12 December 2016Isaiah 25:6-10
“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.” (v. 6)
Psalm: Psalm 71:1-11
Isaiah is a complex book with multiple parts to it and without universal agreement about how it came about. Generally, though, this passage is seen as part of a section from Isaiah 24:1 to 27:13 known as 'The Apocalypse of Isaiah'. And within that, this passage is the second half of a song of thanksgiving, where it anticipates a heavenly banquet.
Living in a very different time and culture our view of a banquet is likely to be different to those who first heard the prophet, especially for those who were living at a subsistence level, where such plenty and variety might have seemed beyond their imaginations. Certainly, the sorts of feasts we commonly enjoy would be incomprehensible to them.
Today, with all that is happening around us, during a great refugee crisis when hate towards immigrants is not uncommon and difference is attacked rather than celebrated perhaps the song has other challenges for us - particularly its images of a welcome to the feast for all peoples.
The image of God's kingdom being like a feast is a common one, Psalm 23 and the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-14) being among the best known. These feasts often reflect a welcome for those who are excluded, or oppressed, or poor.
So here Isaiah looks forward to God's kingdom being like a wonderful rich feast at which all are welcome, a feast that does not end, for death has been destroyed along with all suffering, and yet a feast that is still to come.
As we consider this feast and the one in Psalm 23 in the light of the teaching and example of Jesus then maybe we can imagine that it includes not just those who are poor, excluded etc but also our enemies. Jesus challenges us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), he ate with those many considered to be enemies (Luke 19:1-10) and he forgave those who killed him (Luke 23:34). Maybe the greater challenge to us is not to imagine wonderful food, but to visualise sharing it with those we currently think of as our enemies.
- Who are the people we would most struggle to share a feast with?
- How do you feel about God challenging us to imagine those people sharing God's feast with us?