When You Need a Meal and a Table
After a week’s worth of winter storms, sometimes you just need a table.
You need someone (someone with running water, heat, and power) to cook you a meal, set a table, pull out a chair, and invite you to sit down and eat. As adults taking care of everyone else, sometimes we just need to remember there is someone else taking care of us.
While God’s table isn’t one we can physically touch, taste, and see, it is a table we can see with our spiritual senses. Our hearts can be nourished through the meal of His Word and our souls comforted with the touch of His Spirit.
Psalm 78 has been that meal and table for me this week. The nourishment of its words have searched my conscience and also warmed my heart in the places I needed it the most.
The psalmist Asaph writes in Psalm 78:1-8,
“Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God.”
The psalm opens with a reminder for the people of God to do exactly that – remember. Remember the wondrous acts of God, remember the power of God, and remember the character of God.
When they were slaves in Egypt, they cried out, God heard their cries, and moved heaven and earth to provide deliverance. Verses 9-16 and 42-55 describe how His deliverance was seen through the Exodus, through the parting of the Red Sea, and through God’s provision in 40 years of the Israelites’ wilderness wandering. He provided His people with food, water, shelter, and protection over and over and over again.
And yet the people of God still doubted the power of God to save, to deliver, to provide, and to lead them through the hardest, harshest places.
In verses 17-20, the psalmist writes these very convicting words,
“Yet they sinned still more against him,
rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
They tested God in their heart
by demanding the food they craved.
They spoke against God, saying,
‘Can God spread a table in the wilderness?
He struck the rock so that water gushed out
and streams overflowed.
Can he also give bread
or provide meat for his people?'”
Verse 19 is what jumped out to me in my morning reading; it bears repeating here again: “They spoke against God, saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the wilderness?'”
Isn’t that the question my heart has asked God every time a storm has hit these past few years? Here God, in this wilderness, are Your really able to provide a table? In this wilderness, in this hurricane, in this pandemic, in this election, in this arctic ice blast, in this marriage, in this friendship, in this relationship, in this season of my life, can You really provide a table? Do You really know what You are doing? Have You remained in control? Are Your promises still really enough? Is my place at Your table still secure? Is Your protection sufficient? Is Your “No” really for my good and is there behind it eventually, at some point, a “Yes”?
I have seen You provide once, and I’ve heard stories of Your faithfulness passed down from generation to generation, but really, Lord, here, in this season, in this pandemic, in this storm, in this ice blast, can you really provide a table?
When I put it like that, all my questions seem so vain, my doubts so foolish. I have walked with the Lord long enough in my life to know that in each and every wilderness, there is a table. And each and every time I come to the end of my rope, my resources, my sufficiency, and myself, the table remains.
Every single time I make a mess of things with my own sin or failures or every time others around or the sin-cursed world around me makes a mess with its own set of brokenness and failures, the table remains.
Verses 21-24 say this,
“Therefore, when the Lord heard, he was full of wrath;
a fire was kindled against Jacob;
his anger rose against Israel,
because they did not believe in God
and did not trust his saving power.
Yet he commanded the skies above
and opened the doors of heaven,
and he rained down on them manna to eat
and gave them the grain of heaven.”
Do you see that word “yet” in verse 23? Even when I do not trust, God’s mercy never runs out. Even when I forget, the meal on the table never changes. Every single time, because of God’s covenantal love and faithfulness, I sit down to the bread of God’s Presence and the cup of God’s kindness. I sip on mercy and I feast on grace. And every single time I sit down, I never eat alone. I eat with a Host who is good, strong, powerful, merciful and kind. I am always amazed to look up and instead of wrath, see mercy. Instead of punishing anger, see forgiveness. Instead of wrathful shame, see covering love.
When I can’t taste mercy or feel the tension rising in my shoulders and miss out on grace, it’s not that the table is ever missing or withheld because of punitive measures. It’s that I choose to forget that it’s there. I forget through complaints. I forget through becoming a task master, ticking things off of my list instead of feasting at the table of God’s Word, being nourished by the bread of His Presence. I forget through staying up late and watching shows instead of ending my day in gratitude, prayer, or reading words that remind me of the table that stands ready to serve me even as I sleep. I forget by ignoring my kids or tolerating my kids or griping at my kids instead of gathering my kids and sitting down at the table of God’s Word and Presence together as a family.
So as the people of God, here is what we are to remember: we are to remember the character of God and the power of God to save – in the events of world history and in the events of our own personal lives.
We are to remember that His deliverance of us from our sin, guilt, shame, and failures through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His Son, stands as a pledge that He will deliver us again…and again…and again. “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
As long as we are living and breathing on this earth, ice storms and wind storms, financial storm and relational storms, are going to come.
We are not promised safety from difficult and demanding circumstances. But we are promised safety in the difficult circumstances through the table of the body and blood of Christ. And we are promised full deliverance of even our worst circumstances one day when we live forever with Him. The table that is set before us now stands as a promise of the table that is to come.
So this week, don’t forget. Don’t forget to sit down at the table of mercy, grace, provision, presence, shelter, and eat. Don’t forget to talk about it with your children. Don’t forget to rest. Don’t forget that time at His feet is more important than checking tasks off a list. And don’t forget that whatever you eat at the table here and now is only a foretaste of the meal to come.
“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants!” Luke 12:37-38
If your soul is in need of a good meal at a nourishing table, consider downloading my FREE prayer guide that walks you through the process of restoring your heart through prayer and sitting down at the table that will satisfy every need of your soul.
For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram @baker.susannah.