132 - The Table of Showbread - Christ the Bread of Life - Part 1 [c]
Hebrews Lesson 132 July 31, 2008
NKJ Psalm 119:9 How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.
We have been studying the Tabernacle. I've been starting off each week with this diagram of the layout of the Tabernacle so that you have that in mind. This week I loaded up some pictures that I've had for awhile on a place that no longer exists in Israel. They took this down. They did have a place called the Tabernacle in the Wilderness that was located down in the southern part of the Judean Desert somewhat south of the Dead Sea between there and Elat down on the Red Sea near a place also called Solomon's Pillars.
This first picture that you see is taken from high above the area looking down through this rock formation they call Solomon's Pillars at this reconstruction (full scale reconstruction) of the Tabernacle. We went by there a couple of years ago, but they had already taken it down. I heard that they moved it somewhere, tried to find it. They said they moved it up near Jericho, but there's not one there so I haven't seen one. This gives you an idea though of the scale and size of the Tabernacle.
This picture shows what it would be like standing down going inside the gate – the one and only gate. As we see here and as I've pointed out, there's only one entry into the Tabernacle. The term tabernacle means dwelling place and focuses on the physical place where God dwelt (had His dwelling presence) also known by the Hebrew word shakan which means to dwell. So that came to be the Shekinah or the dwelling glory of God. Shekinah was not used in the Old Testament, but it was used by the rabbis as a description God's dwelling in the Tabernacle. It comes over into Greek and other languages as the word skene which is what's used in John 1:14.
So in this shot we see the brazen altar in the forefront, then the laver, then the Tabernacle itself - the building and the various coverings that were over it.
In this shot we get another view from the entry of the Tabernacle back towards the altar and the laver. Here's the laver. We've studied each of these. The brazen altar depicts substitutionary sacrifice. The laver pictures the need for ongoing cleansing from sin. We get an idea of each of these here. This is the altar with a ramp that the priests would use to have easier access to the altar. It gives you some idea of the size. Looking down on the altar we see the grate that was over the fire where the sacrifices would have been burnt.
Now in this picture we get a closer look at the sides of the Tabernacle itself, the holy place, the size of the boards as they fit together and covered in gold. Most people did not see this because of the coverings that were above it.
Then here we see the inside of the coverings, the different colors of the cloth with the depiction of cherubs embroidered on the inside.
This gives a shot of the external curtains separating the place of God's dwelling, setting it apart from the common or everyday place.
Then here in this picture we see the outer part inside the Tabernacle proper called the holy place where you have the menorah or the golden candlestick that would be to the left and that would be to the south side and then the altar of incense against the veil to the Holy of Holies and then the table of showbread was on the right.
So far we've talked about the menorah on the left. That was the last lesson a couple of weeks ago. We missed out because of the storm last week. So tonight I want to focus on the table of showbread and its significance. This is a place where 12 loaves of unleavened bread were set out before the presence of God or before the face of God (as we'll see) as a picture of the 12 of course depicted the 12 tribes of Israel. Then you would also have various instruments and vessels and bowls that were used in the making of the bread.
Last time we looked at the lampstand that it pictures Christ as the light of the world. All of these elements picture something about either the person or the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. We looked at what the Old Testament says about the lampstand and then tied that into Christ's statements in John that He is the light of the world. We'll do the same kind of thing tonight looking at the table of showbread. We'll look at how it was used in the worship of Israel. We'll look at all the descriptions and guidelines for its construction. Then we will see that that is the backdrop for understanding Christ's statements in John 6 where He says that He is the bread of life. So He's consciously identifying Himself with these different elements within the Tabernacle so that the Jews can make the connection and see how the Old Testament ritual depicted who He was and what He would do.
