Lecture 13.

The Table

(Exodus 37:10-16.)

We pass now to the furniture of the holy place. In the Holiest, the ark with its mercy-seat stood alone, except on the day of atonement, when the high-priest brought in the golden censer. But in the holy place was the table of show-bread, the altar of incense and the golden candlestick. We now turn to the first of these.*

{*The word for "table" is shulhan, from a root meaning to send, to stretch out, extend — an object with capacity for the food placed upon it. The same word is Siloam in John 9, which the inspired Evangelist tells us means "sent."}

There are four features of the table, the significance of which will give us largely the meaning of the whole: the materials of which it was made, its dimensions, its form and its uses.

The materials were acacia wood overlaid with pure gold. The dimensions were two cubits in length, one cubit in breadth, one and a half cubits in height: this was also the height of the ark, whose other two dimensions were greater than those of the table by half a cubit.

The table had a crown of gold of a hand-breadth about it, next to an offset or border; then another crown of gold. So there were two crowns, separated by the border.

There were also four golden rings "upon the four corners that were in the four feet (legs?) thereof; over against (close by) the border were the rings." Into these, two staves of acacia wood overlaid with gold were passed, for carrying the table through the wilderness.

The purpose of the table is given in connection with the directions for preparing the weekly "showbread" which was to be placed upon it (Lev. 24:5-9). Twelve loaves made each of two tenth deals of fine flour, were placed in two rows upon the "pure table" overlaid with pure gold. Pure frankincense was put upon these, and this presentation was renewed each week. It was this use which gave it its name: "the table of showbread" (Num. 4:7).

In connection with the table, for use upon it, were the various vessels of pure gold — "his dishes and his spoons, and his bowls, and his covers to cover withal" (ver. 16). It is thought that this last clause would be more correctly translated, "flagons to pour out withal." The "dishes" may have been to contain the bread; the "spoons" to contain the frankincense (such were offered by the princes at the dedication of the altar, Num. 7:14, etc.). The "bowls" were perhaps for receiving the drink offerings poured out of the "flagons." At these we may look later.

The significance of the materials of which the table was made — acacia wood overlaid with gold have already been before us in the ark and the boards, but we will look briefly at them again in connection with the uses of the table. The natural suggestion of a "table" is a place for food, and the food upon it. "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies" (Ps. 23:5). We will find this thought of food linked with our Lord's person in the 6th chapter of John: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world" (John 6:32-33). The One who "came down from heaven" reminds us of the deity of our Lord; this is the gold.

"I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you" (John 6:51-53). Evidently our Lord here is speaking of His death. But His death presupposes His incarnation. He must become man that He may die. We have in this way the twofold truth of our Lord's deity and His humanity linked together and put before us in this chapter, where He is presented as the Bread of life. We have thus the gold and the acacia wood which form the table.

As to the dimensions of the table, its height was one and a half cubits — the same as that of the ark. This would suggest that the bread of communion is on the same level as the propitiatory, or mercy-seat. Fellowship with God is with Christ, and must therefore be on the same plane as the value of His redemption.

But what a thought is this! God has come down in the person of His Son, "reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them" (2 Cor. 5:19). To fully effect the work needed for this reconciliation the blessed Lord came down as the Bread from heaven, and lower than the manger at Bethlehem — unmeasured distance as that was; lower than the humble abode at Nazareth, or the homeless walk where He did not have where to lay His head; lower than the place where they put Him, who branded Him as a Samaritan or one possessed of a demon (John 8:48); lower even than a human malefactor; for He descended to the place of distance from God, forsaken of Him — "made sin for us," He who knew no sin (2 Cor. 5:21)!
"The depth of all Thy suffering
No heart could e'er conceive."

But the response of Almighty God to all this was in raising Him up from the dead, and giving Him glory (1 Peter 1:21); yea, He has taken His place "at the right hand of the majesty on high" (Heb. 1:3). This answers to His place above the mercy-seat, the throne of God, where is also the witness of the blood of the everlasting covenant.

But in this exalted place, He is not there for Himself alone; He is the representative of His people. Unto such heights of acceptance has He raised His blood-bought people. who are before God according to all the value of Christ Himself and His finished work. Speaking of this acceptance in Christ the apostle says: "But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved), and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:4-6). The table of acceptance is as high as the Ark. This is the basis of our communion.

Such is the perfection of the work, as measured by the position of our blessed Lord and of God's mercy in the quickening of souls. May we be enabled to respond in a practical way to His thoughts, entering into them by faith, and enjoying on His own plane "fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3). This means, indeed, "no confidence in the flesh." We may go more fully into the practical features of communion when we have learned some further lessons as to the table.

