For several weeks I have been studying Ecclesiastes. It's been an extremely confusing time in our lives recently and it has served me well to think critically and mediate on wisdom, the chaos and uncertainty of this life, and the assurance that a life filled with faithfulness to God is never wasted or futile; it is prudent and a good use of wisdom to live in a way that all actions and hopes are founded on the Lord. Nevertheless, another wave of chaos hit us last night, and this morning when I awoke, I could barely bring myself to open my eyes, much less study my Bible. But, unwilling to remain unfed by God's good Word, I settled for listening to the Psalms. I sat on my couch wrapped-up while a soft blanket of snow built up outside, and I listened to God's Word, however quietly so as not to awaken my husband so early.
I listened to Psalm 78, and chewed, knowing my spiritual stomach ached from hunger and was desperate to be filled. I listened as the Psalmed spoke of Israel's tumultuous and rebellious time in the wilderness wanderings. And then verse 19 pulled back the veil my disappointments hid behind:
They spoke against God, saying:
"Can God spread a table in the wilderness?
Can God spread a table in the wilderness? Can God prepare a feast in the wasteland? Can God lavish upon us good gifts even when our surroundings are barren? My mind meditated on this with only one sure answer, repeated over and over: yes. As surely as all creation was breathed by God and formed from nothing, God certainly prepares a feast for His people during famine.
There isn't much that is more challenging in the Christian's life though. As we think upon the Hebrews 11 definition of faith, the "reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen," we are forced to confront the reality of what appears to be around us and reconcile that to the promises and provision of God. When we look at the reality that we're encumbered by the fruitless vines and unfertile ground around us, can we have faith that God will bring about a hearty harvest? When all we see is barrenness and loss, can we have faith that God will bring something out of nothing?
But faith doesn't stop there. It isn't a kitschy saying or something that we half-heartedly say. Faith demands that we behave a certain way. Faith compels us to act as though the outcome we hope in has happened prior to the actuation of it. Our behavior shifts with faith, like when an NBA player turns around and celebrates before the ball has passed through the hoop, like a musician bows before the applause of appreciation. Faith causes us to act like we've already seen the outcome of circumstances. Unlike NBA players or musicians, though, Christians have a reason to be confident and boasting. We have faith because we have seen God move through the pages of Scripture. So, then we adjust our behavior and our thinking. We behave as though our prayers for provision and deliverance have already been answered. We stand on faith that if the answer looks different than what was expected, we know that God is choosing what is good for us.
Psalm 78 is written as a bird's eye view to the events of Israel's Exodus narrative. The psalmist portrays Israel's faithlessness and rebellion and juxtaposes it to God's mercy, kindness, and love. We are granted an extreme privilege as modern Christians–we can look at Israel's story and be warned from committing the same folly in our own lives. We can look at the Israelite's foolishness and failure to believe that God would provide for them a feast in the desert and heed the warning to abstain from the same forgetfulness.
Psalm 78:19 mirrors one of the most famous psalms in the Bible, Psalm 23. In this Davidic poem, the king remarks and meditates on God's goodness of provision and leading; God's shepherding skills are unmatched and His love overflows for His people. Strikingly, the theme of God's bodily provision appears in verse 5:
You prepare a table before mePsalm 23:5
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
God prepares tables for us. He spreads out a banquet, paying no mind to the wilderness that surrounds us or the adversaries in our presence. In our desolation, God gives abundance. God is neither limited in our environment or in our enemies; regardless of each, He carefully sets a table and fills it with a lavish meal. We have an enormous hope that God will feed us and create a hospitable, safe place for us. While this is not synonymous with freedom from suffering, loss, or devastation, God will give us what is good. God will bend us in our brokenness toward greater affection in Him and we will forever have a feast set before us. We need only to come with an appetite. Can God spread a table in the wilderness? Yes. And He will.