So first of all, let's look at the names for the table of showbread. In the Hebrew the spelling is different. You probably read this when you were young. When I was young, I would read shewbread (s-h-e-w) and wonder what in the world that was and how that differed from show (s-h-o-w). But it's just the archaic English spelling. The Hebrew is the word lehem happanim. Lehem is the word for bread just like you have in the city - baked lehem – the house of bread, Bethlehem. Leham happanim - panim means face and the ha at the beginning is the article in the Hebrew. So it literally means bread of the face - that is bread that is set before the face or the presence of the God. The face of God of course (as we've studied for those of you who survived and made it through on Tuesday night with our in-depth discussion on figures of speech) that the face of God is an anthropomorphism. God doesn't have a face as men have faces. This is an idiom for the presence of God. So the bread is set before the face of God or the presence of God. Some passages it's referred to as lehem hammarecket, which means the bread of the ordering. That's mentioned in I Chronicles 9:32.
In Numbers 4:7 it's described as the "continual bread" because there was always to be this offering of the showbread on the table before God. Each Sabbath it would be taken down and replaced by fresh bread and the bread that had been out for a week would not have grown stale anymore than the manna would have grown stale overnight on the Sabbath and the rest of the week it did or that the Israelites clothes wore out during the time in the wilderness. God kept it fresh so that the priests would have bread at the end of the week. The bread would go to feed the priests. So it was always to be before the presence of God; so it's called continual bread. It's a perpetual offering to the Lord according to Numbers 4:7.
The idea of showbread is that it refers to the arrangement of bread in rows in orderly display before God as it's mentioned in several passages in the Old Testament. Although the table of showbread, the altar of incense and the golden lampstand are not in the Holy of Holies itself - which is actually where the Shekinah dwelt between the cherubs, God is enthroned between the cherubs on the Mercy Seat - because they were just outside of the Holy of Holies, they were spoken of as being in the presence of God. They were before God's presence. That's an important thing to note when we think about our passage in Hebrews (just so you didn't forget that we are studying Hebrews on Thursday night. In our study of Hebrews 9 we're diverting ourselves just a little bit to go back and study the Tabernacle so we can make a little more sense of what is taught in Hebrews 9.)
In Hebrews 9:2 we read;
NKJ Hebrews 9:2 For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary;
… or the holy place.
NKJ Hebrews 9:3 and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All,
NKJ Hebrews 9:4 which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant;
Now the golden censer was actually in the outer place; but it's just up against the veil so that the incense would be drawn into and through the Holy of Holies, a depiction of prayers going up before God.
Now the description of the Temple is given in Leviticus 24:5-9. There are two central passages for the table of showbread. They are Exodus 25:23-30 and Leviticus 24:5-9. In the description in Leviticus 24:5-9 we have a description of what they should do in preparing the bread and establishing it and placing it out on the table. In verse 5 we read;
NKJ Leviticus 24:5 " And you shall take fine flour and bake twelve cakes with it. Two-tenths of an ephah shall be in each cake.
NKJ Leviticus 24:6 "You shall set them in two rows, six in a row, on the pure gold table before the LORD.
NKJ Leviticus 24:7 "And you shall put pure frankincense on each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, an offering made by fire to the LORD.
Now the frankincense was also to depict the fact that this was of value to the Lord - that it depicts this offering and that it is a pleasing aroma to the Lord. I have down there in the corner a picture of a bowl of frankincense crystals that we saw when we were going through the chute in Jerusalem. Actually that's just cropped from a picture where they had about 24 bowls of different kinds of incense. But, this way you get to focus on one. They had all manner of different seasonings. It's just an amazing thing to walk through the Arab quarter or the Muslim quarter in Jerusalem.
Verse 8 goes on to say:
NKJ Leviticus 24:8 "Every Sabbath he shall set it in order before the LORD continually,
There's another reference to continual sacrifice.
being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant.
NKJ Leviticus 24:9 "And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place; for it is most holy to him from the offerings of the LORD made by fire, by a perpetual statute."
That also happens to be the background for what Paul teaches in I Corinthians 9 that just as the priests lived off of the offerings to the Lord - Paul applies that to the New Testament church that the pastors (those who are serving the Lord in vocational ministry) have a right to earn their living from the gospel ministry. This is his precedent that he uses going back to Leviticus 24:9.