We have already suggested these dimensions may be looked at not only singly, but in their relation with each other. Taken singly, the two cubits of length might suggest fellowship, communion; and the one in breadth, of the unity which is the characteristic of all true fellowship, a divine unity in the truth. This indeed cuts away all false ideas of what fellowship is.

But if we look at the proportions of the table we find them stated thus: 2 x 1 x 1&1/2; or, by enlarging the scale, 4 x 2 x 3. Thus we have the factors 2 in width, 3 in height, and 4 in length. The two, we have already seen, speaks of fellowship: "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3). Three is the number of divine fulness and manifestation, and has its place at the table where God is manifested in Christ, "in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9). "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all" (2 Cor. 13:14): here we have the Trinity of God connected with the thought of communion. Four is the number of the creature, and thus recalls the fact that the basis of fellowship is the Man Christ Jesus. Four also speaks of this world, the wilderness, with its trials and sorrows, manifesting often the weakness and failure of the saints; but even here God spreads a table in the wilderness. Thus two speaks of communion, three of the Persons with whom we have communion, and four of the place where (outwardly) the communion is had.

As to the form of the table, there were certain characteristics in the two crowns and the border that demand our attention. We saw that the "crown" upon the ark not only beautified it, but furnished a secure framework in which the mercy-seat rested, and by which it was held in perfect safety in its place. In a similar way the crown around the table might serve not only as an adornment, but to guard the showbread from slipping off it. The crown, we have said, typified "Jesus, crowned with glory and honor" (Heb. 2:9). It is Christ in the place which He has won by His work upon the earth: "I have glorified Thee on the earth, I have finished the work which Thou gayest Me to do." He therefore continues in perfect confidence to address His Father: "And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was" (John 17:4-5).

That suggests the reason why the crown was all of gold. It is the divine glory which He ever had with the Father, but into which He enters, as it were, upon a new ground, that of the Substitute of His blood-bought people, whose redemption He had accomplished according to the Father's will. This was the work given Him to do, and thus to manifest God's Name in a world which had rebelled against Him, by setting forth His holiness, truth, righteousness, mercy and love — all combined in the redemption of sinners.

Thus the divine glory, after His humiliation unto death, has a new meaning, shining for the universe in a new luster. The character of God was ever the same, but it had been maligned by Satan, and by men, his willing dupes, so that man, created in the image of God, had fallen immeasurably below even the beast, for he used his God-given intellect for purposes of sin. There is no degradation upon earth like that of fallen man. And so the glory of God could not shine in His own world, save where His pre-determining grace manifested itself partially in the seed of faith. (See Heb. 11.) These were, however, but partial glimpses of that which could only be fully displayed in the Son.

"Then said He, Lo, I am come to do Thy will, O God" (Heb. 10:9). This "coming" may be said to include His incarnation, His perfect life and service, leading on to the accomplishment of God's blessed will by "the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once" (ver. 10). "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him the name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, … and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:9-11). Thus the witness of God's glory, throughout the universe, rests upon the brow of One who sought no glory for Himself.

But it is "the glory of His grace" that is suggested by the loaves of bread held in their place by the crown. It is a glorified Christ who maintains His own, according to all that He is. That glory is directly and eternally connected, as we have seen, with His redeeming work upon the cross. In the light of that glory we read: "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand" (John 10:28); "Because I live, ye shall live also" (14:19); "Much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Rom. 5:10). It is His life as risen and glorified that is here meant. Everything is now connected with the glory of the Lord Jesus — a glory upon which He has entered after, and because of, having passed through His sufferings unto death. At Pentecost the Spirit was given because He was glorified (Acts 2:33; see also John 7:39). The healing of the lame man at the gate of the temple, Peter ascribes to the power of Jesus glorified: "The God of our fathers hath glorified His Son Jesus" (Acts 3:13). This is what characterizes the entire apostolic teaching: a glorified Christ is the source of every blessing, and of the power which manifests it, through the Holy Spirit.

But we shall find further justification of connecting the table and its crown with the security of the people of God, if we look at the show-bread which was kept constantly upon the table. It was called showbread, or "bread of face," as suggesting that it was set before the face of God, perfectly acceptable to Him. It was also called "the continual bread" (Num. 4:7), reminding us that it was ever before God; and the "hallowed bread," speaking of the holiness connected with this presentation. It was that which was presented before God, as is suggested by the expression, "Bread of ordering" (1 Chr. 9:32, marg.), and "Bread of setting forth, or presentation" (Heb. 9:2, Gk.)

