Worship: The Assembly (the Lord’s Supper, Part 1)

prostrationIn the NT, ekklēsia refers to the people in the church, not the assembly per se.  We are always the church, and so, in a sense, we Christians are always gathered to hear God’s word and to worship.

But very occasionally, the word is used regarding the assembly itself —

(1Co 11:18-19 ESV)  18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part,  19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.

When we are physically together, we “come together as a church.” Something special happens. We re-enact Israel at the foot of Mt. Sinai.

Now, this comes together particularly clearly with respect to the Lord’s Supper, because of this important passage —

(Exo 24:3-8 ESV)  Moses came [down from Mt. Sinai] and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.”  …  6 And Moses took half of the blood [from the sacrifices] and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar.  7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.”  8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” 

Moses read the commandments of God to the ekklēsia and they responded with promises to keep the covenant. The covenant was then sealed in blood — called the “blood of the covenant.”

(Exo 24:9-11 ESV) Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up,  10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.  11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.

The leaders of the ekklēsia then ate a meal with YHWH himself! And heaven and earth were merged. Indeed, as they entered God’s presence, they were literally in heaven — looking down on the sky! (Is this beyond cool or what?!)

And this is a type of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus himself said,

(Mat 26:27-28 ESV)  27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you,  28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Jesus refers to the wine as “my blood of the covenant.” He meant, I believe, that his literal blood, shed on the cross, would seal the new covenant just as the blood of animals had sealed the Mosaic covenant. Thus, the Last Supper and crucifixion re-enacted Exodus 24. And the Last Supper re-enacted God’s meal with the leaders of Israel, except this time it was Jesus eating with his apostles.

And when we take communion, we are re-enacting Mt. Sinai, especially the meal eaten with God in the sky. We are renewing our covenant, and God is renewing his promises to us. And we are enjoying fellowship with YHWH in a meal to seal our new relationship.

Therefore, the Lord’s Supper is particularly an ekklēsia event. It’s all about walking in the footsteps of the Israelites in the desert, passing through baptism, just as Israel was baptized in the Red Sea, and finding ourselves led by God, through his Spirit, just as God led Israel by his Glory in a cloud of smoke and fire — all to culminate in the Eucharist, a meal shared with God himself.

Just as Israel, twice a day, threw the blood of a sacrificed lamb on the altar as a reminder of God’s promises to his people, we eat the meal and take the “blood” as a reminder of our new covenant, given by God and repeatedly renewed by the gathered ekklēsia. God both reminds us of our promises and allows us to remind him of his promises. We call on God to remember his promises —

(Jer 31:31-34 ESV) “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,  32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD.  33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” 

Now, this typology tells us something about how we are to treat the Eucharist. For example, in the Churches of Christ, the Lord’s Supper is normally seen as a matter of obedience to a command. Indeed, the key question is whether we perform the ritual correctly so that we can please God. In short, we see the Lord’s Supper as something we do in order to satisfy the demands of Deity.

But the meal YHWH shared with the leaders of Israel was something else entirely. It was a celebration of a covenant made, rather like a reception following a wedding. It was God himself offering a gift to his people.

In the Ancient Near East, to invite someone to a meal was to offer not only food but protection and approval. Once a guest entered your house, you’d tacitly declared this person a part of your social circle and entitled to your protection. Hence, when Jesus ate with publicans and “sinners,” he shocked the Jewish world because he was tacitly treating publicans — Roman collaborators — as peers, and yet Jesus was a rabbi. How could he be both a good Jewish rabbi while offering fellowship to the hated collaborators and to sinners?!

When we take the Lord’s Supper, God is inviting us to dine with him. We are coming under his protection and we are being accepted as not merely peers but part of his household. The Lord’s Supper is not a duty fulfilled but a gift received!

But there’s more to it than that. When God fed the leaders of Israel, he provided the food. After all, he was the host. And this meal anticipates God’s promise to feed Israel as they travel through the desert to the Promised Land. It’s a response to the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread.” If God can transport these men to heaven and give them food and drink, surely he had provide his people with the necessities of life as they follow his lead through the wilderness.

And to us, as Christians, this meal anticipates the wedding feast of the bride and the Lamb.

(Rev 19:7-9 ESV)  7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;  8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure” — for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.  
9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

The Lord’s Supper is an element of inaugurated eschatology. That is, we are headed toward the wedding feast. In anticipation of that great meal, we eat together today. The Lord’s Supper is a foretaste of the banquet we’ll celebrate together when Jesus returns.

The prophets spoke of this meal centuries ago —

(Isa 25:6-8 ESV) On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.  7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.  8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. 

(Isa 55:1-2 ESV) “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.”