Now what we see in these verses is that the bread consisted of 12 loaves made of the finest flour. The fact that it is made from the finest flour emphasizes the value of the person of Christ. There's no leaven so it's a picture of His impeccability because leaven is always a picture of sin. There're only a couple of passages that indicate that it's unleavened. I'll get to those in a minute. But, it's the finest flour. It pictures the value and the uniqueness of the person (the humanity) of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The second thing we note from these verses is that the bread of the presence consisted of these 12 very large loaves. Each was made of 1/5th of an ephah of fine flour. Now an ephah is just over a bushel. So when you make a loaf of bread from one fifth of a bushel of flour that would make a rather substantive loaf of bread. So each of these loaves represented 2 ½ bushels of finely ground wheat to make these 12 loaves. They were flat and thin. They were placed in two rows of 6 each on a table in the holy place before the Lord and then sprinkled with frankincense. This was a picture also of the value of the offering to the Lord. Each Sabbath according to Leviticus 24:5-9 each one was removed each Sabbath and new ones were placed there. The former ones were to be eaten by the priests only in the holy place. So they were to eat the bread there in the holy place. Now that's going to become somewhat important in an episode that we'll get to a little later on in the New Testament when Jesus takes His disciples and they are eating the grain as they go through the fields. That's on the Sabbath and the Pharisees challenged them on that. We'll look at that and the background to it in I Samuel 21.
So that gives us the basic descriptions and prescriptions for the provision of the table and its use.
The next passage that I mentioned as a central passage is in Exodus 25:23-30. That passage gives us the description of how the table was to be constructed. This begins in Exodus 25:33.
NKJ Exodus 25:23 " You shall also make a table of acacia wood;
In the Hebrew this isshittim. It is an extremely hard dense wood that is very resistant to any kind of rot or mildew or decomposition. The point of course is that the wood would also represent the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ as in impeccability. It's not corruptible as He was impeccable. So the acacia wood that they used in the construction of the Tabernacle was designed to teach the impeccability of Christ and it would be overlaid with gold (pure gold), which would depict the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
two cubits shall be its length, a cubit its width, and a cubit and a half its height.
So that means that the table would be approximately 3 feet long, 1.5 feet wide and 2.3 feet high. So it would come up – for me it would come up a little below waist high. It was probably over waist high for the Israelites, for the priests at that time. Archeologists have uncovered burial sites from this early period and so we know that the average height of an Israelite male at this time was about 5' 6" or 5'7". That was true even up through the period of David. But that's not unusual in ancient times or even in more modern times. I've bumped my head on many an old doorframe in an old house when I was up in New England. In the church up there, which was built in 1811, they had to expand the doorframe somewhere along the way. You go into all these old houses and the doorframe is set at about...the top of the door is about 6 foot. So if you're not careful you think that you're going to make it, but it takes you off right at the top of the forehead. So they were average height of the adult male was about 5 ½ feet tall. So that table would come up to your waist or a little higher.
Verse 24 says:
NKJ Exodus 25:24 "And you shall overlay it with pure gold, and make a molding of gold all around.
So there would be a finely constructed molding in the gold that would surround the table at the top and it was decorated in an artistic fashion. This is not just utilitarian or pragmatic. This would be designed with beauty for God the Holy Spirit specifically gave wisdom or skill…actually the Hebrew says chokmah which has the idea in many passages of wisdom. The root idea is skill to Bezalel and Aholiab who were the goldsmiths, the jewelers, the designers and to the other craftsmen so that what they made was of beauty. That relates to the whole doctrine of esthetics. How important that is in God's creation! This is one thing I've emphasized when I've talked about music in the past and worship and even church architecture. To the degree that we can do it, we need to reflect the various attributes of God. One of those is that when God creates, He creates with beauty. It's not just a pragmatic creation. We go out and look at flowers and trees. Everything in God's creation has this remarkable, incredible beauty with it. It's not just practical. It doesn't just work. It has beauty with it. So that would be reflected in all the furniture in the Tabernacle.
