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Jesu, Juva

Archive for November 2015

Facebread

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God established that there would be bread set on a table before him in his house “continually” (Ex. 25:30). On this table God also commanded flagons to be set out (Ex. 25:29) filled with beer (Num. 28:7). This continued into God’s new covenant with Solomon (1 Kings 7:48), when God’s presence moved into a palace rather than a tent. Possibly the drink offerings at God’s table also contained wine, especially once Israel entered into the land of promise, as drink offerings of wine begin “when you come into the land” (Num. 15:1-10). Certainly God sets the table in his house today with bread and wine, and the tables in his tent and palace were both modeled after the pattern of his heavenly house (Ex. 25:40, 1 Chron. 28:11-19, Heb. 8:5), where there is surely wine (Matt. 26:29). The bread and beer and wine in God’s house were not reserved exclusively for him; he shared them with the priests who served in his house (Lev. 24:9). God commanded that the table would be refreshed weekly (Lev. 24:8).

The bread in God’s house is called “bread of the presence,” or more succinctly “face bread” or “show bread,” indicating that it rests in front of or in the presence of God. There are twelve loaves of bread on the table (Lev. 24:5), which strongly suggests that it symbolizes the nation of Israel. The table of bread sits before the lampstand, which is fashioned in the style of an almond tree (Ex. 25, 37) and which gives light in front of it (Num. 8:2). The almond design is significant because the Hebrew word for almond also means watcher. This strengthens the suggestion that the bread symbolizes Israel; the bread and lampstand symbolize God’s watching over Israel. Considering the lampstand to be the eyes of a watcher relates to Jesus’s statement that the eye is the lamp of the body (Matt. 6:22, Luke 11:34); our eyes take in and evaluate the world in the same way that the light of a lamp discovers and reveals what is present in a room. Further confirming this reading, elsewhere the seven lamps are explicitly said to be the seven eyes of God (Zech. 4), and Jesus himself is said to have seven eyes (Rev. 5:6).

You might think that in the new covenant, where all God’s people travel all the way in to the most holy place to stand before him in worship (Heb. 4:16), there would be no more need for bread and wine to stand before God to represent us. But the new covenant does have a table filled with bread and wine, and the bread is still said to symbolize Jesus’s body, the church (1 Cor. 10-11). The new covenant in Jesus does not bring an end to ritual; instead, it transforms the ritual in God’s house from one that highlights concentric circles of separation (only priests may enter the holy place, and only priests may eat from this table outside the house) to one that highlights our union with Jesus and with one another (all of God’s people are invited all the way in to his throne room to feast weekly with him).

Thus, weekly communion: in every covenant bread and wine are to be set out continually on the table in God’s house to welcome his people.

Written by Scott Moonen

November 8, 2015 at 3:54 pm

Jealousy

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We have said that worship is a kind of tryst between Jesus and his bride. We must also add that it is a tryst at which Jesus expects to find his bride faithful to him. Every Lord’s day is implicitly a day of the Lord. Days of the Lord are a time of inspection and judgment upon the whole world, but particularly a time of inspection for Jesus’s church, because judgment always begins at the house of God.

We see a clear example of this in the book of Revelation, which takes place on the Lord’s day (Rev. 1:10) and which commentators have observed follows the structure of a worship liturgy. Very early in this book Jesus inspects and evaluates seven churches in Asia, and the book itself constitutes an inspection and prophesied judgment upon an eighth church, the apostate house of Israel in Jerusalem.

Such inspections follow the pattern of the jealousy inspection in Numbers 5. The bride brings a tribute offering, which consisted of bread (Leviticus 2) and which we know was also typically offered together with wine (Exodus 29). In addition, the bride drinks, and her drinking reveals her faithfulness or faithlessness. While this ritual seems strange, and there are no human examples of its practice, there are many times when Jesus inspects his bride according to this pattern. One clear example is the case of the golden calf (Exodus 32), where Israel is made to drink water with gold dust and those who were unfaithful to Jesus were put to death. Apostate Israel drank the blood of prophets and saints (Matt. 23, Rev. 16-18), which had the result that “their table became a snare and a trap” (Rom. 11 quoting Ps. 69).

In the same way, the Lord’s supper serves as a jealousy inspection of Jesus’s bride. It is a bringing of bread and wine before Jesus that discriminates between those who fellowship with him and those who fellowship with demons (1 Cor. 10). It distinguishes between those who eat in unity and those who eat in disunity (1 Cor. 10–11; Gal. 2), even to the point of bringing about sickness and death.

A faithful church need not fear Jesus’s inspection, his walking among the lampstands; she can confidently enjoy free fellowship with him at his table. And even a faithless church ought to welcome Jesus, for he brings discipline and restoration for those who repent.

Thus, weekly communion: every Lord’s day is inescapably a day of the Lord; as his bride, we must present ourselves for his inspection together with bread and wine. But we do so in eager anticipation of his blessing (even if it arrives through his discipline) and table fellowship. The inspection ends with the tryst.

Written by Scott Moonen

November 2, 2015 at 8:53 pm