The Table of Showbread


The Table of Showbread

October 4th, 1959 @ 10:50 AM

Thou shalt also make a table of shittim wood: two cubits shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, and make thereto a crown of gold round about. And thou shalt make unto it a border of an hand breadth round about, and thou shalt make a golden crown to the border thereof round about. And thou shalt make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings in the four corners that are on the four feet thereof. Over against the border shall the rings be for places of the staves to bear the table. And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold, that the table may be borne with them. And thou shalt make the dishes thereof, and spoons thereof, and covers thereof, and bowls thereof, to cover withal: of pure gold shalt thou make them. And thou shalt set upon the table shewbread before me alway.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Hebrews 9,Exodus 25:23-30

10-4-59   10:50 a.m.


You who listen on the radio are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning message entitled The Table of the Lord or Bread of Heaven.

In our preaching through the Bible, we have come to the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews.  And in the second verse: “For there was a tabernacle made; the first Holy Place, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the showbread; in the sanctuary.”  And then, he lists all of the different parts and furnishings of the tabernacle [Hebrews 9:2].  And in these last several Sundays, we have been following those instruments of revelation and inspiration and instruction in the tabernacle [Hebrews 9:4-5].  Now I prepared two sermons for this day concerning the tabernacle; one on the lampstand, the seven-branched lampstand; and, the other on the table of showbread.

Ordinarily, I would deliver the first one, as it is here in the Bible, the lampstand, and then the table of the showbread.  But, because this morning we are observing the memorial of the Lord’s Supper, I have changed that order.  This morning, I shall speak on the table of the showbread: the manna from heaven, bread of life.  And then, this evening at seven-thirty, the sermon will be on the seven-branched lampstand.

In Exodus 25, beginning at the twenty-third verse [Exodus 25:23], this is the pattern and instruction that the Lord gave to Moses:

Thou shalt also make a table of acacia wood: two cubits shall be the length thereof—three feet—and a cubit the breadth thereof—18 inches— and a cubit and a half the height thereof—two feet and three inches.

And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, and make thereto a crown of gold round about.

And thou shalt make unto it a border of a handbreadth round about, and thou shalt make a golden crown to the border thereof round about.

And thou shalt make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings in the four corners that are on the four feet thereof.

Over against the border shall the rings be for places of the staves to bear the table—on each side.

And thou shalt make the staves of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold, that the table may be borne with them.

And thou shalt make the dishes thereof, and spoons thereof, and covers thereof, and bowls thereof, to cover withal; of pure gold shalt thou make them.

And thou shalt set upon the table showbread before Me always.

[Exodus 25:23-30]

This emblem of the bread before God in heaven above and before Israel in the earth below is a type of Christ for His people.  This showbread is the same as in the sixth chapter of the Book of John:

My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. 

He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life. 

I am that bread of life . . .

This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man eat thereof, and not die.

I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if a man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, that I will give for the life of the world.

The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”

 [John 6:32, 33, 47-51, 63]


God gave the pattern to Moses [Exodus 25:9; Hebrews 8:5], that there might be before Israel a picture, a symbol of a deep and living truth.  And in order that we might see it, God gave it to us by picture, by type, by illustration that the Lord might reveal to us this ultimate and deep and spiritual meaning.  Now, by metonymy, that is common in everybody’s language, the table and the bread are spoken of by the table, referring to the bread, the table.  In this passage you just read, in 1 Corinthians 10:17: “For we being many are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of one bread.”  Then he says we drink the cup of the Lord and we partake of the table of the Lord [1 Corinthians 10:21].

So the table is used to refer to the bread: the table of the Lord.  It is a long table.  All of the believers in Christ gather there.  It is a long table, from the upper room to the upper air.  And wherever men gather in the name of Christ, there do they break bread at the table, just as Israel did at the table in the tabernacle.  This was revealed fifteen hundred years before Jesus, but it had a deep and spiritual meaning.

