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The Table of Showbread
“And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth deals shall be in one cake. And thou shalt set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before the LORD. And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the LORD. Every sabbath he shall set it in order before the LORD continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. And it shall be Aaron’s and his sons’; and they shall eat it in the holy place: for it is most holy unto him of the offerings of the LORD made by fire by a perpetual statute.”
You will remember that there were three pieces of furniture in the first section of the tabernacle, the outer sanctuary. As the priest walked into that holy place, before the veil that separated the holy place from the holy of holies and the ark of the covenant, he would see those three pieces of furniture. Standing in the back, right in front of the veil, he would see the golden altar of incense. On his left, he would see the golden candlestick. And on his right, he would see the table of showbread, with its twelve loaves of bread in two rows, with golden dishes, golden bowls, and golden spoons, and frankincense upon each row of bread.
This third piece of furniture, the table of showbread, is described in detail in Exodus 37:10-16. There the Holy Spirit has recorded the physical description of the table. In Leviticus 24:5-9 we have the instructions Aaron was given concerning the table and its bread. This golden table of showbread and the bread upon it give us much typical instruction concerning our Lord Jesus Christ and his bounteous provisions of grace for his people.
First, I want you to see that the golden table of showbread is itself typical of our great Savior. The name given to this table, “the table of showbread” (Numbers 4:7), might better be translated, “the table of the bread of presence.” It speaks of Christ ever present with God and ever present with us. And the materials of the table clearly speak of our Redeemer. It was made of Shittim wood, overlaid with pure gold. These were the very same materials used to make the ark of the covenant.
The Shittim wood, a wood (like our cedar) that did not decay or rot, portrays our Savior’s humanity, which never saw corruption. In order to redeem and save us, the Son of God took on himself our nature. He became one of us. Yes, Jesus Christ, our God, is a real man. He has taken our nature into union with himself, indivisibly and permanently. He who would redeem man must himself be a man. But this man was born of a virgin, and had no sin. He had no sin, did not sin, and knew no sin. Yet, he was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Sin is that which has corrupted God’s universe, corrupts our race, and shall at last corrupt our bodies in the grave; but not Christ’s! Though he was made sin for us, when he had put away our sins by the sacrifice of himself, he arose from the grave before his body could see corruption. Now, yonder in heaven, seated upon the throne of God is God in our nature, the God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ. And it is written, “He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin!”
The Shittim wood overlaid with pure gold speaks of our Savior’s perfect and eternal divinity. That man who is our Savior is God, perfectly and fully God, shining forth from eternity, and for evermore, in the golden brilliance of his divinity. Though he were a perfect man, though he had died as our Substitute, his sacrifice could never have availed for our eternal salvation, except he be himself God incarnate.
“Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut his glories in
When God the mighty Maker died,
For man, the creature’s sin!”
The table, wearing a crown of pure gold, speaks of Christ’s exaltation and glory as our great King. God the Father has made him both Lord and Christ. He has placed upon the head of the God-man, our Mediator, the crown of universal monarchy. He has given him power and dominion over all flesh, that he might give eternal life to all his redeemed ones. Yes, the God-man, our Savior, holds the reins of the universe in his hands. He rules the entire universe, absolutely, for the salvation and everlasting good of his people to the glory of God.
The Table’s Place
Second, be sure you do not fail to see that the table of showbread, the bread of presence, stood in the holy place in the tabernacle, before the presence of the Lord. The bread was symbolically set before God himself. It stood there before the Lord God continually, as bread fit for God, offered to God, honored by God, and accepted by God. It stood there symbolically as the Bread of God.
The showbread was typical of our Savior. “For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world” (John 6:33). The Lord Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life for our souls, is the very Bread of God. He is the Food of heaven. That is to say, our all-glorious Christ (his person and work) is he upon whom God feasts, delights, and finds satisfaction.
Third, we are told that twelve cakes (loaves) of bread were to be set upon the golden table. — “And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth deals shall be in one cake. And thou shalt set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before the Lord” (vv. 5-6).
Twelve is the number of God’s Israel, the number of his elect, the 144,000 John saw before with the Lamb of God in heaven (Revelation 7:4; 14:1-3). Without question, these twelve loaves of bread typify our Lord Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, as we have seen. But the fact that the bread is here specifically required to be in twelve loaves makes it clear that the loaves represent Christ in connection with his people, represented in the twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve names inscribed upon Aaron’s breastplate, the twelve stones of the altar erected by Joshua when Israel crossed over Jordan, the twelve stones of Elijah’s altar on Mt. Carmel before the prophets of Baal, the twelve apostles, the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem, and the twelve gates of the city.
The twelve loaves in the holy place, upon the table before God, tells us symbolically that Christ Jesus, the High Priest of God, has an abundant supply for all whose names are inscribed upon his breastplate. Therefore, none shall perish. In our Father’s house there is “bread enough and to spare” (Luke 15:17). The supply is abundant, super-abundant.
Notice that each loaf had “two tenth deals” of fine flour, two omers. That was double any man’s daily provision of manna in the wilderness. In other words, in each loaf of bread, sitting on the table in the holy place, there was symbolically twice as much bread for every person in Israel as he needed. — “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound!” Our Savior’s supply is infinite, boundlessly infinite! And his supply is ours. All grace is ours (Ephesians 1:3). All glory is ours (John 17:22). All things are our, because Christ is ours (1 Corinthians 3:21).
Feasting on the Bread of God’s providing,
Jesus crucified, my soul is satisfied:
Feasting on the Bread of God’s providing,
O wonderful and bountiful supply!
