************ Sermon on Exodus 25:23-30 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 7, 2014
"The Table of Showbread"
We continue our study of the tabernacle and its furnishings. I trust that by now you realize there are three things we always need to keep in mind as we look at any part of the tabernacle.
First, we need to remember worship is so important to God that He leaves nothing to the imagination and ingenuity of man. It is so important that God spelled out all the details of where and how He was to be worshiped. Therefore, in more than one place we are told God revealed to Moses the pattern, the blueprint, for the tabernacle and all its furnishings (Ex 25:9,40; cf Ex 26).
Second, we need to remember that the tabernacle and its furnishings are but shadows and copies of God's heavenly throne room (Heb 8:5). What are seen and used on earth are not the real thing; they simply points us heavenward to God's sanctuary.
Third, Hebrews 8 & 9 tells us that just about every detail of the tabernacle and its priesthood is fulfilled in Christ.
I Moses and the Table
A The tabernacle, as you know, was divided into three parts: the outer courts, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place. The table of showbread was set up in the Holy Place. It was put just outside the Holy of Holies where the light from the golden lampstand could illumine the table (Ex 26:31-35).
Like the lampstand, the table was also made of the finest wood and overlaid with gold (Ex 25:23-24). Don't forget, this table was located close to the direct presence of God in the Holy of Holies. And, don't forget, this table was used in the worship of God. As such, it had to be made of materials worthy of the King of creation. It would not do for it to be made of particle board or pressed sawdust or recycled plastic.
God gave Moses the exact dimensions: two cubits long, a cubit wide, and a cubit and a half high (about 3 feet long, 1.5 feet wide, 2.25 feet high). A rim of gold was placed around the edge of the table, probably to keep things from rolling off it onto the ground. Rings and poles were attached so the table could be carried without touching it directly (Ex 25:25-28). This protected the priests, for – as the story of Uzzah teaches us (2 Sam 6:5-7) – sinners cannot be too careful about touching what the Lord sanctifies or sets apart for His service.
God also instructed Moses to make vessels and utensils that would be placed on the table: plates and dishes for the bread, and pitchers and bowls for drink offerings (Ex 25:29).
B The "bread of the Presence" was put on this table every Sabbath. This was not human custom or innovation. This was according to the command of God:
(Lev 24:5-9) Take fine flour and bake twelve loaves of bread, using two-tenths of an ephah for each loaf. (6) Set them in two rows, six in each row, on the table of pure gold before the LORD. (7) 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. (8) This bread is to be set out before the LORD regularly, Sabbath after Sabbath, on behalf of the Israelites, as a lasting covenant. (9) 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.So, twelve loaves were laid out in two piles of six loaves each. This bread was a food offering, similar to the food offerings ancient pagans gave their gods to dine upon – with one big difference. We know the one only true God has no need for food or anything else to sustain Himself. So, God commanded the food be given to "Aaron and his sons" to eat in His holy presence (Lev 24:9). Every Sabbath newly baked loaves were put on the table.
Our translation calls it "bread of the Presence" but a more accurate translation is "bread of the Face." It was bread put before the face of God. It was bread put in the presence of God. As such, it was regarded as holy and special.
C Now try to imagine this. There was the table of showbread. Plates and dishes. Pitchers and bowls. Bread. This is very significant because a table with such things was present in all ancient Near Eastern homes. In having such a table in the tabernacle, do you hear what God was saying? God was saying the tabernacle was His home.
But it said more. The table of showbread. Plates and dishes. Pitchers and bowls. Twelve loaves of bread. This speaks of food and nourishment. God is the host. His people are the guests. It is God Who feeds and nourishes the twelve tribes of Israel. As the psalmist puts it:
(Ps 104:13-15) He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work. (14) He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate-- bringing forth food from the earth: (15) wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.Food and nourishment comes from the hands of God. That's the message of the table of showbread.
But it said even more. A table. Plates and dishes. Pitchers and bowls. Bread. Eating in God's presence. Does any of this sound familiar? Isn't this a picture of the Lord's Supper Table? Doesn't this remind us of our communion and fellowship with God next week? When someone invites you to dine with them and sit at the table with them, it means friendship and fellowship.
To drive home this point I want to compare the table of showbread to the ark of the covenant. Both were made of the same material: acacia wood overlaid with gold. Both were the same height and had almost the same width and length (Ex 25:10-11; 25:23-24). Both were illumined – the Ark by the presence of God; the table by the lampstand.
One was in the Holy Place, the other was in the Holy of Holies. What separated them? A curtain. Who could go through that curtain? Only the High Priest. On one special day of the year (the Day of Atonement). Dressed in spotless white and cleansed.
The ark represented the throne of God on earth. It shows God in all His majesty and authority. It shows God as the Wholly Other. He is an awesome God and mere mortals tremble before Him.
The table of showbread, however, represented something altogether different. Like the Lord's Supper table, the table of showbread represents communion and fellowship with God.
The table was on the people's side of the veil.
The Ark was on God's side of the veil.
