God’s Table

Picture of James E. Croley III, M.D.

James E. Croley III, M.D.

Author and Ophthalmologist

What do I mean by God’s table? Is there something special about God’s table? Why would the table come to represent one of the deepest messages of the Kingdom of God and the reign of God? The Bible has a plethora of information about food and eating at God’s table. There are God’s laws about the diets we should eat, health laws, stories related to eating, and/or parables about eating with others at a table or gatherings in the Bible. God gave instructions and laws concerning food and eating. There are stories about feasts, banquets, weddings, and all kinds of celebrations. For many of these God gave specific instructions, as they were designed to worship him.

The word banquet appears in the Bible 38 times, feast 82 times, food 348 times, and eat 592 times. Compare that to love (759 times) and kind (259 times). Love is one of the most important words in the Bible, but eat is close. God must think that food should have an important role in our lives. God made our tongues with 10,000 taste buds. These taste buds give us the ability to have five different senses of taste, which are salty, sour, bitter, sweet, and umami. Think of the words we use to describe the sense of taste—amazing, appetizing, delightful, enticing, exquisite, luscious, sweet, savory, yummy, scrumptious, lip-smacking, and divine to name a few. Why did God give us this amazing ability to taste and enjoy food so much? Because God knows that one of the more profound ways to communicate with us is through the spiritual sense of taste. The Psalmist said “O taste and see the goodness of God.”

child holding a popsicle stick
Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

It looks like we have enjoyed our food since the moment we are born. God did not have to make us capable of experiencing such delight when we eat. He could have given us only a couple hundred taste buds. We could be like other animals and only eat to live and survive.

Obviously, he designed our bodies in a way that we need nourishment to live. We all know that there are pleasures related to eating. For many of us, maybe too many pleasures. Good food is enjoyable as God intended it to be. He made our taste buds so that we enjoy the food we eat. It is a gift to us.

1 Timothy 4:3-4 NLT

But God created those foods to be eaten with thanks by faithful people who know the truth. Since everything God created is good.

Food also shows our dependence on God. Look at the Israelites spending 40 years in the desert. He used food to teach them the lessons he wanted them to understand.

Deuteronomy 8:2-3 NLT

Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live on bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

God has given us food for our enjoyment and uses it as a teaching tool. He gave us dietary guidelines for our health. In the beginning, Adam and Eve were vegetarians.

Genesis 1:29 NLT

Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food.”

Noah was the first person to whom God gave instructions on eating certain animals, as Noah would be on the ark for a year.

Genesis 7:2 NLT

Take with you seven pairsmale and femaleof each animal I have approved for eating and for sacrifice.

Then God gave Moses a long list of dietary restrictions to keep the people of Israel healthy, along with rules on sanitation so that the people of Israel would be the healthiest nation. He is in charge of what we eat and how we eat. We are to eat healthy and in moderation according to the Bible. Many times, we lack self-control and eat poorly or to excess. God has given all these rules because he wants his people to live a healthy life and he combined these rules with feasts and banquets to honor and worship him.

1 Corinthians 10:31

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Sadly, instead of uniting everyone, our beliefs about the Bible and food often divide us. We must not condemn different cultures and nations because of their dietary habits. We must honor the cultures of others. I love eating different types of food.

Romans 14:3 NLT

Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them.

Not only did God make our bodies in a manner to enjoy the food we eat, but he uses food or eating in many ways to teach us about him. He shows us examples of how to live our lives while we are around his table, especially with our families. Research shows that adolescents who eat regular meals with their parents tend to eat more fruits and vegetables and are less likely to be overweight. A positive family meal has been shown to reduce the incidence of eating disorders. The benefits go beyond nutrition. Eating together improves parent-child relationships and gives kids a sense of stability and connectedness. Teens who eat with their families tend to be healthier, happier, and less inclined to risky behavior. They are less likely to think about suicide, take drugs, or suffer from depression. They are more likely to get better grades and delay having sex. There is study after study about the benefits of the family table, especially if it is a Christian table.

Isaiah 55:1-2 NLT

Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink, even if you have no money! Come take your choice of wine and milkit’s all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food.

I believe that food and eating around a table are some of God’s love languages. The table is an icon of God’s grace and love. Eating at God’s table is a sacred place. The people we love the most sit there with us. We tell stories, we laugh together, we talk about our dreams, we discuss our problems, we cry, and we pray. At the table, we experience God’s closeness, kindness, and especially God’s love for us. The table is a place to remember the many blessings that God has given us. This is family time or where friends can spend quality time together.

Sharing tables is one of the most uniquely human things we do. No other creature consumes its food at a table. Sharing food at a table with others reminds us that there’s more to food than nourishment. We don’t only eat for substance. New Testament scholar N.T. Wright stated, “When Jesus himself wanted to explain to his disciples what his forthcoming death was all about, he didn’t give them a theory, he gave them a meal.”

