The Table of Showbread, the Candlestick, etc.

Exodus 25.

In the last lecture we touched upon the table of showbread and the candlestick. In tracing out the details connected with them we must refer to other scriptures. In this chapter we have only the description of the holy vessels, and the intimation of God's first and great thought in their construction; when we come to the ordering of them we learn many instructive details. As to the table, it was of the same materials as the ark - shittim-wood and gold; another representation to us of the person of Christ. It had to support, as we have seen, twelve loaves. This was for God's eye, for the table was before the Lord. (Lev 24:6.) They were consequently at first set in perfect order by Moses, the mediator, and afterwards were to be ordered by Aaron, the priest, continually. Pure frankincense was put upon them, and this was burnt as a sweet savour to the Lord. It represents that perfection in Christ which none but God could delight in and appreciate, but it was put upon the loaves - His people - for a memorial. In the eye of God they are ever seen as in those perfections. The word "showbread" means bread of manifestation, or setting forth. Israel is the people in whom the Lord will display Himself in government upon the earth. They may have completely broken down and be "scattered and peeled," but before the Lord they are ever maintained in the order of the pure table, according to God's design in its construction and use, by the great Priest. They are thus seen by the Lord with the memorial upon them of the perfection of Christ. Faith thus reckons as in Acts 26:7; James 1:1. All was ordered upon the Sabbath-day, and was thus connected with rest for man upon this earth, because all was according to the mind of God in perfect order, seen in the perfections of Christ and secured by Him as Priest. The principle of this is true for the Church in its responsible character, though it has failed in this. It is the vessel of heavenly administration, in which the principalities and powers in heavenly places learn the manifold wisdom of God. The holy city Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God shows us that whatever may have been the breakdown, God's design in the assembly will in no wise fail, and that in and from it shall be manifested the fulness of heavenly blessing and glory. There were twelve loaves to represent Israel, but the unity of the assembly is represented by the one loaf in which Christians participate. Whatever the broken state of things may be, the whole assembly of the saints is for faith contemplated in the one loaf, though all are not actually in the fellowship of that one loaf. Faith sees that all is secured in the Head on high.

There is a second idea in the showbread. Aaron and his sons ate it in the holy place. The food of God's table belongs to the whole priestly family. All Christians are priests, and partakers of the Lord's table, but we have no figure of the broken loaf in the showbread. It would be rather Christ as the bread come down from heaven. Only we have to remember now that we must feed upon Him in death in order to have any part in the living bread. The side of the table of showbread manward is that it was the vessel of the administration of God's bounty through Israel for the earth. In John 6 we see how Christ's ministry in feeding the multitude by means of the twelve apostles is connected with the truth of the Bread come down from heaven to give life to the world. The Church feeds on Christ, and it is only as we feed upon Christ that we can minister Christ. We cannot really communicate to others unless we have appropriated Christ ourselves. The heavenly city will be the vessel of the ministry of a heavenly Christ, but in it is the Tree of life with its twelve manner of fruits. The saints of the assembly are formed in what is of Christ through feeding upon Him. Israel will be the vessel of ministry upon the earth, but they will have a lesson-book in the heavenly saints, by which they also will learn Christ. Thus the earth will be ministered to from heaven, the heavenly saints then occupying the place of Aaron and his sons, the priestly family, who have fed upon Christ.

The candlestick was entirely of gold; signifying what was wholly divine - the divine nature, for God is necessarily light. Light is not exactly display or manifestation, but it is what makes manifest. (Eph. 5:13.) It represents to us what in itself is spiritually perfect, there is no human element here. We are speaking of what light is in itself, its intrinsic character. Israel should have reflected this light, as having the presence of Jehovah among them, and His word and Spirit with them; but when the true Light came into the world, it only shone in a darkness which comprehended it not; yet Israel will arise and shine for God in the earth, when the veil is taken away from their heart, and the glory of the Lord arises upon them. Now it is said of believers, Ye are "light in the Lord," not merely that ye have light, but ye are light. No doubt it manifests the true character of the unfruitful works of darkness, but it has its own fruit in all goodness and righteousness and truth. Hence, when the lighting of the lamps is spoken of (Numbers 8:1, 4) nothing is said of its making anything manifest. It is to shine in its own intrinsic beauty, and immediately the beautiful work of the candlestick, from which the light shone, is set forth - of beaten gold, with its flowers and knops - the vessel for the shining forth of the light in its spiritual perfection by the power of the Holy Ghost. It is what is true in Christ and in us. The new Jerusalem is a vessel of light. It has the glory of God, and her shining is like to a stone most precious as a jasper and a sardine stone. The glory of God lightens it, and the Lamb is the lamp thereof. Nothing of natural light is needed there, neither sun nor moon, nor was there in the tabernacle any other light than this candlestick of pure gold. We have seen that believers are light in the Lord, and that the character of the light is divine, hence it must shine in the characteristics of the divine nature, and God is love as well as light. Grace and truth came in Jesus Christ, and the love of God is perfected in one who keeps His word, because the word is the revelation of what Christ is to the soul. The Church was set to be the vessel of this light (Rev. 2, 3.), but the light waned when it left its first love, and the removal of the candlestick is at once threatened. It is beautiful to see, in chapter 22:17, how the love is revived. It is by a renewed apprehension of the person of Christ. She arises, as it were (Eph. 5:14), from among the dead, and Christ shines upon her.

