Chapter 17 Meanings
The Banquet Halls
The banquet halls stand for individual churches, and the weekly meals represent Sunday worship services where teachers and preachers “serve up” God’s grace to the people like table waiters. This is why I depicted church leaders as servers at the meals. The Seven in Acts 6, who were the prototypes for deacons, were put in place to serve food to widows so the Apostles would not have to “neglect the ministry of the Word of God in order to wait on tables” (Acts 6:2).
The banquet halls made of wood (the same material as the cottage) depict churches that operate according to Scripture. Golden banquet halls are churches that have adopted worldly values and ways of thinking. Wood, in the story, represents the Scriptures—unimpressive to men, but glorious to those with eyes to see. Gold represents the world’s glory.
Some churches, out of a desire to appeal to the masses, compromise biblical standards and trim the offensive parts of the gospel. Such churches become worldly and lose their spiritual power.
Guardians vs. Warriors
The guardians stand for angels. The concept of each person having a guardian angel is not explicitly stated in Scripture, but that certain angels are assigned to certain people seems to be implied in Matthew 18:10.
The primary task of angels is to minister to the saints.
“Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14).
The warriors depict demons.
Popular stories of spiritual warfare have depicted a war carried out mostly between angels and demons with humans offering prayer support. In Escape from Paradise, I have labored to show a more biblical model—a war between humans and evil spirits with angels offering support to the humans (Ephesians 6:12, Hebrews 1:14).
There is some indication in Scripture, however, of conflict between angels and demons when demons attempt to prevent angels from ministering to us. The evil spirit behind the Persian empire resisted the angel sent to Daniel for twenty-one days until Michael came and helped him (see Daniel 10:13).
Chapter 17 Questions
|Surrounding the … cottage stood hundreds of smaller buildings. … “Every week we all gather there to observe the cottage.”
“Why would you do that? I thought you could enter the cottage itself.” -p.139
In what sense does the Sunday gathering resemble a banquet? What “delicacies” are served? See John 21:15.
The pastor’s primary task is to feed the flock. Ministering God’s Word to people is cast in terms of feeding because the truths of Scripture satisfy the appetites of the soul and nourish and fortify the heart.
What are some reasons believers gather rather than simply seeking God individually? See Hebrews 10:25; 1 Peter 4:10; Proverbs 18:1.
Heb.10 – God designed us to need mutual encouragement to successfully live the Christian life.
1 Pe.4 – God dispenses the grace we need through the various spiritual gifts. Without access to a wide variety of Christians and their gifts, we miss the grace God has for us.
Pr.18 – Isolating oneself is a trait of selfishness, not spirituality.
God designed churches to do many things. Given the following passages, which function of the church do you believe God wants to be most central? Mark 1:38; Acts 2:42; Ephesians 2:19-20; 2 Timothy 4:1-2; 1 Timothy 3:15, 4:13.
The preaching and teaching of the Word of God.
|“We enjoy individualized exploration of the cottage daily,” Watson explained. “But many of the most beautiful colors are not immediately apparent. So on the first day of each week we gather, and as we dine, the banquet servers, who study the cottage daily, point out colors we could not see on our own.” -p.138|
Read Psalm 119:16-20,24. On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate your level of desire for and delight in God’s Word? What could you do that might help increase them?
I’m thankful to God that he has given me a deep love for his Word. From childhood, I have always had a passion for it—one of the few elements of the Christian life that seems to come a little easier to me than to many others. I like to think I’m at a seven or eight, but that’s only if I compare myself to certain people who name the name of Christ today. But in comparison to the author of Psalm 119, with his soul consumed with longing for God’s laws at all times, it may be a stretch to put me at a two or three.
I think the best way I could increase my desire for Scripture would be to reduce my tendency to attempt to satisfy the appetites of my soul with the world’s junk food, spoiling my appetite for real food and drink.
Given the fact that all believers have the Holy Spirit to teach them, why do you think the Scriptures place such a high premium on the importance of teachers and preachers? See Ephesians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 1 Timothy 3:2.
