Why We Feast?
New Year's Day, like Thanksgiving before it, is often a time of feasting and celebration. We gather together with family and friends to celebrate new beginnings and the prospects of a new year ahead of us. However, there is much in the way that I have always celebrated at these times that seems borderline gluttonous. If I had to bet, I would guess that many of you are silently nodding your heads with me. Now, at the risk of sounding like the college freshman who has come home from school for the holidays after becoming all-knowing and all-wise through a semester of Philosophy 101 at university, may I raise a fair question for Christians? Is it right to feast so sumptuously and bountifully? Or is it bad stewardship, greedy, and gluttonous? I hope my question has not squelched all possibility of celebrating and feasting because I believe Scripture gives us good reason to celebrate with a bounteous feast. I believe the answer to this question rests in an attitude of worship, the practice of hospitality, and the nature of fellowship.
A feast is necessary when it is accompanied with an attitude of worship toward the God who has so generously provided. This is one of the components that the Lord built into the feasts and festivals that He commanded His people to observe in the Old Testament. Do we return gratitude to the Lord for the bountiful way in which He has provided for us--spiritually and materially? Is our feast in celebration of God’s provision for us? “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor 4:7). “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof” (Ps 24:1). There is nothing you have that did not come from God’s hand. Is your feast a celebration of the good and generous God who gave? If you feast with an attitude of worship, it is right to be as generous and extravagant as God has been with you.
A feast is necessary when it is accompanied with the practice of hospitality. We are called to be hospitable (Rom 12:13). This means that we practice the biblical commands to care for the widow, the fatherless, and the alien (Deut 10:18, 19; 24:19-22). If we give attention to the poor and disadvantaged we should have no reservations about feasting. Could you do more? Sure, you could always do more to serve the poor, the needy, and the disadvantaged; but we must temper this urge with the wisdom from the Preacher in Ecclesiastes, “Be not overly righteous…” (Eccl 7:16). The intention is that with the plenty God has entrusted to you, are you being generous in giving to those in need? If so, then celebrate God’s goodness of generous care by feasting.
A feast is necessary when it is accompanied with true fellowship. Think about all the times Jesus would share food with his disciples. It is no accident that the visual picture God has given us of Christ, his sacrifice for us, and our fellowship with him is a meal. We celebrate a feast each week when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper in the bread and the wine. This is a picture of the extravagant meal, the bounteous feast, and the over-whelming indulgence of God’s generous grace. Through Christ we are given a seat at the table of the King. This is same kindness David showed to Mephibosheth (2 Sam 9, this is a great story, go read it!) when he gave the grandson of his enemy a seat at the table. God’s grace is bigger than our need.
The grace we have in Christ is extravagant. It is a prodigal love; a love that is lavish and wasteful. The proverbs speaks of the greed of the grave. “Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied” (Prov 27:20), “The leech has two daughters; ‘Give’ and ‘Give,’ they cry. Three things are never satisfied; four never say, ‘Enough’: Sheol, the barren womb, the land never satisfied with water, and the fire never says, ‘Enough’” (Prov 30:15-16). It paints a picture of the bottomless pit of death. No feast would fill it. It is insatiably hungry like a Middle School boy in a growth spurt. But the generosity of God is demonstrated in that Jesus was in grave for three days just as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish (Matt 12:40). But what happened to Jonah? The great fish vomited him onto the beach. What happened to Jesus? The grave, which can never be satisfied or filled, was over-filled with the fullness of the Son of God and vomited him out (I apologize if I just ruined your appetite). Death was filled to the brim and overflowed with the lavishness, the immensity, the bigness of Christ. Death feasted on Christ until it was destroyed. And that feast which brought death to death brings life to us. And that gives us reason to celebrate with a feast! We have many reasons to be thankful, so we have many reasons for which to feast.
Joe Rigney The Things of Earth
John Sittema Meeting Jesus at the Feast
"Sacrifices and Festivals in the Old Testament" (A Christ the Center interview with Dr. Ben Shaw)
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