The Golden Table And The Shewbread

The Believer in Communion with God. (Exodus 25:23-30. Lev. 24:5-9).

The Table and its Loaves bring up some very precious thoughts, which must ever cluster around it. It takes us far beyond mere provision for our need, though there is that in it. The Psalmist could speak of God preparing a table for him in the presence of his enemies. The prodigal, on his return from the far off country, found a well-loaded table. And in the type we have here, it is very precious to consider, all the work of Christ which has been set before us on past evenings as leading up to, and into a place in which we find a table. Yet the thought here is not so much that our need has been provided for, as that grace has lifted us into a place of wondrous privilege. In the Table in the Holy Place we have the saints in fellowship with God, as sinners saved by His grace. The thought would be enough, did we fully apprehend it, to fill our hearts with continual praise. Well might we ask, “How can it be?” The Table here supplies the answer. It is Christ before God sustaining His people in the enjoyment of this unspeakable privilege.

The Table was made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. It was two and a half cubits in length, one and a half cubits high, and one cubit broad. It had a crown of gold round about it. In addition to this, there was a border of an hand-breadth round about, which also had a crown. Two rings of gold were on each side, into which the staves were inserted, to carry it.

The acacia wood is the witness to us that He who as Man bled on the Cross, is now as Man in the presence of God; and the gold tells us that He is now glorified. The crown also emphasizes that thought. Again, the hand-breadth border has its crown also. We think of the hands once pierced upon the tree, now upon the throne and soon to sway the sceptre of earth’s sovereignity.

We cannot well speak of a table apart from the food which is upon it. So as we speak of the Shewbread, we will still be dealing with the Table.

The Shewbread—Lev. 24:5-9.

Speaking of the Loaves of Shewbread, I would first speak of the other places where loaves are mentioned, and this, because there is a very close connection as to the truth taught. So we shall speak of One Loaf, Two Loaves, and Twelve Loaves. First, I desire to say that the loaves in their primary application set forth Christ. For seven days they were before God, emitting a gracious odour of frankincense. Then on a Sabbath day they were removed, fresh loaves were put there, and the priests fed upon those they had removed. These loaves on the table for seven days, tell us of the infinite delight which God had in a past eternity in His Son. But just as He will share with those priests that bread, so will He share with man that One who ever gave His heart such unbounded joy.

We may here, and in this connection, read a portion of 1 John 1:1-4. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled, of the Word of life. For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us. That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” Do we need to say aught about this passage? Here we have Christ in the bosom of the Father in the eternal past. Who can tell the deep joy that the heart of the Father had in that Son? But others must share in that joy, hence all the story of love—the Father giving up His Son, the Son stooping to become a Man.

As we think of these loaves, they bring before us the way in which Christ met the deep need of our souls. Each loaf told out the sufferings which He must endure, ere a sinner could feed upon Him as the “Bread of Life.” First, there must be the death of the wheat. So we read in John 12:24, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone.” Second, the wheat must be ground between the upper and nether mill-stones. Isa. 28:28, “Bread corn is bruised.” How that recalls the bruising of chapter 53:5. Then there is another thing. The loaf must feel the fire, it must go to the oven. Lam. 1:13 says, “From above He hath sent fire into my bones, and it prevaileth against them.” Oh, that as we look upon any loaf, it may keep before our hearts the Cross of Christ. And to those who as yet have never trusted in Christ for peace and pardon, we would say, that just as to satisfy the hunger of the body you appropriate the bread upon the table, and you never expect to feel satisfied until you have done so, so believing on the Lord Jesus Christ is just like making the food your own which is set before you. And you cannot feel as a saved one feels until you have done so. “He that cometh to me shall never hunger.” “Cometh” is just another way of saying “Believeth,” and, thank God, the very moment the sinner believes, that moment the soul-hunger pangs are assuaged. But the sinner who never comes to Christ will carry those hunger pangs with him into a lost eternity, and no opiate of Satan’s then will ever dull their terrible sharpness, and no Christ, as given by God to save and satisfy, will ever remove them. Throughout eternity it will be “Ever hunger,” not “Never hunger.”

The Twelve Loaves as a picture of Israel. These Loaves as they sat on the Golden Table spoke of that people whose names were graven upon the Breast-plate of Judgment, and also upon the Shoulder-pieces of the Ephod (Ex. 29). Upon the heart, on the shoulders, or as here presented to God upon the Table, we have brought before us that people of whom we read in Ex. 19:4, “I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto Myself.”