The Holy Spirit does not simply infuse knowledge into our heads. He does teach us, but when he does so, he uses means. He uses the Bible, and he also uses teachers.
Understanding God’s Word requires a great deal of study, meditation, and prayer. God gifts certain people with special ability to understand Scripture, apply it, and communicate it. To reject that is to reject the means the Holy Spirit has ordained, which is to reject the Spirit himself.
|Surrounding the … cottage stood hundreds of smaller buildings. Some were ornate, with opulent decorations and impressive architecture-not as impressive as the buildings in the city, but similar in style. Some were even gold in color. The ones closest to the cottage were the least remarkable, built mostly with wood. -p.138|
Read about a church that considered itself rich in Revelation 3:17-18. If you were to visit a church like this, what do you think it would be like?
I would expect it to be packed. All services and events very well attended. Amazing facility. Great reputation in the community. And impressive numbers on every external marker of church success.
In some ways, we adapt to the culture around us so as not to offend (1 Corinthians 9:19-22). In other ways, we are forbidden to conform. Where do we draw the line between the two? See Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 6:17-7:1.
We must contextualize the Gospel so that it is understandable to receptive unbelievers. Common examples of failure to contextualize:
- Forcing western traditions that are unrelated to the Gospel upon a foreign culture
- Speaking in “Christianese” that is incomprehensible even to the receptive unbeliever.
- Failing to preach the Gospel in such a way as to demonstrate its applicability and implications for the life of the average person.
- Having a snobbish, unloving, unwelcoming, inhospitable, exclusive or indifferent attitude toward the lost.
On the other hand, while it’s important to adapt ourselves to the context, we must never adapt the gospel. Also, we must never adapt ourselves to anything in the culture that is sinful (compromise).
There should be a stark, immediately noticeable contrast between us and the world in affections, motives, speech, and actions (Php.2:15). Our efforts to win their friendship and movement toward them must never occur in the areas of their vices (Jas.1:27). Accommodation is good in areas of tradition and culture that are completely neutral but must never involve areas of morality and purity.
Common examples of compromise:
- Making entertainment the purpose of “worship” music (“Worship” that does not have God as its focus is detestable to God – Isa.29:13).
- Lifting human methods above expository preaching (Preaching was the method Jesus used Mt.4:23, commissioned the Apostles to use Mt.10:7, and that we are to use 2 Tim.4:2).
- Moving the Church from the center of God’s plan (Eph.1:22,23, 3:10, Heb.12:22,23)
- Making the main function of the Church focus more on the lost than on the saved (Ministry is described in Scripture mostly in terms of ministry to the Church, Eph.4:11-16, 1 Cor.12-14, see especially 14:26).
- Moving closer to the world in the area of vices (such as coarse language Eph.5:4, use of alcohol designed to approximate the way the world sins with alcohol to win their favor Jer.15:17, or excessive involvement in entertainment; particularly impure forms Ps.101:3).
- Minimizing the offensive aspects of the Gospel such as sin and the evil of the human heart (Ro.3:10-18), culpability before God (Ro.3:19), judgment (Acts 17:31), wrath (Rev.16:19), hell (Mk.9:43), the need for repentance (Acts 17:30), the sovereignty of God (Acts 17:24-27), and Jesus’ calls to complete devotion (Lk.14:26-35).
- Developing a “church” in which those who love the Lord with all their hearts are in the minority (Heb.12:22,23).
|“I suspect it was the strength of another,” Watson said. “A guardian, perhaps.”
“… The Ruler assigns them to protect us and help us when we need it.”-p.141
What is the primary task of angels? See Hebrews 1:14.
To minister to people.
|Sol, Watson’s guardian, had only used one hand to steady Watson and push him up the hill. His other still clutched his sword. Below lay three warriors, all gravely wounded and regretting the decision to engage Sol. -p.141|
Some take Matthew 18:10 to imply that each believer has a specific “guardian” angel assigned to him/her. What is your view?