The table speaks of fellowship with God. The ark speaks of separation from God.
D Having said this, I need to point out that the communion and fellowship with God was limited to the priests. Only Aaron and his sons enjoyed the privilege of dining with the Creator. It would take the coming of Christ and the institution of the Lord's Supper before all of God's people are invited to come to the table of the Lord. I love how Revelation pictures this:
(Rev 3:20) 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.Most pastors and most churches misunderstand this verse. They say Jesus makes the offer of salvation and it is up to the sinner to decide. But that is not what the Bible teaches here. Instead, Jesus is offering table fellowship to believers. Jesus is offering nothing less than sweet communion with Himself!
II David and the Table
A From Moses let us fast forward to David. Do you remember the time when David was running from King Saul? The King wanted to kill David because David was seen as a threat to his throne (1 Sam 20:30-31). After realizing this, David fled. He was without food. He was without a weapon. Where would he go? From whom would he find help.
David fled to the tabernacle at Nob. The presiding priest at that time was Ahimelech. Ahimelech was afraid when he first saw David. Future events proved him right because King Saul later killed Ahimelech and his family for what was done that day (1 Sam 22:6ff).
David asked Ahimelech for something to eat. The priest gave David the bread of the Presence, since it was the only bread available (1 Sam 21:1-6). David was not a priest, so technically it was unlawful for him to eat the showbread. There was nothing in the letter of the Law that allowed the bread to be given to anyone but a priest. But Ahimelech knew God required mercy, not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6).
B Many years later Jesus appealed to this incident with David in His ongoing conflict with the Pharisees. Jesus' disciples were picking grain on the Sabbath so they would have something to eat. The Pharisees complained that Jesus allowed His disciples to break the Law.
Now, remember, the Pharisees not only had the Law but they also built a fence around the Law. Let me illustrate the fence with the bread of Presence. The Law says it is meant for the priests. The fence says no one else may eat of it or even touch it. The same thing happened with the Sabbath. The Law says you shall not work. The fence says if you walk more than 500 steps on the Sabbath you are breaking the Law. If you heal a man on the Sabbath you are breaking the Law. If you pick heads of grain on the Sabbath you are breaking the Law.
Jesus pointed at David and the bread of Presence to argue that He, as the Lord of the Sabbath, can show mercy to hungry disciples and those with disabilities (cf Mt 12:1-13; Mk 2:23-28; Lk 6:3-5).
So, yes, the table of Showbread and the bread of the Presence are holy and special. But they are not off limits when someone is hungry.
III Jesus and the Table
A For the most part, only the priests could eat the bread of the Presence that was on the table of showbread. Yet, whoever ate this bread found that while it could sustain life for a while, it could not make anyone live forever. Israel needed a different type of bread to find eternal life.
Now, remember, the table of showbread – like everything else in the tabernacle and temple – was but a shadow and copy, something temporary, something pointing beyond itself.
The table of showbread and the bread of the Presence pointed to Jesus. He is the different type of bread that gives eternal life.
B We see this when we look at Jesus' miracle of feeding the five thousand men, not counting women and children with only five barley loaves and two fish. Afterwards the scraps were gathered together and they filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves (Jn 6:1-13). This prompted the crowd to seek Jesus out that they might receive more food (Jn 6:22-26).
Jesus responds that the people ought not to look for temporary food like bread that perishes but for the food that lasts forever. This food, said Jesus, the Son of Man will give you (Jn 6:27).
It is at this point that Jesus speaks about Himself as the "true bread from heaven" (Jn 6:32). And, He says the "bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world" (Jn 6:33). Then Jesus declared,
(Jn 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.
Do you hear the different phrases used by Jesus? He speaks of Himself as the true bread from heaven, the bread of God, and the bread of life. Among the children of Israel these phrases were used for the bread of the Presence and the daily manna given during the wilderness journey.
I am the true bread. I am the bread of God. I am the bread of life. The manna and the bread of the Presence are but copies and shadows pointing to Christ. He is the real thing. He is the fulfilment. He is the original.
C I trust we all realize Jesus is so much better than the copy and shadow. First, anyone can dine on Him by faith; not just the priests. What is exclusive in the Old Testament becomes inclusive in the New Testament. Anyone who believes of any tribe, language, people, and nation are invited to come to the Lord and eat.
Second, those who ate the manna and the showbread had to eat again, and again, and again. This bread satisfied for only a time. But those who feed on Jesus are satisfied for all eternity. Furthermore, those who feed on Jesus live for all eternity and not just for a few years or decades.
Everyone experiences hunger and thirst. Whether you are a little baby in the crib or an elderly patient with a feeding tube, we all hunger and thirst.
But what we often settle for in this life and on this earth is only a shadow, a copy. The table of showbread and the bread of the Presence point us to the true bread of heaven, even the Lord Jesus Christ. Feed on Him by faith daily, congregation, that you might be sustained by Him and persevere.
So let me ask: Have you partaken of the Bread of Life Who alone can satisfy all your hunger and meet your deepest needs?
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