This subject, and consequently this article, deals with one of the practical things of life. And then with one of those things of life which we usually enjoy, and is often classified with the bright side of life—banquets, feasts, festivals, eating and drinking together to our contentment. Such is often considered as one of the optimistic, cheerful aspects of our life on this earth. Who does not like to attend a banquet occasionally? Due to this it often becomes a means of great sin and abusing the good gifts of our heavenly Father. More about this later.
With a practical subject of this nature we naturally would expect nothing else but a practical essay. By merely reading the title it becomes evident to us that this is not a detailed, objective Theological dissertation. No, something which takes place in our very life, feasts etc. But with a writing on Christian Banquets it is different. Practical, to be sure, but such must proceed and come forth from the objective word of God in us.
The first question to be answered here, to my opinion, is what we include under the word banquets. Do we mean merely formal banquets, such as are often given by Church societies, business men, etc. or do we mean more? Much more. All formal as well as informal banquets, feasts, dinners, Thanksgiving dinners, family get-togethers, etc. All get-togethers with a view to eat and drink and enjoy the bounties of this earth in fellowship with one another. From that viewpoint the word banquet includes much. Now as far as the spiritual-ethical aspect of all these is concerned it is not a question to the conscientious Christian whether these should be held in a Christian way. He knows better. He knows that in all things he must serve His God. Whether he eats or whether he c inks, or whatever he does, he must do it to the glory o. God. Consequently he wants Christian banquets.
But one more thing. No more than we limit the word banquet to formal banquets, no more is it our purpose with this essay to try to show how we must conduct a Christian banquet, what kind of programs we should have, songs we should sing, etc. That is not our purpose. But the purpose is to write a few words on the idea of a Christian banquet. How a child of God, in the midst of this world, by nature under the wrath of God, worthy of eternal punishment, living in this life which is but a continual death, we say, how he should feast. How must he feast? How can his banquets be of spiritual benefit? For it is about this question that he is concerned. How can his banquets be to God’s glory? What must be the character and aim and purpose of his festivities to reach that end? It is about that that we are writing.
What then constitutes a Christian banquet? This is the all-important question. What makes a family get-together with a view to eating and drinking a Christian one? What must we have at our banquets and festivities so that they can be Christian banquets and of spiritual benefit? That is the heart of the matter. Does a mere outward prayer, a Christian program, good Christian songs, etc. make our banquets Christian? Far from it. So we often think. If we have those, then it can carry away God’s blessing. But if we have no more than that we never will have one. We must have these, to be sure. And we can never go without them. But a formal prayer, etc. does not make a banquet Christian? The fundamental requisite for a Christian banquet lies much deeper. And that all-important requisite is a true and humble heart. A heart in which the life of God is found, that is humble, realizes the realities of things, and now overflows with thanksgiving. And if we don’t have that, then we’ll never have a Christian banquet. A heart that realizes what we are by nature: God is not in our thoughts, we sin continually with our whole being, are under the holy wrath of God. That God can righteously punish us, afflict us even in this life as He pleases, can cause us even to die of starvation, righteously, and then send us to hell. But also a heart that has now tasted the rich unfathomable love of God and the beauty and wonders of His grace in Christ Jesus. God now blesses him in all things. And a token of that blessedness and love he sees before him in the laden table of his banquet. Yea, even if it is not laden as it could be, he can still hold a banquet. And that humble and thankful heart will then want to pray, have a Christian program, etc. He will want to do what Deut. 8:10 tells us: “When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which He hath given thee.” Such a heart does not want to live by bread alone, but by every Word that doth proceed out of the mouth of God.
And so it also becomes very Evident that it is only the Christian that can have a Christian banquet, to be sure, but have any banquet. The world cannot have a true, real banquet. They do not have the love of God, nor do they have His life, but neither can they have a real banquet.