The word rendered "cakes" of showbread, is challoth, literally "pierced cakes" — the usual word; so called because they were pierced or perforated, perhaps to allow quick and thorough baking. As these cakes speak of Christ, the "piercing" is specially appropriate, not primarily His piercing at death — though all pointed forward to that — but the constant subjection of His whole being — His heart, to the heated fire of trial here, as well as the searching of God's holy word.

These loaves were made of fine flour, which speaks of the perfection of the humanity of our Lord, the consistency and uniformity of His character. At this we may look a little more in detail when we come to examine the meat-offering. Each cake or loaf was made of two tenth deals of flour. This was the amount of the meat-offering that accompanied the offering of a ram; that with the bullock being three tenth deals, and with a lamb but one. The ram, as we saw in the covering for the tabernacle, signifies the consecration or devotedness of our Lord even unto death. Thus the fine flour, which speaks of His person, fittingly reminds us of Him who was absolutely devoted to God, and who now represents His people before Him in all the value and energy of that devotedness.

There were twelve of these loaves, which at once reminds us of the twelve tribes, composing the whole nation of Israel. It was the number of national unity, combining with it the thought of divine government which was exercised over them, and through them (had they been faithful) over the world. The number reappears in the twelve apostles, to whom was entrusted God's government in Christianity, and over Israel in the millennium (Matt. 19:28); and in the heavenly city it is a prominent number: twelve gates with the names of the twelve tribes; the city was of twelve thousand furlongs each way, a perfect cube; the wall was 144 — twelve times twelve cubits; there were twelve foundations of precious stones; the tree of life bore twelve manner of fruits. We are thus reminded that Israel's blessings are eternal, and that divine government is the essential feature and condition of that kingdom which "cannot be moved" Heb. 12; 28); and in which creation will be taken up and acted upon by God to manifest Himself in His perfect holiness and love (4 x 3).

These facts give emphasis to the significance of the twelve loaves. They represent Israel under the control of divine government, and therefore marked for eternal blessing. The loaves being arranged in two rows, seems to suggest the perfect order of all God's government, and the true witness to that which is taught in the loaves. They set forth Christ in the perfection of His person, and the frankincense upon them tells of His fragrance and sweet savor to God; but they also show Christ's people in Him, ever before God according to the value and fragrance of what the Lord is. They are not seen in what they are in themselves, which could not be a sweet savor to God, but as in Christ, and thus acceptable according to what He is before God. Thus in the twelve loaves we see not only the perfections of Christ, but of His people in Him.

In the New Testament we have a similar thought in the loaf which is upon the Lord's table: "The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread" (1 Cor. 10:16-17). Here, while the one loaf speaks of the body of our Lord, it reminds us of His people who are one loaf, one body also, for they partake of the one loaf. Thus His people are seen in Him, complete and a perfect whole.

This truth of the unity of the people before God is seen to be prominently before the mind of God, both in Old and New Testaments. In Elijah's day, Israel's national unity had been sadly broken outwardly: the ten tribes had revolted from the house of David, and the mass were apostate. And yet God's thought of the unity of Israel had not changed. Elijah, who is seeking to restore the people to God, rebuilds the altar of Jehovah which had fallen down: "And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord" (1 Kings 18:31-32).

This was similar in spirit to the act of Joshua in an earlier day, when, at the command of the Lord, he set up twelve stones in Jordan where Israel passed over, and brought up twelve stones from the bed of the river and set them up in the camp at Gilgal (Joshua 4:3-9). These stones represent the identification of God's people with Christ. The stones in the bed of Jordan were a reminder not only that the Lord arrested the stream, but that all Israel passed over; in like manner the stones set up in Gilgal were a reminder that all Israel had entered into their inheritance. So the death of our Lord Jesus has arrested the river of death and judgment, and provided a way for His people to pass over into their eternal inheritance. His death is typified in the twelve stones, but His people are seen in Him; so also in His resurrection they are represented, and are joint heirs with Him. Every believer can say, "I am crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20); "Buried with Him" (Rom. 6:4); "Risen with Christ" (Col. 3:1); and made to sit "in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6). And this is true not for some special class of believers, but for every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. The full number of the saints is provided for, and each one is represented before God as identified and associated with Christ. This is true, whether the responsible testimony is unbroken, as in Joshua's day, or if failure has come in, as in the time of Elijah. The Israel of God were ever before Him an unbroken whole: and so it is with the Church of God, whether in the unbroken outward unity of their first love in the days of the apostles, or in the "perilous times" of the present, when to outward appearance the Church has been broken in fragments.