NKJ Exodus 25:27 "The rings shall be close to the frame, as holders for the poles to bear the table.
You can see in our model here that we have that was designed by the folks at Goodseed. We have the rings on the side and the two poles with the two lobes sitting on top of the table of showbread.
NKJ Exodus 25:28 "And you shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold, that the table may be carried with them.
That is how they would carry it.
Verse 29 and 30 describe the other implements, the accessories that went with the table. These would be used in the baking of the bread.
NKJ Exodus 25:29 "You shall make its dishes, its pans, its pitchers, and its bowls for pouring. You shall make them of pure gold.
NKJ Exodus 25:30 "And you shall set the showbread on the table before Me always.
So everything would be handled with these vessels made of gold other than when it was actually baked. Then the gold would not of course withstand the heat from that. The serving vessels are described in verses 29 and 30. Dishes which were used as bread pans were made for carrying the bread into the holy place. There were spoons for incense cups, which would handle the frankincense which was poured on top of the bread. Then covers that are mentioned there are pictured as bowls for pouring. All of these were made from pure gold. By the New Testament period at least, or by the end of the Old Testament period, the priest had developed a set ritual and practice for removing the old bread at the end of the week and replacing it with new bread. According to the Mishnah we have a description. Now it always takes folks (I know it took me) awhile to try to understand the difference between the Mishnah and the Talmud. The Mishnah was the record, the written record of the teaching of the rabbis. It wasn't actually written down or much of it wasn't written down and didn't reach its final form until near the end of the 1st century after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and into the beginning of the 2nd century. But what is taught in the Mishnah was passed down through oral tradition and probably some written for at least two or three centuries prior to its final form in what we now call the Mishnah. The Mishnah records these debates among the rabbis. Often when I read the Mishnah I'm reminded about how we've just repeated the same kind of history in modern theology. What you have typically is a question that is posed.
Then they'll say, "Well, rabbi so-and-so said this and rabbi so-and-so said that and then rabbi such-and-such says this and this is what we're going to do."
A lot of times they don't even come to a conclusion and you have different schools of thought following different rabbis. Now you pick up many commentators, many commentaries on the Bible and they'll give you all the different positions or different interpretations on a verse.
Then they'd say, "Most likely it means this, but we're not sure."
That's the implication. Unfortunately too many seminary students are coming out of seminaries today and they can tell you the 5 positions on this passage or the 4 positions on that passage, but they can't tell you what it means because they don't have an integrated consistent systematic theology to orient everything and to pull everything together. So you end up with this sort of spiritual agnosticism that we're pretty sure what God means but so-and-so says this and this pastor says that. This other theologian says this. So how do you know?"
So the people in the pew are left thinking,, "Well, if these guys who know the original languages and have been to seminary can't tell me what it means, then how am I supposed to know what it means? "
What this really reflects is not so much the fact that we have difficulty understanding what God is communicating as that modern man has a theory of knowledge that he doesn't think can give him absolute truth. So just like the culture as a whole is impacted by relativistic views of knowledge, so too the seminaries are affected by relativistic views of hermeneutics. That gets into a totally different study.
So the Mishnah recorded what the rabbis said. Then in the subsequent centuries from about the 2nd century on down to the 5th or 6th century, you have rabbis writing commentary on the Mishnah. The commentary that they wrote on the Mishnah is called the Talmud. This is the development of rabbinical Judaism. Rabbinical Judaism has nothing to do with the Old Testament. It has to do with what the rabbis taught, much like Roman Catholics don't have a clue what the Bible says. They can just tell you what their priest tells them or what the pope has said. But, they never read the text for themselves. The same is true of orthodox Jews. They debate among themselves the different rabbinical views, but they don't ever really read the text or study the original text for themselves.
