The order in which Moses is told about the various elements and furnishings of the tabernacle is important. We find that he begins with the ark, and then he moves on to the table and the lamp, after which he tells him how to make the tent. There is an object that is left out and explained later: the small altar of incense. That is not explained till after the great bronze altar and the tabernacle’s perimeter are given, and before the bronze laver. What is curious about this is that the small altar, which is placed inside the tent, is not described when all the rest of the objects in the tent are.
The reason for this is that the objects that come together are the furnishings for God’s dwelling, and the altar is not a furnishing. It is not one of the things for the home, but rather is a function of something else. What we have in the ark, is a footstool, and then we get a table and a lamp.
God has no bed in his house, in fact, the lamp is lit all night long. Why? He who keeps Israel never slumbers or sleeps.
So why, then, does God have a table and a lamp?
We can understand the table better if we look at the four things it says were on it. Exodus 25:29 You shall make its dishes, its pans, its pitchers, and its bowls for pouring.
The dishes are that on which the showbread was displayed: two rows of six loaves. This is what we associate with this table, but that’s not all that was placed on this table. What are the pans, the pitchers and the bowls? Is this God’s holy cupboard? Not quite.
The pans are for incense. The showbread was offered with incense, and incense is symbolic of prayer offered up. So you have a table with bread and prayer. What about the pitchers? For the wine, which was poured out as a drink offering. When they poured out the wine, it was poured into the bowls, or cups, because that must be done decently and in order. Everything is done decently and in order in God’s house.
What do you get? You have a table with bread, wine, and prayer constantly laid out in God’s dwelling place. You have no doubt heard of something similar elsewhere!
It is the table of the Lord.
We also have a lamp. If you look at the description of this lamp you will realize that it is a stylized almond tree. So why an almond tree? Why not an olive tree? Why a tree at all? Why a tree of light?
Almond trees were the first to blossom in the spring. They were for that reason known as watchers. It was a watching tree. The lamp, then, was intended to suggest a watching tree, a watching thing, an illuminator that watched as well, that saw, that understood. The lamps were set into that gleaming, elaborate golden lampstand so that the light would fall directly on the table. It illumined the table of the Lord. As you probably know, oil is a picture of the Spirit, and the light of this illumination that falls on the table of the Lord is representative of the Spirit’s accompanying the words of Scripture, the words of promise, making them effectual to those who receive them with faith.
It is the lamp of the Holy Spirit, shedding attentive light, making all things in God’s dwelling place clear and bright.
And so you have in God’s house, a picture of the Holy Trinity. The Father, monarchial, is enthroned above the cherubim who keep watch at his footstool. From the Father two proceed from all eternity, the Son and the Spirit. The Son is seen in the table, he approaches his people on a mission, giving us true nourishment. And the Spirit illumines it, so that when the sustenance to be had in the Lord’s house is received by faith, it nourishes eternal life. The pattern that Moses saw on the mountain spoke to this spiritual truth: when we come to God’s presence by faith, having access through the merits of Jesus Christ, we are caught up into the life of the Blessed Trinity. There we dwell in God's house. There we can live in communion with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.