to carry our own packs, we had to cook most of our own food, we slept under a sloping tarp exposed to the cold and the wind, we had to dig our own latrines. It was rainy and cold the couple of days we were away from base camp and we were miserable. None of us could get dry, let alone warm. The little fires we could build out of the sopping wood made more smoke than heat. On the way down from the camp we were naturally quite grumpy. We were cold, we were wet, we stunk, and we were hungry. One of the camp counsellors decided to try to cheer us up. He told us that when we got to camp we would get hot showers, dry clothes, a warm place to sleep, but most important to us hungry teenage boys, a large sumptuous feast. As he is describing the food we were to have you could hear most of our tummies growling. So, the counsellor decided to stop the descent down the mountain and he handed out some trail mix bars. He said, “Here is something to eat now while you think about the food we will get when we arrive at base camp.” It did the trick, that little bar of nuts and fruit prevented us from turning on each other to satisfy our ravenous hunger while we waited for the feast.
Message to Judah and Israel
The passage we read from Isaiah does for the Israelites what that counsellor did for us boys. This is a beautiful description of a marvellous feast which will be given to the faithful people of God. This is a description of the positive consequences of a proper response to the Holy One of Israel in their midst.
The main theme of Isaiah was the response of the people of God to the Holy One of Israel. Were the people responding properly to God in their midst, to Immanuel? Is 24 tells us that the glory of the Holy One of Israel will cause chaos in the world when he comes to his people. “The moon will be dismayed, the sun ashamed; for the Lord Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders—with great glory.” (Is 24:23, TNIV) But, God's glory will not only cause chaos, it will also usher in a magnificent feast for those who respond appropriately. There are two consequences, then, for the two different responses to the Holy One of Israel; chaos or order, destruction or salvation, death or life. If the Israelites respond incorrectly, then they receive the negative consequences and God labels them a rebel. If they respond correctly, then they are given a feast. The positive consequences outlined in this passage are for the remnant of Israel who will return, those who are faithful, those who make the proper response to God. Is 26:5 says, “In that day the Lord Almighty will be a glorious crown, a beautiful wreath for the remnant of his people.” This remnant is the chosen people of God, gathered again from their exile, purified from their rebellion. In Ch 27 Isaiah tells us that “those who were perishing in Assyria and those who were exiled in Egypt will come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.” (Is 27:13 TNIV) The people of Judah, sitting in Jerusalem hear the promise of greatness to come.
On this mountain the Lord will prepare a feast. The words used to describe this feast are incredible and abundant. A feast of rich food, rich fatty food; the fattened calf. The really good stuff which we usually avoid because we are watching our weight. A feast of the best of meats. meat mixed with marrow. Meat mixed with the best delicacies available. Meat that is heavily satisfying. A banquet of aged wine, Wine left to develop its full flavour and power. A banquet with the finest of wines. Wines refined and filtered to make them clear, with no dregs, no sediment. This description echoes Ps 63:5 “My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.” This psalm expresses love of God and obedience to him. The people will not only feast on rich food, but they will do so in the presence of their glorious God. They will love and serve him in true obedience.
On this mountain the Lord will break through the old ways. He will remove the veil, the covering, the shroud that enfolds all people. This covering has connotations of death and mourning; either the actual burial shroud placed around the corpse, or the garb worn by those who are mourning. This covering of death, of mourning, will be removed and destroyed. Death itself will be swallowed up forever. The Sovereign Lord himself will comfort his people. He will wipe away all their tears. He will remove their disgrace, their reproach, their scorn. Israel was scorned by the other nations because their God sent them into exile. This disgrace, this mark of disfavour, this brand of rejection will be removed and the people returned to communion with their God.
“In that day the people will say, 'surely this is our God; we trusted in him and he saved us.'” They trusted, they hoped, they waited for the salvation of their God. They waited.
These are the words of Jacob in Gen 49:18. When blessing his sons he says “I wait for your salvation, O Lord.” The people of Israel and Judah are going to have to wait some more. They are going into exile. They are going to be punished by God and sent to a foreign land. A remnant will return, but they will have to wait; they will have to be patient. They have to wait because no one has given the proper response. No one has truly turned themselves over to God. No one was fit to go to the feast. The people of Israel would have to be purified. They would have to be shaped by God's discipline in exile as their fathers were shaped in the desert. This feast will come in time, but only in God's time.
Fulfilment in Christ
In God's time one was born who would begin to usher in this feast. Close to the beginning of the gospel of Luke is a curious story. Simeon, who was a righteous and devout Israelite, one of the remnant who returned from exile, was waiting for the consolation of Israel. He was an old man by now, but he still waited for the salvation of the Lord. Earlier in his life God had told him that he would not die until he saw the Lord's Christ, the Messiah.
