THE TABLE OF SHEWBREAD
“Thou shalt also make a table of shittim wood: two cubits shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, and make thereto a crown of gold round about. And thou shalt make unto it a border of an hand-breadth round about, and thou shalt make a golden crown to the border thereof round about. 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. And thou shalt make the dishes thereof, and spoons thereof, and covers thereof, and bowls thereof, to cover withal: of pure gold shalt thou make them. And thou shalt set upon the table shewbread before me alway."- Exodus xxv. 23-30.
RELIGION is usually regarded as a balm for sorrow a defence against sin, and a comfort in death. It is all these and more than these-it is a supply of daily bread. Hence there was placed in the sanctuary the Table of Shewbread. This fact is often overlooked to our serious detriment. We need daily bread for the soul, as we need daily bread for the body, and we cannot forgo without loss of strength, either the one or the other. " Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live."-Deut. VIII. 3.
The ordinary condition of life should undoubtedly be cheerful usefulness, and enjoyment. We have so many sources of blessing, such wondrous faculties, and such wondrous supplies for them that we might fairly be expected to walk through life rejoicingly, with only now and then a trouble or a struggle, as is the case with the body of one whose, ordinary condition is good health. It is not so. The life of religious people generally is by no means of that hearty kindliness, that loving goodness, that cheerful contentedness and ready delight in duty, which surround a man with an atmosphere of happiness, and flow from interior ease. On the contrary, there is too much shrinking from duty, too much. ?f the spirit of complaint, too much of the spirit of the bewailing lackadaisical miserable-sinner religion in the world to suit those who worship a God of Love, and feel themselves in a glorious world, which He has made, in which to train them for a still more glorious one,-for heaven. Our duties ought to be our delight; our steps in life, those of vigorous travellers who are each day certainly nearer home; our service, that of subjects who love their King, feel sure of His protection, are charmed with the employment He affords them; and while they bless Him for His goodness now, look forward with confident hope and heartfelt joy at the prospect before them. Wherever this is not the abiding temper of the Christian, it indicates a weak and unhealthy state, On one occasion, when the disciples of our Lord took a voyage across the sea of Galilee, it is significantly said of them they had forgotten to take bread. And this is assuredly a foretoken of what has often happened in Christian experience since. Too often the disciples in all ages have forgotten to take that inward food of heavenly goodness which satisfies the hungry soul and makes it strong. They are fretful, uneasy, and weak. They mourn and complain, and weary all about them. Why is it? They have forgotten to take bread. To guard us against this neglect, and to teach us that whatever we know, or whatever we think of heavenly truth, we must not neglect the bread of heavenly goodness, there was a Table in the sanctuary, on which, every Sabbath, were placed twelve loaves of bread, sprinkled with frankincense (Lev. XXIV. 5-9). These twelve loaves were to supply the priests with food; but they also represent that true and living bread which comes down from heaven and of which it is written, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."-Matt. v. 6.
That heavenly bread is heavenly goodness. "He satisfieth the longing (thirsty) soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness" (Ps. CVII. 9), gives the correspondence in the very term itself-goodness. In like manner it is written in Isaiah, "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me and eat ye that which is GOOD, and let your soul delight itself in fatness."-LV. 2. Divine goodness in the Lord accommodated to human reception is called" The bread of God, which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world." John VI. 33. And when the disciples exclaimed, Lord, evermore give us this bread, the Lord rejoined, " I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE; he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst."---John VI. 35. "l am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever."-John VI. 51.
"The twelve loaves represented a full supply of heavenly goodness for every state, for every individual, and for the whole Church. There were twelve tribes of Israel, and twelve loaves of shewbread. The number twelve is always used when a full and complete state of things in the Church is described. There were twelve apostles chosen; there are twelve foundations to the New Jerusalem, and twelve gates of entrance. To teach then the divine bounty in celestial things, the Table of Shewbread was supplied with these twelve loaves, the symbols of abundance of heavenly goodness.
The Divine Creator has supplied us, in our creation, with appetites for heavenly things, corresponding with hunger and thirst. His intention manifestly is, that we should yearn after food for the soul as earnestly as we do for food to supply the body and that the supply should be as regular for one as for the other.
There being food prepared for the soul, and appetites desiring such holy nourishment, with all collateral circumstances implying these, illustrates the complete correspondence of the worlds of matter and of mind.
The affections yearn for their objects, and for lovable goodness in these objects, as truly as the body yearns for food. Heart-hunger panting for sympathy is a feeling admitted to be universal. How tender a sentiment was awakened in the public mind when the dying Judge Talfourd gave his affecting exhortation to all classes of mankind to lay aside coldness and scorn, and give free play to loving sympathy with one another.
