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Sanctuary lesson 11

Sanctuary Lesson 11 - The Table of Showbread

As we followed the priest into the Holy Place, the first object that caught our attention was the seven-branched candlestick.  As we turn our gaze away from the seven-branched candlestick, we see a wooden table overlaid with gold.  It is a small table, measuring about 3 feet long by 1 &1/2 feet high by 2 & 1/4 feet tall.  On top of the table are twelves loaves of bread, divided into two stacks.  We then notice that there is a ring on each corner of the table to hold two wooden poles that were also overlaid with gold  On the floor next to table we see golden goblets filled with grape juice.  What does this all mean?  Is this for a meal?


Let's turn to Exodus 25:23-31.

- According to these Bible verses, what is the name for the bread on the table?

  • Answer (highlight to read): Showbread

Let's turn to Leviticus 24:5-9.

- According to these Bible verses, could the priests make any kind of bread or cake they wanted and set it on the table?

  • Answer: No, God gave very specific instructions on how to prepare the showbread.

Showbread literally means "presence bread" or "bread of the presence."  As it was to be displayed in the Holy Place, it was considered holy bread (1 Samuel 21:6).  The showbread was always on display on the table (Exodus 25:30).  The showbread was replaced every Sabbath and was eaten by the priests.

You may have noticed as you read the Bible, that there are many references to bread and bread-making in both the Old and New Testaments. 

Let's turn to Genesis 14:18; 18:7; 26:30; and Exodus 24:1,11.

- What is the common event occurring in all of these Bible verses?

  • Answer: People eating together

In ancient times, people sealed a covenant (in other words. an agreement) they made with each other with a meal, which confirmed the covenant and bound them together in a close relationship.  When God made a covenant with the Israelities at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:3-11) He also had a covenant meal with Moses and the leaders of the Israelites (Exodus 24:1,11).  The table of showbread symbolized this covenant experience.  The priests eating the bread in the Holy Place represented the twelve tribes of Israel in a covenant meal with God.  The table of showbread represented the hospitality and graciousness of God who always provided for His people without fail.

Let's turn to John 6:48-58.

- According verse 48, what claim does Jesus make?

  • Answer: Jesus says He is the bread of life.

Just as we must eat bread daily to sustain ourselves physically, Jesus says we must partake of Him spiritually daily.  Before we continue further with this line of thought, let's take a deeper look into how the showbread could represent Jesus.

How was showbread made?  Showbread was made from grain, which is grown in the fields of the sin-cursed earth, through toil and sweat (Genesis 3:17-19).  Despite our best efforts, we need God's power to make the grow the grain - "first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head" (Mark 4:28).  Jesus himself said, "unless the grain of wheat falls into the grown and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain" (John 12:24).  Thus, in order to have bread, the grain must die first.  

God required fine flour (Leviticus 24:5) to make showbread, so the wheat was beaten, ground through millstones, and sifted several times.  Consider how Jesus endured all of mankind's trials - He was scorned, bruised, beaten on our behalf (Isaiah 53:3-5), while you and I all shouted "Crucify Him!" (Mark 15:13).  Yet Jesus endured it all for us (Hebrews 5:8) and His life was perfect down to the most minute detail (Luke 2:52).  His enemies could not find any fault with Him (Luke 23:4) and even the demons acknowledged Him as the Son of God (Matthew 8:29).

Just as olive oil must be added to the dough (Leviticus 2:4), Jesus is the anointed One (Matthew 3:16; Psalms 45:7; Hebrews 1:9) who lives a Spirit-filled life as an example to us all.  Just as salt was added to flavor and preserve the bread, Jesus's righteousness preserves who call upon Him as Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9).

No leaven was to be added to the dough (Leviticus 2:4, 11) as Jesus offered Himself as a sinless, perfect sacrifice to God (Hebrews 9:14).  The dough was kneaded by the priest, who pushed and tore at the dough, just as how cruel men treated Jesus.  Finally, the bread entered the hot oven, just as the Bread of life Himself endured the fiery furnace of the cross (1 Peter 4:12).  After the flames had done their work, the showbread was finished, just as Jesus completed His work at Calvary (John 19:30).

Let's turn back to John 6:48-58.

- According to these verses, what does Jesus tell us to do with His bread?

  • Answer: We must eat the bread
It is not enough to appreciate how the bread was made or admire it on the table.  We must eat the bread and absorb it into our bodies.  It is only by searching the Scriptures daily (John 5:39) that we can feed upon Jesus (Psalms 34:8) and allow Him into our hearts (Revelation 3:20).

One question you may be asking yourself at this point is, "Do we celebrate covenant meals today?"  Let's turn to Luke 22:19-20.

- According to these verses, what is Jesus doing?

  • Answer: Jesus is having a covenant meal with His disciples.  

The Lord's Supper is the ultimate fulfillment of all covenant meals.  This meal sealed God's new covenant with His people.

What is the new covenant?  Let's turn to Jeremiah 31:31-34.

- According to these verses, what are four parts to this covenant?

  • Answer:
  1. The Lord will put His law in their minds and write it on their hearts
  2. The Lord will be their God, and they will be His people
  3. Everyone will know the Lord
  4. The Lord will forgive their iniquity and sin

Let's turn to Matthew 26:28 and Luke 23:33.  

- According to these verses, how was the New Covenant sealed?

  • Answer: The New Covenant was sealed with Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.

Let's turn to 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.

- According to these verses, what are we exhorted to do?

  • Answer: We are to proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.
Today, we celebrate Communion as a memorial of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.  We remember that God receives us as we are, and through the power of Jesus Christ working in our lives, we will be changed to live holy lives reflecting His divine light.  We must daily study the Bible and reflect upon the life of Jesus.  We need to proclaim the Lord's death until He comes again.  Friend, are you willing to partake in this covenant meal with Jesus?