Now the table is in the sanctuary.  It is in the holy place [Exodus 40:22].  Outside, everything was made of brass: the standards that held up the curtains to the court, the altar, the laver—everything on the outside—the columns of the gates [Exodus 27:2, 19].  Everything was brass: a type of, a picture of the judgment of God upon sin.  The outside, the court has to do with our sins [1 Peter 2:24].  At the altar, at the cross, expiation is made for our sins.  At the laver is the cleansing and the washing of the word and the spirit of our sins; brass [Exodus 30:18; Ephesians 5:26].  But on the inside of the sanctuary, there is an altogether different material, an altogether different material.  Everything is made out of gold; either solid, beaten, pure gold or overlaid with gold; every furnishing, every instrument is pure gold [Exodus 37:1-28].

We are now in the presence of God and in the worship of God.  Our sins are expiated.  Our souls and our lives are washed clean, and we now enter into the presence of the Lord [Hebrews 10:22].  That’s why I would like to have followed as it is in the Scripture and preached the first sermon on the seven-branched lampstand that shed its light on all of the furnishing of the Holy Place, and the light fell on the table of the showbread [Exodus 40:4].

The table of the showbread was made out of acacia wood, covered with pure gold [Exodus 25:23-24].  The acacia wood is a product of the earth.  It is a picture of the humanity of our Lord.  And the gold, of course, is a type of the deity of our Savior: the God-Man, Christ Jesus.  It had a border around it: “Thou shalt make unto it a border of an handbreadth” [Exodus 25:25], the wrist of a man’s hand.  Around the border, in order to keep well and in place all of those things that were placed—the bread and the other things that were placed on the table [Exodus 25:29-30].

When I went to Rome, like everyone else, I went to see the Roman Forum.  And I wonder, when the people go to see the Roman Forum, if they know what they are looking at?  I see—I have been there three times.  As I have seen people come and go, they pass by the most marvelous things in this world I think to look at.  And yet, I have never yet seen anybody look and see and understand.  The tourists all pass by and they look and they look. 

For example, on the Arch of Titus, engraved in relief on the arch, is this table of showbread.  The Arch of Titus was erected in memory of his great triumphful procession after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  And on one side, you’ll see the seven-branched lampstand.  And on the other side, you will see the table of showbread.  And when you look at the sculptured piece on the frieze, on the Arch of Titus, you will notice that the slave’s hand that holds the table is exactly the breadth of the border that surrounds the top.  The man that sculptured it, had seen the table was true to what he had seen.  And according to the Word of the Lord, the golden border around was the breadth of a man’s hand [Exodus 25:25].

Oh, these things are so interesting.  Each one of these, I have prepared a little historical story of what has become of them.  And I never have time to tell you.  The time is already gone by the time I get to it.  I am in favor of having these services an extra hour long, just so the preacher can talk all of the things he would like to say.  

This table of showbread had on it the bread of heaven: the continual bread of God [Exodus 25:25].  And the type of it is immediately apparent.  Bread is the staff of life;  without it, we perish [Isaiah 3:1].  The only prayer for the necessities of life is this: “Give us this day our daily bread” [Matthew 6:11].

And it is a picture of the appropriation of and our feeding upon the Lord [John 6:31-58].  Without it, we die.  We die spiritually.  We are fed.  We are nourished by our communion with and our meditation before Christ our Lord [Revelation 3:20].  It is not by sacrament, it is not by ordinance, it is not by personal amelioration or amendment, it is not by religious practices that we come close to God.  It is by personal communion with, and contact with and conversation with, Jesus our Lord [John 6:35].

If all of these things we do, do not have that holy end that we might be brought nearer to the presence of Christ, they are nothing and in themselves they are meaningless.  The eating of the bread is the picture our appropriation of the spiritual presence and meaning and blessing of Jesus our Lord.  This passage that speaks of the making of the bread—in Leviticus 24:5:

Thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof…

And thou shalt set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before the Lord.

And thou shalt put frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering by fire unto the Lord.

