Who is Invited to the Table?

by Joseph Franks

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The first Passover took place in Egypt. God commanded any father, who wished to save his firstborn son, to slaughter a lamb, spread its blood around their front door, and partake of a sacred meal. It was a meal of delight and doom. While some sons were dining safely in the warmth and safety of their homes, others were being executed by the death angel of God. The Passover meal brought great joy to some, while bringing overwhelming sorrow and tears to others.

Later, this meal was declared by God to be a lasting ordinance. The Feast of Passover was to be an annual ceremony to be kept by the Israelites. Forever, they were to remember God’s destruction of his enemies and salvation of his friends. Those partaking were to rejoice in God’s covenantal favor. Those refusing to obey and eat, they were removed from the camp and considered “cut off” from God’s people. Clearly, fellowship at the table implied one was in good fellowship with the delightful and dangerous God.

But a couple questions were asked:

  • What if one finds himself accidentally unclean?
  • What if a Gentile sojourner, traveler, resident or slave wishes to take part in Israel’s sacred meal?
  • Are unclean Gentiles allowed to come and dine?

Moses queried God and received his answer:

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If any one of you or of your descendants is unclean through touching a dead body, or is on a long journey, he shall still keep the Passover to the LORD. In the second month on the fourteenth day at twilight they shall keep it. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They shall leave none of it until the morning, nor break any of its bones; according to all the statute for the Passover they shall keep it. But if anyone who is clean and is not on a journey fails to keep the Passover, that person shall be cut off from his people because he did not bring the LORD’s offering at its appointed time; that man shall bear his sin. And if a stranger sojourns among you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, according to the statute of the Passover and according to its rule, so shall he do. You shall have one statute, both for the sojourner and for the native.” (Numbers 9:9-14)

God provides a welcome. Unclean people, who long to be clean and dine at the table, are invited to come. It is a table of grace and mercy; no one deserves to be found partaking. The divine host invites dirty, sinful, and spiritually hungry men and women to come and be fed. And while the festive meal is Hebrew in foundation, it is intended for both natives and aliens. Around the holy table, God makes no distinctions between the Jewish or Greek individual.

However, in the midst of this passage, God also provides a warning. An outwardly religious Israelite, who spurns the worship requirements of the Lord, and considers God’s offerings and feasts to be of little importance, he is to be cut off from his people.  The Israelite who excuses himself from the table is to be excommunicated from the assembly. God’s invitation to come and dine is also a command.

Therefore friends, as we approach the Lord’s Supper this weekend, how ought we to apply this passage?

1.  Realize the table is one of great seriousness to God. He institutes it. He hosts it. He watches over it. He harms those who partake wrongly. He expels those who treat it as unnecessary. In the Old Covenant, men who treated his meal with contempt were cut off from God’s people. In the New Covenant, individuals who treat his meal with contempt are made sick, and some of them perish. (1 Corinthians 11)  So come to the table of the Lord, but come seriously. Do not be absent. Do not be late. Do not be apathetic or superficial.

2.  Realize the table is one of grace and mercy. None of the Israelites deserved to annually dine with God. None of the Twelve Disciples deserved to have Jesus serve them bread and wine. No one in our churches is holy enough to serve and eat the sacred New Covenant meal. It is a table for the unfaithful and undeserving who see hate their sin and see their need. So, come humbly to the Lord’s Supper this week.

3.  Realize the table is one of great delight and joy. It is to be a feast and not a snack. While there, realize God is vanquishing his enemies and saving his friends. While noting our unworthiness, notice the command that we assemble and eat. In a real sense we do belong there. We must be there. We are redeemed children of the King, and it is meal time. Great blessings are attached to dining with God. Intimate communion is increased as we worship our Redeemer, Savior, King, and Lover. Around us is our new family. So, while coming seriously and humbly, also come confidently, boldly and excitedly to the table.

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