I think it’s likely that we have guardian angels.
|Gadol surveyed the gathering of humans in the banquet hall. “They don’t even realize we’re here, do they?”|
What role do angels play in church services? See Ephesians 3:10.
They learn about God’s wisdom by watching the church.
|His stomach growled. He knew he should be concerned about more important things-like learning the truth about why his friend was murdered. But try as he may, his mind could not be diverted from its fantasies about the fruit in that little bag.|
When you know you should focus on more important things, but some craving or lust is captivating your attention, what is the solution? See Colossians 3:1-2. What are some strategies for doing this?
The solution is to set your mind and heart on things above, not on earthly things. The more time we spend thinking about things from a biblical, spiritual perspective, the more repugnant sin will look to us and the more attractive righteousness will appear.
Some strategies are Scripture memorization and meditation, listening to Christian music, listening to sermons, conversations with godly people about spiritual things, reading books, articles, etc. with biblical insights, and prayer.
|“What did you do with the fruit?” Adam asked.
“Hid it down that way,” he said, pointing with his chin, then flinched at a stab of pain. “But I don’t want it. Honestly, I’m sick of running after fruit. I’m sick of it all.”
… Adam’s His stomach growled…. his mind could not be diverted from its fantasies about the fruit in that little bag.
What can make the giving up of one’s life of sin feel like gain rather than loss? See Matthew 13:44-46; Luke 15:16-17; Psalm 63:3.
The more we fix our attention on all God offers, the worse the world’s delights will look in comparison. This requires faith, trusting what God promises, time spent thinking about those promises, and delightful experiences of those promises.
|Levi struggled to focus, then read aloud. “Turn to me. I have crushed you to pieces, but I will heal you.” He closed his fingers around the piece, and color returned to his face. -p.144|
Sometimes God tears people apart to bring them to repentance (Hosea 6:1). What might that look like?
I imagine it in terms of God allowing a series of painful hardships while withholding the strength I need to endure them, so the trials feel unbearable and I come to the end of myself.
|“You nearly did,” Kailyn answered. “But I’m so glad you didn’t. It would be a horrible thing for a man to die without ever meeting the only one who can give life.”
Kailyn really does have a one-track mind, Adam thought.
“But I don’t want it. Honestly, I’m sick of running after fruit. I’m sick of it all.”
Watson and Abigail exchanged a hopeful smile. Kailyn beamed. -pp.142,143
What can we learn about evangelism from both the words and the emotions of those Jesus sent to call the blind man in Mark 10:49?
Rather than calling the man himself, Jesus told the disciples to do it. That’s how he reaches the lost—using our mouths to call them to himself.
When they called the man, they were excited for him—like he had just won the lottery. We should deliver the good news as if we were giving something of infinite worth, rather than apologizing for it or presenting it as if we were offering something strange or of questionable value.
They commanded the man to respond. “On your feet.” We have authority from the Creator to command that people respond to Christ. We need not be timid about it.
|“He has a high fever. And his wounds have reopened.” … Kailyn parked in front of Adam and locked her eyes on his. “Is it the gold, Adam? Were you dreaming about the bands? Or the bag of fruit? Something is aggravating these wounds. What are you longing for?”|
Romans 13:14 commands that we not give any thought to indulging the desires of the flesh. What effect does thinking about sin have on the flesh? See Romans 8:5.
 Some translations say, “make no provision for the flesh.” I believe the NIV rendering is clearer (“Do not think about how to satisfy the desires …”). The Greek word translated “provision” or “think” is pronoian, and it refers to giving forethought to something. The only other use in the New Testament is in Acts 24:2, where it is translated “foresight.”
When we have our mind set on the flesh, it results in living according to the flesh. The flesh’s destructive impulses become the dominant influence (above our rational thinking) and push us into behavior that ruins our lives and leads to death.
|“How do you do that?… I just snapped at you, and you’re on your knees tending my wounds.”