[Leviticus 24:5-7]

Thou shalt take fine flour and bake it.  That is John 12:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.  

He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal . . .

Now is My soul troubled; and what shall I say?  Father, save Me from this hour: but for this cause, came I unto this hour…

And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.  This He said, signifying by what death He should die.

[John 12: 24, 25, 27, 32, 33]

Fine flour, bruised and crushed and sifted and cast into the fire for baking—this is John 12: “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone [John 12:24].  Now is My soul troubled [John 12:27]… signifying by what death He should die” [John 12:32].  That is, the flour was crushed and bruised and sifted and made very, very fine, a picture of the crushing and bruising of our Lord [Isaiah 53:5].  And when it was baked, it was baked a fine flour [Leviticus 24:5].  All the way through, the texture was the same.

I used to stand, as a small boy, in the kitchen and watch my mother bake.  When she baked, she took the flour and sifted it and sifted it and sifted it, and sifted it again and again, through a sifter until the texture of the flour was all the same, a picture of the grace and purity and character of our Lord.  You and I have some graces, you more than others, these more than they.  But they vary in us.  In Christ, the beautiful, pure texture of the grace of His life was the same all the way through.  Fine flour; and it was baked, cast into the fire [Leviticus 24:5].  A picture of our Lord; the corn of wheat cast into the ground to die [John 12:24], grows up to be cut down and to be bruised and crushed and baked [Leviticus 24:5].  All of it a picture of the sacrifice of our Lord whose life is our life, bread of heaven [John 6:51], bruised and broken and baked and tried in suffering and in death for us [Isaiah 53:5].

Now the bread was baked in twelve loaves [Leviticus 24:5].  To us, a loaf is rounded on top and like a loaf of bread.  To them, a loaf was a round piece and flat.  These loaves were very large.  Each one weighed about six and a half pounds.  And on the table, they were placed in two rows: six here and six here [Leviticus 24:6].  They were twelve, each one for a tribe: Little Benjamin, big Judah, unstable Reuben, priestly Levi—all of them in the presence of the Lord, bread for each one.  So it is with us.  There is a common denominator at the cross, a common denominator at the table of the Lord; the rich, the poor, the learned, the untutored and untaught—all of us alike—little Benjamin, big Judah at the table of the showbread.

One of the sweetest stories I ever heard concerned the Iron Duke of Wellington, who, according to the Episcopal Church of England practice, came and knelt at the chancel’s altar to receive the elements of the Lord’s Supper.  And when he knelt there at the chancel’s rail to receive the elements, a poor, ragged, unknown happened to come and kneel by his side.  And when the officiating minister saw him, he stepped over and quietly said to the ragged stranger, “Move away.  You are kneeling by the great Duke of Wellington.  Move away.”  And the Duke overheard what the officiating minister said, and replied, “Sir, leave him alone.  Leave him alone.  We’re all equal here.”

Or, as you would say, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.”  We all stand alike.  There is bread for little Benjamin.  There is bread for big Judah.  There is bread for unstable Reuben.  There is bread for priestly Levi.  There is bread for sinning Dan.  There is bread for Issachar, and Zebulun, and Naphtali, and Ephraim, and Manasseh and Asher, and Gad .  There is bread and enough for us all: the all-sufficiency of Christ [Mark 8:19-20].

Now will you notice that the instruction says that, “Every Sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually” [Leviticus 24:8].  And it shall be on the Sabbath that the priest shall eat it in the holy place [Leviticus 24:9].  Every Sabbath the bread was placed on the table, afresh.  It was allowed to remain for seven days, then placed afresh on the table.  That means to us that our expectancy from God is to be fresh always.  The blessings we enjoyed yesterday will not suffice for today.  We must have a new store, for today.  And the remembrances of God and the benedictions of God and the favors of God that blessed us yesterday must be renewed today, fresh for today.  And the experiences that we had with God yesterday do not suffice for today.  We must have a fresh experience with God today.

