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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 25:23-30; Furniture in God’s Tent; The Table

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120311_exodus25_23-30.mp3

3/11 Exodus 25:23-30 Furniture in God’s Tent: The Table

Here in Exodus 25, God is giving his instructions for the construction of his tent. God desires to dwell with his people. Our God is not a distant God, an aloof God; our God is a God who desires fellowship with his people. He wants to make his home with us. That is what the tabernacle is all about. God is instructing his people what it means to have a holy God dwelling with them. God sets the terms of the relationship. God will dwell with his people as King. He is holy. He must be honored. So he gives instructions for building his tent, and instructions for the furniture that will go in his tent. He starts with the things that are closest to him, that are immediately in his presence, and he works out from there. Last time, we looked at the box containing the contract between God and his people, and the elaborate cover for this box. This was to be the only furniture for God’s throne room. This was where our sin was decisively dealt with. Now we move outside the most holy place to the holy place, and look at the next piece of furniture in God’s house; a table. Here are God’s instructions for this table.

The Table

Exodus 25:23 “You shall make a table of acacia wood. Two cubits shall be its length, a cubit its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 24 You shall overlay it with pure gold and make a molding of gold around it. 25 And you shall make a rim around it a handbreadth wide, and a molding of gold around the rim. 26 And you shall make for it four rings of gold, and fasten the rings to the four corners at its four legs. 27 Close to the frame the rings shall lie, as holders for the poles to carry the table. 28 You shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold, and the table shall be carried with these. 29 And you shall make its plates and dishes for incense, and its flagons and bowls with which to pour drink offerings; you shall make them of pure gold. 30 And you shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before me regularly.

And again in chapter 37 we see these instructions carried out exactly.

Exodus 37:10 He also made the table of acacia wood. Two cubits was its length, a cubit its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 11 And he overlaid it with pure gold, and made a molding of gold around it. 12 And he made a rim around it a handbreadth wide, and made a molding of gold around the rim. 13 He cast for it four rings of gold and fastened the rings to the four corners at its four legs. 14 Close to the frame were the rings, as holders for the poles to carry the table. 15 He made the poles of acacia wood to carry the table, and overlaid them with gold. 16 And he made the vessels of pure gold that were to be on the table, its plates and dishes for incense, and its bowls and flagons with which to pour drink offerings.

This table was similar in construction to the box that contained the covenant. Both were the same height, both were made of acacia wood overlaid with pure gold; both had gold moldings; both had gold rings and poles they were to be carried with. But this table was smaller (half a cubit less in both length and breadth) the table top was about 18” x 36”. And this was a table, not a box. But this was not just a table. Included with this table were plates, dishes, bowls, flagons – this was a table for food. It was to have bread on it continually. We find the instructions for what is to be placed on this table in Leviticus 24.

Leviticus 24:5 “You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it; two tenths of an ephah shall be in each loaf. 6 And you shall set them in two piles, six in a pile, on the table of pure gold before the LORD. 7 And you shall put pure frankincense on each pile, that it may go with the bread as a memorial portion as a food offering to the LORD. 8 Every Sabbath day Aaron shall arrange it before the LORD regularly; it is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever. 9 And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place, since it is for him a most holy portion out of the LORD’s food offerings, a perpetual due.”

Drink Offerings

Bread is not the only thing on this table. There were four types of gold vessels associated with this table; plates and dishes, flagons and bowls. The text tells us that the bowls and flagons were used to pour the drink offerings. There is not absolute clarity in the biblical text about the drink offerings, and why the vessels for the drink offerings are associated with this table. When offering a sacrificial animal, it was to be accompanied by the specified quantities of a grain offering and a drink offering (Num.15). This was intended to create ‘a pleasing aroma to the LORD’. Exactly how and where the drink offering was to be poured out is not clear. Tradition tells us (Sir.50:15; Josephus Antiquities 3:9:4) that the drink offering was poured out at the foot of the altar, but Numbers 28:7 tells us that the drink offering was to be poured out in the Holy Place.

Numbers 28:7 Its drink offering shall be a quarter of a hin for each lamb. In the Holy Place you shall pour out a drink offering of strong drink to the LORD.

Exodus 30:9 tells us that no drink offering was to be poured on the other table in the Holy place, the table of incense. We don’t know for sure if the bowls and flagons were made and stored with this table but used at the altar, or if the wine was to be brought into the Holy place in these bowls and poured out or placed on this table. Whatever the practice, there is a close connection with this table that held the bread of the Presence, and the wine for the drink offering.

Incense

The other gold vessels associated with this table, plates and dishes, are said to be ‘for incense’. In the Leviticus passage we are told that the incense used on this table was frankincense.

Leviticus 24:7 And you shall put pure frankincense on each pile, that it may go with the bread as a memorial portion as a food offering to the LORD.

