THE BANQUET

And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. [Isaiah 58:11 (ESV)]

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. [1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)]

Black vulturesThe lakes in our favorite bird sanctuary/swamp have disappeared and only one small mud puddle remains. What once was teeming with life is gloomy, decaying and nearly lifeless. Beautiful egrets and herons have been replaced by black vultures and the distinct aroma of decomposing fish. A banquet is taking place as the vultures pick at the remains of the creatures that once thrived in the lakes. After eating their fill, they perch in the trees and wait for the final puddle to disappear and offer up the last of its residents.

Seeing the vultures feasting on the carcasses makes me think of C.S. Lewis’ satirical novel The Screwtape Letters. Written in 1941, it is an excellent treatise on the psychology of temptation. Screwtape is a sinister senior demon who writes letters of guidance to his nephew Wormwood. A junior devil, Wormwood is trying to secure the damnation of a young man known only as “the patient.” Although he eventually loses his patient to “the Enemy” (God), it was several years before readers knew what the demons did with the souls they managed to seize. In 1959, “Screwtape Proposes a Toast,” was published in The Saturday Evening Post. Taking place at the annual banquet of the Tempters’ Training College for Young Devils, the anguished souls of those unfortunate enough to have been captured were served for dinner. The guest of honor, Screwtape, speaks of feasting on the despair and ruin of those souls. While the spread was plentiful, he was slightly disappointed by the bland sauce of graft, lukewarm casserole of adultery, and dull garnish of sedition. Screwtape considers the tastiest morsels to be the really great sinners, like Herod or Henry the 8th. Nevertheless, he is optimistic because the supply of captured souls, even if a bit tasteless, is plentiful and seems to be increasing. When Screwtape raises his glass and proposes a toast to the school, he is pleasantly surprised by the delicious bouquet of the wine. A vintage blend of Pharisee, “the fine flower of unholiness” that comes from hypocrisy pleases his sinister palate. Like the vultures in the swamp, the demons are enjoying their feast of stench, decay and rot.

Because there is no life sustaining water at the swamp, the black vultures are enjoying their putrid banquet. The poor souls feasted on by C.S. Lewis’ demons also became fodder because of their lack of living water. The difference, of course, is that the swamp creatures had no choice—the rain didn’t fall, the water evaporated and the animals died. Those people captured by the demons, whose souls were consumed at that banquet, had a choice. They were offered an endless supply of living water by Jesus and they chose not to accept. We can choose Jesus and receive the living water of the Holy Spirit or we can choose to be devoured by the enemy. The choice is ours—let us make it wisely.

But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. [John 4:14 (ESV)]

With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation! [Isaiah 12:3 (ESV)]

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. [Isaiah 44:3 (ESV)]

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