During the Exodus, the Israelites were ever on the march. They were in the howling and foreboding wilderness. They had no abiding place in the desert, and as such the Israelites are typical of the believer during this life, who passes through this world.
Israel is out of Egypt by the blood of the lamb, separated from the world, but still in the world. Therefore, God provided the Tabernacle as His provision for Israel’s wilderness journey.
The Tabernacle had two rooms. Inside the SECOND ROOM, the Most Holy Place (the Holy of Holies) is one piece of furniture—the Ark of the Testimony! Only the High Priest could enter this room once a year on the Day of Atonement. This room was concealed by a curtain that hid the throne of God on earth— this was the place of judgment—where sin was propitiated.
All the priests could enter daily the FIRST ROOM of the Tabernacle, the Holy Place, which was the place of worship and fellowship. Imagine yourself as a priest enters this scared room. On your right is the Table of the Bread of the Presence, on your left the Lampstand, and in front of the curtain that separated the two rooms, you see the Altar of Incense.
The scene is awe inspiring—displaying the Divine glory! Silence reigns in this room. No prayers are offered, no songs of praise are sung. The voice of man is still, but the voice of the golden furnishings around you mutely, yet eloquently, speaks of Christ.
Although each of the furnishings is a distinct piece of furniture, each one relates to the other. It is impossible to understand the full significance of one without understanding the others. Combined the Tabernacle and its furnishings speak of Christ, Salvation and the Christian. It is not surprising, therefore, to read in Acts 6:7—
So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
It was the priests who experienced the symbolism of Christ in the Temple worship and came to recognize Him. So as we study what the Word of God says and are enabled by the Holy Spirit to understand it, we should grow in our knowledge and appreciation of Jesus Christ and the salvation that He came to give to us.
In Exodus 25:23-30, Moses records the LORD’s instructions for the first article of furniture in the Holy Place, the Table and the items to be placed on it—
[And] make a table of acacia wood—two cubits long, a cubit wide and a cubit and a half high. Overlay it with pure gold and make a gold moulding around it. Also make around it a rim a handbreadth wide and put a gold moulding on the rim. Make four gold rings for the table and fasten them to the four corners, where the four legs are. The rings are to be close to the rim to hold the poles used in carrying the table. Make the poles of acacia wood, overlay them with gold and carry the table with them. And make its plates and dishes of pure gold, as well as its pitchers and bowls for the pouring out of offerings. Put the bread of the Presence on this table to be before me at all times.
Verse 23 in the Hebrew begins with the connective AND—unfortunately it not translated in the English versions. The Holy Spirit wants us to see the ARK OF THE TESTIMONY and THE TABLE OF THE BREAD OF THE PRESENCE together. Christ’s profound invitation to the Church is a combination of these two pieces of furniture in Revelation 3:20-21—
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.
The blood sprinkled ATONEMENT COVER of the ARK speaks of Christ as the basis of our fellowship with God, while the Table points to the SUBSTANCE of that fellowship. This connection will become more evident as we ponder today’s passage.
The TABLE is 36 inches long, 18 inches wide, and 27 inches tall. It was made of ACACIA WOOD and overlaid with PURE GOLD. It had a molding of gold around it—perhaps a raised, decorative piece on the edge of the table’s top. A frame about 3 inches wide, extended around the legs, and rings of gold were attached to the four corners of the frame, at some distance from the top of the table.
The twisted, thorn infested, almost incorruptible ACACIA WOOD speaks of Jesus’ humanity and the gold of His deity. The TABLE was built for the purpose of holding THE BREAD OF THE PRESENCE, as well as the UTENSILS used in offering incense and drink offerings.
Its plates and dishes were not for the purpose of serving God food as in pagan nations. Even the sacrifices set apart for God were not to be boiled or roasted; they were to come up before him in vapors and odors, not in substance or as food. Of course, some of the offerings were to be shared with the priests, and the fellowship offerings were shared in part with the people.
The KJV drops the article THE and takes Hebrew word PRESENCE and combines it with BREAD to come up with SHEWBREAD. Most modern versions of the Bible render a more literal translation—THE BREAD OF THE PRESENCE instead of SHEWBREAD.
