The Shewbread Table
Scripture: Exodus 25:23-30
The great theme of the Tabernacle was the terms on which God and man could meet together and commune together. It was a place of fellowship with God. Cp Exodus 25:22. Various aspects of that great subject are expressed in the component parts of the Tabernacle structure. We have seen the necessity of Christ in the matter, the need for atonement, cleansing, redemption etc. The thought presented to us in the Table is obviously of a meal — eating and drinking with God, guests at His table, enjoying communion with Him. The idea of communion with God under the imagery of a meal is still before us in the church of Christ — the Lord’s supper, 1 Corinthians 10:16
The sanctuary in which the shewbread table was to be found was the preserve of the priests. Here was a place where the golden glory of God was revealed, Heaven touched earth, heaven was opened to the eye of the priest. That which was figuratively enjoyed by the OT priest is enjoyed by the NT believer having been made a priest unto God in Christ our great High priest.
The shewbread table presents Christ to us as the basis and substance of our fellowship with God.
I Christ is the basis of communion with God.
Again, in this article of furniture we are faced with Christ as the One in Whom communion with God is possible.
a) His dual nature. The combination of the shittim wood and the gold sets before us the dual natures of Christ, Exodus 25:23-24. He was sinless man and yet God. This is essential to His mediatorial office. To act as go-between He must be God and man. To make reconciliation and procure communion with God for sinners He must have dual natures. Cp 1 Timothy 2:5.
b) His glorified status. The prominence of the gold in the table, its location in the sanctuary hidden to the world, watched over by the angelic hosts indicates that it is Christ as the exalted and glorified redeemer Who is before us. In the outer court His humiliation is seen. That work is now over and yet His work as Mediator continues for ever but now as the Lamb exalted to the throne of God. The basis of our communion with God is a glorified Christ. Had He not been glorified there could have been no communion with God. His exaltation is the testimony of His finished work. Cp Acts 4:11-12, 5:31.
c) The security of having Christ as the basis of communion with God.
(i) There were two crowns upon this table. This served a very practical purpose as a barrier to the loaves of shewbread to prevent them falling off the table. Christ as king of His people is the preserver of His saints. Those who are in Him and resting on Him by faith cannot slip off. Clearly in some sense the 12 loaves represent the people of God.
(ii) There is a reference in the design of the table to the hand, Exodus 25:25. Our attention is drawn to the hand of the Godman. Cp John 10:28.
d) Wherever they were the basis of fellowship was the same. Like the other articles of furniture the table was designed for mobility. Cp Numbers 4:7-8. No matter where we are or what stage of our Christian pilgrimage we are at there is no other basis of communion with God.
II Christ is the substance of our communion with God.
On the table was bread. It has various typical teachings but in it we must see the One Who described Himself as the bread of life, John 6:35. The shewbread is described, Leviticus 24:5-6.
a) The finest flour was used representing the perfections of the person and labours of Christ ‘baked’ in the fires of God to be bread for His people.
b) It was ‘pierced’ bread, v5 cake. The same Hebrew root that gives us cake also gives us wounded, Isaiah 53:5. Cp John 6:51, 53, 55-56. It is Christ as the wounded One Who is the food of the soul. It is only by feeding upon Him as the sacrifice for sin that we have our souls nourished and revived.
c) There is a portion in Him for all the covenant people of God. There were 12 cakes, one for each tribe. A similar sized portion for all — a double portion in fact!
d) The bread was to be eaten, Leviticus 24:9. On the Sabbath day the bread was replaced with new loaves and the old was eaten by the priests. Here was the weekly feast that the priests were called to. Here, in the presence of God they ate the shewbread and drank the wine of the drink offerings, Numbers 28:7. Cp Exodus 25:29 — vessels included bowls for the wine. In the golden light of the lampstand there was a partcipating of that which represented Christ in His death. A concept that is very similar to the Lord’s Supper — although the NT sacrament is a development of the Passover. The Sabbath was the time appointed for this meal. This is doubly significant:—
(i) Rest is obtained as Christ is fed upon by faith.
(ii) The day specially appointed by God for the nourishment of the soul is the Sabbath — the Lord’s Day. The place where it was eaten was the sanctuary.
The bread was to be eaten while standing. There was no chairs at this table. Cp Exodus 12:11. It was part of their priestly activity/work/duty to eat this bread. The nourisment of our souls on Christ requires work, it requires care and alertness. We cannot feed on Him and laze around as we often do as we relax and snack. Feeding on Christ should always be accompanied with evidence of our diligence and the fact that we are the servants of God.
Vessels, Exodus 25:29. The means of participating in this bread was also provided by the Lord. These vessels were all of gold. It is a divine work that conveys the bread of life to our souls. Here is the ministry of the Holy Ghost symbolized! It is only as God the Spirit works to convey to us the benefits of Christ and His ministry that our soul is nourished and fed.
Coverings, Numbers 4:7-8. A cloth of blue covered the table – a reminder of the Heavenly origin of the One who is the Bread come down from Heaven. The bread and vessels were laid on that blue cloth. They were covered by a scarlet cloth which dramatically reminded of the blood of atonement which is the basis of fellowship with God, 1 John 1:7. The whole was covered with a covering of badgers’ skin – the plain ‘unattractive’ exterior of gospel ordinances and of Christ Himself is set before us again. That which is meat and drink to the soul of the believer is dull and unappealing to the spiritually blind.