I see, notice, in this ministry of preaching, so many times the illustrations that are used.  God did a great thing back there in the days of Dwight L. Moody, and a great thing in the days of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and a marvelous thing in the days of Savanarola and Augustine.  But, say, has God done anything today?  They had great experiences back there in prayer and in faith.  But do we have any experiences today?  Is there anything that we can say now that God has done for us?

Ah, by all means, we ought not to bind our religious life and experience in the traditions and days of the past.  But it ought to be fresh today.  We have met God in a new way.  “Listen to a marvelous experience that I had last night, or this morning.”  It is fresh, never stale and old and worn and used and tried, but new and fresh and alive and life-giving.  The changing of the bread—the manna fell fresh every day.

One other thing: “And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row…for an offering made by fire unto the Lord” [Leviticus 24:7].  In this description of the table upon which it is placed in Leviticus: “Thou shalt set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before the Lord” [Leviticus 24:6].  And now, I want to translate this word showbread.  “And thou shalt set upon the table showbread before Me always” [Exodus 25:30].  The Hebrew word is “the bread of the face.”  And the Hebrew uses the word face to represent presence: “in the presence of, in the face of.”  And this word translated “showbread” is—actually, the literal translation is “bread of the face, bread of the presence.”  And it means what it describes here upon the pure table before the Lord [Leviticus 24:6].

The bread of the face, the bread of the presence; it is the bread in the presence of God.  And in its appropriation, it was eaten while the frankincense was placed upon the live coals [Leviticus 24:7], taken from off the altar and as the incense ascended up into heaven.  In prayer, in reverence, in worship they broke the bread and ate it before the Lord [Leviticus 24:9].  That’s why it was called showbread: a presentation bread, offered bread, bread before the Lord—like a showcase, a showplace;  showbread unto God: actually the bread of the presence, the continual bread before the Lord.  And they ate it reverentially as the incense ascended up to heaven [Leviticus 24:7-9].  Every syllable of that fifteen hundred years before Jesus—every syllable of that was to teach God’s people the meaning of the Lord’s Table.

I now make this appeal.  Those who came to the table of the Lord entered the gate [Exodus 27:16], passed by the altar [Exodus 40:6], washed at the laver [Exodus 30:18], and then broke bread at the table of the Lord [Leviticus 24:8-9].  Thus it is God has ordained for His people: entering the gate, just a step and you’re in.  One step to Jesus, “Humbly, I take Him by faith.  I trust Him as Savior.”  Just a step and you’re in.

And it goes by the altar [Exodus 27:1-8]: the cross of sacrifice.  It goes by the laver [Exodus 30:18-21]: the washing of water in the Word and the Spirit, typified by us in the ordinance of baptism [Romans 6:3-5]—the laver, the washing, and then to break bread in the presence of the Lord [Leviticus 6:16].  The only way into the presence of God, into the worship of God: the gate, the cross, the washing and the table [Exodus 27:16, 40:6, 30:18, Leviticus 24:8-9].  And that’s the way it will be in heaven someday: on the outside, the dog, the unbeliever, the rejecter [Revelation 22:15].  For, they that walk therein are the redeemed of the earth: God’s children—through the gate, by the cross, in the washing of water and the table [Exodus 27:16, 40:6, 30:18, Leviticus 24:8-9].

Oh, would God He would bless this appeal to your heart this morning.  Come in.  Come in.  The door opens wide.  The gate leaves are extended wide.  Giving your heart in faith to Christ, come this morning [Romans 10:8-13].  Or, placing your life with us in the fellowship and communion of this blessed and precious church [Hebrews 10:24-25], would you come?  Would you make it now?  “Here I am, pastor.  I give you my hand.  I take that step and give my heart to Jesus.”  Will you so?  Will you now?  In this balcony round, down one of these stairwells at the front and the back, on this lower floor, somebody you, taking Jesus as Savior, or putting your life in the fellowship of the church, a whole family, or just one somebody you, while we sing the hymn, would you come, while stand and while we sing?