PRESENCE is the Hebrew word for FACE, which is used for the Divine Person Himself, as with THE ANGEL OF HIS PRESENCE in Isaiah 63:9 or MY PRESENCE SHALL GO WITH YOU in Exodus 33:14-15, which are OT designations for Christ.
Numbers 4:7-8 contain the instructions for moving the TABLE—
Over the table of the Presence they are to spread a blue cloth and put on it the plates, dishes and bowls, and the jars for drink offerings; the bread that is continually there is to remain on it. Over these they are to spread a scarlet cloth, cover that with hides of sea cows and put its poles in place.
The first cover of BLUE points to Christ as the Bread from Heaven. Seven times Jesus announced Himself this way in Chapter 6 of John.
The second cloth was SCARLET—the Hebrew for SCARLET is also translated WORM depending upon the context. This color was obtained from a worm. Certainly, the glory of sinful man is like a worm. Not only did Christ humble himself and become a man, but He shed His blood for us also.
The third was an external cover made of the HIDES OF SEA COWS, which typified Christ’s humiliation. This cover points to the unattractiveness of the servant-form that our Savior took and of His physical appearance as described in Isaiah 53:2—
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
Turn to Leviticus 24:5-9, where further instructions for the arrangement of the Table are given by Yahweh—
Take fine flour and bake twelve loaves of bread, using two-tenths of an ephah for each loaf. Set them in two rows, six in each row, on the table of pure gold before the LORD. Along each row put some pure incense as a memorial portion to represent the bread and to be an offering made to the LORD by fire. This bread is to be set out before the LORD regularly, Sabbath after Sabbath, on behalf of the Israelites, as a lasting covenant. It belongs to Aaron and his sons, who are to eat it in a holy place, because it is a most holy part of their regular share of the offerings made to the LORD by fire.
The Hebrew word for LOAVES is hllx (challah), which indicates the loaves or cakes were pierced, typifying the One who was pierced for our transgressions.
The Bread of the Presence was to be made from fine flour. FINE FLOUR comes from a grinding process. This gives to us again a picture of Christ, who experienced extreme suffering yet retained His sinless purity.
There was nothing coarse or undesirable about this flour. There were others beside Pontius Pilate who said, “I find no fault in this man.”
The Bread was baked, which meant the FINE FLOUR was exposed to heat. This reminds us of the heat of torment that Jesus experienced when Israel rejected Him as Messiah and crucified Him for claiming to be the Son of God. And on the Cross, Christ took the fire of God’s wrath for us!
Flour, in itself, is anything but palatable. It must be subjected to the fire before it can be partaken of and appreciated. The wheat for the flour of necessity must be crushed before it can become usable as bread, therefore, the Jews should not have been surprised by Isaiah words—
He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Day in and day out the CRUSHED and PIERCED Messiah was foreshadowed for the priests as they observed the pierced loaves made of fine flour. Then the priests ate the BREAD! No wonder many priests became obedient to the faith.
Christ’s good life was not enough—He had to suffer the agony of the Cross before you and I could be partakers or recipients of His grace. It is not His good example and our efforts to follow that example that saves our souls, but simple faith in His finished work on the Cross.
The Levite priests prepared the twelve loaves of unleavened bread to be laid out each Sabbath and they ate the old loaves in the Holy Place each Sabbath. This seventh day ritual reaches back to creation—to God’s day of rest and enjoyment—to be shared by His people.
The priest regardless of their dignity, self-righteousness, or elected position, were required to partake of the Unleavened Bread of the Presence of God. It does not matter how good we think we are, we too must take the Christ, the living Word, into our hearts for salvation. His righteousness imputed to us, or charged to our account, is the only kind of righteousness God will recognize on the Great Day of Judgment. Our testimony needs to match the Apostle Paul’s in Philippians 3:8-9—
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
At the deaths of Princess Diana and Mother Teressa, each was recognized for her good works. But good works cannot get anyone into heaven! Isaiah 64:6 states—
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
Even our few good works in which there is real excellence, as fruits of the Spirit, are so defective and defiled as one by us, that they need to be washed in the blood of Christ. Neither Princess Diana nor Mother Teressa are an exception to Ephesians 2:8-10—
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
The INCENSE sprinkled on the BREAD was FRANKINCENSE, which comes from the bark of trees of the genus Boswellia, which grows to the height of forty feet. As the amber resin dries, white dust forms on the drops or tears of frankincense thus giving rise to its Semitic name.
