The Table of Shewbread
My little sister had this book; it was her favourite. Long before she went to school she could reel it off, we thought she could read, she just knew it off by heart: “Come over to my house” [read]. It’s easy for kids – they want to be friends they invite you over to their house to play. We adults are far more reserved and careful. If we want to know someone we might ask them over for a cup of tea. If we really were keen on spending time with them we might over them over for a meal – share a meal. What the NT calls “reclining at table”. That’s what we are going to look at today – the table. The table is the place of fellowship. We use the term fellowship when we have a social time but fellowship is more than having an interest in common, being friends or doing things together. Fellowship takes place when we meet with the LORD together. We have been looking at the tabernacle, getting closer to where יְהוָה is: first we approached the tabernacle where יְהוָה’s presence dwells [P]; came to the court of righteousness, through the door that is Jesus, to the bronze altar which is His sacrifice for sin [P]; then we came to the laver where we as priests were cleansed by the washing of the water of the word [P]; then we came to the tabernacle itself [P] which is Jesus – last time we looked at getting to know Him deeper. Now we actually are going to enter in to the tabernacle [P]. To the Holy place – we are “in Christ” – right in the place that He dwells what do we find? The table [P] – the place of fellowship.
Table – fellowship: [Exodus 25:23-30 “You shall make a table of acacia wood, two cubits long and one cubit wide and one and a half cubits high. “You shall overlay it with pure gold and make a gold border around it. “You shall make for it a rim of a handbreadth around it; and you shall make a gold border for the rim around it. “You shall make four gold rings for it and put rings on the four corners which are on its four feet. “The rings shall be close to the rim as holders for the poles to carry the table. “You shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold, so that with them the table may be carried. “You shall make its dishes and its pans and its jars and its bowls with which to pour drink offerings; you shall make them of pure gold. “You shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before Me at all times] [P] So, what does the concept of table signify? 1/ Do you remember David? – he wanted to show his friendship for Jonathon after he had died [2 Samuel 9:1 ff Then David said, “Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”] He was told there was a son of Jonathon named Mephibosheth. [David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly.”] – [P] being at the king’s table was extending friendship, kindness, 2/ Also in the time of David: remember he had to flee in a hurry from his son Absalom; there was a man called Barzillai who provided him and his men with food at this desperate time. David remembered his goodness when he returned to Jerusalem. He gave instructions to his son, Solomon: [1 Kings 2:7 “But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table; for they assisted me when I fled from Absalom your brother.] [P] – to eat at the king’s table was extending an honour. 3/ In [Psalm 78:19 They said, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?] – [P] preparing a table is speaking of provision, giving food, sustenance. 4/ But the key idea of the table is that of fellowship [Matthew 8:11“I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven;] [P] fellowship, being together and being included with them. [Matthew 26:20 Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples.] Communion is a time of fellowship, being together with our Lord, the Lord’s supper was a time around the table. [1 Corinthians 10:21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons]. You fellowship with those you share at the table with, are joined with them – you can’t be in fellowship with both. The LORD of glory desires fellowship with His redeemed ones! Amazing! Hallelujah! Again referring to the Lord’s supper [Luke 22:14 When the hour had come, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;] – it was something Jesus longed to do. [Revelation 3:20 ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.] An appeal to be there with God, with Jesus; sharing a meal together – in closeness, friendship, fellowship. It is an invitation given to a church, to believers. The Lord wants to share a meal with us – be with His people, fellowship around the table together. [Psalm 23:5-6 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and loving-kindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of יְהוָה forever.] It is a picture of wonderful closeness with God. So let’s look at this table. Would anybody like to suggest what the table represents? Enter tabernacle – you meet Jesus! Our fellowship is with God and with Jesus [1 John 1:3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.] The table was made of wood [P] – the humanity of Jesus [P]. Covered with gold [P] – His glory! His Divinity – He is God! It speaks of the LORD’s table around which the saints gather – communion – communing in fellowship with God. That is the place of fellowship. That is where the early church met with God [Acts 2:42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.] Fellowship is associated with breaking of bread, communion. Breaking of bread – there we meet with Jesus, there He is revealed to us [Luke 24:30-35 When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; ….. They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” they went back to the disciples in Jerusalem and: began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread.] We have fellowship with both aspects of Christ’s life, the wood and the gold: 1/ the wood of His human life and sojourning among men, a life of humiliation and suffering – we share this [Philippians 3:10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death]. 