Several years ago we received an invitation to join the king of Tonga for a celebration of his birthday. We gathered with hundreds of others on a soccer field where we saw table after table—some 300 feet long—loaded with food. There had to be a quarter of a mile of savory dishes covering these tables—succulent pigs and all kinds of fruit, and too many culinary delights to number.
Each island group invited to the feast had a banner above its assigned table so that the guests could know where to sit. Soon we found our group and we sat down to enjoy a thoroughly memorable meal. I’ve never seen so much food! The king provided a fabulous royal banquet to celebrate his birthday. And as I sat there, I couldn’t help but think of a favorite Scripture from the Old Testament:
He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love (Song of Solomon 2:4).
Have you ever entered a large banquet hall where a grand dinner was about to be served? Perhaps you saw thousands of settings but didn’t know where you were to sit. So you started searching to find the right place, but nothing looked promising. Finally you spotted a familiar banner across the hall and you made your way over to it. There you began looking on the table for your own nametag. When at last you found your place, you said, “There is my nametag. Here is where I sit.” And so you sat down and waited for the meal to begin.
Jesus has given you just such a special place. Can you see it? His banner over you is love. He loves you more than you can understand, more than you can know. His love for you is far better than unconditional. He loves you actively, personally, thoughtfully. And He does so knowing everything about you.
During courtship we often do our best to hide the truth about ourselves. We have come to love this person and we fear that if he or she knew the whole truth, the love would end. And so we go in with a bit of deceit.
Maybe he spills a soda on you and you say, “Oh, that’s all right. My, that doesn’t matter a bit. I can get it cleaned, no problem.” While inside you’re thinking, You clumsy oaf! What’s wrong with you? Or maybe he takes you out to McDonald’s for three nights in a row. You smile and say, “McDonald’s, how wonderful. I think that’s great! Yes, I like fries and Big Macs.” And you act so sweet. But beneath the smiles you’re thinking, You cheapskate, why don’t you take me someplace where they use plates?
We don’t dare reveal the truth, however, because we want this person to think we’re always sweet and smiling. We never get angry or upset. We always present ourselves as the very soul of graciousness.
Now, why do we engage in such deceit? We do so because we’re afraid that if this person knew the real truth, he or she might stop liking us. So we keep it up until the day we get married—and then what a shock we get as our beloved begins to express his or her real feelings and we learn the truth.
Frankly, this is the wonderful thing about the love of Jesus. He knew the truth about you all the while! Before you ever enter His covenant of love, He already knows all there is to know about you—even things you don’t know yourself. He knows every one of your bad qualities—and loves you anyhow. He loves you despite your weaknesses. The Lord knows you backwards and forwards, inside and out, upside and down, and yet still He loves you. So He invites you to His banqueting table and His banner over you is love. He wishes to announce to the whole assembly, to the world, “This is the one I love. This is My beloved.”