One morning he got up with all the usual aches and pains of old age. It took him a few moments to warm up his joints enough to risk rolling out of bed. He hobbled over to the fire place and began to rebuild to smouldering fire. He threw on a couple of small logs and placed his pot on top. The smell of his cooking began to make him hungry as he squatted on his haunches. After his leisurely breakfast, he decided to take a stroll around town. He began his walk in the direction of the marketplace, as he usually did. When he passed the street going to the temple he looked up it and gazed at the large walls. He felt moved to go in that direction, and even though it was a long climb up the slope he began his assent. He slowly made his way up the hill, even though he had to rest a few times. When he reached the gate he turned and went it. Slowly making his way across the courtyard he took a seat at the entrance to the Jewish court. Not long after he had gathered his breath, his eyes were drawn to a young couple entering the temple with a little baby. He was drawn to them, and getting up he shuffled over to them. When he laid eyes on little baby Jesus, he knew his waiting we over. He knew he had seen the Messiah, the Saviour. He took Jesus in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
Luke 2:29-32 (NIV)
Simeon had been waiting for the feast; for the fulfilment of this prophecy in Isaiah. Simeon had been waiting as one of the remnant who had returned from exile. He had been because the remnant was not purified. They were still sinful. They did not follow God as they should. But, when Simeon took the little child named Jesus in his arms, he knew he did not have to wait anymore for salvation. This little child was the Holy One of Israel, he was Immanuel, he was God with us. He was ushering in the beginning of the feast. The beginning of the Kingdom of God.
How does this work? How is this child God's salvation? When the remnant returned from exile they had not been purified. Like their fathers who came from the desert, they still did not respond appropriately to the Holy One in their midst. Jesus, however, was the purified remnant. He was the perfect sacrifice. He was the true servant of the Lord. This true servant of God provided the proper response to Him, while at the same time accepting the judgement of the rebels. On the mountain of the Lord, on Mt Zion, near Jerusalem, at Golgotha, Christ swallowed up death forever. Paul tells Timothy that Christ “has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:10, NIV) Paul also tells the Romans, “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” (Rom 6:9-10, NIV) Christ swallowed up death, he removed the veil separating all nations, and he initiated the feast.
Application to Church Today
In the Lord's Supper, Christ instituted an appetiser of this amazing feast. He provides us with a reminder of the new covenant; the eternal covenant sealed in his blood. The Lord's Supper is the church's celebration and remembrance of the salvation given to us through the sacrifice of Jesus. It is a communion with God through the merit of his Son. Paul says, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26, NIV) This communion, this appetiser of the feast, is meant to nourish us, to give us sustenance, to provide us with what we need while we wait for the full feast.
Christ swallowed up death when he died. When we are baptised, we are joined with Christ in his death and resurrection. We have been freed from the prison of sin to serve our Saviour. As Paul says, “The death Christ died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.” (Romans 6:10-13, NIV)
Our freedom from death and sin, our salvation and new life, has caused us to rejoice and be glad. We have been saved from the horrible consequences of our own rebellion. Because of this we literally owe our lives to Christ. We are not our own but belong body and soul, in life and in death, to our faithful Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We should then give ourselves to him and live for him. We should offer ourselves to him as instruments of his righteousness. Through Christ we have been purified and given the Holy Spirit which allows us to give the proper response to the Holy One of Israel. We are now the purified remnant who is invited to join in the feast. Jesus took our punishment upon himself and offered up to us the ability to enter the feast. He sends his servants into the highways and byways and invites the rabble of the world into the feast of the Lamb. The Lord's Supper is an appetiser, but it is also a participation in the feast. The feast is here, but it is not complete. The food has been given, though not in its abundance.
We, as mortals, cannot participate in this eternal feast. We must be changed, and we will. As Paul says, “I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. ...When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:50-57, NIV)
Realisation in Consummation
Though we only have appetisers of this glorious feast, it will come in its fullness. The day will come when we will join with the saints of all ages in glorifying God. The Apostle John gives us a of this in Revelation 21. “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'”(Revelation 21:3-4, NIV) The day will come when God will comfort his people and put an end to death and sadness. The day will come when we will no longer participate in the Lord's Supper, but attend the feast of the Lamb. The day will come when everything will be made new. The day will come when we will say, “'Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.'” (Isaiah 25:9, NIV)
While we sit and wait for that day just as Jacob waited, as Israel waited, as Simeon waited, we can rest assured that the feast is coming. We can trust in the promises of God. Let Jesus comfort you and sustain you as you wait. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3, NIV)