The meal covenant is a Hebraic principle found
throughout Scripture, though not specifically mentioned.
This special meal
becomes the means for reconciliation not just between people, but
also between man and God. Very similar to our Chinese Reunion Dinner
together at a few examples of this meal covenant principle from the
We first see the
meal covenant expressed in Genesis 14 between Abram and Melchizedek.
After Abram had rescued Lot from the hands of Chedorlaomer,
Melchizedek met him and blessed him.
king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God
Most High. They ate together as a sign of a covenant being
established between the two men.
We see the meal
as a sign of reconciliation is in Genesis 31.
Jacob left in
secret, taking his wives and his children with many cattle but
without the knowledge of his father-in-law, Laban. This caused much
displeasure. Laban followed him across the desert in desperation and
When he finally
caught up with Jacob after a 7 days’ pursuit, they had a lengthy
dialogue and were reconciled to one another. They set up a mound of
rocks and a stone for a pillar, promising that neither would come
after the other to harm each other (Gen. 31:52).
offered a sacrifice and invited his relatives to a meal. After the
meal, they spent the night there. Early the next morning Laban
kissed his grandchildren and his daughters, and blessed them. He
then returned home (Gen. 31:54-55).
process of family reconciliation was ultimately sealed with a meal.
"You prepare a
table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head
with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow
me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the
LORD forever." (NKJ)
understand the concept of reconciliation associated with a meal,
this verse does not make much sense.
symbolism, God prepares a table before our enemies means that He is
making the way possible for us to be "reconciled" to our enemies.
That is why our
cup overflows (the Hebraic symbol of joy), and surely goodness and
mercy will follow us all the days of our life as we dwell in the
house of the Lord forever. It is our blessed assurance that God will
take care of us and even our enemies, providing the way for
Abraham and his
people lived a nomadic life, residing in tents. Till today, between
the Bedouin tribes and in the Arab village communities in the Middle
East, we find the practice of the "sulha" or reconciliation
meal, between enemies. Interestingly, this Arabic term, "sulha"
comes from the Hebrew word for table, "shulchan".
you can read in the Israeli newspapers that a "sulha" is
being made between rival groups or families where a feud has
existed, with the purpose of ending the feud once and for all.
How does it
work? Let's say that a young man injuries seriously another young
man from a different family. A major blood feud will spark off,
especially in a small, close-knitted community where everyone knows
everyone. If the feud gets out of hand, there could be more injuries
and even deaths. The only way to stop this is to resolve the
conflict by reconciling the families. That’s the purpose of the "sulha".
A big meal is
prepared for the two parties to come together to discuss over a
meal. The guilty party will confess his wrongdoings, and the injured
party will accept the apology. They then negotiate a suitable
recompense for the misdeed. This negotiation may go on for a day or
more, until everyone is satisfied.
All this time,
the parties are "at table" eating and drinking coffee and tea. At
the conclusion of the "sulha" negotiation, the two parties
and families are fully reconciled, and a member of the injured
family cannot later bring up the misdeed to the offender or to his
family. It becomes almost as if it never happened.
This is a
wonderful picture of how God justifies our sin by sacrificing His
Son on the cross, symbolized in the Communion. Our sins are
literally erased before the Lord and we can stand before Him
15:11-31, we find the parable of the lost son, more commonly known
as the story of "the Prodigal Son," which contains an excellent
example of the meal covenant.
"A man had two
sons. When the younger told his father, 'I want my share of your
estate now, instead of waiting until you die!' his father agreed to
divide his wealth between his sons. A few days later this younger
son packed all his belongings and took a trip to a distant land, and
there wasted all his money on parties and prostitutes. About the
time his money was gone a great famine swept over the land, and he
began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him to feed his
It is presumed
that the younger son found himself in the Decapolis, an area of
Greek hegemony and culture which encompassed the southeastern shores
of the Sea of Galilee. The Jews would not raise pigs, as this was
not kosher, but Greeks would. Incidentally, this is also the
location of the town of Kursi, where Jesus cast the legion of demons
into a herd of swine, which threw themselves into the sea and
The younger son
was humbled by the experience. On his way home, he confessed his
sins against his father. He prayed to be reinstated as one of his
father's servants, not as a son. However, upon hearing his son's
confession, his father reinstated him as his son.
He gave his
younger son a robe and sandals, both signs of sonship. Servants did
not have the outer garments or sandals. These were reserved for the
sons of a household.
The father also
gave him his ring, which was the "credit card" of those days. With
the ring, the son could go to town, and receive credit to buy
merchandise by simply pressing the family ring into the soft clay.
