There are tons of references in Scripture to meals and feasts that God appointed for his people. Of all the basic functions that humans do on a regular basis, eating is the most recorded in Scripture. Food plays a major role from the beginning to the end of Scripture, from the Garden of Eden to the Lord’s Table, to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb… eating is front and center in Scripture. Why is this?
There are at least four major reasons:
- To remember and rely on God’s provision
Lev 23:41, 43 You shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 43 that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”
For one thing, we need to eat. Our bodies require it. In His infinite wisdom, God designed our bodies to be dependent on His provision. We were made from the dust, and the food that we require as humans has also come from the dust. Literally, our food grows from dirt. Contrary to popular belief, food does not originate from Harris Teeter/Food Lion/Bi-lo/Publix. Nor does it come from the government. It doesn’t come from McDonalds. It doesn’t come from your favorite restaurant. It doesn’t even come from our own ability to provide for ourselves through gainful employment. Food comes from God. He is our provider and sustainer.
These feasts that we see in Scripture, the Feast of Firstfruits, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths were established by God to serve as reminders for the way that He has proved faithful to His people. God always provides exactly what His people need. This is worthy of reminder and celebration, partly so that we can continue to rely on Him and not rely on someone or something else, including ourselves.
Farmers and gardeners know this well. They work directly with God’s provision by getting their hands dirty, fully recognizing that their food literally comes from dirt. We would do well to learn this for ourselves by cultivating our own food whenever possible.
- To remember and rely on God’s work of redemption
Isa 25:6,8 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. 8 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.
While physical food is important to sustain our bodies, it is merely a reminder of our deeper need of spiritual nourishment. Because of our sin, out and out rebellion against our holy God, we are in desperate need of deliverance. We need the salvation that can only come from the Lord himself.
A number of the meals instituted in Scripture come on the heels of (or just prior to) a major work of redemption by the Lord for His people. These include the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover); the Day of Atonement (necessary because of our great sin – still he forgives); and, of course, the Lord’s Supper (Matt 26:26-29; 1 Cor 11:17-34) – the ultimate feast! The points of all these feasts are for God’s people to rejoice in God’s mighty work of salvation. So, let’s celebrate – God has relentlessly sought you out to be part of his family. He wants us to remember this by enjoying a meal together. This should impact how you participate in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper from now on. Remember that it is a celebratory family meal, one in which we soberly recall the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ at the cross! As we partake in this family meal together, we anticipate the ultimate meal which will take place after Jesus’ return, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:6-10).
- To remember and rely on God’s people
Acts 2:42, 46-47 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
As we partake in church family meals together, both during worship and outside of worship, we are reminded of the way that the Lord demonstrates his provision and love through His people. The fellowship God’s people enjoy, especially in the context of a meal, is a special manifestation of God’s love. Shared meals increase fellowship among believers. Feasting together strengthens the family of believers. Nothing brings the family together like a meal. So, plan to eat together often as a church family, especially a meal that was prepared by members of the church body. Fast food can be tasty, but cooking a meal brings more meaning to the meal. My encouragement is for you to “culinate” – cook and dine together often as fellow devotees of Jesus!
On a side note, don’t underestimate the value of providing meals to those members of the church family who may be temporarily in need. Take them a meal! Not only is it helpful for them to have a savory meal ready to go, but the care and love that goes into actually making the meal for them, choosing ingredients and thoughtfully preparing the meal, offer a tangible demonstration of God’s love.
- To remember and rely on God himself
John 6:27; 33-35; 47-58 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”
33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
In John 6, Jesus said “I am the Bread of Life.” And so, we realize that… Jesus IS our food. In our weak and needy state, God provides what we need for our lives to be sustained. This is physical representation of the spiritual reality reminds us not only of our spiritual neediness, but also that our need is completely satisfied by Christ himself. Jesus is the food that we need most. And not only is Jesus totally satisfying, but he is savory and delightful. King David impresses this point upon us in Psalm 34:8 – “Taste and see that the Lord is good”.
Jesus absolutely loved to make this point to the disciples. He wanted them to know that he was the only food that truly satisfied. He wanted them to know that his living water was the only drink that could quench our ultimate thirst. He reinforced this point by regularly dining with his disciples. We see it throughout the gospels. Because they were so used to breaking bread with Jesus, they even came to identify him by his practice of sharing meals with them. Luke 24, tells the story of the disciples on the Road to Emmaus who encounter the risen Jesus. Luke tells us that “[Jesus] was made known to them in the breaking of bread”. Clearly, something special happens when they dine together, but especially when Jesus himself is their meal. Let us then contemplate where and how we receive our spiritual nourishment. How hungry are you? Brothers and sisters, savor Jesus!