We think here of Israel as God speaks of them in Jer. 2:2-3, in their first love, following the Cloud, separated to God from the nations. Within the Tabernacle the Twelve Loaves, all together on the Table, had what corresponded to them, outside, in the twelve tribes in their unbroken unity. But dark days befell Israel, sin marred that unity, ten tribes separate from the other two and set up a kingdom on their own account, and one who is not of the line of David is made their king. No longer are they as a whole found gathering together in the place where God had chosen to put His Name. Does God tell the priest to take away ten of the loaves? No! Just as before the rupture of the tribes, the twelve are still placed upon the Golden Table. But darker days than these come upon them. Only a feeble remnant of the two tribes are now found assembling at Jerusalem. Still the Twelve Loaves are put on the table before God, just as when Israel was a happy united people. Suppose we could have questioned the priest, and he had read the meaning of those loaves. In answer to our query as to why he continued to put the loaves there, since they no longer agreed with the actual state of Israel, he could have said, “’Tis true they do not now speak of a unity that is visible, but they proclaim one yet to exist under the Messiah.” Such must have been the reason why Paul could speak as he did to Agrippa in Acts 26:7, “Our twelve tribes instantly serving God day and night.” Agrippa might have said to Paul, “Where are your twelve tribes?” Agrippa could not see them, but Paul was able to look up to a glorified Christ upon the throne of God, and in His exaltation, read the pledge of Israel’s preservation, restoration, and future unity.

The 12 Tribes To Be Regathered.

It seems strange that in spite of the most explicit statements of prophecy, so many Christians, and the religious world generally, refuse to believe that God is going to restore Israel as a nation. And then those promises of future blessing for that people are applied to the Church—robbing Israel without enriching us. It is without doubt a stupendous miracle, the finding and restoring to their own land of these ten tribes sent forth out of their country twenty-six centuries ago. Only God is able to do this, “He is able.” For eighteen centuries He has preserved the two tribes as separate and distinct from the nations among whom they have been wanderers, as the day they were cast out of the land. And that, too, without anything which man considers imperatively necessary to bind a people together as a nation. Nothing but the literal restoration of the twelve tribes to Palestine can satisfy the predictions of the Word of God. In Rom. 15:8 we read that “Jesus Christ was made a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God to confirm the promises made unto the fathers.” To “confirm,” not to annul the promises.

As we see that golden border of an handbreadth with its golden crown binding those loaves together, our thoughts travel on to the time when the hands once nailed to the tree, shall hold the sceptre and rule as King. Then the words of Eze. 37:22 will be fulfilled, “And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one King shall be King to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.”

In making an application of the twelve loaves to the Church, which we believe we are justified in doing, I would like to bring in other loaves named in the Word, which we believe will help us. These are found in 1 Cor. 10, and in Lev. 23. We might put it this way: One loafUnity; or, the Church as one with Christ in life. Two LoavesTestimony; or, the Church as God’s witness here on earth. Twelve LoavesGovernment; or, the Church reigning in association with Christ.

The Unity Of The Church.

One loaf.—In 1 Cor. 11, the loaf is an emblem of the body of our Lord Jesus, while in chapter 10:it is used to set forth the body of which He is Head. Verse 17, “For we being many are one bread (loaf), and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” We “are many,” just like the wheat in the loaf. But just as the wheat in the loaf became merged in one loaf through the baking, so on the ground of the Cross work of Christ, and by the Spirit baptism into one body, all believers are now one body. In those early days, the one loaf upon the table corresponded with the state of things seen in the Church. There were no sects or parties ranged openly against each other. No need for asking, as is so common now, “What body do you belong to?” The thought had not entered into the minds of believers then, that there should be more than “one body” for one Head. It is strange that even now, the thing should ever occur to a true believer. But just as with Israel, that once manifested unity of early days is no longer to be seen, in its place we have well-nigh numberless sects. In many of them are to be found the members of the “one body” of Christ. So when we are gathered around our blessed Lord, to keep the remembrance feast, till He come, we” love to look at the loaf and ponder on its teaching on this line. We may be few in numbers; others who, if they were subject to the Spirit’s leading, would be there, are scattered among different sects, but the one loaf still tells it will not be always so. Ah! no, thank God, the work of Calvary and Christ’s prayer of John 17, are to have their glorious answer in the manifested oneness of the Church, and to us that one loaf is the pledge of this. We think upon the change of the emblem from one loaf to little dice-like squares, which in early years we were familiar with, as exceedingly suggestive of the broken up condition of that which ought to be one. Men, instead of feeling the shame of that broken up condition, seem to have accepted it as the proper thing.

