The Lampstand and the Table of Shewbread

H Rhodes, Leeds

Part 6 of 8 of the series Outline Studies of the Tabernacle

Category: Exposition

We shall now consider the vessels standing within the holy place, which we have already referred to as the place of service. These consist of (i) the golden lampstand, (ii) the golden table on which were placed twelve loaves of bread, and (iii) the golden altar, on which incense was burned.

The Lampstand

This was made of pure gold of beaten work, Exod. 25. 31; it had a central stem with three branches on either side. Adorning these branches were bowls like almonds, v. 33, knops (or buds) and flowers. This lamp supplied all the light necessary in the holy place. It was the most costly of all the vessels -weighing 114 lb. and the workmanship would have greatly enhanced the value of its material.

Points to Note

1. The pure gold would indicate the divine glory of the Lord Jesus as the vessel by which the fulness of the Holy Spirit was made manifest; the light from the seven branches would suggest that fulness. The expression “seven spirits” occurring in Revelation 1. 4; 3. 1; 4. 5; 5. 6, indicates the same thing, just as “seven horns” and “seven eyes” would teach the fulness of power and knowledge. A similar, though distinct thought, occurs in Isaiah 11, where the prophet speaks of Christ rising from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch out of his roots. The Spirit of the Lord rests upon Him corresponding to the central stem; then come three pairs of spiritual graces, namely wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

2. The oil is a well-known emblem of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Sam. 16. 13; 1 John 2. 27), by which the light of testimony can be maintained. The Lord Jesus, both was in the days of His flesh, and still is, the faithful and true witness, Rev. 3. 14. By the banks of Jordan, in the wilderness, or in Nazareth, everything was attributed to the Holy Spirit of God; see Luke 4. 1, 14, 18.

3. The buds and flowers adorning the stem would suggest the thought of fruit and fragrance. The fruit of the Spirit is ever fragrant to God, whether in Christ or in His people; see John 15. 8, 16. The almond, as the ornamental feature, would suggest that this is seen in resurrection; cf. Aaron’s rod, Num. 17. 8.

4. The light of nature never entered this sacred enclosure. All service was conducted in the light from the golden lamp-stand. So in the city of the future, there will be no need of the sun (natural light) for “the Lamb is the light thereof”, Rev. 21. 23. Today, 1 Corinthians 2. 10-14 teaches that the Holy Spirit alone knows the deep things of God and reveals them unto us.

The Spirit breathes upon the Word
And brings the truth to sight;
Precepts and promises afford
A sanctifying light.

So we should seek to serve our God according to the light which He reveals to us, ever exercising the grace of the Holy Spirit, for “what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory?”, 1 Cor. 4. 7.

5. In Revelation 1.13 local assemblies are in view under the figure of lampstands, with the risen Lord moving amongst them. He commends them, condemns them, counsels them and compensates them. This is the work of the high priest who attended the lamps continually in order to keep the light shining brightly, Phil. 2. 15.

The Table of Shewbread

Details are found in Exodus 25. 23-30 and Leviticus 24. 5-9. Made of shittim wood, overlaid with pure gold and with crowns of gold surrounding the border, this table was 3½ ft. in length, 1¾ feet wide and just over 2½ ft. high. It existed for the display of twelve loaves of bread, on which frankincense was placed, thus emitting a constant fragrance. The bread was replaced weekly and after removal became the food of the priests.

Points to Note

1. This is the first mention of a table in scripture and the principal idea seems to be that of food and fellowship. If the lampstand tells of illumination, then the table tells of contemplation. Like the lampstand, the table was not used by the high priest in his approach to God. It was a vessel of manifestation.

2. In the bread upon the table (fragrant with the frankincense) we see again the Lord Jesus Christ, suggesting the acceptability to God of Him who is the food of His people. As God sustained the priests in their service with the shewbread, so we, by feeding our souls on Christ, are sustained today. The service of God can become a wearisome task if the soul is not in the enjoyment of what is here suggested. Read Malachi 1. 12-14, and note how Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus were sustained in Philippians 2. 12-17; 19-23; 25-30 respectively.

3. The fact that there were twelve loaves would teach us, among other things, that there is enough for each and enough for all. But provision is not enough - there must be appropriation. We must act for ourselves, and this points to the need of reading and meditating upon the Scriptures. We grow strong in the Lord only as we learn of Him in the secret place; see 1 Pet. 2. 2; Heb. 5. 12; 1 Cor. 2. 2. Paul exhorted Timothy to read, 1 Tim. 4. 13; to meditate, v. 15; to study, 2 Tim. 2. 15. 4. God required separation and cleanliness of those who partook of this bread, Lev. 22. 1-8.

The soul thus engaged will find joy and satisfaction in the service of the sanctuary, ever conscious of the grace that has brought him into that holy place and blessed him with every spiritual blessing in Christ.