Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Not long ago, I was looking at Exodus 22-25 and I almost laughed while reading in Exodus 25 as God quickly rambles off some of the specifications about the tent of meeting. And while most of this stuff is still above my head, the Holy Spirit directed me to Exodus 25:23-30, the table of the tent. It reads as follows,
Make a table of acacia wood- two cubits long, a cubit wide and a cubit and a half high. Overlay it with pure gold and make a gold molding around it. Also make around it a rim a handbreadth wide and put a gold molding on the rim. Make four gold rings for the table and fasten them to the four corners where the four legs are. The rings are to be close to the rim to hold the poles used in carrying the table. Make the poles of acacia wood, overlay them with gold and carry the table with them. And make its plates and dishes of pure gold, as well as its pitchers and bowls for the pouring out of offerings. Put the bread of the Presence on this table to be before me at all times.
Verse 30 is especially funny because one can imagine Moses taking notes and God just keeps going on and on with stuff that doesn’t make sense. When he goes over the table, like the rest of the tent, God gives Moves a variety of measurements and specifications, but in verse 30, out of nowhere, and with no further explanation, God says, “Put the bread of the Presence on this table to be before me at all times.”
One can imagine Moses wanting to stop and ask about it, which is what I wanted to do- “Wait, what is this bread, and why is it so important?” –However, before either of us got a chance, God moved on to the lamp stand, which no matter how many times I read it, I can’t make the menorah match the instructions, which is odd in its own right, since Stephan says in Acts 7:44, “Our forefathers had the tabernacle of the Testimony with them in the desert. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen.” So theoretically the menorah should look exactly like the way it is described in Exodus. –But that is neither here nor there for today.
No, today I stopped after chapter 25 and asked God, ‘What is this bread all about?” The Holy Spirit, always ready to answer when you ask him a question, lit up my mind with scripture that didn’t give me just a legalistic explanation but instead pointed out the amazing planning ability of our Lord.
The first stop was directed by my liner notes, they go to Leviticus 24:5-9, which is the direct explanation from the law which says,
Take fine flour and bake twelve loaves of bread, using two-tenths of an ephah for each loaf. Set them in two rows, six in each row, on the table of pure gold before the Lord. Along each row put some pure incense as a memorial portion to represent the bread and to be an offering made to the Lord by fire. This bread is to be set out before the Lord regularly, Sabbath after Sabbath, on behalf of the Israelites, as a lasting covenant. It belongs to Aaron and his sons, who are to eat it in a holy place, because it is a most holy part of their regular share of the offerings made to the Lord by fire.
It talks about how to make the bread and place it and how only the priests can eat it. It is made fresh every Sabbath and I guess sits for a week until the priests eat it (unless they eat it before the week is over). God takes it pretty seriously as he calls it a covenant, which suggests it has some important use. Maybe it connects to having scripture available all the time or something. I won’t’ go at length about explaining that theory though this time.
The next place I was led was many years later as David was running from the deranged King Saul. He and his men were hungry and 1 Samuel 21:3-6 records the priest at Nob giving David the bread of the presence- which only priests are supposed to eat. David approaches the priest as the story opens,
“Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.”
But the priest answered David, “I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however there is some consecrated bread here- provided the men have kept themselves from women.”
David replied, “Indeed women have been kept from us, as usual whenever I set out. The men’s things are holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!” So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the Lord and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away.
This is recorded in the Old Testament as David went on to become King, however that is not where the story ends (and this is where it gets interesting).
In Matthew 12:1-2, Jesus disciples cause a stir by picking some grain to eat on the Sabbath;
At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”
Naturally, the Pharisees are up in arms about this. But Jesus slams them down in verses 3-8 by reminding them of David and his bread-eating ways. This gives him the opening to explain that he (Jesus) is the Lord of the Sabbath;
He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread- which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
So, when I look at the big picture, and the question of “What is this bread for?” The answer is, “The bread is there to show that Jesus is Lord.” As the bread was likely placed by God in order that at that crucial moment David would eat it, giving Jesus the chance to use it to defend his ministry to people that would know the Word very well. So maybe the bread wasn’t a Word-related covenant, but yet another promise of the coming covenant of Christ and his salvation for us. Rock on God! Paul is right when he talks of the wisdom and planning of God in 1 Corinthians 2:7-10:
No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:
“No eye has seen,
No ear has heard,
No mind has conceived
What God has prepared for those who love him-“
But God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
So, how do we use this in our lives? Well, first of all, we need to realize that god won’t always give you the details, but what he tells you is already set up. It is our job just to obey God at his word, even if we don’t understand it. In fact, usually we won’t understand it, though we will really want to. Solomon realized how we relate to God in terms of understanding him. He wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what god has done from beginning to end.” We strive to understand the Lord, but we’ll never understand just how intricate his plan is.
Philip put this trust in God into action in Acts 8:26-35 (you can read the story in your Bible). God told Philip where to go, but didn’t tell him why, then he told him to approach the Ethiopian, but he didn’t tell him why. Though we learn that in verses 30-31 that God had sent Philip to explain the gospel to him, and the Ethiopian was more than ready to learn, as he was already holding the book of Isaiah, trying to figure it out. So when our Lord tells you to do something…..DO IT! Don’t wait around for an explanation, because very often, God won’t give one. But instead, just follow what the Lord says, and trust that he has something awesome in store. Our God is mighty and amazing.