She shrugged, continuing her work. “The Ruler sent for you. He wants you to come home.” Then she raised her eyes and added, “And so do I.”
What principles can you find in the following passages that would help you respond to hostility with a soft answer? Proverbs 15:1; Ephesians 4:29–32; Romans 12:16–21.
Pr.15 – If I want the hostility to come to an end, the promise that a soft answer will turn away wrath is a strong motivation. The simple action of a soft answer can accomplish what might otherwise take months or years.
Eph.4 – Being reminded that hostile responses grieve the Holy Spirit is a strong motivation if we remember how dependent we are on closeness with the Spirit for everything we most desire in life.
Also, when the way this passage describes gracious responses (kind and compassionate) and hostile responses (unwholesome, non-edifying), those descriptions make the right responses feel more desirable.
And thirdly, being reminded about Jesus’ graciousness toward us is the strongest motivation for being gracious to others, because no one ever sins against us as egregiously as we sinned against Jesus.
|Adam looked again at the cottage piece. “I can’t carry that. It will cut me to pieces. How did it get so splintered?”
“It becomes sharp when it touches your Judas desires. Think of a porcupine with its quills lying flat. If you move your hand in the direction they lay, they are soft and pleasant. But if you rub against the grain, you catch the sharp ends. When your desires and your will move in a good direction, the cottage brings strength, comfort, and healing. When your heart moves the other way, the barbs catch you to keep you from slipping farther.”
What determines whether God’s word is sharp (Revelation 2:12,16) or soothing (Psalm 119:102-103)?
Scripture is sharp when we have unrepentant sin and it soothes when we repent. As in the illustration in the excerpt, biblical principles are like sharp quills that feel soft when you slide your hand in the same direction they lay, but if you go against the grain, they stab you.
|Destruction. I’ve already been there and back. But then again, so had Kailyn. She had lost her family too. But she seemed happy. Adam had enjoyed moments of levity, but his joy was so … fragile.|
What enables our joy to survive the hardships that destroy the world’s joy? See Habakkuk 3:17-19.
As the passage says, it is the fact that he is our Savior and that he provides strength and vigor and life. If we believe that, and we know how to receive those things from him, we will find them more valuable than all the things we lose during our hardships.
|“I don’t just ‘cope.’ I’m happier now than I have ever been. When I lost my family, the Ruler made me a promise. He said he would give me a hundred times what I lost.”|
Consider a loss you have suffered for Christ. How does the promise in Mark 10:29-30 apply?
The 100-fold reward is fulfilled through the church. If you lose your blood family because of your commitment to Christ, you receive hundreds of family members in the household of God. In my case, the loss that came to mind was the loss of my last church. I lost my ministry, my career, and my friends because of my commitment to following Christ. But still, the 100-fold promise applies. It took several years, but now I have been welcomed into a new church where I am surrounded by spiritual mothers, fathers, and siblings.
The family we enjoy in the household of God is a hundred times greater than the blood relatives we might lose when we come to Christ (Mark 10:29-30). In what ways is our spiritual family superior to our physical family?
The most obvious is the size. If you are a believer, there are thousands of homes all around the world where you would receive a warm welcome. You have millions of siblings, mothers, and fathers.
Secondly, the relationships are deeper. They are based on commitment to Christ, so they supersede everything else in life. There have been billions of people who have lived and died and never once experienced a relationship like the ones routinely in the church.
Consider how passages like John 13:35 and Romans 16:16 depict relationships between believers. If people in the world saw how you interact with other believers, would it be obvious to them that there is a deeper bond and a warmer affection than the world’s friendships?
Perhaps, but not as obvious as it should be. Warmth is not something that comes naturally to me. I long to become a more affectionate person.
|“There is a kind of pleasure that comes from fruit-unquestionably, but it is happiness-killing pleasure. The fruit fills your stomach but empties your soul.”|
See Proverbs 5:3-4, 20:17 for two examples of happiness-killing pleasure. Can you think of an example in your own life?
