THE TABERNACLE – NR 5
THE TABLE WITH SHOWBREAD
Scripture: Leviticus 24: 5-9; John 6: 25-35
12 loaves of bread (2 rows, 6 in each row) must be displayed… before the Lord. Literally: “bread of countenance“. Also: “showbread”. They are set before the Lord. The Lord looks on them. In addition, incense had to be burnt – as an offering made to the Lord. Regularly, Sabbath after Sabbath, the bread must be eaten by the priests and then replaced with fresh bread.
In the pagan religions (in antiquity and still today) bread also plays a big role, but then the bread is given to the idol(s) by man to keep them alive and to appease them.
The truth of the Bible is the exact opposite: The bread is given to man by the Lord. That is a sign that the Lord keeps man alive.
The 12 loaves represented the 12 tribes of Israel = the believers, therefore – the entire congregation. The Lord provides everything that is needed for staying alive. Bread is indeed the symbol of our necessary livelihood. The showbread is a daily reminder: all temporal blessings come from the Lord. And take note: ALL 12 tribes are represented. Therefore: the Lord forgets no one.
The 12 show loaves bear a wonderful message. Inside the Holy Place of God, the everyday earthly things have an important place. The concrete material life of every day: eat/ drink/ clothes/ household/ income/ vehicles/ health/ business appointments/ decisions/ broken-down washing machine….
With the 12 loaves of showbread INSIDE the Holy Place, the Lord is showing us something we can hardly believe: Our ordinary daily earthly life and anxieties occupy a primary place inside the Holy Place/ fellowship with God. We are so inclined to SEPARATE our daily material issues from the so-called “spiritual” matters. As if they are on higher and lower levels. Soul (important) and body (less important). Then we think: To the Lord spiritual matters (higher level) must surely be more important.
No, these loaves found themselves between the altar, the basin for washing, the lampstand and the first veil. The daily bread (material everyday necessities) of believers is therefore a deeply spiritual matter. It has everything to do with the atonement and sanctification. It is the Lord himself who keeps His children alive with daily livelihood.
It is completely untrue and unbiblical that we are living in two separate compartments: One compartment: spiritual life where God plays an important role – my quiet time, prayer life, church attendance etc. Another compartment: earthly conflicts where I have to struggle and wrestle with bread and butter and troubles by myself – in which the Lord is not much concerned than what He is interested in deep spiritual matters (higher level).
Look at the 12 loaves of showbread in the tabernacle. It is a joy in the eyes of the Lord. He is intensely interested in it. The believer’s total material and physical life are in front of the Lord’s keen eyes. He gives it, and He is interested in what we do with it.
Where did the flour come from with which the Israelites made the bread in the desert? From the MANNA. Who gave the manna? It was a miracle from above. Yet it is not the manna that had to be set in front of the Lord in the tabernacle, but BREAD. Therefore something had to be done with the manna. It had to be processed. The Lord, therefore, gives us our daily bread, but He also enjoys watching what we do with it.
We can bring our daily life into our life with the Lord. They are not two different worlds. It is not something that wastes the Lord’s time. It is not unspiritual. It is a joy to the Lord: what I do with my body/how I spend my money/health/how I use the internet…
Imagine the joy on the face of the Lord when He sees what all the bread was used for.
All that does NOT mean: is that we only say grace at mealtime and occasionally give thanks. If we truly realise that our daily physical lives are on display to Him, it influences everything. We then look with new eyes at problems/troubles/crises.
The question is: Do we BELIEVE it all? Or do we still keep our daily bread and the holy place apart from one another? Do we argue the same as the heathens do, that our body is not as important as our soul? As long as it is well with my soul, I can do with my body what I like. Two different worlds – the Lord is only concerned with the soul.
No, that is not a Christian-biblical outlook on life. Biblically speaking my mowing the lawn/washing the dishes is just as holy and spiritual as my church attendance or prayers. Brother Laurence: ”Whether I am among the noise of the people while helping in the kitchen of the monastery, or whether I am kneeling at the holy altar, it is equally holy to me”.
We should also see that the showbread was an offering to the Lord. Literally: Memorial. Therefore there was also incense burning. As if the bread went up to the Lord in the incense. In other words: In gratitude, I commit my material earthly everyday life to the Lord BECAUSE I believe and know that everything comes from Him, that He is interested in it, that it is just as important as spiritual/faith issues. Now I can also give it back to Him. It becomes an offering. Because I have Him to thank for literally my whole earthly life, I also give it back to Him. So that I can start to realise: my entire everyday life is only good for one thing: To please Him. In that way, I am more and more delivered from materialism, and worldly brainwashing loses its grip on my heart.
