A Bible Study.
Exodus 25:23-30; Leviticus 24:5-9.
Three articles only were found in the holy place - scene of the customary service of the priests - of the tabernacle. These were the table of shewbread, the candlestick, and the golden altar of incense. All were made with a special object in view, and therefore each possesses its own distinct typical significance. That of the shewbread table we propose to elucidate, as the Lord may enable us, in this paper.
First, the composition of the table demands our attention. It was made of shittim-wood, and overlaid with pure gold. (Ex. 25:23-25.) The shittim-wood is a type of what is human; and gold, as ever, is an emblem of what is divine. Hence we have here presented to us a figure of Christ in His human and divine natures as combined in His person. As to the material therefore, there is entire correspondence with the ark, which is also a symbol of the person of our Lord.
The Bread on the Table. It is in the passage from Leviticus that we find the particulars of the loaves "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." (Lev. 24:5-9.)
(1) The loaves or cakes were made of fine flour. This at once points to the meat-offering, which in like manner was made of fine flour, with the addition of oil and frankincense. (See Lev. 2) No leaven is mentioned, whereas in the two wave loaves (Lev. 23:17) leaven is expressly specified - for the obvious reason that, in this case, the loaves represent the Church, and therefore leaven - emblem of evil - is found in them. But the fine flour is a type of the humanity of Christ, and hence the loaves of the shewbread are without leaven, He being holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, absolutely without sin.
(2) The loaves were baked. They set forth therefore Christ as having been exposed to the action of fire - the judgment of God's holiness by which He was searched and tested when upon the cross, and found to answer, and to answer perfectly, its every claim.
(3) They were twelve in number - six in a row. So on the shoulders of the high priest there were the names of six tribes on the one, and the names of six tribes on the other. The loaves equally point to the twelve tribes of Israel. The number twelve signifies administrative perfection of government in man, and hence there were twelve tribes, twelve apostles, twelve gates, and twelve foundations in the holy city, new Jerusalem. (See for an illustration of this meaning Matt. 19:28.) The twelve loaves may then be taken to represent Israel in its twelve tribes; and this will give us, in connection with the significance of the number twelve, God revealed in Christ in association with Israel (for Christ was of the seed of David, and heir to his throne Luke 1:32) in perfection of government. This will be displayed according to the predictions of the prophets (e.g. Psalm 72) in the millennium. But the loaves were on the table, and hence, on the other hand, Israel is seen in association with Christ before God.
(4) Another thing should be noticed. "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." (Lev. 24:7.) The frankincense typifies the sweet fragrance of Christ to God. Observe therefore that Israel in its twelve tribes is ever presented before God, covered with all the fragrance of Christ, and maintained there through all the night of their unbelief in virtue of what He is, and has done - the sure promise of their future restoration and blessing. Hence the loaves were to be set in order "before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant." (Lev. 24:8.)
They may be unfaithful, as they have been, but God cannot deny Himself; He abideth faithful, and as a consequence, though they have been scattered through out the world because of their unbelief, He will yet perform His counsels of mercy and truth, and gather them from the four corners of the earth, and reinstate them in their own land in fulness of blessing - blessing which will be established in and secured by Him who is symbolized by the showbread table.
An illustration of this may be gathered from the border of the table: "And thou shalt make unto it a horder of an handbreadth round about, and thou shalt make a golden crown to the border thereof round about." (Ex. 25:25.) It is very clear that the object of this border was to maintain the loaves in their position; and if the ornamental crown of gold be taken as an emblem of the divine glory of Christ, the lesson taught will be, that Israel is secured in its position in Christ before God by all that He is as divine; nay, that His divine glory is concerned in their maintenance in it, as well as in preserving them for all the blessing which He Himself has secured, and on which they will therefore one day surely enter. But there is more than Israel's position in this symbol. It embraces in principle that of every believer. There in the holy place ever before the eye of God, covered with the grateful fragrance of the frankincense, is he seen in Christ. It is indeed the perfect presentation of the believer to God. In other words, it is our acceptance in the Beloved.
We may now consider the bread as food for the priests: "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." (Lev. 24:9.) Feeding indicates identification and communion with the thing fed upon. This is expressly brought out by the apostle Paul in his teaching concerning the Lord's table. "The bread which we hreak, 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 Cor. 10:16, 17.) It was the same with the priests. For example, they ate also of the sin-offering in certain cases (Lev. 6:26), and thereby identified themselves with it. Feeding therefore upon the shewbread is a symbol of the fact that Christ, as the Priest, ever identifies Himself with Israel before God. It was only to be eaten, it will be remarked, in the holy place. It is then Christ, in communion with the thoughts of God, identifying Himself with the twelve tribes in the exercise of His priesthood. This brings before us a very blessed aspect of truth. That He is the High Priest of this dispensation all admit; but it is not sufficiently borne in mind that, notwithstanding Israel's unbelief, He identifies Himself in His priestly office with them before God, and that He will come out of the holiest into which He has entered as Melchizedek, and be a Priest upon His throne over a willing people. "The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek." (Ps. 110:2-4.)
Then we have the provision for the journey: "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." (Ex. 25:) The children of Israel were pilgrims in the wilderness, and hence the tabernacle and all its furniture were made for them in this character, and accompanied them in all their wanderings. Christ is ever with His people; and the very rings and staves, equally with the table itself, composed of gold and shittim-wood, point to Him as the God-man. But it is in the book of Numbers that the details for the transport of the table when on the march are given. "And upon the table of showbread they shall spread a cloth of blue, and put thereon the dishes, and the spoons, and the bowls, and covers to cover withal: and the continual bread shall be thereon: and they shall spread upon them a cloth of scarlet, and cover the same with a covering of badgers' skins, and shall put in the staves thereof." (Num. 4:7, 8.) The inner covering, it will be observed, is a cloth of blue - symbol of what is heavenly; next, a cloth of scarlet - scarlet being an emblem of human glory or Jewish royalty; and outside came the covering of badgers' skins - a type of protection from evil. Regarding the whole, the table with its showbread, as Christ in association with Israel, to be hereafter displayed in perfection of administrative government, the meaning of this arrangement will be apparent. The cloth of blue was immediately upon the gold; i.e. the heavenly character of Christ was in intimate association with what He was as divine. The scarlet next - royalty, or human glory, because being in the wilderness the time for its manifestation had not yet arrived. That will be connected with the kingdom at His appearing. The badgers' skins are therefore outside, as concealing His human or royal glory, and as expressive of that holy vigilance which guarded Him on every hand from evil while in wilderness circumstances.
All the vessels connected with the table were made of gold (v. 29), all significant of that which was divine as befitted the service of the One who was really God manifest in flesh, and who will be confessed in the future day of Israel's blessing as their Lord and their God. It will thus be seen that every detail, as well the whole table, speaks of Christ. May our eyes be opened to perceive every aspect of His person and work as presented to us by the Spirit of God. E. Dennett.