In commenting upon the significance of the table of shewbread it seems that, among such questions as have to do with the identity of the “shewbread” and the purpose it served, we must also include and consider its proper setting, i.e., where it was found. 

And the consideration of these questions, one might suppose, should simplify such a subject. However, when we notice the table of shewbread was found in the tabernacle, we immediately have sufficient warning and are thus cautioned to proceed carefully. Why? Because the tabernacle speaks “typical” and “figurative” language. Therefore, there is always the danger of “loose” treatment; the danger of “spiritualizing” (making or investing with a spiritual meaning) far beyond biblical and reasonable bounds, so that a portion of scripture actually becomes absurd because of such interpretation. 

As was indicated, to determine the significance of the table of shewbread, it must be viewed in its proper setting, within the tabernacle. It constituted one of the pieces of furniture that was found therein.

“And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.”

Exodus 25:8-9

The tabernacle, itself, with all its furnishings, grows out of that great truth God continued to declare unto His people, namely, “I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God.” (Ex. 6:7) The result of this great truth is that God takes up His dwelling place among His people, and enters into fellowship and communion, with them. It is for this purpose, then, that God says:

“And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.”

Exodus 25:8-9

These words God speaks however, not with any disregard of the fact that as His people continue their earthly sojourn in the midst of this world, they are a people upon whom, by nature, the curse of God’s wrath, because of sin and disobedience, rests. Therefore, as God establishes His dwelling place among His people, there must be a “type of propitiation” and of fellowship and communion which must constitute that spiritual contact and association between God and His people—until such time as the reality of these things which the Scriptures reveal to us as “priestly functions,” arrive. 

Thus far, God had appeared unto His servants in what we know as “theophanies”; as, for instance, “the angel of the Lord,” who is distinguished from, and at the same time identified with God. (Gen. 16:7-10, 13Gen. 22:11-12). But now He is to dwell—make His abode among His people. 

Yet, we may well ask: “Why should the God of Truth, the Holy and Righteous God desire to dwell in the midst of a people who, by nature, are the very opposite of what He is?” The answer to this question, of course, not only speaks to us of the depth of God’s love for those upon whom He sets His affection, but we see also the purpose of the tabernacle namely, to reveal His grace. For, as the plan of redemption is unfolded, God comes out from where He dwelt in the most holy place and opens the way whereby His people may come into His presence, as they entered the tabernacle where He promised to meet with them, through the appointed ministries which, in their symbolical and typical meaning, spoke to God’s people of their redemption and of the Lord their God, Jehovah, and the nearness of His presence.

In this dwelling place of the Lord, then, is found the table of shewbread. And, even though it stood in the holy place, on the northern side, the table itself has no particular significance apart from the bread which was set upon it. It’s true, in Scripture we are shown that the table does have spiritual significance as, for instance, in Luke 22:29-30a where we read:

“I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table, in my kingdom.”

And again, in I Corinthians 10:21-22. However, in these instances there is the vital connection of that which is set upon the table and performed at the table with that which sets the figure of the table before us as representing the fellowship and communion of the people of God with God, in Jesus Christ. 

Once the instructions for constructing the table are given, then follows the word of God to Moses: “And thou shalt set upon the table shewbread before me alway.” (Ex. 25:30). 

With this “shewbread,” we read, there were also certain golden vessels which were set upon the table. And since it is not likely that these remained empty, while we have no definite information, we may nevertheless assume that, in addition to being used for holding the frankincense and for carrying the loaves to and from the table each sabbath day, they were also used to contain either the oil or the wine which must have formed part of this offering of “shewbread.” For the table of shewbread, like the other offerings and sacrifices, served the entire purpose of the tabernacle itself; in other words, to unfold and emphasize some particular and comforting truth of God’s plan of redemption, as symbolized in Christ and His people whom God had given Him. 

Now the bread was called “shewbread” because: it was always to have a place before the Lord. It was dedicated and offered to Him and it pointed to His presence as the name indicates, and was presented to Him in accordance with the Word spoken in Exodus 25:30—”shewbread before me always.” Literally, we read not “shewbread” but “bread of faces,” faces being put by a figure for “presence” and, as was observed, pointing to thepresence of Jehovah in which the bread stood. 

Typically, of course, this bread represented Christ who is the bread of life as He, Himself, declared.

“. . . my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.”

John 6:32

“And Jesus said unto them, I am the Bread of Life.”