The golden Table (Christ) abides, in all the peerless perfection of His person; and He, the risen and glorified One presents His blood-bought people before God as one with, and in, Him. Thus His prayer in the 17th chapter of John has its answer from the divine side, though, alas, outwardly sad failure has brought havoc to what should have been a testimony before the world. The common life remains, and with it that unity before God which is its accompaniment (John 17:21).

So faith always goes back to the thoughts of God, even in days of ruin. Elijah's altar of twelve stones ignores the fact that there are two kingdoms. It is one Israel before God. The apostle Paul, in a day of even more complete dispersion when the ten tribes were lost sight of, buried among the nations for their idolatry, and the Jews settled down into complacent self-righteousness or blank unbelief, having rejected and cast out the Lord of glory, heaping to themselves "wrath to the uttermost" (1 Thess. 2:16) — Paul still has the thoughts of God toward them, knowing that "they are not all Israel which are of Israel" (Rom. 9:6) he recalls the very times of Elijah, how God had reserved seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal, and adds, "Even so then at the present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace" (Rom. 11:4-5).

So also, when making his defence before king Agrippa, in speaking of the promise of a resurrection, made to the fathers, he says: "Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come" (Acts 26:7). God's eye and faith see the whole elect nation. So also when the prophets foretold the day of Israel's future glory, the divisions and dispersions intervening were ignored, or triumphed over. By the union of two sticks into one, Ezekiel was to show the future reunion of Israel and Judah into one nation (Ezek. 37:16-22) and the same prophet makes the fullest provision for the partition of the land among the twelve tribes of the united nation (Ezek. 48). Thus twelve has an unmistakable meaning not only temporarily, but in the gifts and calling of God which are "without repentance" (Rom. 11:29).

Thus the golden crown about the table, and the twelve loaves of showbread upon it, suggest the completeness in which all God's beloved people are presented to Him in Christ, and maintained before God by the fact that Christ is before Him crowned with glory, as their representative, thus held fast, so that they can never perish. We might imagine some over-zealous Levite suggesting to the priest the danger of the loaves slipping off the table, and devising some plan to hold them down more securely. The priest might well have replied, "That has already been divinely provided for: do you not see that crown? They cannot slip by that." And so to a trembling believer who fears he may not hold out to the end, the reply may well be made, "Do you not see that crown? — 'Jesus crowned with glory and honor?'"

We come next to consider the meaning of the border of a hand-breadth. It has been thought by some that this border was outside the first crown already described, as a ledge upon which the vessels of service could be set; others have thought of it as merely an ornamental border set perpendicularly to, and upon which the top of the table would rest, while it would also act as a brace to the whole frame, and to which the feet would be attached, with the rings and staves.

We may not be able to decide as to the exact form and position of this border, but suggest certain thoughts as to its general meaning. The word means, primarily, an enclosure; so a fortress or "close place," as Psalm 18:45; Micah 7:17, where the word is "hole." An enclosure is to keep out intruders, as by a wall or some other barricade. An enclosure about the table would therefore suggest that which would keep off what did not belong there. The crown about the table has already suggested what would hold the loaves securely in their place; this border, or "fortress" (also adorned with a crown), would suggest the exclusion from the table of all that was not consistent with the glory of Christ. Such a border would give firmness and stability to the table, both as it stood in the sanctuary, or as it was carried through the wilderness. The measure of the border being a "hand-breadth," has been thought to refer to the divine Hand that is upon the table, to mark out and define all according to the glory of God. That divine Hand about His table may well speak of almighty power, and yet of infinite grace, as having given His own Son for us who is now exalted by His right hand as Prince and Saviour (Acts 5:31).

We may get the suggestion of the "border" in the following passage: "Now when he had made an end of measuring the inner house, he brought me forth toward the gate whose prospect is toward the east, and measured it round. about. He measured the east side with the measuring reed, 500 reeds, with the measuring reed round about. He measured the north side, 500 reeds, with the measuring reed round about. He measured the south side, 500 reeds, with the measuring reed. He turned about to the west side, and measured 500 reeds, with the measuring reed. He measured it by the four sides: it had a wall round about, 500 reeds long, and 500 broad, to make a separation between the sanctuary and the profane place" (Ezek. 42:15-20).