His father would later foot the bill.
younger son’s past squandering ways of abusing his finances, his
father still trusted him. This is also a picture of what our
Heavenly Father does for us after we confess our wrongdoings and
receive His forgiveness.
father killed a fatted calf and called for a celebration banquet, a
sure sign of absolute reconciliation to be witnessed by the whole
community in attendance.
shows God's character for complete restoration. It is also an
example for us to follow on how we should act towards others. The
father demonstrated tangibly backing up his words with his actions
as he restored his son's position with the clothing of a son, trust
with the ring, and finally by preparing the banquet meal of
reconciliation. Good intentions must be supported with actions.
Looking at the
other side of this parable, we see the older brother. He is the
picture of ourselves and how we often fall short in our ability to
forgive. It seems natural for the older brother to have been angry.
After all, he worked faithfully for his father. His younger brother
had squandered his inheritance, returned home and was being treated
with dignity with a banquet celebration!
We often side
with the angry older brother who never received even a goat to have
a banquet with his friends. However, the father, who understood the
meaning of preparing the special reconciliation meal before the
whole neighborhood, knew that there was no reason to "kill the
fatted calf" for his older son. There was no need to reconcile him
back to the family and to the community. The older son already had
it all! That is why the father said to his older son, "My son, you
are always with me, and EVERYTHING I have is yours."
Yet, the older
brother lost the blessing by not going to the banquet. He is not
mentioned again and he apparently left the party in misery,
remaining outside of the circle of the reunion and reconciliation
with his brother.
Are we sometimes
like the older brother? Are we, who have received ALL from the Lord,
often unwilling or unable to come to the place of forgiveness and
reconciliation towards others who we feel have wronged us?
Sadly, like the
older brother, if we continue in our bitterness and anger, we will
not be able to join in the fullness of God's celebration of
reconciliation. Let us learn from this lesson and NOT repeat it.
& Peter: Feed My Lambs (Sheep)
Jesus saith unto
them, Come and dine. John 21:12 (KJV)
Herein we find
the resurrected Jesus inviting the disciples to a breakfast of fish
and bread on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
Jesus three times in Jerusalem, Peter was despondent and went back
to his old fishing job in Galilee. There Jesus met him, just like
the first time Peter met Him. Peter heard the same fishing
instruction to throw his net to the other side of the boat for a
great catch of fish. He caught the fish and then realized that it
was really Jesus.
into the water. He didn’t walk on the water this time, but swam to
the shore. They began to eat. Ghosts don't eat fish; but resurrected
Jesus knew Peter
had denied him three times back in Jerusalem. His purpose was to
reinstate Peter over a meal on the beach.
As Peter is
eating with Jesus, Jesus asked Peter three times, "Peter, do you
love me?" Three denials needed three affirmations!
and confirmed Peter ‘s calling to feed His lambs, reconciling
wayward lambs back to the Kingdom of God, just as Jesus had done for
There is a
double reconciliation in this passage: First, Peter was restored to
fellowship with Jesus, whom he had denied. Then, Peter is called to
reconcile others who have gone astray back to God.
Stand At The Door And Knock"
"Behold, I stand
at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door,
I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." (Rev 3:20,
table is the table of reconciliation. The purpose of communion is to
remind us of what Jesus did so that we can appropriate God's
forgiveness, reconciling us to the Lord.
Yes, Jesus, the
sinless One, the One without leaven, the Passover lamb without spot
or blemish, was crucified and died for our sins, so that as the sons
of God, we might have eternal life and a restored relationship with
our Father. He is now the resurrected God, making the way for us to
hear His voice, to open our hearts’ door, and letting Him in to sup
with Him and Him with us.
The symbol of
the table of reconciliation is the same one expressed throughout
Scripture but in this case, it is eternal reconciliation. It is at
the communion table, where we eat the bread and drink the wine, that
the covenant is reconfirmed in our lives.
What does this
meal covenant mean for you and me? Something dynamic takes place
between people at mealtime breaking bread together. It is a time to
fellowship, resolving problems, establishing strong family and
friendship bonds. In our fast-paced, instant microwave world, the
family meal has become a lost art. How can we maintain strong
relationships on the run, grabbing a bite of food in fast-food
God is a God of
mercy and reconciliation. He is there for each one of us, no matter
what our past was. God desires our fellowship and has made the way
for our reconciliation to Him. As His children, even if you have
gone your own way as a prodigal son or daughter, you can come back
to Him and be reconciled to Him. It is always His desire to bring
each of us back into fellowship with Him. Then, when a "brother"
needs forgiving, do so and back it up with actions, in the same way
that God forgives us. Get right with God and get right with others.
Let's do it today!