Bread for Sinners
In Christ, there is bread enough for every poor sinner who is made hungry by his grace! If you hunger and thirst after righteousness, hunger and thirst to be righteous before God, Christ is Bread for your soul, all the bread you need. There is such an infinite sufficiency and abundance of life, of mercy, of love, of grace in Christ that, though untold multitudes live by eating this Bread, the Bread is undiminished. There is still just as much as in the beginning. There is plenty of Bread on God’s table, plenty of Bread for our needy souls in Christ, and we are welcome to it.
Yet, we are specifically told that none were allowed to touch that bread except the priests. The Bread of Life is for sinners who need a Priest. The priest alone must manage the table and keep bread on it all the time. The Bread of God is in the holy place, so that sinners may get it as they come to God by faith in Christ, the only Mediator and Priest between God and men.
There is much typical instruction in the fact that only God’s priests were allowed to eat the showbread, and in the fact that they were to eat it only in the holy place. The showbread was God’s provision for his servants, the Levites. Even so, those who preach the gospel are to live by the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:14). That which is represented in the table and its bread is the salvation of God’s elect by the will of God. That is our dear Savior’s bread, the satisfaction of his soul.
Still, the showbread is for us. It speaks of Christ who is our Bread. None but God’s priests could eat this bread. The long and short of that is this: – If I come to Christ, the Bread of Life, and eat him, I am, I must be one of those made to be in him “a chosen generation and a royal priesthood” before God! We often say, “The proof is in the puddin’.” In this case, the proof is in the Bread, in eating the Bread of God.
“Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.”
Christ is Bread abundant on the table. There are twelve loaves. Each loaf has twice as much as we can take in. The Bread sits on a table with four corners, pointing to sinners everywhere. The Bread is there all the time. And the Table is the King’s Table. Here, Mephibosheth eats, with his mangled legs covered, as one of the King’s sons! Eat and be satisfied!
Then we are told that the bread was to be set on the table in two rows (v. 6). Try to picture the scene. There is a priest, Aaron or one of his sons, standing before this table with twelve loaves of bread before him. There is Christ, standing in the holy place, ever busy, never idle, his hands constantly and bountifully providing Bread for his people. He gives us our daily bread: — The Bread of Grace — The Bread of Providence — The Bread of Consolation — The Bread of His Presence — The Bread of His Tender Care!
Taken From Israel
The bread was to be taken from the children of Israel (v. 8), because the Lord God would have all his people know that it was for them. So, too, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, is Bread taken from among men, that we might know that all he is, he is for us, and all he does, he does he does on our behalf.
“Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people.” (Psalms 89:19)
“For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.” (Hebrews 5:1-2)
Fourth, it was required of God that each row of bread have some frankincense upon it for a memorial of burnt offering to the Lord. — “And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the Lord” (v. 7).
The bread was to be eaten; but the frankincense was to be burned. The frankincense speaks of our acceptance with God and the acceptance of our worship, praise, and sacrifices, the acceptance of our very prayers by Christ. All God’s spiritual Israel, typified by the twelve loaves, are made through Christ a sweet savor to him. Our prayers and sacrifices, worship and service come up before God for a memorial of a sweet, acceptable savor to him (Acts 10:4; 1 Peter 2:5).
Fifth, the Lord required Aaron to set fresh bread on the golden table every sabbath (v. 8). There is more here than this, I am sure, but this is distinctly a word of instruction to God’s servants. The bread was to be prepared before it was brought to the tabernacle. Yet, it was to be freshly prepared. Then, every Saturday the priest was required to set fresh bread on the table in the house of God.
So gospel preachers must come to the house of God with fresh Bread, and set that upon the table before the Lord, feeding his children with the Bread of God. God’s servants dare not bring stale bread to his people, and dare not bring any other food to feed them. Displays of oratory eloquence, great learning, and vain philosophy, theological speculation, denominational dogma, and religious ceremony, history, moralisms, and civic duties are all a breach of this perpetual statute. The only bread with which God’s servants are to feed his children is Jesus Christ and him crucified, the Bread of Life.
Sixth, as the bread was brought out before the people and placed in the holy place on the golden table on the sabbath day, so our Lord Jesus Christ, the Bread of God, shall be brought out on the morning of that great eternal sabbath awaiting us and set gloriously before his people forever.
“What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see.
I shall look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace!
What a day, glorious day that will be!”
Seventh, the two rows of bread, six loaves to a row, sitting upon that golden table, suggests the blessed fellowship, unity, and oneness of God’s church. God’s Israel in this gospel age is just one tribe. All who are born of God are one with Christ and one in Christ.
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)
Those loaves sat on the table one beside the other, each closely connected with the other. We read in Colossians 3 the words “one another” again and again. “Lie not one to another; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another;” “in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another.” That is the way believers are to live. We live not for ourselves, but to love and serve one another (Ephesians 4:1-5:2).
God’s Israel, his church, is ever one before him. These twelve loaves, covered with pure frankincense, arranged in divine order on the table of pure gold, standing in the holy place before the Lord, standing in the light of the golden candlestick, display the indissoluble unity of God’s Israel. Even after the revolt of the ten tribes there were twelve loaves on the table (2 Chronicles 13:11), because, “the purpose of God according to election” stands unaltered (Romans 9:11; 2 Timothy 2:19). The Church of God is one body, the body of Christ, already seated with him in glory. Not one member shall be severed from that body. All Israel shall be saved.
This is the everlasting memorial of God’s honor and glory. Like the twelve stones taken out of Jordan and laid together as a memorial to God, and those twelve stones erected as an altar by Elijah before the altars of Baal, these twelve loaves in the tabernacle declare to the glory of God our Savior, whose name is called Jesus, — “He shall save his people from their sins!”