Well, I have to keep my high school French sharp, you know.... :) "Deuxieme partie" is French for "part two", which begs the question of why there is a big, golden 7 up there. But, hang on....
You know how folks will ask, "If you were going to be marooned on a desert island all alone for the rest of your life, and you could take 3 things with you, what would they be?"
I think about that question as I contemplate what God Almighty chose to include in the "furnishings" of the Tabernacle (and later the Temple's) "holy place". There were only three items. Are there any indications in Scripture to teach us why He chose those items? Let's investigate!
First of all, all three furnishings were made of acacia wood overlaid with pure gold, and the accompanying items (such as tableware and coal pans) were made of pure gold.
1. The Table of Shewbread (aka Table of the Presence)1
"Shewbread" literally means "bread of the face" or bread set out before the face of God.
As one entered The Holy Place, this table was on the right hand side. (This is the first mention of the word "table" in the Bible. Table is a symbol of communion and fellowship. More about that in a moment.) On the table were placed every Sabbath 12 loaves of bread, made from the finest flour and unleavened. They were arranged in two rows of six, on the table. Each loaf represented one of the tribes of Israel. How beautiful that, even though only Levitical priests were allowed in the Holy Place, all the people of the 12 tribes were represented there before the Lord, by the 12 loaves... Sprinkled over the loaves was the oil of frankincense, which consecrated the bread unto the Lord, essentially making it a grain offering. At the end of the week, the "old" bread was consumed by the priests and new bread took its place on the table. Tradition holds that 8 priests would hold hands standing around the table before consuming the old loaves. Such a sacred communion.
The Table of Shewbread represents our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is through Him, and only through Him, we have communion with our Triune God. Frankincense was given to Him by the 3 Wise Men, you will recall, as a birthday gift. No accident, that. He called Himself the Bread of Life in John 6:35, 51-58. This table was part of God's "old covenant". The covenant meal Jesus established with His disciples shortly before His death represents His New Covenant. That meal represents the believer's eating the "body" (bread) and blood (wine) of Christ on a regular basis to remind us of His sacrifice's all-sustaining and eternal nature.
Bible references to explore: Exodus 25:23-30; Leviticus 24:5-9.
2. The Golden Lampstand2
There were no dimensions given for this item. (Who, after all, can measure the light of God?)
The instructions for making it are found in Exodus 25:31-40. It was to be made entirely of gold (which caused it to weigh 75-100 pounds) and fashioned by the best artisans. A strong motif in the design was the flower of the almond tree. In that part of the world, the almond tree was the first to awake from the darkness of Winter, the first tree to respond to the increased light of Spring. The lampstand had a vertical shaft, at the end of which was a bowl for the oil. In addition, there were three curved branches, curving upward, to form 6 more bowls. All seven were in the shape of the almond blossom.
The seven, tiny bowls, were to be kept burning at all times. The High Priest was responsible for the care of the lampstand, to ensure its wicks of flax were adequate and that the finest olive oil was abundant, so that the eternal flame burned in the Holy Place (Leviticus 24:3). There were no windows in the Holy Place. None were needed.
3. The Altar of Incense4
It was commanded that this wooden altar, overlaid with gold, be the tallest structure in the room. It stood about 3 feet tall. Some of the characteristics of this altar, such as the four horns on the four corners, mimicked the bronze altar just outside the Holy Place. There were coals kept burning on this altar, and they were brought there from the Bronze Altar in a golden coal pan. As noted in its name, an incense, made of the finest spices and frankincense oil, was burned on this inner altar twice a day. The exact combination of incense is lost to us today. But, this combo was to be used by no other Israelite for any other purpose. It was a holy combination, used only for the worship of God on the Altar of Incense. The High Priest, after he had tended the Golden Lampstand morning and evening, would offer an incense offering on the altar. In this way, a perpetual sweet smell would pervade the Holy Place. (This fragrance of love and worship expressed the delight of one whose sins had been forgiven!) Additionally, once a year, on the Day of Atonement, after the annual sin offering (Passover Lamb) had been offered, some of its blood would be rubbed on the horns of this incense altar, as the High Priest was proceeding into the Most Holy Place (which we will examine in an upcoming blog).
The golden altar of incense has at its essence worship and praise. It reminds us of Jesus' current ministry in Heaven, to perpetually intercede on our behalf before God the Father.
Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
In the next post, ... the Most Holy Place!
5 Wiersbe, Warren W., and Warren W. Wiersbe. The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: The Complete Old Testament in One Volume. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2007. Print.