Of interest, the Magi presented unto the infant Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The GOLD typified Christ’s deity. The FRANKINCENSE foretold that Jesus would be a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. The MYRRH was used for embalming and it foretold the necessity of His substitutionary death.
The priests, however, could not sit at this Table. It was too small—being sufficiently large enough only to support the twelve loaves and utensils. Even if the priest could have sat at this Table, there were no chairs or other provisions for rest in the Tabernacle. God was communicating that His House is not a place of ease and entertainment, but the place of work and service. There was work to be done, and so they ate the bread standing on their feet, ready to go about the business of serving the people.
The same was true of the Passover night of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. They were to eat the Passover Lamb standing, with shoes on their feet, their loins girded and with a staff in hand, ready to leave for the journey on a moment’s notice.
So, too, in the Tabernacle—at any moment the order might come to move on, and they must be ready to pick up leave. We, too, are called upon to worship with readiness—ready to go where God would take us and ultimately ready for the call from heaven—“to come up here!”
The same idea of readiness is communicated by the Apostle Paul when he writes of the LORD’S SUPPER in 1 Corinthians 11:26—
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Christ, our living Bread, is coming back again. At any moment the order to move may be heard from heaven. Are you ready?
When He comes will He find us occupied with Him? Feeding upon Him? Walking in the light of the Holy Spirit? Will He find us in fellowship with Himself and with the saints of God? Will He find us feasting upon His Word, or feeding on the shallow, empty husks that passes for religion? Will he find us winning souls for Him, or building a church or a denomination or defending a pet doctrine or busy in religious entertainment?
Remember, one of these days the Lord of the Tabernacle will come, and then we shall give an account of what we have done with Him, the Bread of Life, and where and how we spend our time, talents and treasure!
Hebrews 10:11-12 contrasts the OT priests with Christ—
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.
There is no rest for the human soul except as we trust the finished work our Great High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of God and making intercession for us. He finished His work and can, therefore, rightfully sit in His place of glory.
The Table was to have perpetually twelve loaves of bread on it. There are many explanations of how these loaves were arranged but the important thing to remember is that each loaf represents a tribe of Israel. God was providing equality for all since the loaves or cakes were of equal size. Placing the twelve loaves on the table symbolized the entire consecration of Israel to the LORD, and their acceptance of God as their God.
The BREAD was baked without yeast or leaven. Now yeast or leaven is always a type of sin in the Scriptures. As the bread was unleavened, so Israel was to be unleavened—without sin. The Israelites were to be the holy people of God. The same is true for Christians today. And holiness is only possible through the One who lived a life without leaven—the sinless Son of God.
The dimensions of the Table imply limitations. The Table was limited to twelve loaves of bread, typifying the Twelve Tribes of Israel—God’s elect! While the Gospel is to “whosoever will,” only those who place their trust in the Bread of Life can enjoy fellowship around this Table. In other words, fellowship around this Table is limited to believers only.
We are all familiar with Psalm 23:5—
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
The LORD yearns for our fellowship around the Table that He has prepared. We are reminded of the Lord’s Supper and how we are expected to remember His death and coming again around His Table. This Table speaks symbolically of our communion and fellowship with the Bread of Life.
The Table with the Bread of the Presence presented two sides of the same truth—a GODWARD side and a HUMAN side. First, it stood before God, reminding Israel that they were ever open to the all-seeing and protection of God. Israel was constantly under the scrutiny, care, and preservation of Yahweh.
Next, it was the place where the priests served and found their bread. That bread pointed to Christ who was that Bread that would come down from heaven and give to men and women that everlasting bread.
Second, the BREAD is symbolic of GOD’S EVERLASTING COVENANT with Israel.
Third, the BREAD is a type of Christ. The Table of the Bread of the Presence suggests many things. It speaks of sustenance, provision and supply. It is the OT table of salvation.
