A couple of weeks ago, I was studying for finals at my mom’s house while she and my stepdad were gone, and Moriyah, my oldest daughter, was there with me. From a very young age, she has been really attached to me and always has to have “daddy time” even if I can’t be completely involved like when I was studying. Lunch time rolled around, and I was asking her what she wanted for lunch.
Me: Moriyah, do you want sweet potato fries with your fish sticks or something else?
Moriyah: Just Daddy. Fish sticks and Daddy.
My eyes immediately welled with tears as that response stopped me dead my tracks. I was overwhelmed with a sense of pride that my daughter desired my presence in her meal and the disappointment in myself that I too often lack this perspective during meal times.
In a world of immediate gratification, fast food restaurants are on every corner with drive through lines filled to the road at all meal times. Though some do, largely we don’t really have the appreciation of table fellowship that is seen in the Scriptures. Many times, we’re simply grabbing food in the drive through and eating it in the car. Eating, in that sense, is not a means of fellowship, either with God or other people, but a means to support the hustle of our busy lives. We have to eat to survive and continue this worldly race, so let’s grab something quickly and make sure we don’t die in the process.
In those times when we do pause in the day to have a meal with others, the picture is often of two or more people sitting at a table of silence, cell phones in their faces. In this instance, the meal is being had, but there is no real fellowship, again neither with God nor with others.
All my life, I’ve been one that could do things alone. I have been known to go to the movies alone, eat alone, or shop alone. It’s not that I want to be alone; rather, it’s simply that I want to do something at that time when no one else is available. When most people hear that you have no problem doing something alone, the response is usually something along the lines, “I could never eat alone. That’s so sad.” Honestly, I don’t feel sad when I’m doing it; I’m simply doing something that I wanted to do. However, even when I, a person that doesn’t mind doing it, sees someone else eating alone, I still feel that sense of sadness for them.
Why is this? Meals have always been intended to be shared with others. Table fellowship is a topic that the Scriptures give a lot of attention and importance. From the very beginning of the Scriptures, we see that food and the fellowship that is intended to accompany it are honored and given parameters of restriction. The fall of man came about through improper table fellowship, if you will. Once God established His House on earth in the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, the system of worship and offering was a system of table fellowship. When you brought offerings to God, outside of the whole burnt offering, it was either consumed by the priests or by the one who brought the offering. It was a time to draw near to God and have table fellowship with Him. Malachi 1:7 tells us that God’s altar is His table.
“You offer defiled food on My altar,
‘In what way have we defiled You?’
‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’
-Malachi 1:7 NKJV
Going forward into the New Testament, we see that the idea of table fellowship was a huge focus of attention and contention. When Peter tried to break table fellowship with converts to the faith due to social norms and pressure, Paul chastised him for doing so. When Yeshua (Jesus) saw a multitude of people coming towards Him because they had seen what He had done to heal the sick, He didn’t tell them, “Ok, everyone have a seat while I tell you all what to believe.” No, he said to bring some food and share it with them. When they didn’t have enough, He provided in a way only He could to ensure that all were fed. Finally, one of the most well-known stories of the Scriptures is that of the Last Supper. Theologian N.T. Wright stated well when he said, “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.” We must remember that was the time of Passover, a time of a sacred meal to honor God and remember the freedom He has brought.
For us today, meals are most importantly a time of blessing, an opportunity to give thanks to God and to do so in unison with other believers. Deuteronomy 8:10 tells us that when we have eaten and we are full, we are to bless God for His provision of food and land, a land which has brought forth the bounty in which we are fed. Each week as the Sabbath begins on Friday night, we have a service in our home to honor the day and set it apart from the rest. During that time, we give many blessings to God for His provisions and His holy day of rest, a day to have table fellowship with Him yet again even while His house is no longer standing. We also speak blessings over the children and our wives during that time. Therefore, meals are a time for us to be encouraged by God, recognizing He has provided our most basic needs, and a time to encourage others through blessings.
Meals are also a time to restore the broken people of the world and the broken relationships in our lives. Luke 14:12-14 relates that the most important meals are the meals we offer to those that cannot repay us: the poor, the blind, and the sick. The most important meals are the ones that are fed without the idea that it could ever be repaid to us, and in this we see the picture of God, Who feeds us the bread of heaven that we could never return. Luke 7 tells the story of Yeshua in Simon’s house when the woman comes to wash His feet with her tears. When the objection comes, He points out that in her brokenness, her faith was what brought her near to the table. While those sitting with Him would exclude her, He recognized her faith and forgave her, bringing her into His table, feeding her in a way that she could not repay.
When it comes to our personal relationships, I have seen meals be the buffer that heals broken relationships. When people have offense and bitterness with others, it’s easy to tell someone over the phone how mad or upset you are, but it’s harder to serve the other person by preparing your house and table for a meal of fellowship with them, placing God first before the issues can be discussed. When we show a service to others and to God by preparing the meal, giving Him praises and blessings during the meal with each other, the enemy is left outside the door with no way to enter in and cause more chaos.
Recently, someone asked me why Beit Shalom does not have an altar call or a time for people to come and have the opportunity of salvation. From the outside looking in, I can understand why someone could think that we don’t offer the salvation of faith to those that come into the doors since we don’t have that call openly in our services. However, from inside the doors, the offer of salvation is offered up in the form of table fellowship with any number of people in our Congregation. When we have visitors to our Congregation, they walk away with multiple invitations to people’s homes for fellowship where true relationships can be built and the Gospel message of freedom in Yeshua can be shared in its fullness. We may have our struggles in our community like any other community, but I’m always proud of the love shown by all through hospitality even to the strangers.
We’ve had a true servant of God join our Congregation this year, and he moved from several states over to join us. As he was travelling to different communities and congregations, wondering where he would find his new home, God told him, “When they invite you into their homes, you have found your place to settle.” After visiting our Congregation, he had multiple invitations from several people, leadership included, to come into their homes, and the offer wasn’t just for table fellowship but for a place to lay his head. The answer God had given was made manifest in table fellowship.
The process of preparing a meal takes time, something we often rid ourselves of in our busy lives. At times, I am the worst at making time in my life, but I have been working hard towards correcting that. When we take the time to prepare a meal for others and make God the focus of that meal, God can and will do big things in our lives. In a meal, both the love for God and the love for our neighbor is made manifest through the service towards our neighbor the praises and blessings towards our God. The beautiful story of the Scriptures is then brought to life in that single meal, showing the desire of God to serve and have table fellowship with all people.
This is idea of God’s desire for table fellowship with all is shown in Revelation 19:9 which states that those who have faith in Him are called to the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb”. The culmination of the Gospel message is when God’s people are united to Him, the bridegroom, in a marriage supper, the most intimate table fellowship we will ever have.
Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 3 and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.
- Matthew 18:3-5
We all refer to this portion of Matthew often when trying to make a point about humility or gentleness. In the context of this topic, my daughter reminded of something beautiful that I can too often miss – the beauty of a meal shared with others, unified to glorify God in the manner that He established in the Garden of Eden. May we all remember to slow down, serve our brothers and sisters in food and fellowship, and praise God for the ability to do so.
Many blessings to you all.