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The Table of showbread
“Thou shalt also make a table of shittim wood: two cubits shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, and make thereto a crown of gold round about. And thou shalt make unto it a border of an hand breadth round about, and thou shalt make a golden crown to the border thereof round about. And thou shalt make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings in the four corners that are on the four feet thereof. Over against the border shall the rings be for places of the staves to bear the table. And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold, that the table may be borne with them. And thou shalt make the dishes thereof, and spoons thereof, and covers thereof, and bowls thereof, to cover withal: of pure gold shalt thou make them. And thou shalt set upon the table shewbread before me alway.” (Exodus 25:23-30)
Here are seven things that I want fixed in your mind. I pray that God the Holy Ghost will stamp them upon your heart.
1. All who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are numbered among the elect of God: chosen, redeemed, and called.
2. All God’s elect are in Christ by sovereign, eternal election, by the regenerating work of God the Holy Spirit, and by God’s blessed gift of faith in Christ.
3. All God’s elect are accepted in Christ, with Christ, for Christ’s sake, as Christ himself is accepted.
4. All God’s elect are supplied and provided for by Christ.
5. All God’s elect are safe and secure in Christ.
6. All God’s elect are a part of that royal priesthood, described by Peter, who serve God in the sanctuary.
7. And all God’s elect are one in Christ. The Church of God is one body, the body of Christ, with many members.
The portion of Holy Scripture that heads this page contains the instructions the Lord God commanded Moses to give to Aaron and the children of Israel regarding the Table of Showbread in the Tabernacle.
Three Pieces of Furniture
You will remember that there were three pieces of furniture in the first section of the tabernacle, in 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 these three things.
1. Standing in the back, right in front of the veil, he would see the Golden Altar of Incense.
2. On his left, he would see the Golden Candlestick.
3. And on his right, he would see the Golden 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 piece of furniture is described in detail here in Exodus 25:23-30. Here we are given the physical description of the Table of Showbread. This same description is given again in Exodus 37:10-16. In Leviticus 24:5-9, the Holy Spirit gives the instructions Aaron was given concerning the table and its bread.
“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.”
This Golden Table of Showbread and the bread upon it give us much typical instruction concerning our Lord Jesus Christ and God’s bounteous provisions of grace for his people in him.
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. There never was a time when the Lord Jesus Christ was not present with God for us. — “I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was…Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men” (Proverbs 8:23, 30-31). 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 human 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 it did not corrupt Christ’s body. 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. It is written, “He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin!”
The Shittim wood being 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 was 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 the place where the Table of Showbread stood. — 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. Our Redeemer, speaking of himself, said, “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 and delights, and the One in whom alone the infinite, holy, Triune Jehovah finds satisfaction.
Third, we are told that twelve cakes (loaves) of bread were to be set upon the golden table. — “And thou shalt set upon the table showbread before me alway” (v. 30.
“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.” (Leviticus 24:5-6)
Twelve is the number of God’s Israel, his elect, the 144,000 sealed ones in the earth (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 heavenly city.
The twelve loaves in the Holy Place, upon the Table before God, tells us symbolically that Christ the High Priest of God, our great High Priest, has an abundant supply for all whose names are inscribed upon his breastplate. Therefore, none shall perish.
Hear our Savior, hear him, needy soul, and rejoice. In our Father’s house there is “bread enough and to spare” (Luke 15:17). The supply is abundant, super-abundant. Did you notice in Leviticus 24:5 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!” My Savior’s supply is infinite, boundlessly infinite! And his supply is mine. His supply, my brother, my sister, is yours! And it is a bountiful supply. All grace is ours in him (Ephesians 1:3). All glory is ours in Christ Jesus (John 17:22). All things are yours if you are in Christ (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
Are you hungry? Are you a poor, needy, starving sinner? Is your poor soul made hungry by grace? Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness before God? Come, and eat. In Christ, there is bread enough for you! 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.
“Come, now, let us reason together.” — You may not know that your name is in the Book of Life. You may not know that your name is on the breastplate of our great, sin-atoning High Priest. But this you should know (You should know it because our text and the whole Word of God declares it.), there is plenty of Bread on God’s Table, plenty of Bread for your needy soul in Christ, and you are welcome to it. Come and eat; and you will discover that the Table was set specifically for you! If you perish, the fault will be all your own, and no one else’s.
Perhaps you think, “But no one’s hand was allowed to touch that bread except the priest’s.” Satan has a fiendish way of turning the truth of God into a lie and of making what should be most encouraging horribly discouraging. Doesn’t he? Yes, it is true, no hand could touch that bread but the priest’s. But that ought to tell you that 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 is in the Holy Place, so that sinners may get it as they come to God by faith in Christ.
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. Certainly, this was God’s provision for his servants. Those who preach the gospel are to live by the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:14). And that which is represented here is intended to show us that the salvation of God’s elect by the will of God is Christ’s bread, the bread that satisfies his very soul. Still, the showbread is for us. It speaks of Christ who is our Bread.
We are told plainly that 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! “The proof is in the pudding,” we are told. Well, in this case, the proof is in the Bread, in eating the Bread of God. That is exactly what our Savior tells us in John 6:54-58.
“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 forever.”
Come my soul, come my brother, come my sister, come needy sinner. There is Bread abundant on the Table. There are twelve loaves. Each loaf has twice as much as you 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, O my soul, eat and be satisfied!
Next, we are told that the bread was to be set on the Table in two rows (Leviticus 24:6). 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: the bread of his immutable grace, the bread of his adorable and wise providence, the bread of his sweet consolation, the bread of his blessed presence, and the bread of his tender care.
Taken from Israel
The bread was to be taken from the children of Israel (Leviticus 24:8), 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 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” (Leviticus 24:7).
The bread was to be eaten; but the frankincense was to be burned. The frankincense speaks of our acceptance with God, and of 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, our very lives come up before God for a memorial of a sweet, acceptable savor to him (Acts 10:4; 1 Peter 2:5; Ecclesiastes 9:7).
Fifth, the Lord required Aaron to set fresh bread on the Golden Table every sabbath (Leviticus 24:8). 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. Christ is our Sabbath, and the rest wherewith the Lord causes “the weary to rest, and their refreshing.” — “Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee” (Psalms 116:7). — “This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing” (Isaiah 28:12).
Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Bread of God, is brought out and set before men in this blessed gospel sabbath by the preaching of the gospel. And he shall be brought out on the morning of that great eternal sabbath awaiting us and set gloriously before his people forever.
He is set before us continually upon the table of God, the table of God’s preparing, the table of God’s presence, the table of God’s showing. Christ is the Bread of the gospel table. He is the Bread of the table prepared for me in the presence of my enemies. Our dear Savior is the Bread of our souls as we feast at the Lord’s Table, remembering him. And our all-glorious Christ shall be the Bread of our souls forever on the table at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb
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.
“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)
We are one in Christ. This is our strength. This is our peace. This is our joy. This is our hope.
These loaves sat on the Table, one beside the other, each closely connected with the other. We read the words “one another” in Colossians 3 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, God’s 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!”