If you have a copy of a Talmud what you will see – you'll have a large page and in the middle of the page there will be a square, double column square, which is the Mishnah. That will be bordered by a border of white space. Then around the outer border you have more text and that's the Talmud. So they will come together in one book.
According to the Mishnah this is how they would conduct the ceremony.
Four priests entered the holy place, two of them carrying the piles of bread and two of them the cups of incense. Four priests would have gone in before them, two to take off the old piles of showbread and two to take off the cups of incense. Those who brought in the new bread stood at the north side facing southward. Those who took away the old bread stood on the south side facing northward. One part lifted off and the other put on the hands of one being over against the hands of the other as it is written: "thou shall set upon the table bread of the Passover always before Me." The loaves that were removed were delivered to the priests for their consumption within the Tabernacle the whole quantity amounting to 75 pounds of bread per week.
So they had a very formal procedure for making sure that the bread was transferred properly.
Now when we look at any of these articles of furniture within the Tabernacle - as I pointed out at the beginning they picture something about either about the person or the work or sometimes both of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is called a type (t-y-p-e) which is sort of an old English word. We might use the word illustration or the word shadow image or a foreshadowing. But type is basically a more technical term. Now it's based on the Greek word tupos. The "u" or upsilon is often translated with a "y" when it comes into English. Tupos can have a general meaning of example. It's used that way several times in the New Testament. You have to be careful. Students of the Word have to be careful. Just because the Bible uses the word tupos doesn't necessarily means it's talking about a type of Christ. It may be a broader example or illustration. A type is a little more narrow (narrowly technical) depiction of the Lord Jesus Christ. But we look at all these elements (all these pieces of furniture) and these are types or pictures of the Lord Jesus Christ.
First of all what they depict is the impeccability of the Lord Jesus Christ in His humanity. I have three points on that.
- First of all the shittim (as I pointed out, the shittim) wood is hard, incorruptible, indestructible wood that grows in the Sinai Desert.
- That pictures the incorruptible, impeccable humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ. This depicts the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ in terms of its incorruptibility and impeccability.
- The indestructibility of the wood pictures Jesus as able to withstand the temptations to sin and the ability to handle the judgment for sin as well as the decaying affect of the grave for according to Acts 2:31 and the quotation from the Psalms that His body did not under go corruption and His physical, bodily resurrection.
So, all of that is depicted through the use of the shititm wood or acacia wood.
- In terms of the undiminished deity of Christ, we see that pictured in the gold. The gold in the table pictures Jesus' deity. It emphasizes the value, the beauty and the glory of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- The Bible explicitly states that Jesus is fully God. Passages like John 1:1, John 10:30-33 and John 20:28 specifically state that Jesus is fully God.
Now what's important here is (as Arnold Fruchtenbaum has pointed out) what happens in the early church. By the early part of the second century there starts to develop a split between Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians so that by the end of the 2nd century Jewish Christians have basically become isolated from their Gentile counterparts.
At this same there's the introduction of allegorical interpretation. With that there begins to seep into Christianity a mild but definite anti-Semitism. As a result of this by the end of the 3rd century you have a primarily Gentile church that is so isolated from its Jewish roots that students of the Word no longer understand the culture out of which the Bible came. So they're interpreting Jesus and His teaching and His ministry totally within the frame of reference that they have in terms of Greek or Roman culture and not in terms of the Jewish culture which is the immediate context at the time in which Jesus ministered. As a result of that, they don't have the benefit of truly understanding these images and the typology in the Old Testament. That has always surprised me because we go back and we look at these depictions in the Tabernacle related to the humanity and deity of Christ. It just helps us understand the hypostatic union so much better. But it took these early Christians (because of the fact that they were divorced from the Jewish background it took them) a couple of hundred years to figure out how to properly articulate the hypostatic union. This is what gave rise to the debates surrounding the Council of Nicaea and then the Council of Ephesus and the Council of Constantinople and finally the Council of Chalcedon in 451 when the hypostatic union is finally settled and articulated.