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

One of the most important spiritual disciplines for us to recover in the kind of world we live in today is table fellowship. In today’s hectic world, eating around the table is almost nonexistent. The table is where friends can spend quality time together and develop relationships. Table fellowship doesn’t often make the list of spiritual disciplines today.

It’s sad but many tables look like this today, with their electronics at the table. People are on their smartphones instead of communicating with one another. In today’s chaos where more and more people are losing their way regarding food and their soul, the Christian table has an important message in that sharing a table nourishes us both from health and spiritual standpoints. We need to revive the spiritual significance of what we eat, where we eat, and with whom we eat. 

We need to recover the importance of gathering with people around our tables to enjoy a meal as both a gift from God and a means of grace. During these meals around a table, we get a glimpse of the banquet of the kingdom to come—these meals give us a little foretaste of the shalom of God. These meals are what the Celts call “thin places”—where the veil that separates heaven and earth seems exceedingly thin. 

Isn’t that an interesting way to describe God’s table?  We get closer to God at his table. God’s table is where broken sinners find connection and belonging. We need to share God’s table of fellowship with others to journey together on the road of discipleship.

God’s table is one of the most missional places in our lives. Perhaps before we invite someone to church, we should invite them to dinner. If table fellowship is a vital discipline for sustaining and expanding our life with God, we need to make it a priority to share our tables with people who are in our lives. By Jesus’ admission, he had a reputation among the religious leaders for being a glutton and a drunkard. Look at what Jesus says in Mathew.

Mathew 11:19 NLT

The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, “He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!” But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.

One of the most notable things about Jesus was that he ate and drank with notorious sinners. As Gordon Smith says in his book A Holy Meal, “Eating was for Jesus a key means by which he proclaimed the coming of God’s reign and acted, or enacted its arrival.” Implementing table fellowship as a spiritual discipline means reconnecting with this all-important aspect of Jesus’s life and ministry, and we emulate him by opening our tables to everyone.

There are seven feasts in the Old Testament, found in Leviticus, that all point to Christ.  

Leviticus 23:4 MSG

These are the appointed feasts of God, the sacred assemblies which you are to announce at the times set for them.

There is the feast of Passover, the feast of Unleavened Bread, the feast of First Fruits, the feast of Weeks or Pentecost, the feast of Trumpets, the feast of the Day of Atonement, and the feast of the Tabernacle. These are the feasts or celebrations that God had the Israelites perform to honor and worship him. God used his table as a means of worship.

The Old Testament has many hidden truths that in light of the New Testament bring a richer understanding of living a life in Jesus Christ. God used feasts in the Old Testament to point the way to Christ.

Let’s now look at God’s table in the New Testament. In the Book of Luke alone, there are ten stories about Jesus eating meals with a variety of people. He has a meal with Levi the tax collector, he ate at Simon the Pharisee’s house, Jesus fed the 5,000 people, the meal with Mary and Martha, he dined with unnamed Pharisees on two different occasions, he ate with Zacchaeus, Jesus presided over the Last Supper with his disciples, he ate with the two people in Emmaus story, and he ate with his disciples and a group of his followers when the two people from Emmaus returned to Jerusalem. Jesus calls everyone to come and dine, to feast on who he is, and to learn more about him at his table.

All the stories about feasting, eating, banquets, and fellowship around a table in the Old and New Testaments are pointing to one thing—the Messianic Banquet. Another name is the Heavenly Banquet or Banquet of the Kingdom. The Gospel of Mathew repeatedly describes banquets and feasts as being present in the kingdom of heaven. It is a symbolic portrayal of the blessing of the age to come, in which those chosen by God share in a rich feast with the Messiah. In the New Testament, it is often pictured as a marriage supper with Jesus Christ as the groom and the church as both the bride and invited guests.

Photo from Google Images
Photo from Google Images
Revelation 19:9 NLT

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are the true words that come from God.”

Maybe the best Old Testament description of the Messianic Banquet is found in Isaiah 25, and the parallel description in the New Testament is the Parable of the Great Banquet found in Luke 14. In Isaiah 25, there is clear evidence of a belief in an eschatological banquet that would take place in the age of salvation. 

Isaiah 25:6-8 NIV

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare

a feast of rich food for all peoples,

a banquet of aged wine –

the best of meats and the finest of wines.

On this mountain he will destroy

the shroud that enfolds all peoples,

the sheet that covers all nations;

he will swallow up death forever.

The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears

from all faces;

he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.

The Lord has spoken.

