“What’s for Dinner?”

Isaiah 25:6-9


            The age old question that comes from the mouth of pretty much every hungry kid … what’s for dinner? {Beef commercial} Did you happen to notice all the different ways in which that simple ingredient of beef was used?

            My family likes to watch a cooking competition show called MasterChef. The competition starts off with twenty home cooks who are competing to be America’s next MasterChef. But they aren’t just cooking for any ole judges. One of the main judges over the seasons has been none other than Gordon Ramsay. The meals these home cooks have to make aren’t as simple as beef stroganoff or simple beef kabobs or grilled steak and tomatoes or a minute steak sandwich. They have to take common, everyday ingredients and elevate them.

            For example, this past season, the home cooks had to elevate food you would find at a stadium, at a state fair, in a MRE or military meals ready to eat, and even on one episode the home cooks had to take gas station snack food and drinks and turn them into some sort of a meal. But, like I said, not just any ordinary kind of meal but an elevated, gourmet, Michelin Star worthy kind of meal.

            Isaiah says at the beginning of our Old Testament reading, “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast” (25:6a). With the Lord being the host, you know that this isn’t going to be like a Big Mac meal from McDonalds or a Beefy 5-Layer Burrito from Taco Bell. This meal will be so good that it would even put Gordon Ramsay to shame. This meal prepared by the Lord is going to be a good quality meal. And in the Lord’s standards, good is when something is completed. Seven times during the six days of creation, God saw what He had made and it was good, it was done. So what is the Lord making? “a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine” (25:6b).

            But even though this meal is good and the people probably think there is no way it could get any better … Isaiah tells how the Lord elevates the food. It’s not just a feast of rich food and of well-aged wine. Oh no! It’s now a feast of “rich food full of marrow” and of“aged wine well refined” (25:6c). The depth and the magnitude of the flavor of this food just went up. Now this mountaintop feast is very good. This mountaintop feast is a heavenly feast, both literally and figuratively.

            So, God is serving up this beyond awesome meal for the people. And just like feasts that you and I would participate in, there is an atmosphere of rejoicing, of excitement. The room is bustling with people talking and laughing. People are about to start their meal, but you notice that there is something different about this feast. Isaiah says that there is a covering. “And {the LORD} will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations” (25:7). 

            And not only is there something different about this feast, there is something different about God’s plate. There’s a cover over it. Not a fancy silver dome which covers meals at most fancy banquets. No, this cover looks more like a dark veil, like a funeral pall which would be used to cover a casket at a funeral. So what’s under that veil? What is under the pall? What is it that is on God’s plate? … Death. Death is on God’s plate. And God is going to eat it. “And He will swallow up death” (25:8a), Isaiah says.

            The peoples on the mountain are eating a feast, an elevated, an exceptional feast. God is eating up death … what is on your plate? What is it that has been eating at you recently? … Think about that for a moment. … Has it been guilt? Has it been cancer? Or age? Or mental health? Or financial hardship? Or the deterioration of our society? Or the death of a loved one? What is it has been making your stomach churn? What is that gnawing pain which just won’t seem to go away?

            In his book Open and Unafraid, author W. David O. Taylor talks about something that was “eating away” at his family:

            “On April 17, 2010, my wife and I lost our first baby to a miscarriage. This took place on my thirty-eighth birthday. For months afterwards we carried around a gnawing pain – a pain that slowly ate us up from the inside, leaving us profoundly disoriented. On September 11, 2011, our daughter came into the world. Hope again surged in our hearts. Other children would now come easily, we thought. Our dream of a big family of five children could still be achieved, our advancing years notwithstanding.

            Two days shy of Christmas 2014, after months of fertility treatments, we lost our second child to a miscarriage. After this, our marriage suffered considerably. Our communication repeatedly broke down, and our capacity to meet each other’s needs dissipated. Small hurts flared up into angry conflict, and each of us resorted to surrogates we hoped might dull the pain, but that only made things worse.

            There are still days when the pain feels almost unbearable. Neither of us is getting younger, our parents are growing older, our friends’ children are reaching their college years, and the train, so it feels, is passing us by. What we needed then was language to say out loud what our hearts can only grasp at with inarticulate groans. What we needed, quite desperately, was a community to bear witness to our sadness. Above all, what we needed was to know God can handle our broken hearts and our raging words of protest.

            The heartache, the gnawing pain, the things which are eating at us … we would love for them to all to just go away, to just disappear. I wish there was something like Tums or Maalox we could take which would calm down our stomach. The problem with that though is that the relief may only be temporary. Things like Tums or Maalox, or more harmful things like drugs, alcohol, pornography, or other destructive escapes don’t actually get rid of the problem, they just prolong it, they just mask the pain.

            Notice in our reading that God doesn’t simply dismiss death. He doesn’t simply dismiss the things which are gnawing away at us. He actually takes them and death upon Himself and into Himself. God ingests, digests, and passes death so that you and I might be spared from the cold, horrible, and disgusting taste of it. God though does more than just taste it … He actually takes it all for us. He swallows it. God takes the plate of hardship and death from you and gives it to His Suffering Servant of Isaiah 52-53. He takes the plate of death from you and gives it our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

            This Jesus is the One who would come as a child, who would grow, and who would bear all your pain and sadness through the consumption of a gruesome beating, a drink of sour wine, and a death on the cross. Through the eating of this cold meal of death and by the resurrection of Jesus, Jesus has made our way by grace through faith to the feast that will have no end. This is exactly what Paul promises in the great resurrection chapter of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15, “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (15:54). Paul also says in 2 Corinthians 5, “For while we are still in this tent, in this body, we groan, being burdened, not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (5:4).

            Jesus finished that plate of death from Isaiah’s vision while on the cross. The empty tomb is the guarantee that there were no left overs of death for the grave was empty. Jesus’ resurrection life proves the deed was done. Now, every time we gather here at this altar, you and I get to enjoy the mountain top feast, receiving the bread and the wine, the very body and blood of our Savior for the forgiveness of our sins. We receive this meal, knowing that it is a foretaste, a sample of what the elevated feast will be that we will enjoy, as Isaiah says, in Heaven forever with the angels, arch angels, and all the company of heaven. Amen.

             The peace of God, that surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.


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