“What does it mean to be a king? First in, last out, laughing loudest.”

Joe Rigney summarizes his favorite character, King Lune, from the beloved Chronicles of Narnia series in this easily digestible phrase. Maybe something in this resonates with the things you heard at the Worship As Warfare conference earlier this year. Or maybe something about the phrase rings true from the battles you have faced in your life. When God sets a battle before us, a virtuous warrior is the first into the battle and the last to leave it. But often we forget the final morsel from Rigney here. Good warriors are joyful. When it’s time for the fighting, they are fierce, but when it’s time for the feasting, they are fierce in a different way.

This is at the heart of a Sabbath Dinner. If you’ve had the opportunity to participate in one of these meals then you know that it’s much more than a meal, it’s a celebration and preparation. We want to fight the right battle and do so fiercely, but we also want to have the greatest joy in victory. We do worship the victorious King after all.

Over the past few months, the practice for many people at Proclaim has been to have our Sabbath Dinners on Saturday evening. As we prepare to renew the covenant and partake of the Lord's Table together the next morning, we do so, not with a sense of obligation, but with anticipation and celebration. This reinforces with each other and with our children that the Lord’s Day is a delight and that it is a privilege to be a part of the Family of God. It forms fellowship and joy around the family of God beyond Sunday mornings and builds identity through faithful practices in the same direction over a long time (Sabbath Dinner with the Jankovics).

But why feast? And what does a “feast” entail? First and foremost, feasting is biblical. The book of Leviticus outlines several feasts for the people of God to partake in. Each of these feasts was representative of something holy, something set apart, and something God wanted His people to remember. As the people participated in these feasts, they remembered God and what He had done for them. In fact, even the regular sacrifices themselves had festal elements where a portion of the sacrifice was shared as a meal between God and man.

“You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. And before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.” - Deut. 14:22-23

The Lord Himself required wine as a drink offering along with many sacrifices. Yes, the ceremony and sacrifice communicate man’s need for forgiveness and point to the fulfillment of that forgiveness in the person and work of King Jesus, yet they also point to the shared table where man is invited to commune with God and each other. While we celebrate this fulfilled reality in the meal that Christ gave us in Communion, we also celebrate the heart of this reality when we gather together around food and drink. When believers feast, we feast with true joy that no other group of people can experience.

Food and drink is a gift from God when used without excess. Yet they are also seen as means by which we are to celebrate and experience the joy of the Lord. Consider the people of God returned from exile in the book of Nehemiah. They’ve returned to Jerusalem, rebuilt the wall, and the Law had been read in the sight of the people.

“And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. - Nehemiah 8:9-10

Feasting is a holy action when done in the joy of the Lord. In the battle, it is not our prowess that fuels us, though the Lord makes ready our hands for war (Psalm 144). Rather, it is the joy of the Lord that is our strength. That joy is to be lived out, not simply in rhythms of work or battle and rest, but also in celebration and joyful merriment.

Like King Lune, we must be the first into battle, the last to leave, but we must celebrate the joy we have in the Lord, the very strength we are given for the battle. So when the food is good, and the wine makes you glad, relish in those moments of fellowship and celebration for truly,  the Lord is good. And when you come to Sabbath Dinner, have a second helping and delight in the bountiful blessings. Battle will come, but this is a time for laughter and feasting.