The promise is that we’ll celebrate together, but also that we’ll be well fed. In today’s America, a lack of food is nearly unimaginable. No one dies of starvation. Famine only means a temporary increase in prices. To us, cheap food is a hamburger with fries.

But in the ancient world, few people ate meat daily. Famine was an all-too-common occurrence. There was no welfare system. If the harvest failed for lack of rain or due to locusts, well, you just might not eat. People died.

In such a world, the promise of God’s banquet was not just celebration but also a promise of sufficiency — and end of want and death from starvation. And so the Lord’s Supper is a promise from God to provide the sustenance we need — I shall not wantthis day our daily bread — and to protect us as we travel through the wilderness to the Promised Land.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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14 Responses to Worship: The Assembly (the Lord’s Supper, Part 1)

  1. R.J. says:

    Note the contrast between the Theophanic spectacle upon Mount Horeb(within the veil of gloom) and the peaceful fellowship meal atop Mount Sinai!

  2. laymond says:

    Jay, What do “spirits” eat.?

  3. Larry Cheek says:

    I am surprised by your comments here, please enlighten me.
    “There are several possible answers to the question: What does God eat?
    1. Anything he wants to. (Same as a 500-lb gorilla except more so.)
    2. Soul food. (I’m assuming cheese grits, but it’s just a guess.)
    3. bread, veal, butter, and milk”
    “In fact, the “three measures” translates “three seahs,” and a seah is about 20 quarts (5 gallons) — that plus an entire calf makes a banquet — which God ate with Abraham.”

    “You see, the Jews did not see God in Platonic or Gnostic categories. He is spirit, but not “spirit” as Westerners think. Obviously, he could appear in the flesh and enjoy a great banquet with Abraham if he chose to do so. Spirit and flesh are not ontologically separate — just two sides of the same coin, like heaven and earth.”

    I have read the verses you have quoted from the KJV, I will respond with verses from the same that cause me to doubt that your description is accurate.

    Moses while speaking to God asked to see him, God answered.
    Exo 33:17-23 KJV And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name. (18) And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory. (19) And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. (20) And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. (21) And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: (22) And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: (23) And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.

    Many other translations portray the same context.

    God himself declared that, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live”.

    Then we have messages in the NT portraying the same idea.

    Joh 1:18 KJV No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

    1Jn 4:12 KJV No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
    Also notice the events following.

    Gen 18:16-23 KJV And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. (17) And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; (18) Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? (19) For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. (20) And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; (21) I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. (22) And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD. (23) And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?

    The text is stating the men rose up and started toward Sodom. On the way Abraham was speaking to God, and he and Abraham did not continue to Sodom. But, when two of the party arrived at Sodom, notice their identity.

    Gen 19:1-2 KJV And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; (2) And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night.

    Evidently, as they traveled they were transformed into Angels. Or were all three Angels? Remember, nowhere in the text did Abraham testify that he saw God.

    The term, “the LORD appeared to Abram” is not a testimony that Abram or Abraham actually saw God. God’s own testimony declares this was not possible.
    Gen 17:1 KJV And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.

    Now, would God have taken the form of a man in these communications? If he did, wouldn’t Abraham have believed that God was a man? To my knowledge of scriptures Abraham never disclosed that concept.

  4. Dwight says:

    Laymond, They sat face to face with Jesus in the Lord’s Supper, who was God, but this wasn’t God the Father. And we do commune with Jesus in the Lord’s Supper, who is God and who is now spirit and we do this in and through our spirit. We are to live spiritually.
    It is possible that the spirit traveled through the garden, but this would man that the spirit is physical in nature as well, so it really doesn’t matter too much whiether it was God the spirit in some form other than flesh or God in the spirit. It is possible that just His power was enough to move the trees like the wind. But God was also able to make His angels, who were spiritual, like us in some ways without being flesh and blood just like us. After all Jacob was able to wrestle with one. Mary talked face to face with one as did Lot.
    I think it is infinitely more important to know God than to see Him. The more we know, the more we love and understand and then one day we will see Him face to face.

  5. Jay Guin says:


    The Bible said God appeared to Abram, spoke with him, and ate with him. I’m inclined to believe it.

    Jacob wrestled with God.

    (Gen 32:30 ESV) 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”

    Moses spoke to God “face to face.”

    (Exo 33:11 ESV) 11 Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.

    (Deu 34:10 ESV) 10 And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face,

    Hmm …

    Perhaps God could appear as a human just as Jesus became a human. Why not? Wouldn’t be a particularly difficult miracle for a Creator who spoke the Universe into existence. Surely he could lower himself to exist for a moment in our form so that we could perceive, hear, and respond to him. Why would that be so hard? In fact, for a God who came and lived among us as a man for 33 years, why not for a moment on a mountaintop?

