You prepare a table
Mealtime is more than a way to refuel the body: it is sacred. We see this in the very beginning of the Bible, in the garden of Eden where God made every tree to grow that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food(Genesis 2:9) or when the promise of an heir and descendants to Abraham came after the patriarch had hosted his mysterious visitors to a great feast. (Genesis 18) And we see this at the very end of the Scriptures, in the last book of the New Testament, when the blessed "are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb."(Revelation 19:9). The Bible uses "meals" as a way to portray how God's love reaches us.
Meals can be a place where we have some of our most treasured moments. I know that, in my life, those are the times that stand out: graduations, milestone birthdays, anniversaries. There are few important times in our lives when we do NOT gather to break bread together.
And meals are central in our religious lives. Look at the Passover Seder, or Holy Communion, the celebration of the Eucharist and you can see how believers continue to find ways to use a meal to reenact the saving acts of God.
Here in Psalm 23:5 we now move away from the simple image of the sheep and shepherd to the picture of God as our gracious host inviting us to be his dinner guest.
SopDaq, the word used here for "table" was coined when we didn't now the exact Klingon word for the piece of furniture we call a "table" (we now know it is "raS"). SopDaq, literally "eating-place" is a word formed from the verb "to eat" (Sop) with the nominal suffix indicating location. It parallels the known word for bed, QongDaq, i.e. "sleeping-place." Think of SopDaq as an irregular word for the banquet table, or a buffet spread out for the guest, as opposed other sorts of tables, say a work bench or in a library.
As much fun as we might have at those more utilitarian tables, it is at the dinner table where we gather to celebrate and give thanks (and we should remember that thanksgiving is literally the meaning of the word "Eucharist", the greatest Christian meal.) More than nutrition, we find God inviting us to a table were we can rejoice and enjoy fellowship with him, to be like Abraham, a "friend of God." (James 2:23) I think of Jesus' promise, that if a person answers his call "then I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20).
Now that is a dinner invitation no one should refuse!
(originally podcast 4/14/05)