Jesus gave a parable in Matthew 22:1-14 which tells about the marriage of the king’s son. The invited quests refused to come, and this provoked the king to deal with the rejectors. Having done so, the king extended the invitation to include those in the highways and byways. They were invited to come and eat. Likewise, the invitation has gone out today to the world to come and partake of salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Fourth, it is a table of provision. God, as Creator, provides all food for man and beast. Whether you like it or not, you eat every day at God’s table in the physical realm. Yet how few recognize this truth and give thanks to Him for His bounty. We would starve, if God did not provide!
Fifth, it is a table for believers. The table foreshadows the Lord’s Supper, as instituted by Jesus prior to His death upon the Cross. This table speaks of Christ as the Sustainer of spiritual life for the believer.
The TABLE and BREAD are spoken are often spoken of as ONE. We do the same thing today when we say, “The Lord’s Table.” We do not eat the table, but we associate the table with the Bread and Cup.
The bread was changed each Sabbath. The bread which was removed was eaten with wine by the priests in a Holy Place—not at home! Just as that bread also supplied the needs of the priest on the Sabbath, so Jesus also meets the needs of the children of God in this generation.
This table doesn’t prefigure Christ in the same way that manna does. Although, both speak of Christ as the LIFE-GIVER. Christ interpreted the MANNA in John 6:32—
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.
A short time later, He said in John 6:35—
I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
Now the BREAD OF THE PRESENCE speaks of Christ as the LIFE-SUSTAINER. Eternal life is a gift, but one cannot receive it unless one eats of the true bread which came down from heaven. Eternal life requires a special food to sustain it and help it grow and find strength. The Bread of the Presence pictures Christ as that special food.
There is an ancient proverb which contains the thought that a thing grows by what it feeds upon. And a book on the subject of dieting is entitled, YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT. The difficulty today is that we have too many Christians who are not feeding on Christ. You have to feed on Him in order to grow spiritually. Peter ends his second letter with this admonition—
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
He is the living Word—the Bread of Life—by which we grow. It is extremely significant that priests ate the Bread of the Presence each Sabbath.
In the OT, only the priest were allowed to enter the Holy Place of the Tabernacle—only they had been set aside for spiritual ministry to the Lord in behalf of the people. However, today all believers are considered a ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, and every believer is allowed to enter into the presence of the LORD.
Every born-again believer has the opportunity and privilege of entering the Holy Place to fellowship with God by feeding on the Word, which is illuminated by the Holy Spirit.
Do you eat of the living Word of God on the Sabbath—the Lord’s Day? Remember what Jesus told Satan?
“It is written: `Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
The bread in the Tabernacle was replaced once a week, which indicates to us the need of coming to the LORD’s house to partake of the Word of God in a holy place. We are not to rely on what we have eaten in previous days. A person may have had a wonderful devotional time yesterday, but that does not suffice! We need to keep coming to the Word of God to learn more of Christ and to assimilate the knowledge freshly!
Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” We should make that daily petition a request for both our physical and spiritual food!
God’s words to Joshua should be taken seriously by every believer—
Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful (Joshua 1:8).
Unleavened Bread sprinkled with Frankincense was the only food placed on the Table for the priests. There were no sauces and spices and pickles and olives and fancy salads or pie ala mode—just bread. We have drifted far, far away from this simple formula today.
Instead of believers coming to fellowship around the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, without all the extraneous paraphernalia, and just feed on His Word, too many services have been turned into a carnival.
The Word of God has been pushed aside into a secondary place. Entertainment has taken the place of worship; there is a fifteen-minute sermonette highly spiced with stories in order to keep people awake after all of the wearying entertainment! And then we wonder at the worldliness and the shallowness of Christians today!
I have read a number of sermons of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, which he preached on Christ from the OT, between the years 1863 and 1897 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in Newington, England. It took me about two hours to read each of his sermons, which were purely expositions of Scripture without spicy stories. Spurgeon fed his congregation the Bread of Life!
The TABLE, in the holy place, is the center of fellowship for the priests; the bread is the living Word, as revealed in the written Word. The lesson for us is definite and clear. We are NT priests, ministering unto the LORD in Christ. We need to be partakers of Christ and His Word.