We have so far been looking at what was in the tabernacle, and this is important for us, because God puts it first. We have seen that it is connected with the purpose of God to manifest Himself in and by man. Christ is the centre of this purpose. All is to be sustained and ordered by Him in the dispensation of the fulness of times, but others, redeemed men, are associated with Him in it. Hence, when He began His public ministry, He called the twelve to be with Him in it. Everything also will shine in the light of God Himself - God as light and love - and this by the power of the Spirit. We now come to the tabernacle itself. It is, as we have said, a figure of the universe, and it is to be a universe of bliss, because it will be filled with the fulness of God, and Christ is that fulness. When we look at the failure of everything that has been entrusted to the hands of men, it would be difficult for us to understand how all that is shadowed in these figures is to be accomplished, did we not see that in Christ is the Yea and Amen of every promise of God, and for glory to God through us. The first thought in the tabernacle is that it is the dwelling-place of God; secondly, it is the place of approach for men. Both these aspects are verified in Christ.

There were four coverings to the tabernacle, but divided into two and two. Two formed the tabernacle itself, the other two were simply coverings. The inner one of the first two was composed of ten curtains of fine-twined linen, and worked into these were blue, purple, scarlet, and cherubim. This is called in our translation (26:1) "the tabernacle," but the Hebrew word means "the dwelling-place" or "habitation." It is a cognate word to "the shekinah," the name given to the cloud in which Jehovah dwelt. These linen curtains figured pre-eminently the dwelling-place of God. They represent to us the perfect humanity of the Lord Jesus (" The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us"); but in connection with the heavenly, the royal, and the earthly glories which attach to Him. Besides these, the judicial authority of the throne of God centres in Him for making good these glories. All judgment is committed to the Son, that all should honour the Son even as they honour the Father. The veil afterwards described, was of the same material as these curtains, and it is stated (Heb. 10:20) that it is His flesh. These curtains could not be seen outside. It was the privilege of the priestly family to go inside and behold these glories. God has been manifested in flesh, but justified in Spirit. If we had lived when Jesus was upon earth we should not have justified, that is, rightly judged about, the manifestation of God in that lowly Man; we should not have known Him as out of heaven, or that He was a King, much less that God was there, save by spiritual discernment (John 1:33); and though in these figures we have no shadowing forth of what He was with the Father, yet it was in this manner alone that the apostles could say, "We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father."

Over these linen curtains were eleven curtains of goat's hair. These are called "the tent." (26:7.) Our translation says "covering," but it is more accurately "a tent upon the habitation." (See verse 12, and 40:19.) It is the outer aspect of the dwelling-place of God, as the tabernacle was the inner. These curtains gave to the tabernacle the designation of "the tabernacle of the congregation," or, more correctly, "the tent of appointed meeting." Its aspect therefore is towards the people. A prophet's garment was made of hair, and the prophetic office was to communicate the mind of God. This was true in Christ - the Word - for He was what He spoke. This tent was also called the tabernacle of witness or testimony. If we look inside, God was there; outside, it was a holy testimony of God to those who assembled. Another thing marked the garb of a prophet - separation to God whose mind he communicated. (Mark 1:1-6.) So Christ was ever holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners. It is marvellous grace that we should have the testimony of God in a world of sin, but it must necessarily be in separation from it. It centres in Christ, for He not only bears witness, but is the subject of all testimony. "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." Thus in the "tent" we have two leading thoughts, it is the place of assembly where Christ declares the mind of God; and this is necessarily in separation from the world.

The other two curtains were simply coverings. They were not, so to speak, part and parcel of the tabernacle itself. They represent to us two characters seen in Christ, and here again we have the outer and the inner. The ram was the victim of consecration. Hence in the covering of rams' skins died red we have figured the perfect devotedness of one entirely consecrated to God. In the badgers' skins we have had that which repelled everything that would have interfered with that consecration. Outside things never affected the inward devotedness. He moved in the midst of a world of evil untouched by it; Himself the testimony of sovereign love, giving Himself in love for men, but as a sacrifice of sweet savour to God. We see in these coverings the two characters which become the dwelling-place of God, - consecration and holy vigilance. We see these also in the new Jerusalem. His servants serve Him, and nothing that defiles can enter. There the very purity of the city is repellant of all evil. Here we need the exhortation "Be vigilant." What a contrast to Christ do we see in His disciples, when man's hour and the power of darkness came upon Him in Gethsemane. He prays while the disciples sleep. Peter smites with the sword, when He says, "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" All is perfect there. He is the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the beginning of the creation of God.

T. H. Reynolds.