The Lord is Israel’s Chief Shepherd, and because of this gracious relationship, they lack absolutely nothing that they really need. He commands them to rest in him as sheep do in lush pastures. He guides them, feeds them, washes them, protects them, and provides comfort. He is the one who restores their souls. Oh, how fantastic it is to hear and know the voice and the loving care of the Chief Shepherd.
However, though Israel be God’s most cherished possession, the Sovereign God chooses not to remove them from hazardous places, painful experiences and dangerous foes. No, in accordance with his wisdom, he marches his beloved in and through the “valley of the shadow of death.” Quite often his flock is found “in the presence of their enemies.” Egypt is behind them. Jericho is before them. And all about them are hostile nations wishing to plunder and devour them in the wilderness. In addition, they are plagued by satan without and sin within. Yes, God is always present and watching, but they are a church continually harassed by their world, their wicked flesh, and their former father the devil.
However, despite their precrious circumstances and surroundings, God continually feeds them. For all Israel he does so by supplying quail and manna from above. Then, in accordance with his laws of ceremonial worship, he commands his people to partake of seven annual feasts. But, if you are his priests, he specially prescribes worship rituals to feed you over and over again. Depending on the sin, the day, the purpose, and the financial condition of the various worshipers, cows, sheep, goats, turtledoves, pigeons, grain and corn are selected, sanctified, slaughtered, and sacrificed. Parts of them are consumed by fire. But the rest is set aside to be cooked and served to the priests and their families.
Clearly, when one reads the Pentetuch, it is God’s ceremonial will that his children, and especially his priests, are to be nourished, satisfied, encouraged and blessed by his sacrifices, over and over again. And this, “in the presence of their enemies.”
And this continues to be a theme from Genesis through Revelation. God loves to feed and feast with his people. He dines with …
- Adam and Eve in the Garden
- Abraham on the overlook above Sodom
- Israel’s elders on the Mountain of God
- Israel on the Passover night.
- Israel in the seven ceremonial feasts
- The Five Thousand in Jesus’ day
- The Four Thousand in Jesus’ day
- The Disciples in the Upper Room
- The Disciples along the shore
- The Lord’s Supper in particular churches
And all of this culminates with the Wedding Supper which he hosts for us, his bride, in paradise.
Yes, it is God’s revealed will throughout the totality of the Bible that all his sheep, all his worshipers, all his children, all his priests, should be consistently nourished, satisfied, encouraged, and blessed by his bountiful provision. Over and over again, they are to dine at the table of the Lord, in the presence of their enemies, with their cups running over.
Therefore, friends, you who are loved by God, and still harrassed by the world, the flesh, and the devil, why would you remain hungry?
Spiritually and personally, come to the Bread of Life and eat. Jesus Christ is the one who always satisfies the hunger and thirst of sinners. So, why would you lack contentment and filling on this earth? And then why would you perish, wake up in the place of torment, and cry out, “I hunger and thirst.” Today, come to Jesus and be fed by the Gospel. Begin your relationship with him right now.
Then, spiritually and personally, come again to the buffet table several times a day. Read his Word, speak to him in prayer, and be persistently fed. There is no need to go hours wihtout a meal. Snack throughout the day and be satisified.
Then, spiritually and corporately, come to the church on the Lord’s Day and be specially fed by means of his Word, his ceremonial supper, his ceremonial washing, and sessions of prayer. Jesus asks his elders, “Do you love me?” In response we reply, “Yes, Lord.” He then says, “Well then, feed my sheep.” Brothers and sisters, come to the place where the Scriptures are read and preached, the prayers are offered in spoken and sung tongue, and the sacraments are regularly placed before you. Don’t be malnourished. Don’t settle for junk food. Come and eat! Fresh grace is yours if you open your mouth and partake.
Then finally, consider opening up your homes and engage in feeding one another. Yes, I am aware that I just transitioned from spiritual feeding to physical feeding, but I believe there is some fantastic and mystical blessing in practicing hospitality. Consider the model, when the Holy Spirit fell upon the Apostles at Pentecost, and when the New Testament version of Christ’s church showed itself, this is what they did:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)
God’s friends were devoted to the Word, to prayer, to THE ceremonial breaking of bread, and to fellowship. They met together in the Temple, in synagogues, and in other places. And quite often, they shared their both their financial resources and their food. Community Groups were the norm in the Spirit-directed church. And what did God do in response? God graced the congregation with growth; he graced the congregation with encouragement; and he supplied all their needs even though they remained “in the presences of their enemies.”
Jesus loved to eat with his friends, and his church did the same. He encourages all his leaders to manifest the grace of hospitality. As Christ’s family, we are intended to be a fourth means of grace towards one another.
So, let’s eat … in our prayer closets, in our churches, and around our dining room tables. As priests, let’s partake of Christ regularly. As priests, let’s love Jesus by feeding his flock.