The prophet, in the previous chapters, is describing the sanctuary, the new temple, and from that passes without the gate and sees a distinct separation between holy and common made by the measurements about the sanctuary. Whether this was a space, 500 reeds square, as some have thought, or simply a wall 500 cubits square surrounding the temple court, the evident meaning is to make a complete separation between that which is holy and that which is not. This would answer to the thought suggested by the "border" around the table. The same glory which fences about the bread upon the table, makes also a separation between that and all that is inconsistent with His glory. How jealously God guards the person of His beloved Son from all dishonoring mingling with aught else. As at Jordan, in Joshua's day, there was a space of about woo cubits between the ark and the people (Joshua 3:4), so here the Bread is fenced off from all other. Christ in His unique and perfect humanity is guarded from being confounded with any other, even the best of men.

For instance, when our Lord was transfigured, and "there appeared unto them Moses and Elias: and they were talking with Jesus," Peter, in the excitement of fear, and not knowing what to say, proposed that they make three tabernacles, "one for Thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias." How quickly is the "border" seen, as God from heaven proclaims, "This is My beloved Son; hear Him" (Mark 9:2-8). But a little while before indeed Peter had himself declared the pre-eminence of the Lord above "Elias or one of the prophets … Thou art the Christ" (Mark 8:27-29). A large part of the epistle to the Hebrews manifests this same jealous guarding of the person of our Lord. The "border of a hand-breadth" and the golden crown separates Him from angels (Heb. 1), from Moses (Heb. 3), from Joshua (Heb. 4), from Aaron (Heb. 5, 7), and from the whole line of men of faith (Heb. 11); for Jesus, the "Author and finisher of faith," is above them all.

In like manner, if we look at the loaves, suggesting Christ's people as seen in Him, they are separated from all the world. This is illustrated in our Lord's prayer in John 17, which is largely taken up, we might say, with these two crowns. The words glory, glorify occur throughout the whole chapter. His great solicitude for His beloved ones who are in the world is that they may be kept, not only saved, but kept from the evil that is in the world. "I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil" (John 17:15). The measure of their separation from the world is as complete as His, in His mind and purpose: "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (ver. 14).

The reality of this, and the intense separation which holiness in grace wrought, is seen in the early chapters of Acts, where evil is judged according to the divine standard, and so intruders are kept away from very fear: "And of the rest durst no man join himself unto them" (Acts 5:13). So in 1 Corinthians 5 the wicked person is to be put away; and for the children of God the word is, "Let a man examine himself" (approve or set himself right), "and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup" (1 Cor. 11:28); thus the very glory of grace guards the holiness of the Lord's table from that which would dishonor it.

This separation, so far from being a contradiction of grace, is the fruit of it; for all holy separation is in the power of the risen Lord, and not by legal or ascetic efforts. For His people there is a constraint of love: "For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth" (John 17:19). Only in grace for us could He do this. Being in the world as Surety for His people, it is for their sakes that He separates Himself from the world, by death and resurrection. Being "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners," our Lord needed no moral separation from the evil that was in the world, but "His own, which were in the world," needed the practical sanctification which nothing but His grace could give; and by going down into death, He has severed the ties which bound His own to a sinful world; and now in resurrection-glory He "ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25). Of this High-priestly service, John 17 is the example. This practical separation of heart and walk is effected by "the truth;" or, as illustrated in John 13, by the washing of the feet. All this would be suggested by the crown about the border, which would also remind us of the eternal security of His people as seen passing through an evil world, where they need to learn heart-separation unto a glorified Christ. His glory is pledged to bring them through, and to manifest them at last completely sanctified unto God. Even now it is but the unbelief and weakness of the flesh which prevents it from being a full practical reality. We are not straitened in Him.

We have already spoken of the exclusion of moral evil, as seen in 1 Corinthians 5. There is perhaps a tendency to forget that the glory of Christ as jealously guards His table from defilement with doctrinal evil, or from carelessness as to it. A passage from 2 John will illustrate this: "And this is love, that we walk after His commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not Jesus Christ come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine. receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds" (2 John 6-11).

This passage needs not explanation, but rather prayerful obedience. In John, as indeed in the entire word of God, Christ is all, and men are tested by their attitude toward Him. To worship, trust, obey Him, shows one to be a member of the family of God. That which is not of Christ, and he who does not bring the doctrine of Christ, is to be absolutely refused. "The doctrine of Christ" would include all that is connected with Him — all the truth of God. Any of it knowingly and wilfully refused would constitute a person "wicked," and anything dishonoring to His person or work could not be knowingly allowed for a moment. Thus while there is to be forbearance and patience, there can be no indifference to evil doctrine. Such indifference would make one a partaker of the evil deeds of the man who did not bring the doctrine of Christ. This is the divinely-set barrier about the table of the Lord.