From this incense offering mindset, a believer has to ask him/herself: “My earthly material life: did I keep it only to myself? For my pleasure/comfort/enjoyment? Or do I give it back to the Lord and use it to serve Him? Is it important to me that my daily life is a pleasing offering to Christ?”
It is a difficult question to answer: “what is most important in my life?” NOT: “what SHOULD be most important in my life“.
It is not such an easy question. You see: one understands everything exactly the other way around if you do not realise that EVERYTHING starts with the manna – which comes from heaven – from the Lord. It is not us who are so clever that we can have bread.
The profound truth is that Christ himself is the bread from heaven. John 6: “I am the bread from heaven”. HE is the One who satisfies. Here we see again the close connection between the so-called “spiritual” and “earthly” – that Jesus (who stands for everything that is “spiritual“) uses bread to describe Himself as the One who satisfies. That HE is the one to which the manna pointed.
Those are two matters that our logic just cannot understand: JESUS and.. bread! Surely He is placed far above bread. That is how our minds work. “The exalted Christ can surely not call Himself bread”. To our mind, those are two words that just do not belong together.
What we should see is that the Lord associates Himself with our ordinary life. If we live in connectedness with Him as the bread of life, our earthly bread will find its rightful place in our lives.
It is interesting to note that our Lord also had to be milled to flour – just like the manna or wheat has to be crushed to become flour. Otherwise, there cannot be bread. Bread has specifically to be PREPARED.
And like the showbread had to be displayed for a week before the face of God before the priests could eat it, the Lord Jesus was firstly an offering before the face of the FATHER. He and His suffering and death had to satisfy the Father’s demands. Indeed sin is a transgression of the FATHER’S Law and disregards HIS love and violates HIS holiness. That is why Christ as Bread of life, was firstly an offering to the FATHER. Exactly for that, you and I are adopted as a child by the FATHER based on the sacrifice of Christ.
Take note that the 12 loaves of showbread were set on a table. A table is a place of fellowship/ friendship/ relationships. Because I am reconciled with God at the altar and enjoy daily cleansing at the washbasin and live in His light – is the fellowship (table) between Him and myself (which was broken by sin) restored. And at the table with Him, I grow through daily eating of the Bread of Life (Christ himself). That brings my relationship with earthly things/ ordinary life of every day into the correct perspective. Everything has to do with everything. Nothing is more spiritual than other things.
Because I am eating Christ as Bread, the bread on my table is a joy in the eyes of the Lord, and He cares when I do not have bread. Because I know that, my earthly bread does not occupy a place which is above Christ – as the world would have us believe. Then I realise also that a spiritual person is an ordinary person. The Lord sets one free to be an ordinary person. Someone with whom the Lord has a relationship is an ordinary person. That is the wonder to which the Lord delivers one.
The table was not large but was made of acacia wood and pure gold, which points to the true humanness and true Deity of Christ. The symbol of the satisfying of the hunger of the soul. The perfect provision for the needs a person has. In John 6 Jesus applies it to Himself in exactly that way.
It is the Lord Jesus as a person who makes the difference and who gives Life. If I should look for my bread outside of a direct relationship to the Person of Christ, I shall remain hungry.
Think about a practical picture of how the Israelites at that time entered by the gate of the tabernacle and knelt at the altar and were cleansed at the washbasin. And then the person seeks fellowship with God and with other believers. The need to be satisfied. Therefore the bread. Which symbolically points to the filling with Christ himself.
Note the simplicity. It is JUST bread. That is all. A true relationship is where a person is satisfied by ONLY Christ. Nothing outside of Him is necessary. The same applies to the church service. Whatever gives LIFE, is not anything strange. It is the Person of Christ.
Significantly, there were no chairs in the tabernacle. Everything had to be done while standing. The priests had to stand while eating the bread. They could not make themselves comfortable there at the table. They could not linger at the table as if they could remain there forever.
O, if we could only learn that THIS is not our home. But it is exactly the earthly bread that makes us think that everything is about the here and now. Indeed, the media brainwash us every day: this earthly life is all that is important. Our treasures are HERE. We live on easy chairs. We are not standing. How foolish. The trumpet may blow at any moment then we must leave. We must live while standing. Not resting in an easy chair.
Translated by Marthie Wilson