But that naturally doesn’t mean that the world doesn’t have its banquets and festivities. They certainly do. The world is full of them, one finds and hears of them all over. In general one finds even more of them among the worldly people than the church. They receive the same gifts that we do, rain and sunshine and crops, have good jobs, too, and possibly better than we do because they have no regard for the keeping of the Sabbath or for being members of a worldly union. Their tables are laden, and possibly even more than ours. But does that mean that God loves them more than His own children? We know better. The wrath of God is upon the wicked and the curse of the Lord is in their house. Not out of love, but out of wrath. And God is not in all their thoughts, they despise Him, do not acknowledge Him for His gifts, but view them as their bounties, their possession to use in the service of sin. And the result of this we see very readily in their banquets: excessive eating and drinking, revelry, gluttony, drunkenness and rioting. We see that all over. They make a God of their belly. Why? Because these gifts are not a means unto an end with them as with the Christian, but find the end in themselves. They realize that they finally can take nothing with them, they have nothing to live for but themselves, and consequently make a God of their belly or something else. Soul, thou hast much, eat, drink and be merry. And it is worthy of note that with banquets of worldly people mentioned in Scripture we always find such revelry, be it a feast of Nabal, or of the Amelekites, or of Ahasuerus or of a Herod. Always drunkenness or dancing, or both.
But with the child of God it is different. But also here we find different views. The “extremely narrow minded” may even shrug their shoulders in respect to any banquet. They may remark that such always inclines us to worldliness, and possibly come with a wrong interpretation of the words: “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting.” But these are few in number in our day. But large is the number of church members that view it different, exactly opposite. Sure, we must lead a Christian life, walk as Christians, but once in a while we must be able to “cut-loose” though. After all we are human. Such do not hesitate for one minute to attend a banquet or feast that is not Christian, even though it may appear under a cloak of Christianity by a formal prayer. I personally remember very well from my boyhood days, that the Young Men’s Society or some other society of my church would give a sort of banquet and program in which all would have a “good time.” One evening of the year they could go beside the line, and more or less forget about all “narrow-mindedness.” But the conscientious Christian certainly will not say such. He will attend banquets, but only when they are Christian. It is true that with banquets and feasts and big dinners we are apt to forget God, our nature is inclined to make a God of our belly. Job certainly sensed that too, bringing burnt offerings after the feast of his sons, perchance his sons had sinned. But Job doesn’t forbid them to hold a feast. If it is only done right, as we have mentioned. With a humble and thankful heart to our Father.
But even this is often found lacking among God’s children, knowing better. Often that faith is lacking. Why do we like to go to banquets? Because we want to see God’s love manifested to us, and have an overflowing heart of thankfulness? Often not, but to make a god of our belly. Not nearly always do we view the laden table as a manifestation of God’s love to us, but as coming to us. We worked for it, or bought it, didn’t we? Often the humility is lacking, the realization what we have deserved; our thankfulness is nowhere to be found; and our prayers are nothing but formality. But we should strive to attain perfection, even with our banquets. Then, in the right way, they certainly can be of spiritual benefit.
But how are we going to do it? The fundamental requisite is a humble and thankful heart, but what can we do in respect to this to improve it? Absolutely nothing. Also here man is helpless. Only God’s Word and Spirit can do that. It is only by His Word and Spirit that we learn to know our nature, see what we have deserved, God’s wrath and not even a morsel of bread or a drop of water. And that we must hear time and again because we forget it so easily. But by means of His Word and Spirit we also learn to know that unfathomable love, the countless treasures and riches of God’s grace in Christ Jesus, His Son. The child of God tastes that. And so he can have a Christian banquet, with a responding heart. And the purer that Word comes to us in preaching and other means, the more we see the terribleness of God’s wrath upon us by nature, but the greater the love in Christ, and the more response and the more Christian our banquets become. Faith by means of the Word and Spirit, hope, confidence, sanctification, etc., but also Christian banquets. Christian Banquets. A practical subject, of course! But it can be practiced only by means of the Word and Spirit.
And the result of that work of God through the Word and Spirit will be and is—living in the faith. Not merely intellectual knowledge, knowing God’s wrath and love. Such alone will not give us Christian banquets. But the sanctified knowledge. Then we live what we know and hear, my unworthiness and God’s love. Then our banquets will be Christian. Then the hope and certainty is ours—of being called unto the eternal marriage supper of the Lamb.