2/ Identification with His death means we share in His glory [Romans 8:17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.] We have been called into fellowship with Jesus: [1 Corinthians 1:8-9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.] So the table speaks of fellowship – κοινωνια, having things in common. What do we have in common? John loves surfing; I’ve never even tried it. John likes motor-bikes, I’ve never ridden one – our scooter doesn’t qualify! John likes tennis, I hate sport. He works in a cable factory; I look down a microscope and count cells. What have we in common? How can there be fellowship? What do we have in common? Jesus! That is why there is fellowship. Jesus is who we have in common. I have been in church for a few years now and in that time I have seen a few troubles – where there are people there are problems! Almost universally those difficulties arose because the attention was on man, our attention was no longer on Jesus. When Jesus alone is the focus of each one I have never seen division and strife. Jesus, the Word made flesh, is what makes us one. But this table was not just an ordinary table, it had some peculiarities: it had a rim, two borders, rings and poles. But before we look at these lets look at what was on the table:
Bread: If you say “come over to my house”, it’s not your table that gets my attention – I’m more interested in what you’ve got on it! It is not the table that feeds but the bread that is on it [P]. [Leviticus 24:5-9 Then you shall take fine flour and bake twelve cakes with it; two-tenths of an ephah shall be in each cake. “You shall set them in two rows, six to a row, on the pure gold table before יְהוָה. “You shall put pure frankincense on each row that it may be a memorial portion for the bread, even an offering by fire to יְהוָה. “Every sabbath day he shall set it in order before יְהוָה continually; it is an everlasting covenant for the sons of Israel (bread of the covenant – like communion). “It shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place; for it is most holy to him from יְהוָה’s offerings by fire, his portion forever.”] Bread was the staple of the diet – bread is what nourishes, what satisfies, what sustains, what maintains our basic life. I was brought up being taught that bread was God’s Word – you feed on God’s Word. I just accepted it, there were even Bible reading notes called “Daily Bread” – but symbolism doesn’t sit comfortably in my rational psyche. If the Bible says that what it is, fine – but where does the Bible say that bread is Scripture? I do know that the Bible says: [1 Corinthians 11:23-24 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”] – bread of remembrance. Jesus equated bread with His body, His flesh. Bread pictures the body of Christ. Jesus Himself said: [John 6:27-35 “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’ ” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.] He says it again: [John 6:48-58 “I am the bread of life. “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; (again) if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”(fourth time) Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. “This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” ] Eating of this bread is a matter of life and death! Over and over again, Jesus emphasizes this symbol. Here He is telling us that the “Living Bread” is a type, or symbol, of His flesh – which He did give for the life of the world. So here are two terms meaning the same thing: “Bread,” and “Flesh.” But there is one more symbol we must add, in order to understand there meaning. It’s recorded in [John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us ….] So these four terms are used interchangeably: “BREAD, FLESH, BODY, WORD.” In John 6 the Jews were alluding to the manna that God provided; in [Deuteronomy 8:3 “He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of יְהוָה.] It is not bread that we need to live but God’s Word. But the bread that Jesus taught His disciples to seek was Himself – the Word made flesh. But where do you find Jesus? – In God’s Word. The written and the Living Word are intimately linked – it is the same “Word of God”. There are many ideas of Jesus – the only true and reliable record of His life, His character, His deeds, of who He is, is in the Scripture – Jesus said, “These things speak of Me!” The laver represented the word of God – that was the word of God for cleansing. But the Scripture can do more than one thing. One effect is to cleanse, another is to feed – that is the word of God as bread. In Jesus there is provision, feeding on Jesus – He satisfies; is all we need. Christ is the “Living Word” – made of fine flour – ground fine – made perfect through suffering – nothing coarse or inferior, He is THE Perfect One.; baked in fierce oven of Calvary. It is called shew-bread (KJV) – bread of the presence (“of the face”), bread that is before the face of יְהוָה – who is that? Jesus – always beholding the face of the Father. The bread was presented to יְהוָה, after 7 days it was replaced with fresh bread – only then did the priests eat it. We partake of Jesus, He is the bread of Life that we eat. But Jesus first and foremost offered His life up to God, only secondarily was it offered up for us. Jesus’ prime motivation was to do His Father’s will. [John 12:27-28 “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. “Father, glorify Your name.”] What Jesus did was for יְהוָה’s glory. That was His prime motive. I took exception to a chorus we sang – that’s me, a prickly character. A line in it said: “You took the fall and thought of me above all else” No! Jesus prime motive is the Father’s glory, to do His will. Do I benefit? Did He die for me? Most certainly; but