The example from Proverbs 5 is the first one that came to my mind. Nothing has caused more sorrow in my life than immorality. Another example is food. There have been countless times I kept eating in an effort to maximize pleasure and came away physically and emotionally miserable.
|“Your heart is the part of you that loves and hates. Your soul is the part of you that desires and craves. … When you feel empty, bored, lonely, lost, restless-those are not merely moods. They are the hunger pangs of the soul. And when you are dry, depressed, irritable, discouraged, frustrated or unhappy-those feelings are the thirst of your soul.”|
Considering the definition of hunger and thirst (an unpleasant feeling that drives you to eat and drink), what sensations would you identify as the thirst of the soul?
Depression, emptiness, sorrow, boredom, and discontent.
What is the solution when you have feelings like that?
Eating and drinking true spiritual food and drink (fellowship with God).
What negative outcomes may result from failure to interpret hunger and thirst pangs for what they are?
Seeking to satisfy them with things that can never satisfy (which is anything other than fellowship with God). This produces a downward spiral because the more I try to satisfy my hunger and thirst and fail, the more miserable I become.
God frequently compares himself to food and drink (examples: Psalm 36:8, 42:1-2, 63:1, 143:6, Isaiah 12:3, 55:1-3, John 4:13-14,34, 6:35). In what ways is God similar to food and drink?
He satisfies the hunger and thirst of the soul. He provides spiritual energy, vigor, health, and pleasure.
|“And that is why he designed your soul to keep drying up. If thirst were not an unpleasant sensation, we would not drink. The same is true for dryness of soul. The discomfort is designed to drive us to the Ruler’s table.”|
Given what you read in the passages above about God as food and drink, and given what you know about the purpose of physical hunger and thirst pangs, why do you think God designed us in such a way that we continually get dry, depressed, weak, bored, etc.?
If thirst were not such an unpleasant sensation, we would never drink enough and we would die. God designed our souls to dry up and suffer thirst pangs so that we will be driven to the fountain of living water regularly. When we become depressed, bored, etc., it should drive us to seek deeper fellowship with God.
Scripture also compares sin to food (example: Psalm 141:4). Why do you think that is?
Scripture speaks of sin as being like food and drink to show us that that’s what we use it for. The main appeal of sin is its “lying” promise that it will satisfy the hunger and thirst of the soul.
What are the similarities and differences of the two banquets in Proverbs 9? (Compare wisdom’s banquet in verses 1-6 with folly’s banquet in verses 13-18.)
They both call out and promise a banquet. Sin promises the same things God promises. The difference is, folly claims that stolen water is sweet. The way to find satisfaction is through sin, not through seeking God.
The people in Jeremiah 2:11-13 committed two sins. Sin #1 was that they forsook God as water. What does that metaphor mean?
Sin #2 was that they dug their own cisterns, which could not hold water. What does that metaphor mean?
Digging our own cisterns means looking to something besides God as a source of satisfaction.
Why are these two sins portrayed as idolatry?
Idolatry is elevating some created thing to the place of God. And being the source of our satisfaction is a position that belongs to God alone. To look to something else for satisfaction is to treat that thing as God. Desiring something in that way is an act of worship.
|“His food is perfect, reviving the soul, giving joy to the heart, and light to the eyes. It gives wisdom and insight. It fortifies your inner man and keeps you on the path of purity. It empowers, enlightens, enlivens, enables, and enriches your life. It brings comfort and healing. It is costlier than gold, more desirable than any pleasure, and sweeter than fruit from the orchard.”|
List as many benefits from God’s Word as you can find in Psalm 19:7-11, 119:9-11, and 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
- Soul revival.
- Preciousness and sweetness
- Access to reward
- Victory over sin
- Training in righteousness
- Equipping for good works
NOTE: This concludes ch.18. I’ll be taking the rest of December off from posting and plan on starting with ch.19 in January.
I’m curious to know if someone besides Austin finds these posts helpful. If you do, please post a comment to let me know. Thanks!