The Table of Shewbread
In the golden, glowing place of fellowship with God – the Holy Place – is a Table. The Table is laden with bread. It is a place of provision, a place of communion, a place where the priest meets with God and eats the bread in His presence. This is the Table of Shewbread.
No longer in the bright glare of the sun in the Outer Court of the Tabernacle of Moses, now we are in the room of gold. The Golden Lampstand is the only source of light here and casts the glow from its seven lamps over the Altar of Incense and the Table of Shewbread.
The Purpose of the Table
A table is a place to eat and to fellowship with others. A place to gather around to commune and to break bread together. In fact, tables hold great significance in life. The table is the place where family comes together to eat and to share in each others’ lives. Studies have been conducted demonstrating that children from families who eat together 4 or more times a week do better academically and emotionally. This is because around the table we are united, we communicate and we bond with each other. It is a place of security and stability for children and adults alike.
In the Tabernacle it is no different: the Table of Shewbread is the place where the priests were to gather together to eat the Bread of the Presence as one, in God’s presence. Remember the Table is in the Holy Place and the Holy Place is the place of Fellowship.
The Table – a Picture of Christ Jesus
The Table was made of acacia wood, overlaid with pure gold.
Once again this reflects the dual nature of Christ, the God-Man: the incorruptible acacia wood, His sinless humanity; and the pure gold, His deity.
The table was the same height as the Brazen Altar’s grate in the Outer Court and the Mercy Seat in the Most Holy Place – 1 ½ cubits. We begin at the Judgment seat (the Brazen Altar: cross) so that we may come to the Table for fellowship with God and His Priests on the basis of the shed blood of the Mercy Seat.
The Table carries the bread – just as Jesus bears His people:
“He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom…” Isaiah 40:11
The Table had a gold moulding around the edge measuring one hand’s breadth with a gold crown on top.
The crown speaks of His Kingship. He is the King of Kings.
The gold moulding speaks of the protection of His people, a golden enclosure surrounds them. It measures one hands’ breadth: He holds His people in His hand.
The Bread – a Picture of Christ Jesus
The Shewbread, or Bread of the Presence, also points to Jesus Christ.
“Shew” means to “tell forth” or “declare”. Thus the Shewbread “tells forth” or bears witness to God’s Son, Jesus. See Jesus was never an after-thought nor Plan B, because God’s first plan didn’t work. No, Jesus was always God’s plan of redemption to a fallen world, (See Genesis 3:15). He is the only One, the Only Way and He has always been so. Thus the Old Covenant in the Old Testament tells forth of Him.
“Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come– in the scroll of the book it is written of Me– to do Your will, O God.'” Hebrews 10:7
12 is the number that is used consistently in the Bible for Israel. It is also the number for Apostolic fullness and Governance (think of the 12 apostles and the 24 (12×2) thrones in Revelation 4:4.
How the bread was made – a process of death and suffering
Bread was made from fine flour. The flour was made from harvested wheat. The wheat had been alive and growing, but then the wheat was harvested and died in order to be ground to fine flour to become bread. This foreshadows Jesus’ suffering and death. Jesus was alive, but He suffered and was crushed under the weight of bearing the sin of the world. He died and by His death He gives life to the world.
The bread was unleavened = Jesus’ sinless nature
The bread was baked in fire. It was an offering to the Lord by fire: this also speaks of the sufferings of Christ and His obedience unto death.
The bread was perforated = Jesus was pierced and wounded
Frankincense was placed on each row of bread
Exodus 24:7 “ And you shall put pure frankincense on each row…”
Incense always speaks of prayer and intercession. Remember the Altar of Incense was the place of intercession. So frankincense sprinkled over the Shewbread speaks of Jesus’ life of prayer and Intercession.
The Bread of Life
Of course Jesus Himself refers to Himself as the “Bread of Life” – John 6:32-35 & John 6:48-51
“Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry…” John 6:35
Jesus is the living bread – all who eat of Him will never die because He is life. Shewbread in its physical form was a picture of Him being the true, spiritual Bread of Life. Manna was also a picture of Him. The Manna and the Shewbread were simply shadows – He is the reality. He is the divine Bread sent from Heaven to provide the answer to sin, to provide life to us, to sustain us, to keep us, to fill us.
God has provided for us eternal bread. Those priests whom ate the Shewbread in the Tabernacle are now dead. So are those Israelites whom ate the Manna in the wilderness. But those who eat of Jesus will never die. He says
“Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 6:49-51
Just as the priests ate the Bread in the presence of God at the Table, so we too need to eat of Jesus regularly in God’s presence. This is not the Catholic false doctrine of the Eucharist – no – it is by eating of the Word of God in the light of the revelation of the Holy Spirit (the Golden Candlestick).
So we see that:
We are to daily eat the bread of the Word of God which reveals Jesus to us. Now we have the written Word which reveals to us the Living Word. The Shewbread was replaced regularly – we have to come to the Word of God regularly for fresh bread. The Shewbread was covered in Frankincense, and we need to come to the Word of God in prayer.
Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
There were also bowls, cups and pitchers on the Table of Shewbread. They were made of pure gold.
With the Shewbread the priests were commanded to offer a drink offering to the Lord – wine from the gold cups, pitchers.
This is a picture of Jesus’ shed blood being poured out for us.
So we see the Priests breaking the bread and eating it and pouring out the wine in the presence of God, in unity and as a witness to Christ.
“ And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” Luke 22:19,20
Of course this reminds us of New Covenant communion. This is where we gather around the Lord’s Table and eat the break and drink the cup to “shew forth the Lord’s death till He comes.”
1 Corinthians 11:26 “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you do shew forth the Lord’s death till He comes…”
Communion is the place where New Covenant believers gather together in the unity of the Holy Spirit in the presence of God and remember the Lord’s death. Once again we see those words “shew forth”. Communion is also a witness, a testimony, to what Jesus has done and that He is coming back soon. Praise the Lord!
The Table of Shewbread Also Points to You and Me
Now the Ministry of the Old Covenant priests reflect our ministry as New Covenant believers:
- We are His priests
- We are to have fellowship with Him
- We are to daily eat the bread of the Word of God which reveals Jesus to us. Now we have the written Word which reveals to us the Living Word. The Shewbread was replaced regularly – we have to come to the Word of God regularly for fresh bread
- Just as the Shewbread was covered in Frankincense, so we need to approach the Word of God prayerfully
- Remember the Golden Lampstand illuminates the Holy Place – it sheds light on the Bread – the Word of God. This is a picture of the Holy Spirit bringing revelation to us through the Word of God.
- We are to come to His table in fellowship with Him and one another and have communion together to shew forth His death until He comes
- But even more – we are now to share in His death and sufferings, we are to know Him and the fellowship of His sufferings. We are now to be broken bread and poured out wine to a dying world.
- Paul said in 2 Timothy that his life is being poured out like a drink offering. We know that Jesus, the Table, will hold us and support us through it all.