The child yearns for the kind word of his father, the smile of his mother. The youth pants for fellow hearts, to beat in harmony with his own, and then for one pure counterpart that shall beat responsive to his. He craves for talent, for excellence, for success, and for fame. And, when his spiritual nature has developed, he craves to be good, to be better, to have close communion with the Lord. The aspirations of the heart after its eternal good, utter themselves as we find them expressed in the Psalms, " Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee."-Ps. LXXIII. 25; "My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God."-Ps. LXXXIV. 2. These hungerings after goodness are never satisfied until they finally rest on the Lord Jesus Christ. In Him they are filled with peace. He Himself says, " He that cometh unto me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst."-John VI. 35.
In the New Testament the Lord describes the divine gift of heavenly goodness to the soul by a wedding dinner (Matt. XXII. 4) and a supper: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."-Rev. III. 20. It is called eating" of the hidden manna" (Rev. II. 10); all terms which imply the surpassing worth of the divine things imparted. Goodness filled with sweetness and with indescribable peace, forms a treasure above all price, a meat which endures to everlasting life.
The loaves on the Table of the Shewbread were made each of two tenth-deals or omers of flour, equal to three quarts of flour in each, a tolerably substantial supply. There were in the various offerings of the Israelitish worship three forms of bread used: the loaves as here on the Table of Shewbresd, the cake of oiled bread, and the wafer of unleavened bread; because these three represent the relative proportions of heavenly food which can be received by the three grand classes of Christians :-the men of obedience, the men of truth, and the men of love. The good of obedience received by those who obey the precepts of the Lord in the letter only, is the good represented by the wafer; pure and sound, but not deep. The good of truth is like the cake in comparison, and is received by those who have advanced out of the lowest class into the second; who delight to understand the truth as well as to do what they are commanded; who follow the truth, and by the truth are made free. The men of love, they who have passed on through the states of the two former, and live in love, find the loaves, twelve loaves, for them on the golden table, good of the deepest, fullest kind, and in the greatest abundance. The meat of the Lord's table is to them never wanting, and always rich and delightful. They receive that perfect love in which there is no fear. They have meat to eat, of which the world knows nothing.
The Table was made, like the ark, of the sacred cedar of Shittim, and was covered with gold. The wood of this fragrant cedar, which was the only wood used in the tabernacle, and subsequently in the temple, was the symbol, as we have recently shown, of the righteousness derived from the Divine Humanity of the Lord Jesus. He is called a divine cedar, because of the protecting shadow of His Divine Human virtues under which we can rest. His nature imparted to us, enables Him to tabernacle in us, and to build us into living temples in which His Holy Spirit can dwell. This imparted righteousness of our Lord, in whom alone all merit dwells, then, is the Shittim wood. The gold with which it was covered represents the highest love to Him which embraces and encircles the good we receive from Him: This gold of highest holiest love, we have when we have been faithful in temptation and come out purified by the trial. "I counsel thee," said the Lord, " to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be. rich."--Rev. III. 18. We have become rich indeed, when having again and again become more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
The Table of fragrant cedar then covered with gold, on which the twelve loaves were placed every Sabbath, represented this celestial state of the soul, in which the Lord supplies goodness, peace, and every blessing.
The Table was two cubits in length, to intimate the conjunction of love to God and love to man. The breadth was one cubit, to intimate that the truth of this state is in the expression of love. Its height was one and a half cubits, to denote its ever rising holiness. The crown border is the loving wisdom which forms a sphere round such a celestial state.
The staves and the rings represent, as is the case of the ark, the power of adapting the deepest and holiest things of religion to daily life. The religion that does not go wherever we go to keep us unspotted in the world, has not yet acquired its divine power in us. The true Christian has his Table of Shewbread always with him. His supply of bread never fails. The staves, like arms, are always ready to bear the treasure of food onwards, and they are connected with the Table itself by golden rings, significative of a feeling of everlasting love In all we do. The rings connected on the one side with the Table and on the other with the staves, exhibit the two sides of everything we do. We work on earth but we work for heaven. However low the use we may be engaged in performing, if done from love to the Lord, it has a celestial virtue In It linked with the eternal sanctuary and prepares us for heaven.
There were four kinds of golden vessels on the Table besides the loaves themselves, and to these we would call attention, for they, too, had their lessons to yield to all generations.
They are called dishes and spoons, covers and bowls.---v. 29.
The first two kinds were for the frankincense which was sprinkled upon the bread; the second two kinds were for the wine of the pour-offering, called usually drink-offering, which was not, however, drunk, but poured upon the animal offered up by fire. The latter two kinds would be better rendered bowls and cups, not as the text calls them covers and bowls.
The two uses to be accomplished by these vessels are both most important in their spiritual signification. The incense sprinkled upon the bread represents the grateful aspirations of the heart attributing all good to the Lord, while the wine taken from within the holy place and poured over the burnt offering at the door, represents the union of inward truth with outward worship.
Both these acts are essential to the real devotion of the soul to the Lord: Whatever good we find in our hearts to do, we should adoringly acknowledge the Lord alone to be its Author "O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men." The angels of heaven are ever in their hearts, saying, "Holy, holy, holy." On all their good there is the blessed frankincense of interior adoration, ascription, and praise. "Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy."
