The question still remains whether the name “bread of presence” is not expressive of something more than has thus far been mentioned. It is indeed. Let us consider that this provision was bread and that its being called “bread of presence” must signify that it was placed in God’s presence in respect solely to Him. In what respect? If our answer is going to be an improvement on the view that this provision was set before God’s face merely for being seen and looked on by the watchful eye of God, then we must concentrate upon the heavenly reality here symbolized, namely Christ and His Church and His Church in its state of perfection and glory. This bread as such was merely an earthy material substance. If we therefore divorce it from the heavenly things which it signified, it will not even do to say that it was brought in the Holy place for the well-pleased regard of God. Not that God loves not such creatures of His as bread. But the fact is that he who directs his mind to the shewbread, has to do with a sign of a thing which is of the Spirit of God. Hence all such expressions as “God smelled a sweet savor” and “the well-pleased satisfaction and favorable regard of a righteous God” apply certainly not to the earthy and material thing that formed the symbol but to the idea, truth, to the heavenly thing symbolized. Every thoughtful believer of the Old Dispensation must have apprehended that what God’s heart yearned after is not that portion of material bread displayed upon the “pure table” in the Holy place but His people; and that thus the reason that He regarded this material bread with well-pleased satisfaction is its being associated in His mind with this people.
It is then the church with which we here have to do. That the church was symbolized by bread—the twelve cakes—and by wine, that these elements were continually on God’s table in His house, tells us that the church in its state of perfection, the ideal believer, is God’s eternal refreshment, joy, and delight.
The question might be raised whether it is proper to employ this language in respect to God. God Himself does so, “The Lord spake to Moses saying. . . .for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed” (Ex. 31:17). Refreshed was He by the praises of His creature rising heavenward on the wings of man’s devotion.
God’s (spiritual) bread and wine then is His people whom He possesses in Christ Jesus; and He in Christ is likewise their bread and wine. But there is, to be sure, a difference to be noticed,—a difference brought out by Christ in these words, “Except ye (my people) eat, are eating, and eat everlastingly, my flesh and drink my blood, ye have no life in yourselves.” The meaning here is not that the dead (spiritually) through, as a result of their eating come to life (the dead do not eat), but that the living ones who, an account of their being alive, do eat, have and continue to have life in themselves because they do eat. If therefore they should desist from eating, which they cannot, they would die. The truth here set forth is that God in Christ is the life of His people. And eating His flesh everlastingly they are also continually satisfied. And drinking His blood their joy is full. As to God, though the church be His spiritual bread and wine, it is not His life. He is God. He moves and lives and has His being not in the creature but in Self. The foundation of His being is there in this Self. He is His own bread. The self-sufficient God is He, also in His being refreshed by the fellowship of His people; for this people is born of Him, is His workmanship, was thus brought into being by His almighty creative will. He thus is refreshed by that which is of, through and to Himself.
To say that the church is the bread of God and that God is the bread of His church is but to say that as God delights and joys in His people, so, too, do His people by His mercies delight and joy in Him. It is to say that the church has fellowship with God through Christ and that God on His side everlastingly satisfies His people with His likeness. The very idea of friendship, of fellowship is joying, delighting, in what is possessed in common. What God and His people have in common is God Himself. God joys in His glories also as imaged by His church. And the church joys in God as it beholds Him in the face of Christ. And, beholding God, His people praise Him, and in doing so, they give their very self to Him as these praises proceed from their hearts and thus form the very issues of their lives. And God likewise gives Himself in love to His people in Christ,—everlastingly. The “bread of presence” was “an offering from the children of Israel by a perpetual covenant” (Lev. 24:8). And the covenant is God’s.
Now of this living fellowship of the church with God through Christ and of God with His people in Christ, the “bread of presence” in the holy place was the symbol. It is indeed true that this bread was for being seen by God. As His people partake of His divine nature, beholding them in His great delight. Only this does not exhaust the idea embodied in the symbol of “the bread of presence.”