On the eve of this Lord’s Day, as I think of those gathering to worship and praise their Maker and their King across the world, I am glad that Scripture is replete with the attempts of the prophets, poets, and apostles to describe the relationship of God to His people. No one metaphor or image is adequate. We need all of them to describe its various dimensions. Moreover, each one expands in scope and vision with each passing day as we walk with Him in the fullness of the knowledge of His love and faithfulness; “for we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away…. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13: 9, 12).
Man ate of the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance. (Psalm 78:25)
The hymn, Panis Angelicus, written by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, comes close to describing the ineffable mixture of unspeakable joy and perfect peace that we experience in the sacrament of holy communion. Yet when we partake of the body and blood of Jesus Christ by faith, we are feasting on more than the bread of angels, this manna that rained down for forty years upon the Israelites in the wilderness that the psalmist describes. Instead, by faith we receive Christ Himself, the Son of God incarnate, in a gift of atonement and communion that even the angels cannot know but that by grace we possess through the Holy Spirit leading us into fellowship with the Trinitarian God, a fellowship inscribed within the eternal, steadfast love of the Father.
There’s a story in the book of Genesis of a man named Jacob wrestling with an unknown heavenly traveler. We are told it’s the middle of the night and that they wrestled “until the breaking of the day” (Gen. 32:24) but as the story opens we are left to imagine why Jacob is so eager for the contest. In the struggle, his “hip is put out of joint” (32:25) and he is lamed but still, despite the overwhelming pain and his opponent’s superior strength, Jacob refuses to let him go – at least until he’s been given the name of this traveler. Jacob had apparently guessed that this man was far more than he appeared to be.