Photo from Shutterstock

I really like the sound of this feast with the best of meats and the finest aged wines. Man, that sounds fantastic. If God is the chef, can you imagine how great that meal is going to be? For God’s people, this will be a victory banquet or an awards banquet after the final battle is over. We will have a victory banquet with Jesus at the head of the table. During the Passover meal, Jesus gives a prophetic sign of the coming of the Kingdom of God and that he will eat and drink with the disciples then. All three synoptic accounts of the Last Supper in Mathew, Mark, and Luke record what Jesus told them. 

Mathew 26:29 NLT

He said to his disciples at the Last Supper, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it with you in My Father’s Kingdom.

Jesus spoke of his longing for the day when he would take communion with his people at the marriage supper of the Lamb. In a real sense, the banquet of the Kingdom is being inaugurated at the Last Supper, but it is not yet completed until Jesus drinks new wine with them again along with all of Jesus’s believers. Jesus gives them a promise for the future.

Luke 22:28-30 NLT

You have stayed with me in my time of trial. And just as my Father has granted me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right to eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom.

Sigmund Freud was wrong when he said, “And finally there is the painful riddle of death, for which no remedy at all has yet been found, nor probably ever will be.” Compare that with God’s triumphant declaration in Isaiah, he will swallow death up forever.

In the New Testament, Jesus drew on the ancient expectations of the Messianic banquet to describe the Kingdom of God. The future coming of God’s kingdom was one of the primary teachings of Jesus. Jesus’ actions were characterized by the practice of open table fellowship of eating and drinking with men and women otherwise outside the pale of acceptable table companions. All are welcome at Jesus’ table.

The heavenly kingdom, which now exists in the transcendent realm, and which will soon appear, is being made present now through Jesus’ sign of the Heavenly Banquet of the Kingdom at the Last Supper. Those 10,000 taste buds I mentioned before are connecting you with Jesus when you partake of Holy Communion. Jesus said to take the elements of Holy Communion in remembrance of him. Your taste buds remind you of the events of the Last Supper and his sacrifice. Taste requires us to consciously choose to be fully present. We take nourishment into our bodies, and it becomes part of us. Our bodies transform the elements into cells in our bodies and make up who we are. Taste is a way in which the presence of God becomes more of a reality to us. Holy Communion has a specific taste that is spiritual. At the Last Supper, Jesus gave the disciples a foretaste and a share in the Messianic banquet of the heavenly Kingdom of God.

You can see that Jesus spent a lot of time eating with all kinds of people and used his table as a time to spend with the people he loves and to commune with them.

The Parable of the Great Banquet found in Luke 14 is another foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet. This parable takes us close to the heart of God. It shows us how he wants everyone to accept his invitation to his specially prepared banquet. It shows us the reality of the choices we make in this life and the consequences of those choices. The setting was at the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath. Jesus noticed that some of the invited guests at the house were seeking the more honored places to sit. They were pushing their way into getting a better seat. It sounds like we haven’t changed much in all these years. Jesus spoke about being humble and seeking a lower position. He then spoke about inviting the poor and the crippled to dinner, even though they could not repay the host. Then we have the starting of the parable of the Great Banquet in Luke.

Luke 14:15-24 NLT

Hearing this, a man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of Heaven!”

Jesus replied with this story: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations.

When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, Come, the banquet is ready.

But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’

Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’

Another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’

After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’

So, his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full.

For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’”

The parable of the Great Banquet reveals the choices people make in their lives. In the hectic fast-paced world we live in today, many people have no time for God or his table. The Great Banquet parable describes a foretaste of the banquet in the Kingdom of God. The Great Banquet is provided by God because he wants to spend time with the people he loves around the table he has prepared for them. God wants everyone to attend his Banquet or have communion with him at his table. Jesus loves spending time around his table. As discussed, there is example after example of his communing with his people at banquets, feasts, and around his table throughout the Bible. 

Being around God’s table is one of the most important ways that he wants to spend time with you. As I said before, the Celts say the meals at God’s table are called thin places, where the veil that separates heaven and earth seems exceedingly thin. A Christian table is a place where that veil is nearly transparent. God’s table is where he likes to spend time with you, where he feels close to you and you can feel close to him. The closeness and communication between you and God at his Christian table might be the most intimate and personal experience of your entire life. That is what Holy Communion is all about.

Revelations 3:20 NLT

Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.

dinner table in heaven
Photo from Google Images

Jesus wants to sit down with you at his table. Pray before each meal and invite him to be at the table with you and your family. Knock, knock. Do you hear Jesus knocking?

(Fill in the blank with your name)

You are invited to come dine with me,
From now through eternity,

Believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
And dine with Jesus as your host
To live in heaven eternally
All you must do is…RSVP

Dr. James E. Croley III is a respected eye surgeon and a Christian. He is the author of two booksBelieving is Seeing and The Blinding of AmericaOrder copies for your family and friends today.

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