We all know the basic outline of the story of the 10 Commandments and the building of the Ark of the Covenant to hold the stone tablets. But there is a vitally important detail that is often overlooked. God call Mosses and some representatives of Israel up on to the mountain. He gives Moses the instructions on how to build the Ark but notice what happens just before that:
Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.
God brings these people into his presence and they EAT and DRINK. To be in the presence of God is to be in heaven and in heaven they eat and drink. Fast forward to the Last Supper, the incarnate God, Jesus Christ, forms a New Covenant and they eat and drink. When God makes covenants with man he does it through a meal.
Now look at the building of the Ark of the Covenant. It is built of Acacia wood and overlaid in gold. He also commands the building of a table and a lampstand (a menorah). That table is to be made of the same material and in the same manner as the Ark. We tend to focus on the Ark in part because it will contain three pre-figurements of Christ. In the Ark will be placed the tablets of the Ten Commandments (the Word of God), a jar of the Manna (the Bread from heaven) and the priestly staff of Aaron (Jesus is the new high priest). But the table is made of the same materials and in the same manner. That means it is just and important as the Ark. On the table is placed the “showbread”. The bread represents the both the manna from heaven and the bread that sealed the covenant that Moses has just eaten with God on Mount Sinai, the bread that seals the covenant. Thus it is called the showbread to perpetually show that God has made a covenant with Israel. However, in Hebrew the bread also has a deeper meaning. It is also known as the “Bread of the Presence”. Again it reminds us that Moses ate bread in the presence of God. In Hebrew, to be in someone’s presence means you can see their face. In other words, someone standing outside a tent is not in your presence but when they enter the tent and you can see their face then they are in your presence. Thus the literal translation of “Bread of the Presence” is the “Bread of the Face” or the “Bread of the Face of God”. When will we know God’s face? With the coming of Jesus of course. Thus the bread and wine, kept on the gold overlaid table in the temple is a very clear reference to the Last Supper when we will see God’s face and He will offer new bread and new wine.
Look at what we have so far in Exodus alone. We have the covenant inaugurated with the Passover meal of lamb and unleavened bread. We have the miraculous bread from heaven, the manna, in the desert. We have Moses going up Mount Sinai and eating and drinking heavenly food with God. We have the Manna kept in the Ark of the Covenant. And we have the bread and wine laid out in a perpetual offering in the temple. All these things are real things. None of them are symbols. All of them point forward to the Last Supper. So the question arises, when Jesus says, “this is my body … this is my blood … do this in memory of me.” Is God confirming his covenant with a symbolic meal of regular food or will there be something more there?
On last thing, on the top of the Ark God commands the lid be decorated with two angels (Cherubim). This is right after God has given the Israelites the commandment, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” So we know that that commandment is not a total ban on images of art or images used in proper worship of the one true God. It is a ban on making graven images to worship as idols.