Welcome to the season of glorious, uninhibited celebration, especially of the gastronomic variety. Deliciously green, growing things are sprouting forth before our eyes, so fresh food suddenly takes a front-row seat in our attention. Anything from massive, expensive, five-course wedding banquets to the simplest, most spontaneous of el fresco back-yard barbeques bloom in the heat of July and August.
I realized the other day how much I was longing, actually yearning, for a feast. I mean a full-on, bona fide sit-down, complete with deliberate, beautiful decor and good company, especially one that involves no labor or planning on my part. At my age, the weddings of friends and family are few and far between; I can’t even remember the last time there was a nuptial hoedown in the clan.
We tend to think of feasts as the icing on the cake of life, but to the Hebrew mind, feasting, and festivals, were more like the bread on the side-plate at every meal. Besides the regular Sabbath, (technically considered the feast of the week), there were seven major ones in the Jewish year: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost, Trumpet, Atonement and Tabernacles. When the calendar is deliberately constructed around the joyful seasons of ‘holy-day’, life takes on a whole different tone.
Consider this sacred commitment in contrast to the work-a-holic mentality of a digital age on steroids. To be so obsessed with work, (or what we define as productivity) that to stop, set yourself aside, and enter someone else’s delight actually becomes a burden. I may lament the nose-to-the-grindstone ignorance of my generation, but truly, this is not a new problem. This supremely self-absorbed attitude is the stuff of parables. In Matthew 22, even a King had a hard time convincing so-called friends and allies to join the party!
Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” ’ But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ Matt 22:4-9 NKJV
The imagery here, of course, references the Kingdom of God and all good things the Holy Spirit wants to impart to us through the work of Jesus. There’s an open invitation to sit down at this extraordinary banquet every single day of our lives, but so few seize the moment. The excuses are many and varied, but it’s interesting how truly little they’ve changed! Getting people to engage the bounty of spiritual life is a tough gig.
While a lovely, heartfelt celebration may hold some of life’s most precious moments, it also has the potential for its most dramatic and dangerous ones as well. For where there’s a feast, there’s a beast. Inevitably, opulent, superb gatherings compact together all kinds of creatures. Repressed emotions simmering beneath the surface suddenly boil over in the heightened atmosphere of honor and elation. Occasions of blissful happiness to one party have the tendency to be equally balanced with far darker emotions in the heart of another. Jealousy, envy, grudge, resentment, bitterness and other vitriol spring to the social surface, provoked beyond the natural boundaries of inhibition. Remember the banquet Abraham threw for Isaac when he was weaned? All hell broke loose between Sarah and Hagar. At the dinner of mighty men and courtiers, Saul threw a murderous spear at David. Laban pulled a fast one on Jacob at his own wedding. Jesus exposed Judas the traitor at the Last Supper. The morale of the story? Expect the unexpected along with the entrées. It’s not going to be as ‘happily ever after’ as one would think. Sometimes, fêtes are just as much Grimm as fairy tale.
As we know from the Torah and the parables of Jesus, God is big on feasting with His people. He knows how difficult life can be with its seasons of famine and fasting, so He counterbalances them with significant moments of favor and triumph. There are seasons of extravagant blessing – answers to prayer that create incomparable moments in our memory. For those who answer the invitation, spiritual wine and anointings from the Holy Spirit cannot even be described. We “taste and see” how good our salvation really is (Psalm 34:8).
And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. Isaiah 25:6 KJV
The truly amazing thing about God’s feast is the way He can throw one under the least propitious of circumstances! When we’re barely holding it together, with the enemy breathing hard down our necks, He placidly lays before us immediate relief and refreshment.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Psalm 23:5 NKJV
As believers, we can expect a very intimate response that nourishes our soul in the most adversarial of conditions. You don’t know what a real feast is until you’ve experienced sumptuous, epicurean luxury of the Holy Spirit variety; a savor of Eden bringing tangible satisfaction and satiation to the soul. In fact, one of the outstanding advantages of maturity is that we learn to carry the feast inside of us. Proverbs 15:15 tells us that “a cheerful heart has a continuous feast”, so no matter what life is trying to feed us, we know where the real sustenance may be found.
cb Photo by Bing