One of the things that we learn from this meal is that we are a kingdom of priests. Just as the priests of the Old Testament were ordained, and afterwards had access to the holy food of the sanctuary, so we are all ordained to the priesthood in our baptism. And consequently, we have access to the Table.
Now we learn this from the way the Table is arranged, and how the invitations are given. But it is important not to view this Table as an audio-visual aid from which we learn a lesson. We do learn a lesson, but far more is going on than just this intellectual reflection. The priestly families of the Old Testament could reflect on the food they were eating, and learn lessons from the fact that they were allowed to eat it. But the primary thing was that they eat, and be nourished.
Having said this, the arrangement is important. Before a priest was ordained in the order of Aaron, he was no priest. After he was ordained, he was. This was not because a magical act had occurred—rather it was because God has fashioned the world in such a way that words and ceremonies have the capacity to change someone’s status. We see this everyday, and so it should not be difficult. Because of words spoken in a particular context, a single man becomes a husband. Because of words, a civilian becomes an enlisted solder. Because of words, a candidate becomes an office holder. All such words are a performative act. They accomplish something in the world.
When you were baptized, this same kind of performative act occurred, and you were made a priest. The Christian church is composed of kings and priests on the earth. Now whether you are a righteous priest like Phineas, or an evil priest like Caiphas, or a bumbling priest like Eli—well, there is no ceremony for that.
Do you believe God? Do you believe His Word? Do you trust His Spirit?
The pattern of worship in the Bible is this. We, in the power of the Holy Spirit, ascend into the heavenly places to worship God. As we worship Him there, and He receives our praise, He takes that glory and manifests it on earth. If we try to manifest God’s glory on earth directly, we are trying to sell second-hand goods. This is not how God does it.
In the book of Revelation, throughout the book of Revelation, the worship of the saints from earth to heaven, is then taken by God and translated back into earthly affairs. The division between heaven and earth is overcome in the worship of God through Jesus Christ, and only there.
But if we do not worship God in faith, then we will start directing our worship “horizontally,” aiming at things we believe need to be corrected. This is humanistic idolatry. It is theological liberalism.
Another alternative, another form of faithless worship, seeks to escape to heaven. This approach wants to worship God in the heavenlies, on the condition that the worship be bottled up there forever. But when this happens, we send our worship off to heaven because heaven is the place where everything goes when it is dead. But heaven is not a graveyard for our prayers; God is not the God of the dead but of the living. Anything that truly goes to heaven, is going there to live—and to be fruitful, and to multiply.
So the worship that God intends for us to offer is the kind of worship that fills heaven, and because it fills heaven to overflowing, it pours back down upon us all. This is not arrogant hubris; the Bible says explicitly that the Church is the fullness of Jesus Christ, the one who fills all things. We are the fullness of Jesus Christ, and as we worship in this faith, that fullness abounds, overflows, and the world around us is transformed.
“Part of the unpleasant side of The Pilgrim’s Progress lies in the extreme narrowness and exclusiveness of Bunyan’s religious outlook. The faith is limited ‘to one small sect and all are damned beside’. But I suppose that all who read old books have learned somehow or other to make historical allowances for that sort of thing. Our ancestors all wrote and thought like that. The insolence and self-righteousness which now flourish most noticeably in literary circles then found their chief expression in theology, and this is no doubt a change for the better. And one must remember that Bunyan was a persecuted and slandered man” (Lewis, Selected Literary Essays, p. 152).
“In a thousand different ways naïve Europeans who think they are showing noble tolerance to a mere religion are actually inviting a very potent political invader into their societies” (Richardson, Secrets of the Koran, p. 170).
“That is the fact; whether we like it or not, the universe is made that way. This commandment [against idolatry] is interesting because it specifically puts forward the moral law as the basis of the moral code: because God has made the world like this and will not alter it, therefore you must not worship your own fantasies, but pay allegiance to the truth” (Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker, p. 12).
“Of course, some might object to quoting a writer like Tozer, a man outside the Reformed tradition, but we live in confused times. So men like Tozer might be worth half a dozen of our contemporary pretty boys, men who subscribe to the Westminster Confession because they think they might have read it once” (Mother Kirk, p. 76).
“It is a misfortune when men do not care what the divisions are, whether against good or against evil, if their turn may be served. This is abominable and cursed in that man who wishes for, or rejoices in, or seeks the continuance of, divisions for these base ends” (Burroughs, Irenicum, p. 104).
“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)
Growing Dominion, Part 110
“Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger” (Prov. 19:15).
Anyone with a minimal acquaintance with the book of Proverbs knows that laziness is not considered a good thing. Not only is it not a good thing, but it is a bad thing that leads to poverty. We see that in the second half of this verse. But the first half has something else for us—slothfulness casts into a deep sleep. Laziness puts a man into a spiritual coma. Laziness puts you into a different mental zone.
When a man is lazy, the necessary work does not get done. When the necessary work does not get done, the end result is the natural consequence—poverty, hunger, etc. But in addition to all this, a certain spiritual lethargy sets in as well, and this prevents the victim of his own laziness from seeing what is happening to him. He does not know how it is all unfolding. The thing is a grand mystery.