as a bi-product not as a prime-product. If you put man before God, pleasing man before the Father’s will, then communion/fellowship is destroyed! There were 12 loaves, 12 tribes – so there Jesus represents all the people before God and there is provision for all. After the bread had been before יְהוָה on the table for a week it was eaten by priest – which we are. We feed upon Him- the Living Bread sustains our life. We need His life in us, we live by faith in Him. It is not enough to know about Jesus by studying the written Word, He must be in us: “Christ IN YOU, the hope of glory” Colossians 1:27. We need to “Internalize” Him – just as Paul tells us about his own experience in Galatians 2:20; “I am crucified WITH CHRIST: nevertheless I LIVE; yet not I, but CHRIST LIVETH IN ME: and the life which I NOW LIVE IN THE FLESH I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” His life is the life we now live. We depend upon eating that Living Bread. Jesus alone satisfies and sustains. There was incense put on this bread: incense typifies prayer – (remember Zechariah offering incense at the hour of prayer when the angel visited him – the people were outside praying). It must be pure and it is memorial before God. Prayer is reminding God of His promises, calling Him to fulfil His Word. When you partake of the word of God it must be covered in prayer – it is not ordinary food – no scripture is of human interpretation, you need to ask the author to reveal to you what it means.
Break Thou the Bread of Life, dear Lord to me,
As Thou didst break the bread beside the sea;
Beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord,
My spirit longs for Thee, Thou Living Word.
Thou art the Bread of Life, O Lord, to me,
Thy holy Word the truth that saveth me;
Give me to eat and live with Thee above,
Teach me to love Thy truth for Thou art love.
O send Thy Spirit, Lord, Now unto me,
That He may touch my eyes and make me see;
Show me the truth concealed within Thy Word,
And in Thy Book revealed, I see Thee, Lord.
Bless Thou the Bread of Life to me, to me,
As Thou didst bless the loaves by Galilee;
Then shall all bondage cease, all fetters fall,
And I shall find my peace, my All in all.
Vessels: [P] On the table there were vessels – they held liquid and were used for pouring out drink offerings: wine – there was bread and wine – foreshadowing the table in which we share of the bread and wine – that is where we have fellowship with the LORD, feed on Him, draw on His life. There were dishes for holding the bread. As a kid I’d hear of showbread and get the impression that this was put on the table for display and that was it. It was in the sanctuary, it wasn’t eaten. But there are implements, this was a table you ate at. Sometimes we hold Jesus off at a distance and revere Him, but we don’t partake of Him. We may have respect for Jesus – but we need to partake, feed on Him; have Him sustain us in our daily walk. It’s not theory. There is no fellowship unless you eat. The early church ate together – we get the idea that eating is mundane and unspiritual but the spiritual times in the Jewish calendar were feasts! I must admit I am very uneasy with these churches where you wander around in the service and grab yourself a cup of coffee – it’s too laid back and distracting from God. But certainly eating was an integral part of their worship both in the early church and in Israel. Vessels were used in serving the bread and wine – they helped transfer it to the one partaking. Now it is dangerous to get too specific about their use and about what the individual vessels represent – the Bible doesn’t interpret that for us. But there are many aids we have for helping us take in the Word and come to know Jesus: commentaries, books, preachers, videos, ministers, men of God – they help, they must be of pure gold, of God – but they are just aides – they are not on the same plane as Jesus
Rim: [P] They were held on a rim. I had difficulty getting a picture of the table that showed the borders and rim. [P] There was a handbreadth added onto the table – probably lower than table height – it was extra to the table, it overhung the legs. The 12 loaves were on the table, the rim with its border may have held the vessels: dishes, spoons, covers and bowls. The bread is Jesus, the Word of God made flesh – resting on the foundation of the four legs but the vessels had no foundation. The only sure authority, the only food, is the Jesus, the Word of God. We have vessels, these aids that help us serve the food. There are men of God, ministers, preachers, teachers etc. They may be blessed of God but they are only to help us in our understanding of God’s Word they don’t take the place of it. It alone is a sure foundation. All else lacks the foundation of Divine inspiration and are not God-breathed. There is a great need today to come back to the Word of God alone. I’ve read many books, men of God have helped me greatly in my understanding, but sometimes I get tired of them – I can’t know that they are true, can’t absolutely depend upon them. The Bible is a book we can trust. May I encourage you just to read it! I read it through each year, besides my daily study of it – they laugh at me at work and say – don’t you know it off by heart by now? If only I did! Do you get tired of eating every day?! It is always fresh, always has power and feeds me. [1 Timothy 4:13 Give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.] – this is what takes place when we have fellowship – feeding on God’s word, not Pizza in the back hall. Fellowship is not socializing – it is communing with God in His presence. We must keep Jesus in the pre-eminent position, not exalting men, however godly, onto the same level. When other things get put on the same level as Jesus division and dissention enter, fellowship is destroyed because the One we have in common is no longer central.