So the definition that I use for the hypostatic union is one that borrows its language primarily from the Chalcedonian confession of 451 AD. So we define the hypostatic union as (relating to the incarnate Christ):
The hypostatic union describes the person of the incarnate Christ as the union of two natures, divine and human, in the one person of Jesus Christ.
It's very important to talk about that and think about that precisely. The one person hungers. The one person is tired or weary. The one person turns the water into wine. The one person heals. But some of these miracles that He did (for example the changing the water into wine) demonstrate that He is fully God and that there is a true undiminished deity as part of His nature. So His one person has a divine nature. The fact that He hungered and that He thirsted and that He was tired, that He came under emotional stress as He did in the garden the night before He goes to the tomb indicates that He is true humanity. But He has a true human nature as well. So these two natures are both there within the one person. We always have to be careful how we articulate this and not talk about – "Well, Jesus did this out of His deity." Well, the one person did it and that He did one thing may demonstrate He is fully God. That He did something else would demonstrate that He is fully man; but they come from the one person. We can't fall into Nestorianism as if there are two persons and two natures. There is one person and one nature.
These two natures are inseparably united.
A billion years from "when we've been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun", Jesus will still be in hypostatic union. Ten thousand years later He will still be in hypostatic union. There will always be the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
without loss or mixture of separate identity
So, when the deity takes on humanity; the deity didn't lose anything. It didn't lose any of its divine attributes. Somehow the infinite took on affinitude without losing its infiniteness. There's no mixture of characteristics or of attributes so that you don't have a blending of the two. That was the error of Eutychianism in the early church.
without loss or transfer of properties or attributes,
So He remains fully God and He has true humanity.
the union being both personal and eternal.
That means that it is in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ – that's what's meant by personal. And, it's eternal. It is everlasting. There will never be a time when Jesus is no longer in hypostatic union.
So the conclusion:
Jesus is undiminished deity and true humanity in one person forever.
That's the short definition - John 1:14, Hebrews 1:2-3, and I John 4:2. So those are key passages on understanding the hypostatic union.
That is seen by the fact that the table made of wood is then overlaid with gold. That depicts that union between the divine and the human. And if the early church had just had a good handle on the imagery and the typology coming out of Exodus and Leviticus then that could have helped them understand so many things. It's not till (It always amazes me) the11th century that we have a clear articulation on substitutionary atonement by Anselm of Canterbury in his work Tri Deis Homo (Why the God-Man?) It's not that they didn't believe in substitutionary atonement. They taught that way. They used that language, but it's used in a somewhat naïve or non-critical way. They're just restating what the Scripture says – that Christ died for you. But they're not really analyzing what that means and in what way Christ died for someone until Anselm comes along and writes a very clear articulation of substitutionary atonement.
When we look at the elements on the table itself, we have the showbread, which is the bread of the presence. We see that this is unleavened bread. According to Numbers 6:15 this is a bread that is not leavened. Numbers 6:15 says:
NKJ Numbers 6:15 'a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and their grain offering with their drink offerings.
So the bread is unleavened. That's again depicting the fact that Jesus Christ is without sin. To make the fine flour - several have pointed out that the fine flour, the fine meal has to be crushed, ground, and sifted which is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ's ministry on earth in hypostatic union where He is sifted by Satan during the period of the temptations in Matthew 4:1-11. He is ground and crushed in the suffering and the buffeting in the beating and flagellation that occurred prior to going to the cross then His death on the cross and His crucifixion for mankind.
The bread also depicts the source of life. We need bread to live. So, it not only depicts the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ; we are to feed on that. That comes out of John 6 as well. Jesus says speaking metaphorically; it's not the doctrine of transubstantiation in the Roman Catholic Church:
NKJ John 6:53 Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.
He precedes that by saying:
NKJ John 6:35 And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.