The wine which was poured out on the burnt offering, and which was taken from the Table of Shewbread and poured from the golden cup, being taken from the golden bowl, is a beautiful emblem of the inner spirit and life of religion blessing that outward worship which is in accord with itself. The mind well-instructed from the Word, and warmed by a regenerate heart, has always a cup running over with the new wine of the kingdom, which it is ready to pour over worship in prayer, and worship in work.
All the vessels are of gold. The soul has upon its inner table choice portions of the Word, like golden vessels selected and arranged so that the frankincense may go upward, and the wine go outward, and man be taught, and God be praised. The name of the Table is worthy of notice. It is called the Table of Shewbread, or in the Hebrew, the "bread of faces," because it is the manifestation of the divine goodness. It shows the infinite bounty of the Lord: His pity, His compassion, His loving-kindness: His faces, or aspects, are mercy, tenderness, love, and the shining forth of these, In wisdom, holiness, purity. The bread of goodness provided by the Lord is the result of all these divine graces, and hence, is called "the bread of faces." It contains sustenance for time and for eternity. It is the bread of life.
And now, may we not ask, Christian traveller, are you provided with this store of the bread of heaven? Are you supplied, or are you attempting to make your Journey of life with hardlyany bread? If the latter, no wonder you are cast down, weak, and discouraged, you are not half fed. Come, and eat that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Remember how careful the divine mercy was in the days of Joseph, to lay up abundant stores of corn in Egypt, and thus provide against the years of famine. Have you been thus provided for ? Have father and mother and friends, directed by the Lord, forestalled your wants, and provided that as your day is, so shall your supply be? Never forget to take bread. You have much work to do, and many hard battles to fight, but eat heartily of your Lord's bread, and strength will be given you, and all will be well. Look well to yourself. Many a great general has declared that his victories have been won quite as much with good food as with strong arms. Do you take your food every day? Do you ask the Lord's blessing and read His Word daily? The direction for the Table of Shewbread was, that it should have a fresh and full supply every Sabbath. Do you attend well to the Christian Sabbath, and replenish the Table fully then? Is the language of your gratitude, " When I found thy words I did eat them, and they were the joy and rejoicing of my heart" ? If so, you will be ready for Christian work, and will do it with Christian ease.
There is one feast above all others, prepared of divine mercy with especial regard to our necessities, we mean the Holy Supper. Do you diligently and faithfully seek that?
The Lord honours this feast with the title of His flesh and His blood. His flesh is meat indeed, His blood is drink indeed. Whoso eats his flesh and drinks His blood hath eternal life. What a wonderful effect! Eternal life ! Eternal love ! Love is life.
Life, my beloved, is what we need, to live in goodness filled with sweetness and with peace. "Whoso eateth me," the Lord says, " shall live by me." Do we not wish to live? How can we live unless we receive Him. "With desire," He once said to His disciples, "have I desired to eat this Passover with you, before I suffer." To abide in love, to work in love, to be grateful and full of praise in love. This is to be in life. Heaven is the land of the living. There is the Fountain of life; there the trees of life, the river of life. The Lord is life itself, and all live to Him.
Once more, do not forget there is defiled bread. The soul that has been forgetful of the bread of heaven is seduced to take polluted food. We can no more do absolutely without spiritual food, than we can do without natural food.
Some people live on works of the imagination. These, when illustrative of true principles of life, and calculated to diffuse sympathy and kindness have a noble mission. When used to lighten our own grave duties in the world in the intervals of goodly work, the result of our own sense of duty, they are things to cheer, to strengthen, and to bless. But woe to those who live wholly on the imagination. It is spiritual dram-drinking; it is living on chaff; what is the chaff to the wheat? The greedy devourer of novel after novel, who is yet yearning after a sense of solid satisfaction, is seeking it where it cannot be found. These things at the best are the condiments of life, not the solid food. If your duties in life lie in its lower walks, do them faithfully, justly, from a spirit of religion. If you have no necessity to labour, yet look around for useful action. Life was not made for dreaming. What will your soul be in the eternal world if you have dozed its powers away in helpless inactivity? Remember who said, "Thou sayest I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."-Rev. III. 17.
Take relaxation, but do not neglect the ministries of life. Work while it is day, the night cometh when no man can work (John IX. 4). An early life spent here in brilliant nothings, promises later years of wearisomeness, repinings, heart-achings and regrets. The life of a moth spends itself in producing a worm. Vain dreamer! "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works." Die not a sloth, to rise a fiend.
Once more, let us turn to the food provided by our Lord in the Holy Place. It is good, like the delights of angels, the bread of heaven. It is served on a golden table, beneath the smile of the MostHigh. Angels minister while you eat. The food itself gives life, eternal life and happiness. You are filled with joy unspeakable, and this meat endures to everlasting life. The Divine King of the feast Himself invites you. Hear His gracious voice, and obey, " Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live."-Isa. LV. 2,3.
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY --From From Egypt to Canaan (1867)