The Lord’s Banquet
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoplesIsaiah 25:6 (NRSV)
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
Isaiah foresaw a rich banquet spread for the people of God on God’s holy mountain, much like the feast Moses and the seventy elders attended, and reminiscent of the Lord’s invitation for all God’s people to sup with the Lord each year, to spend their tithe on all the delicacies they desired and enjoy the Lord’s largesse together with God at God’s table. Isaiah’s vision also called to mind the Psalmist’s portrayal of the Lord setting table for God’s own even in the darkest valley.
The Gospel’s Wedding Banquet
Jesus also spoke a number of times of a celebratory feast to be enjoyed with God. On one of these occasions, in a speech that neatly dovetails with Isaiah’s vision, Jesus praised the faith of a foreigner, a centurion.
When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him,
“Truly I tell you, in no onein Israel have I found such faith.
I tell you, many will come from east and west and will take their places at the banquet with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.”Matthew 8:10-13 (NRSV)
On numerous occasions, Jesus likened Himself to a Bridegroom Who would one day be joined with His bride at a great wedding feast. His stories included
- The Father’s determination that every place at the banquet table would be filled with those who were eager to celebrate with Jesus.
- What would happen to those who would refuse to attend though invited in ample time and given many opportunities to come.
- The destiny of those who would come yet refuse to wear the festal garments prepared for them.
- What would happen for those who would be prepared and those who would not be prepared for Jesus’s return.
- The reason every day with Jesus was like a wedding feast for His disciples and followers.
- What would happen for those who actively kept watch for Jesus’s arrival to the banquet.
Reminiscent of Isaiah’s vision of well-aged wine decanted to perfection, Jesus offered miraculous wine for a wedding feast in Cana. This first miraculous act was
- A sign to His disciples and the servants who poured each libation.
- A prophecy of His own crucifixion, when water and blood would pour forth from the wound in His side.
- Acknowledgement of His mother’s faith and encouragement.
Jesus’s miracle also portrayed Isaiah’s vision, for the wedding wine was all gone and disaster would ensue without The Lord’s intervention.
Likewise, in his vision, Isaiah had watched the wine dry up in a world that was coming to an end—“No longer do they drink wine with singing; strong drink is bitter to those who drink it”—but now once again, the wine of gladness would flow freely.
Marriage Supper of the Lamb
Perhaps Isaiah’s oracle rose to mind as John observed the joyous array before him in his Revelation.
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying out,
For the Lord God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready;
to her it has been granted to be clothed
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
And the angel said to me, “Write this:
Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”Revelation 19:6-9 (NRSV)
And he will destroy on this mountainIsaiah 25:7-8 (NRSV)
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the covering that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
Spiritual darkness, which blanketed the cultures of earth, would now not only be lifted but completely done away with, destroyed, and with it would go the tyranny of death itself.
When Jesus rose from the dead, and was lifted up into heaven, the stunning reality of what Isaiah had seen was made clear. Later, the apostle Paul would quote both Isaiah and the prophet Hosea in his famous treatise on the resurrection of all believers.
Look, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
When this perishable body puts on imperishability and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?” [Prophet Hosea]
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:51-56 (NRSV)
Some scholars hesitate to attribute thoughts of resurrection to the prophet Isaiah, but how else could he say death would be swallowed up?
And would not the apostle Paul understand both the prophet’s words and the Lord’s revelation as belonging together?
Tears Wiped Away
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,Isaiah 25:8 (NRSV)
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
I remember sitting in Bible class one day, listening to the teacher muse about the Lord saving each of our tears in a bottle, from the Psalmist,
You have kept count of my tossings;Psalm 56:8 (NRSV)
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your record?
Then she asked how the Lord would wipe away every tear if there were not many tears first shed? I have thought about that so often over the years. This life, for all its joys and mountaintop experiences, is also full of shadowed valleys, where the streams are filled with tears, and the wind rustling through trees is the sighing of heavy hearts.
God has intimately entwined God’s own life with ours, so that our pain is felt infinitely and eternally by the Lord.
God knows our inward beings, and the suffering with which we suffer God also feels.
There is no question this was in John’s mind when he wrote,
[God] will wipe every tear from their eyes.Revelation 21:4 (NRSV)
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.
When the end of time comes, as Isaiah wrote of, the pain will be intense, and the tears will flow. But then, when it is all said and done, when the sky is furled, and the last words of the Book read, the Lord will personally dry our tears.