Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fulfilled Promises

It used to bother me that when we come to the Lord’s Table we only get these tiny pieces of bread and this tiny thimble full of wine. I realize that this is, in part, because there are so many of us and it would put us in the poor house if we were to have a huge feast every week. But then I noticed that God loves to give glimpses and hints of what the future holds, instead of giving the promised blessing all at once. For example, God let Adam live in the garden for a short time, then, because of sin, booted him out. But we know what glory will be like because of that short preview of what we will one day receive. God sent Abraham to the promised land, but didn’t allow him or his family to live there for over 400 years. And when Israel was finally allowed to live in the land, even that was only a hint of what God had in store for his people.

The book of Hebrews tells us that the Jews had to sacrifice an animal every year; this showed that the sacrifices were only temporary. The atonement made by the blood of bulls and goats was not sufficient to cover the sins of the people for more than a year. Consequently, the writer tells us, the annual Day of Atonement pointed forward to a day in the future, when someone would come and permanently take away the sins of the people. Jesus, the perfect lamb, offered by the perfect high priest, was that someone. And because He was the perfect sacrifice, He only needed to die once. In Him our sin is taken away forever. But until the actual fulfillment of the promise came, the people only got glimpses of what was coming.

In the same way, gathering together week after week, eating this tiny morsel and drinking this drop of wine, is meant to cause us to long for more. This mini feast shows us that this meal is not permanent. It is true that even in this small, weekly preview of what is to come, God is making us into Christ’s likeness, but the amount we get and the weekly repetition shows us that we have not yet arrived. We are still in the process. We are still groaning inwardly as we wait for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies, as Romans 8:23 tells us. Eating and drinking every week reminds us of this fact.

This should not cause us to despair, however. Jesus said, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (Jn. 6:35). And Paul found a way to be content even though he hungered and went through all sorts of trials, because he knew that he could “do all things through Christ who strengthened” him (Phil. 4:13). And John found that those who hold fast to the word of God, even unto death, would “hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Rev. 7:16-17).

We know and are reminded that these passages are true, because every week we are invited to participate in this small meal. Let us eat together.

Father, you are the God of patterns and consistency. You make promises and fulfill them. And in the process you give your people hints and clues as to how you will be fulfilling those promises. We thank you for the gift of the bread and wine because we know that one day we will be eating and drinking in your presence with the Lord and all your people. In Jesus Name we pray Amen.

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