Ancient Answers

The Bible in party mode

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Oh, my goodness, who ever said that the Bible doesn’t know how to party? And party with the most expensive foods and wines!! I can’t wait to see the full menu! And yet, this wonderful verse comes in the middle of a chapter that celebrates the defat of Moab, one of Israel’s perennial enemies. And it follows a longer chapter 24 in Isaiah that describes the devastation of the earth in language that is more dire than any climate change forecast. And not only the earth, but heaven too! Read chapter 24 and shudder at the language of destruction. I will not quote it here because I shudder at the sheer terror of the imagery.

Even the wine mourns in chapter 24 (verse 7). And yet, here in chapter 25, verse 6, the Lord will feast the peoples with the finest aged wine. And note, that the promise in this verse is not reserved solely for God’s people, Israel. God will offer this feast of food and wine for “all peoples.” It is not unusual for the Bible to move from harsh language of judgment and destruction to language of comfort and celebration. The book of Isaiah is full of such contrasts.

The illustrated verse is part of a paragraph that needs to be read. It is the opposite of the terrors in chapter 24:

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined. And he will destroy on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death for ever, 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.

What a marvelous vision, what beautiful promise! The destruction and devastation of chapter 24 is followed by this vision of healing and celebration. Yes, celebration is never absent for long from the language of the Bible. Jesus himself used images of feasts and dinners to describe heaven and the kingdom of God. Eating is the Bible’s favorite way to represent fellowship with God. And that perhaps should not surprise us, since so much of the world’s population is starving!

I will quote one verse from chapter 24, despite the reluctance I expressed above to quote anything from that chapter of devastation:

The earth lies polluted
    under its inhabitants;
for they have transgressed the laws,
    violated the statutes,
    broken the everlasting covenant.

It is not only the judgments of God that destroy, but also our sins against God’s eternal command to be good stewards of the earth and all life on it; to care for each other, to see that no one goes hungry; to share the wealth of the earth instead of hoarding it. The everlasting covenant has been broken repeatedly by human beings. But God will heal. And so in chapter 25, in the paragraph that includes today’s illustrated verse, we read: And he will destroy on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. It’s like a shadow has come over the nations, that blinds us to the sufferings of others and our own destructiveness. Part of God’s healing will be to remove the cover, the veil, that blinds the nations! This is one of the most profound promises in the entire Bible, and it is one that we can all understand, especially from our vantage in the 21st century.

And finally there is that promise that has come to reality in Jesus Christ: God will swallow up death and wipe away all tears from the faces of people. What else can God promise? What other incentive can God offer to create in us a desire to turn back, to return to God and our Lord Jesus Christ? May the Helper, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, guide our steps back to the rich food and wine that waits for us. Bon appétit.

 

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