I like a good meal. The bathroom scale can verify that.
More than eating the actual meal, however, I love the fellowship that mealtime brings.
My cousin Tim has been busy this week posting photos to a family Facebook page. Each photo from events and places I remember evokes feelings and memories and aromas – especially aromas – from times gone past.
In my book, there is nothing better than sitting down with family and friends around a table of home-cooked food, prepared by loving hands and shared over laughter and thoughts and sometimes tall tales.
In God’s book, mealtime is pretty special, too.
I always smile when I think about Jesus gathering some wood on the beach, throwing a few fish on the barbecue, and shouting, “Hey, come eat some breakfast!” to the disciples in John 21.
Isn’t this a great “man moment?” Just the guys, a boat, a fire, and a beach. I can just picture the elbow nudging and camaraderie that took place that morning.
Jesus had a purpose as they sat there in the sand. He wanted to publicly forgive Peter. He could have forgiven Peter in private. Instead, he met the guys down at the beach, cooked them breakfast, and let them in on a few things that were about to take place.
So it also went at The Last Supper. Matthew says Jesus called the Passover a celebration and depicts the Lord reclining at the table with the disciples (NIV). This was no stuffy, formal banquet amongst diplomats. Jesus was reclining! Some interpretations have John actually lying on Jesus’ chest. They eat. Luke recounts unbelievable stories told around that table! The boys shoot the bull, arguing about who is greatest among them. They hear some bad stuff about Peter and Judas. Jesus and the disciples grow closer. And before they leave, they sing a hymn.
God created food to experience. If it weren’t special, God would not have given us such a variety of it. Food is a gift and a blessing, but most of all, it serves a High purpose. Mealtime is a time to draw close in fellowship, with each other and with the God who makes it possible.
When the Israelites grumbled through hunger pangs in the desert, God heard their cries and promised to “rain bread from heaven” on them. God didn’t have to feed them. He is God. He could have sustained them by and through His omnipotence.
But each day, for 40 years, God’s people gathered food as a group. Together they went out and scooped up manna after it fell from the sky. As they scooped up each handful, they could hardly deny the fact that God was there with them.
God is always around when the dinner bell rings. Just ask Elijah.
“Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.’ So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook.” – 1 Kings 17:2-6 (NKJV)
After the brook dried up, God sent Elijah to a woman – a poor widow – with barely enough food to keep herself and her son alive for one more day. Mealtime became ultra special! Elijah, the woman, and her son ate for days on the rations God provided.
“… and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah.” – 1 Kings 17:15-16
Elijah, the widow, and her son ate together; they fellowshipped. They swapped stories (1 Kings 17: 18, 24). As a result of this intimate time together, initiated by the need for a meal, the woman believed, and her son’s life was spared.
Elijah and the widow shared something more than a meal. They shared a promise. Similar promises, or covenants, are highlighted throughout the Old Testament through the partaking of meals. Melchizedek and Abram share a meal in Genesis 14. Jacob and Laban “kiss and make up,” for lack of a better way to put it, over a meal in Genesis 31.
Isaac asks Esau to hunt and prepare “savory food” for him before giving Esau his blessing (Genesis 21). Isaac didn’t need dinner to bestow his blessing on Esau, but he wanted celebration and fellowship as he handed his oldest son his inheritance.
This is where God wants our focus to be during mealtime, on relationships with family, friends, and most importantly, the Great Provider.
God even covers mealtime in the most widely known prayer of the entire Bible: “Give us this day our daily bread,” Jesus says as he teaches the disciples to pray in Matthew 6:11.
He reminds us, however, earlier in Matthew 4 that “our daily bread” is never provided by the work of our own hands. Jesus refused, at the devil’s prompting in the wilderness, to “command that these stones become bread” by confirming in the next verse that all that sustains us comes only from God.
“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
So eat up. Enjoy. And don’t forget to give thanks and set an extra plate.