John 6:35

It is Jesus, therefore, who is the truth of this type, the “shewbread”; signified by “fine flour” and elsewhere as “the finest of wheat” (Ps. 81:16); “the corn of heaven.” (Ps. 78:24

However, Christ is not alone. Unto Him was given a people, the Church. Hence, wherever Christ is, them His people are also. So it is here, as this bread not only stands for Christ, but for His body, as well, the church. 

This, we have designated for us in the fact that the bread was constituted of twelve loaves or cakes. And these twelve loaves had specific typical regard to the twelve tribes of Israel then existing under the shadows, even as the twelve stones on the breastplate of the high priest had regard to the twelve tribes of Israel. (Ex. 25:21) Nevertheless, the loaves also did signify the whole of the spiritual Israel of God constituted of Jews and Gentiles—the whole Church of God in Jesus Christ whose names are written in heaven. 

Here, then, in these loaves which stood before the presence of God, we have, in type, the Lord Jesus Christ identifying Himself with His Covenant people. For the numeral “twelve” indicates the Church of God—the “Israel of God”‘ (Gal. 6:16); “redeemed . . . out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” (Rev. 5:9) And this truth is further emphasized as we note that these twelve loaves are one bread. The twelve loaves signify the “shewbread” and thus, in type, bear out the truth of Scripture as we read it in I Corinthians 10:17

“For we being many are one bread, and one body.” 

Thus, the Church in Christ is set forth as the “shewbread”—made of “fine flour” and typifying those who are upright in heart and walk; who have the truth of grace in them and are therefore, the elect of all ages. 

These, we read, had a place before the Lord’s presence. He saw them; not as they were in themselves; but as they were represented in Christ. So that you have this thought. Because the people of God are in Christ, they always have a place before God’s presence—before His face. 

For this is exactly the truth embodied in the “shewbread” which is typical of Christ and His people, and which is further borne out by what we read concerning the changing of these loaves from sabbath to sabbath. The instructions of the Lord were to place the “shewbread” upon the table on the sabbath day. (Lev. 24:8) The loaves were to remain there throughout the week and, upon the arrival of the following sabbath, they were to be removed from the table and the same number of new loaves were to be put in their place. There was to be no interval that elapsed. Just as soon as the priests removed the old loaves, new loaves were placed upon the table. 

Thus, the table, you see, was never empty. Therefore, typically, Christ and His people always stood before the presence of Jehovah. They were before the Lord continually—in every generation and throughout all the ages. 

That’s the significance of these “loaves” being changed from sabbath to sabbath. God always has His people before Him. They stand in His presence continually and 

“The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.”

II Chronicles 16:9

For this reason, too, we read this “shewbread” is also referred to as “the continual bread.” (Num. 4:7)Never, in all history and neither throughout all eternity has God—is God, nor will God be without His people. And the very gracious and merciful regard He has for His people is exemplified in this typical bread; the “shewbread” which is before Him, continually. 

Only on the background of such truth, then, can we understand the comforting words which God speaks through His servants.

“Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.”

Isaiah 43:1

“I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even every one that is called by my name.”

Isaiah 43:5-7

“Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”

Isaiah 49:16

“This people have I formed for myself, they shall shew forth my praise.”

Isaiah 43:21

 

In all of these Scriptures and more, God speaks to His Church the same truth He sets forth in the “table of shewbread.” We are accepted in the beloved. (Eph. 1:6) We have a sure and a continuing place before God’s presence. For the “shewbread,” typically, represents the people of God in Jesus Christ, as upheld in His presence, “by the one now crowned with glory and honor.” 

The Church stands secure. She is safe; safe, now—even as she has always been. This, too, is a comforting truth of the table of shewbread. For notice, the bread was set on the table. And the spiritual significance of the table, we observed, is that communion and fellowship of God’s people with Him, in Jesus Christ. 

Thus the table takes on a meaning because of Christ. But notice, again, that table is never empty. In other words, as long as there is bread upon it, Christ is there. And as long as Christ is there—before God’s face, His people are with Him.

Hence, we see the comfort of this truth. God has put His people in Christ; in the hands of Him who is able to keep them from falling, and out of whose hands, no man can ever pluck them. For, He is the beloved Son in whom God is well pleased—who has merited, by His suffering and His death and resurrection, the everlasting rightfor His people to dwell in the presence of God

And because this fruit of the cross is the expression of the eternal counsel and good pleasure of God respecting His people, “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel.” Num. 23:21

Furthermore, He determined to make known unto His people His lovingkindness and everlasting mercy as He made His dwelling place in their midst, and called them in Jesus Christ, of whom this “shewbread” was a type, that they might come and continually stand before His presence and be unto Him “for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory.”

E. Emanuel