It remains to speak of the various vessels used in connection with the table, and which it has been thought stood upon this border. If the table suggests not only that which is God's food and delight, but that which He provides also for His people to enjoy with Him, then the vessels of service may well speak of the divine provision for ministry.

The material of these vessels was pure gold; all here is divine. The provision of God for the service of communion is all of Himself; human expedients here are absolutely out of place. It may be said that some regular order and provision must be made for ministry, which is perfectly true, only the provision is not human but divine. All efforts to provide by human appointment for the ministry of God's table is an insult, however unintended, to the love, grace, and holiness of God. Alas, not one company of God's people can say it is free from failure in this respect; but there should be, surely, an honest purpose to have and use none but divinely-appointed and prepared vessels.

These vessels were: "dishes," "spoons," "covers" (or "flagons") and "bowls." The dishes may have been to hold the showbread; the spoon would serve for the frankincense, to put it upon the bread; the flagons and bowls would be used for the wine of the drink-offerings. Thus not only food is prepared, but the means of its orderly presentation, with its accompaniments of joy and delight. For surely God has His delight in Christ (the frankincense), and a joy which human hearts cannot fathom — a joy which the "blood of the grape" expresses, and which carries us back to the outpouring of that precious Life upon the cross. All this is surely presented to Him by the divine Son; and yet, in infinite grace, God delights to have His people about Him presenting the praises of Christ, so acceptable to Him.

But if this privilege is unspeakably great, how great also is the responsibility to be "vessels unto honor" (2 Tim. 2:21), sanctified and meet for the Master's use. But only that which divine grace has wrought can be suitable for the Master's use: that grace which teaches us to deny "ungodliness and worldly lusts" (Titus 2:12), or causes one to "purge himself from these." Who can estimate the fulness of divine ministry, were all the vessels in the Lord's house as they should be — "Holiness unto the Lord; and the pots in the Lord's house … like the bowls before the altar" (Zech. 14:20)? Such is it on high, where no abomination can enter; but the "great house" (2 Tim. 2:20) has taken the place of the house of God upon earth, and amid the defilement and ruin, the path of faith is marked by lowliness and a spirit of mourning, rather than the exhibition of great gifts.

As with the ark and altar of incense, there were upon the golden table, near the border, golden rings, for the staves of acacia wood overlaid with gold, to carry it through the wilderness. May there not be a suggestion, in the rings being near to the border, that the holiness of God's table was not to debar His people from the enjoyment of communion with Him even in the wilderness? Wherever He led them, His table should accompany them for it is only defilement which debars from communion, not trial. All the paths over which the weary feet of the Lord's saints may have to tread, have been, already trodden by our Lord Jesus, of whom the table speaks. There may be danger, scorn and hatred of the world, persecution, affliction — He has passed through all these "apart from sin" (Heb. 4:15).

Not only has He thus passed through this world, but His promise is, "Lo, I am with you alway" (Matt. 28:20). The rings might well suggest the abiding character of His presence. So the believer can boldly say: "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies" (Ps. 23:5).
"Wherever He may guide me,
No want shall turn me back;
My Shepherd is beside me,
And nothing can I lack."

The table, then, as we have seen, speaks of the food of God — Christ's person — and that in which He has communion with His people. Man could never provide God with what His soul delights in it would be but Cain's offering, the fruit of earth cursed for man's sin. But Christ has set forth a table at which God finds all suited to His holiness, of which He can say, This is My food, "the bread of Mine offerings." But this blessed One, our Lord Jesus, having borne our judgment, for every one who believes upon Him there is now a place at the table of God; and a welcome to partake with Him of His delights in Christ. This is the wonder of grace: "Fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3).

In this same chapter, from which we have just quoted, we have the statement that Christ and His work are the basis of our fellowship one with another: "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." This is the tie that, by the Holy Spirit, unites the saints in communion one with another. They have a common life, which gives them common desires and tastes for Christ. Here is a fellowship of which the world knows nothing.

As we view this fellowship, and see the divided state of Christendom and ask the cause, we can but say that Christ has not been, is not the one object of the soul. It is this which lets in a mere profession with a fellowship of the world rather than of God. May our blessed Lord and Saviour be so the object of our souls — yours and mine — that real and practical communion about Him shall be the result.