  6. laymond says:

    “I still do not see where God’s original statement has been compromised.”

    And neither do I Larry, If I believed that God was a stretcher of the truth, I would lay my bible aside. and count my time reading it as wasted time.

  7. laymond says:

    I do believe Jesus said man would be judged by the word of God, not that God would be judged by the word of man. We need to consider who spoke the words we read before we compare them to what God has said. Jacob could truly have believed he had defeated God in wrestling , that does not mean Jacob new all the facts. It simply means he was wrong, what was it God said about comparing man to God ?

  8. laymond says:

    Isa 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
    Isa 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

  9. Monty says:

    Surely, no man can see God in all his glory and live. God proved that with Moses by placing him in the cleft of the rock, and holding his hand out(must have been a huge hand) or a figure of speech, to shield Moses’ eyes as He passed before him. God has to diminish his glory in some fashion to appear before man. Isaiah said he had seen the Lord. Isaiah saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and lifted up(a vision?). The point is, Abraham spoke to God (who in that appearance )looked like a human. Certainly not in all HIs radiant glory. Jacob wrestled with God, but he at first thought he was wrestling with a man. All of the statements about seeing God and not living and seeing an appearance of God and living are true. Sometimes God appears as human, or in a cloud, or in a burning bush. Rarely in all His radiant glory. Sometimes he prefers to just speak in a still small voice. Many Mid-Eastern Muslim people are claiming that Jesus came to them in a vision, and it completely changes their lives.

  10. Jay Guin says:

    Larry and Laymond,

    Speaking of context, let’s remember what the original question was, per Laymond, “Jay, What do “spirits” eat.?”

    God appeared as a man and ate with Abram. Therefore, he could have appeared as a man and eaten with the leaders of Israel.

    I am not suggesting that God lied when said that no one could see his face and live. On the other hand, an honest reader of the text has to admit that there were times when people saw God’s human face and lived. Abram did. Adam did. Everyone who saw Jesus walk the earth saw God the Son face to face. God can appear on earth as a man. Therefore, God can eat with people. He does not exist solely as a vaporous spirit. When it suits his purposes, he appears in human form.

    (Exo 24:9-10 ESV) Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.

    Now, what does it mean for the text to say “They beheld God”? Was this an exception to the rule that one cannot see God (in his ultimate form) and live? Or did God reduce himself to human form?

    9–10 That Moses and his company “saw the God of Israel” at first appears to contradict 33:20; John 1:18; and 1 Timothy 6:16; but what they saw was a “form [‘similitude’] of the LORD” (Num 12:8), just as Ezekiel (Ezek 1:26) and Isaiah (Isa 6:1) saw an approximation, a faint resemblance and a sensible adumbration of the incarnate Christ who was to come. There is a deliberate obscurity in the form and details of the one who produced such a splendid, dazzling effect on these observers of God’s presence.

    Walter C. Kaiser Jr., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, 1990, 2, 449.

    The words are evidently intended to affirm something more than, that they saw the fiery form in which God manifested Himself to the people, and that whilst the fire was ordinarily enveloped in a cloud, they saw it upon the mountain without the cloud. For, since Moses saw the form (תְּמוּנָה) of Jehovah (Num. 12:8), we may fairly conclude, notwithstanding the fact that, according to v. 2, the representatives of the nation were not to draw near to Jehovah, and without any danger of contradicting Deut. 4:12 and 15, that they also saw a form of God. Only this form is not described, in order that no encouragement might be given to the inclination of the people to make likenesses of Jehovah.

    Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 1:425.

    Now, Jesus deliberately references this event in the Lord’s Supper. Jesus saw parallels. Indeed, he saw this meal and the crucifixion as a re-enactment of the Blood of the Covenant in which God sealed his covenant with Israel in blood and a meal in very Ancient Near Eastern fashion.

    In the Last Supper, Jesus himself was plainly visible and the meal was eaten, one on a mountain top that was evidently merged into heaven itself — envisioned by the ancients as a room above the sky — and another in an upper room on Mt. Zion. The parallels are intentional and significant.

    And the blood oath and shared meal required the presence of both parties. God was there. And “they beheld God” in some sense. And I agree with K&D that this is more than seeing the column of fire because the author plainly intends us to understand that something extraordinary happened.

    On the other hand, Moses was no idiot and he didn’t intend to contradict himself. They did not see God in his ultimate glorious state. After all, human eyes aren’t engineered to perceive such a reality. Rather, God presented himself visible but reduced to human sensibility.

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