Charles Simeon Commentary - Leviticus 24:5 - 24:9

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Leviticus 24:5 - 24:9


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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

DISCOURSE: 139

THE SHEW-BREAD

Lev_24:5-9. And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth-deals shall be in one cake. And thou shalt set them in two rows. six on a row, upon the pure table before the Lord. And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the Lord. Every Sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. And it shall be Aaron’s and his sons; and they shall eat it in the holy place: for it is most holy unto him of the offerings of the Lord made by fire, by a perpetual statute.

WHEN God appointed a dwelling-place to be erected for him in the wilderness, he ordered it to be furnished with such appendages as are common in the dwellings of men. There was in the sanctuary, as St. Paul observes, a candlestick, a table, and bread, called the shew-bread [Note: Heb_9:2.]. But there was an infinitely higher purpose to be answered by these things, than a mere accommodation of them to the habits of men: they were typical; every one of them was typical; “they were shadows of good things to come.” The mystical import of some is much clearer than that of others. Where the writers of the New Testament have explained them, we are able to speak with confidence: but where they are silent, we must proceed in our explanation of them “with fear and trembling.” The mystery of the shew-bread is applied by some to Christ, who called himself “the true bread,” and, at the institution of his last supper, “took bread, and brake it, and said to his disciples, Take, eat, this is my body.” The New-Testament writers give us little, if any, insight into this subject: but they speak so fully and plainly on the subject of the candlestick, that we can easily by analogy trace the import of the shew-bread also. It has been shewn, that the candlestick represented the Church, and that the priests who trimmed the lamps represented Christ [Note: See the preceding Discourse.]. The same might therefore well be supposed in relation to the shew-bread: and the circumstance of the flour “being taken from all the children of Israel,” and made into “twelve cakes,” gives us sufficient reason to conclude, that those cakes did represent the twelve tribes, that is, the Church of God. Nor can we adopt a more satisfactory method of explaining the whole mystery, than that used in reference to the candlestick. Agreeably to the plan then which we pursued on the former subject, we observe, that the shew-bread shadowed forth the people of God,

I.       In their privileges—

To elucidate this, consider what is here spoken respecting the twelve cakes;

1.       Their solemn presentation before God—

[They were consecrated to God in an orderly and solemn manner, and deposited on his table that they might be always before him. Being piled one upon another in two rows, frankincense was placed on each row, which at the appointed time was burnt “for a memorial, as an offering made by fire unto the Lord.” Here we see the Church and people of God consecrated to him according to the terms of “his everlasting covenant,” to be unto him a holy and peculiar people. As such they are esteemed by him; and “his eyes are upon them day and night for good:” and, as the frankincense was to God an odour of a sweet smell, so their persons and services shall be accepted by him — — — True it is that they are mean and worthless in themselves; yet, being “set apart for him [Note: Psa_4:3.],” he will acknowledge them as his, and look upon them with complacency and delight.]

2.       Their periodical renewal—

[Whilst one generation of men is passing away, another arises to fill their place; and amongst them all, God will have some, who shall be objects of his peculiar regard. The change of the loaves every Sabbath-day was intended to illustrate this: arid in reference to it they were expressly called “the continual bread [Note: Num_4:7.].” The regard shewn by God to those who were first brought out of Egypt, shall be perpetuated to the end of time: never shall any be removed but others shall be ready to succeed; nor shall there ever be a period when God will not have a people truly and entirely consecrated to his service. Sometimes, as in the primitive ages, his saints maybe swept away by thousands at a time, so as to threaten their utter extinction: but others shall always be found ready to “be baptized for (that is, in the room of) the dead,” as soldiers instantly come forward, to fill up the ranks which the devouring sword has thinned [Note: That is most probably the true meaning of 1Co_15:29.]: nor shall the power of men or devils ever be able to extirpate the Christian name: “the Church is built upon a rock; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” — — —]