This whole thing is a picture of taking in and receiving Christ as our own just as when we eat food we are taking the food in and it becomes part of who we are. That is the imagery that's there. So the bread provides nourishment.
In Deuteronomy 8:3 we have the statement:
NKJ Deuteronomy 8:3 "So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.
So the bread depicts the spiritual nourishment that God provides in His Word. And, there is a certain ambiguity there because He provides that nourishment through the Living Word (the Logos, the Lord Jesus Christ) and through the written Word which we have, which is the thinking of the Lord Jesus Christ. So it pulls it all together.
The baking of the bread depicts the judgment of sin imputed to Jesus Christ. The baking pictures that judgment as the refined flour is baked into loaves. It is a picture of Jesus Christ who goes through the fires of judgment (speaking metaphorically) and suffering for us as Peter states in 1 Peter 3:18.
NKJ 1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,
The frankincense that's sprinkled on the loaves pictures the value of Christ's death. Frankincense was an extremely expensive spice in the ancient world. It's a fragrant gum resin that has a silvery white cast to it. It's ground into powder, burned at the altar while the priests would eat the showbread on the Sabbath. The fragrance from the incense (the frankincense) would fill the entire holy place and Holy of Holies. That relates to the continuing prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ. The offering of the bread depicts grace oriented freewill giving – that this is given freely and it is not conditioned just as Jesus Christ was freely given by the Father for our salvation.
Then last but not least the eating of the bread is a picture of fellowship with God. Eating and having a meal together is a picture throughout the Scripture of our fellowship with God. As we come to the Lord's Table what we are doing is we are just memorializing a portion of that meal that the Lord had with His disciples. It is a picture of our fellowship with God. That's why it's important for us to confess our sins and be in fellowship before we partake of the Lord's Table. It is a picture of the fellowship that we have which is in Christ and on the basis of His work on the cross that fellowship in the body of Christ is not a social thing. It is fundamentally a relationship with God. Because we have that vertical relationship with God and we have peace with God; then as a result of that we have relationship with other human beings who are in the body of Christ. But that fellowship is always on the basis of God's Word. Christians can get together and they can socialize and they can have a party. They can have a lot of good times together. They may not be in fellowship. That doesn't have anything to do with biblical Christian fellowship - not that that's a bad word. Some people think it is; but that's not a bad word. It's a good word. When you get together with believers and there is within that context of your time together a discussion of doctrine and the Lord and His Word, then what grows out of that is true genuine biblical fellowship because Christ is at the center of it. So it's not social life, but it's something that is integrally related and consciously tied to the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ within His body.
As we go through the Old Testament there are several other passages that talk about the table of showbread. The most significant is in 1 Samuel 21:1. The other passages just mention it as part of ritual. For example I Chronicles 9:32. But in I Samuel 21:1 we have an episode where David is fleeing from Saul. David at this point is the Lord's anointed. God has had him anointed by Samuel to be the next king of Israel. He is the anointed king but not the reigning king. So he has been appointed, but he hasn't been installed yet. That's a great picture of the present ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ who has been anointed as it were; but He is like David sitting and waiting for God to give Him the kingdom, which doesn't occur until the end of the Church Age period. So He is seated at the right hand of God the Father waiting for God to give Him the kingdom. That's the background for what we see in Revelation 4 and 5, Daniel 7 when the Lamb comes forward to take the scroll to enact the judgments in order to establish His kingdom.
So David in this in-between period when Saul is persecuting him (Saul is chasing him) which is a picture of what happens during the Church Age when Satan is persecuting the body of Christ while the Lord is waiting for the kingdom:
NKJ 1 Samuel 21:1 Now David came to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech was afraid when he met David,
See Ahimelech is fearful because he knows that Saul has his army out looking for David and he's made David public enemy #1.
and said to him, "Why are you alone, and no one is with you?"
NKJ 1 Samuel 21:2 So David said to Ahimelech the priest, "The king has ordered me on some business, and said to me, 'Do not let anyone know anything about the business on which I send you, or what I have commanded you.' And I have directed my young men to such and such a place.