The Testimony Of The Church.

Two Loaves.—In Lev., chapter 23, we get the Feast of Pentecost, when these two loaves were offered. There is only one thing in all the works of God to which this feast can be applied, and that is the Church. The Church’s birthday was the Day of Pentecost. In verse 17 we read, “Ye shall bring out of your habitation two wave loaves of two-tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the first fruits unto the Lord.” Notice, we have two loaves. Here we see what we find in Eph. 2:14-15, and 3:5-6. Jew and Gentile in one body. Never in the past, nor in the millennium, will Gentiles be on an equality with the Jew. No, only in the Church of God is this picture realised.

Then we have a most significant bringing together of numbers in the words, “Two-tenth deals.” Before, we have pointed out that “two” is the number of testimony, and that “ten” is the number of responsibility. Just apply the thoughts here and I believe we have read the meaning correctly. The Church was responsible to be a testimony for Christ, but alas, what a failure it has been, and in the words, “Baken with leaven,” we see the cause of that failure. How soon the flesh made itself manifest. In Acts 5 we get Ananias and Sapphira lying to God, and seeking to maintain the reputation for a whole-heartedness they did not possess. “Murmuring” in chapter6:And what a sorrowful picture we get in the Corinthian Church. We see in embryo the sects and parties of the present day, with what has ever accompanied such work, a carnal state unfitting the soul for the reception of the mind of God.

The Governmental Completeness Of The Church.

Twelve Loaves.—Twelve is the governmental number. It is three times four. “Three” giving us the number of God, our triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: “Four,” the number of the creature. It is God governing through His people. It matters not whether we think of earth or heaven, we see this to be His order. On earth, it will be through Israel; in the higher sphere, the heavenly Jerusalem, it will be through the heavenly saints in association with Christ. Were it not that the Word of God leaves us in no doubt as to the destiny of the Church, it would be most daring presumption on the part of poor sinners to look up to such a future. But for this very future He saved us, through His death on the tree; and to keep us and bring us safely into the enjoyment of all that glory, He is now on the throne. And to us that hand-breadth border with its crown of gold, has its ministry of encouragement and joy which is not less sweet because of its application also to Israel.

Thank God, in spite of the failure of the people of God, and the rage of Satan, the Lord Jesus will yet have with Him in the glory the Church for which He died. It seems to me it was this thought that filled the heart of Paul when he penned those words in 2 Tim. 4:18, “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.” Things around that dear man of God were depressing in the extreme. The enemy was active; many who should have been quick to give the word of cheer had turned away from him. He must have felt he was no longer desirable to them. But in the midst of it all he is able, if I may put it thus, to look up and see Christ sustaining him before the Father in all the acceptableness of His own blessed Person and work. So that like the loaves, which emitted a fragrance in the Holy Place, he gave joy to the heart of God. And not only that, he is being preserved to the “heavenly kingdom.” His Master had trod the path before him, and He is now on the Father’s throne, but the time is coming when He will sit on His own throne, and to that time Paul looks on, knowing he is in the hands of a glorified Lord.

We have said that “twelve” is the governmental number, A few uses of it will make this clear. The people through whom God will govern this world in the coming day—Israel—is the “twelve” tribed nation. When God would set in the Church competent authority, He gave “twelve” apostles.

In the brief glimpse we get in Rev. 21:and 22:of the heavenly Jerusalem, which is called “The Bride the Lamb’s Wife,” we get no less than eight twelves. Here then, we have the New Creation number, “eight,” joined with the governmental number, “twelve.” One of these twelves are the “twelve gates.” The gate was the place of judgment or rule. In the book of Eze., chapter 48, we read that the Jerusalem in Palestine, in the millennium, will also have twelve gates. It is to be the lower, or earthly capital, but the Jerusalem of Rev. 21 and 22 is the higher, or heavenly capital. In and through the Church, Christ will rule and bless creation. In the aspect of the future glory of the Church which is presented in the “city,” the saints of past ages are associated with her, as we learn from Heb. 11:10, and 12:22-24. But it is especially the Church which is before us, the Church reigning with Christ. Babylon is called “That great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth” (Rev. 17:18). That is Satan’s sham, soon to end. The heavenly Jerusalem is God’s glorious reality, which will ever abide.