Borders: [P] There were two borders – one on the table, the other on the rim – their purpose was to keep things in place. Everything in the tabernacle was portable, carried through the wilderness by Levites – stopped things falling off and getting jumbled together. They were also decorative. The first border kept the bread on the table, the second prevented things falling off the rim. Some would confuse things and mix the Divine and human elements – accepting man’s word as authoritative as Jesus, but God holds His word above. There are others who would push aside men’s ministries and everything else of a spiritual nature to the background – but again the Holy Spirit protects all that are sanctified by His Spirit. Each has its set purpose and place. Man has been elevated as the authority, the church as the authority. Jesus must be our authority – feed on Him. Men can help, given of God for that purpose, but we must keep them separate, keep the distinction clear.
Rings and poles: [P] their purpose was to carry the table. It was a portable table, adapted for the Israelites journey through the wilderness. We are pilgrims travelling through the wilderness of this world but in it we still have fellowship with God, we feed on His Word, on Jesus the Living Word. God has given us spiritual food that we can carry with us. Get a pocket Bible, carry it with you – if you get a spare moment, you can read it. If you are kept waiting, there is something to feed upon. Perhaps you are waiting in the dentist, doctors – you can feed on the rubbish magazines they offer, or on that which gives life and truly sustains. We must be conscious that we are travellers, pilgrims in this world – our citizenship is in heaven. When we get absorbed in worldly material things then there is room for division, fellowship is destroyed.
Keys to fellowship: [P] The table speaks of fellowship – in it we see some keys to fellowship.
BREAD: [P] Jesus, the Word become flesh. He is what we have in common. What destroys fellowship is when the focus is on man, not on Jesus.
BEFORE GOD’S FACE: [P] Jesus’ work done to God primarily, when we focus on our needs, place ourselves first; then we become selfish and everything turns sour. There is jealousy and competition, fellowship is destroyed because are eyes are no longer on Jesus.
COMMUNION: [P] Feeding on Jesus, His life. Never losing sight of the cross – keeping the cross central. I recall some strife with some brothers – it just wasn’t getting resolved. An elder went with me to meet them, wanted to restore fellowship – instead of looking at blame, look to the fact that we are all brothers saved by the work of Jesus on the cross. I appealed to them to lay aside differences and share communion – that is the place of fellowship, we are all one at the cross – tragically they wouldn’t even eat the bread and wine together.
INCENSE: [P] prayer. Praying together brings you together in God. The greatest, closest, fellowship I’ve ever known was in the closeness of prayer I had in the Elim church with a small group who prayed in the Spirit together.
RIM: [P] Jesus having the pre-eminence. Jesus is above all. When we no longer give Jesus the pre-eminence, the hallowed and exalted place; e.g. putting Mary alongside Him as co-redemptrix - then division soon enters and fellowship is destroyed.
BORDERS: [P] keeping Jesus set apart. There are many things (vessels of service) that aid us in our Christian life and in our knowledge of God. Bible aids, ministers, preachers etc but when we start exalting man, looking to human leaders, again, are eyes are diverted from Jesus and fellowship is destroyed. I recall a godly pastor in our church went to Australia – several members of the congregation, went there too, following him. We must clearly distinguish between that which is not Jesus Himself – may be good and godly, but we must be careful lest we end up worshiping man.
POLES: [P] we are pilgrims. This world is not our home; we should have our eyes fixed on the things above. When we are preoccupied with material things (arguing over what colour to paint the church), the things of this world; then our attention is diverted from Jesus, the Living Bread, and fellowship soon dissipates.