NKJ 1 Samuel 21:3 "Now therefore, what have you on hand? Give me five loaves of bread in my hand, or whatever can be found."
NKJ 1 Samuel 21:4 And the priest answered David and said, "There is no common bread on hand; but there is holy bread,
That's the bread on the table of showbread.
if the young men have at least kept themselves from women."
In other words if they have refrained from sexual activity recently, then we can distribute the bread. So the bread then is brought out and David's men are fed. David says in verse 5:
NKJ 1 Samuel 21:5 Then David answered the priest, and said to him, "Truly, women have been kept from us about three days since I came out. And the vessels of the young men are holy, and the bread is in effect common, even though it was sanctified in the vessel this day."
NKJ 1 Samuel 21:6 So the priest gave him holy bread; for there was no bread there but the showbread which had been taken from before the LORD, in order to put hot bread in its place on the day when it was taken away.
Now there are a lot of different elements in this story and I don't want to get distracted with those. I just want to focus on the fact that David is in a position where he is taking his men and he is on this journey and he needs food. So because he is the Lord's anointed, Ahimelech can give him the food, the bread from the table, and this is legitimate. This is used in a very sophisticated argument by the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 12. The key verses in Matthew 12 are verses 3 and 4; but I want to read from the beginning of the chapter so that we pick up the context.
NKJ Matthew 12:1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.
Now this just really upset the Pharisees because they said that this was work and you couldn't harvest grain. That is what they would define it as. Harvesting grain would be a violation of the Sabbatical law. So the Pharisees looked at him and used this to accuse Him of violating the Mosaic Law.
NKJ Matthew 12:2 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, "Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!"
NKJ Matthew 12:3 But He said to them,
Notice how sophisticated His argument is here.
"Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him:
So Jesus is comparing Himself as the Messiah, the Lord's anointed to David who was the Lord's anointed and David's companions are compared to the Lord's disciples. He says how David entered the house of God and they ate the consecrated bread which was not lawful for him to eat nor those with him, but for the priests alone. So he is saying that there are exceptions within the Law because this would be an application (They were starving. They were hungry) of the principle of loving your neighbor as yourself.
So Jesus then is using this in a very sophisticated way. In verse 6, we go on to read there:
NKJ Matthew 12:6 "Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple.
NKJ Matthew 12:7 "But if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless.
In other words the point was that the technicalities of the law were overridden by the principle of mercy and grace. The principle of mercy and grace would be to love your neighbor as yourself and to provide for the needs of David's the Lord's anointed and his men on the basis of grace obeying the spirit of the Law and not the letter of the Law. So Jesus is giving the correct divine viewpoint interpretation of the Law at that point and pointing out that refusal on the part of the priests would have violated the essence of the Law.
So he concludes in verse 8 by saying:
NKJ Matthew 12:8 "For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."
As the Son of Man He is saying, "I am the author of the Law so I can determine how and why it is applied,"
He's not turning the law (twisting it) to His own advantage; He is simply stating that this fits within His original design.
Now we just have a few moments left. I know we're getting short. We don't have a lot of time to get into it, but John 6 is the passage that deals wit the depiction of this in Jesus bread of life discourse. That is in John 6 and even though we've got about 5 minutes left I think I am going to go ahead and stop here because John 6 is a tremendous passage and there is a lot there. It begins with the feeding of the five thousand and then that sets the stage as Jesus feeds the 5,000. It sets the stage for His discourse that He is the bread of life, the one who of course provides that which sustains us in the last part of the chapter. But, we also get into one of those tremendous theological passages that come up in verse 44 where Jesus says.
NKJ John 6:44 "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.
This is a central passage that is used in Calvinism to substantiate the doctrine of irresistible grace that God is the one who draws people to Himself and He only draws the elect to Himself and He doesn't draw anyone else to Himself. Now if you want to know the truth of that you'll have to come back next time.
So let's bow our heads in closing prayer.