3.       Their ultimate destination—

[The loaves at the close of the week were the property of the officiating priests ; and were to be eaten by them in the holy place, as being in themselves most holy. Now we are sure that the priests who attended on the lamps, prefigured Christ: and therefore we have no doubt but that he was equally prefigured by those who attended on the bread. Here then we see, that the saints, when they have abode their appointed time an earth, are the property of Christ: to which purpose it is written in the book of Deuteronomy, “The Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance [Note: Deu_32:9.].” This is the high destiny of all who have given up themselves to God. Happy they are in the place which they are allowed to occupy in God’s temple below; but happier far at their removal hence, when Christ shall claim them as “his peculiar treasure,” and enjoy them for ever as “his purchased possession” — — —]

We may further contemplate the shew-bread as representing the Lord’s people,

II.      In their duties—

Well may this ordinance teach us,

1.       To consecrate ourselves entirely to God—

[Let us contemplate the state of those loaves: they were “taken from the children of Israel,” made on purpose for God, and presented to him that they might be wholly and for ever his. And what says God respecting us? “This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise [Note: Isa_43:21.].” Yes; we should every one of us “subscribe with our hands, and say, I am the Lord’s [Note: Isa_44:5.].” We should “give up ourselves to him by a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten [Note: Jer_50:5.].” We should consider ourselves as “separated from mankind” for this very purpose [Note: Lev_20:24.], that we may be “wholly sanctified unto him, in spirit, soul, and body [Note: 1 These. 5:23.].” This St. Paul declares to be “our reasonable service [Note: Rom_12:1.].” Not that we are to be inactive in the common duties of life, or to spend our days in nothing but contemplation and devotion: this would be to strain the parallel too far: but, in the spirit and habit of our minds, we are to be entirely given up to God, so that “whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we should do all to his glory [Note: 1Co_10:31.] ” — — — the Sabbath especially should this dedication of ourselves be repeated and confirmed. We should come up to the house of God with the same mind as the priests who brought the loaves: their purpose was known and fixed; and they went into the sanctuary determined not to leave it till they had executed their high office. O that we might go to God’s house on purpose to consecrate ourselves to him afresh; and never leave our work dubious or incomplete! — — —]

2.       To be much occupied in prayer and intercession—

[The loaves were, so to speak, representatives of the tribes of Israel; and the frankincense ascended up as a memorial to God for them. Thus should we consider ourselves interested, not for ourselves only, but for all the Church of God. As for ourselves, we are commanded to “pray always,” to “pray without ceasing,” and to “offer unto God the sacrifice of praise continually, giving thanks to his name;” so, for others are we required to “make supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings for all men.” Moreover, this duty is inculcated on all: the prophetic declaration is, that, wherever God is known, “from the rising to the setting sun, even there shall incense he offered unto his name, and a pure offering [Note: Mal_1:11.]:” “all who make mention of the Lord,” will be thus occupied; they “will not keep silence, nor give God any rest, till he establish his Church, and make it a praise in the earth [Note: Isa_62:6-7.].” How prosperous would individuals and churches be, if such a spirit prevailed more amongst them! O that “God would pour out upon us more of a spirit of grace and of supplication!” We should not long remain without manifest tokens of his approbation and love — — —]

3.       To wait patiently for our removal hence—

[The loaves were left in the sanctuary till the time appointed for their removal. Thus we should “abide with God,” performing diligently the work assigned us, till he shall be pleased to dismiss our souls in peace. Our week of life at all events is wearing fast away: but, whether its close be somewhat earlier, or later, than we expect, we should say, like Job, “All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.” If there were no future state of existence, we might wish to have our present lives terminated or protracted, according as our sorrows or joys abound: but as death will introduce us into the more immediate presence of our God, and into a more perfect union and communion with Christ, we may well be contented either to live or die. In some sense indeed we may rather “desire to depart;” yea we may be “looking for, and hasting to, the coming of the day of Christ:” but as it respects impatience or discontent, we may well tarry the Lord’s leisure, doing and suffering his holy will, till he shall take us hence, to “rest from our labours.” and to “be for ever with the Lord”— — —]