Frankincense, or olibanum (Hebrew ‘lebonaw’) is an aromatic resin collected from the Boswellia tree. It can be burned as incense or eaten. It has soothing medicinal properties, and has been used to treat depression. Frankincense was used primarily in the tabernacle or temple rituals, and was associated with the service of the priests. Frankincense was one of the three gifts given in worship to Jesus by the Magi.

Matthew 2:11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Gold is a royal gift that pointed to Jesus who is our God and King. Frankincense pointed to Jesus who is our great High Priest. Myrrh, a bitter resin and strong antiseptic used in embalming, pointed to the reason Jesus came – to die for our sins.

Bread of Presence

So God’s table, placed in the Holy place in his tent, had aromatic incense placed on it, and it was associated with the drink offerings of wine, but the primary purpose of this table was a table for bread.

Exodus 25:30 And you shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before me regularly.

The bread of the presence, literally bread of the face, bread placed before the face of or in the presence of God. This bread was to be kept on the table continually. 12 loaves, probably representing the 12 tribes, together with sweet smelling frankincense, were to be continually before the face of God. Leviticus gives us more detail:

Leviticus 24:5 “You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it; two tenths of an ephah shall be in each loaf. 6 And you shall set them in two piles, six in a pile, on the table of pure gold before the LORD.

This table was to be continually piled up with bread. An ephah is about 3/5 of a bushel or 22 liters. So two tenths of an ephah is 4.4 liters or about 18.5 cups. For 12 loaves, that adds up to about 223 cups or almost 14 gallons of flour (about a bushel and a half) That’s a lot of bread! This was to be baked fresh and replenished every Saturday. Imagine the aroma of that much freshly baked bread. This was truly a feast fit for a King. But unlike other pagan deities, this was not intended to be food for God to eat. The common understanding of idols was that they could do everything but feed themselves. You feed the god and in return it will bless you with rain or fertility or whatever that god is responsible for. That is not what is going on here. God is not needy and hungry and waiting to be fed. God corrects this misunderstanding of sacrifice in Psalm 50

Psalm 50:10 For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine.12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.

This bread is not for God to eat. It is a demonstration that he is the source of all good things; in his presence there is no lack. This bread was not to meet a need God had, but it was to be eaten; it was given to the priests who served in the tabernacle as their portion. Their supply came from God’s presence. God provides for his people. When David was fleeing for his life from Saul, he and his men came to the priest and asked for bread to eat.

1 Samuel 21:6 So the priest gave him the holy bread, for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the LORD, to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away.

This bread was exclusively for the priests to eat. The priest bent the rules to meet David’s urgent need. Jesus brought up this incident when the Pharisees were picking on his hungry disciples.

Matthew 12:1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

God values mercy, steadfast love, caring for those in genuine need, above a strict observance of religious rituals. God is a God who loves to overflow with compassion and kindness and give good gifts to his children.

Matthew 7:11 …how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Psalm 107:8 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men! 9 For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

When the disciples were worried and wanted to send the people away to find food because they didn’t have enough, Jesus fed the huge crowd with a young boy’s lunch. It is interesting that when everyone was satisfied, the disciples gathered 12 baskets full of leftover bread. There is no lack in God. He is overflowing with goodness, and loves to give good gifts to those who don’t deserve it. But Jesus wants to go beyond simply satisfying a temporary hunger. After feeding the crowds, they began to follow him looking for another handout, so he confronted them and offended them in order to turn their attention to their deeper need.

John 6:26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

…35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. …47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. …50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Now this was offensive to them.

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

After this offensive speech, many who had been following Jesus turned back and stopped following him. Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb. God the Son became flesh so that he could offer that flesh as a sacrifice for our sin. As the Old Testament worshipers transferred their guilt to a lamb, and the lamb died in their place, and they applied the blood as a covering and ate the lamb to nourish their bodies, so Jesus bore our sins in his body on the tree. His blood covers all our sin. Our souls feed on Jesus and receive strength and nourishment from him. He is the bread of life.

Application

What can we learn from all this? As the bread representing Israel was kept continually in the presence of God, so we too are continually before the face of God. We are constantly on his mind. And we are presented with the fragrant incense of our great High Priest.

Romans 8:33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We learn that God is the great provider. He is the one who meets our needs and satisfies our longings. And our most pressing needs may not be our most important needs. There are things we think we need; there are things we urgently feel we must have; and there are deeper needs we may as yet be unaware of. We hunger for food, but the deepest need of our heart is for relationship. We need to be forgiven by God, to be reconciled to God, to be loved by God, to enjoy a right relationship with our Creator. All these deepest human needs are satisfied in Jesus, who offered himself for us, paid our price in full, beckons us to come to him, satisfies the hunger and thirst of our souls, gives us the gift of eternal life, and comes to make his home in us. Sinner, do you have need? In God’s presence there is abundant supply. God delights to give good gifts to those who come with empty cup to him and ask.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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March 11, 2012 - Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , ,

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