By Hensley Moorooven
People often come to me asking how they can grow spiritually and have a more intimate relationship with Jesus. Most of us know what to do and what not to do, but we still find ourselves struggling to live our convictions. At times we may feel discouraged and distressed.
The clearest answer I have found to this important question is linked to three furniture pieces found in the holy place of the sanctuary. Let’s look at each one of them.
The Table of Showbread
Ex. 25:23-30; 37:10-16
The table of showbread was a small table made of acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold. It held 12 loaves of bread, representing the 12 tribes of Israel. The priests baked the bread with fine flour, and it remained on the table before the Lord for a week. Every Sabbath the priests would remove it and eat it in the holy place, then put fresh bread on the table.
The “showbread” was also called “bread of the presence” because it was to be always in the Lord’s presence. The table and the bread were a picture of God’s willingness to fellowship with humanity.
At the fellowship table we commune with God through His Word. We need more than physical food, as Jesus said: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).
Spiritual growth requires active engagement with the Word of God. As we read a verse and meditate upon it, we try to apply its message to our lives. We ask ourselves, “What is this verse telling me?” Then it’s our time to talk. We tell God what we think about the message and how it applies to our lives. We are not in a hurry. We enjoy every minute of our conversation with Jesus. It’s not a duty or a burden, but rather an opportunity to receive God’s wonderful promises personally.
Another approach that helps us enjoy reading and studying the Bible is to read it using “I” every time it says “we.” We place our own lives in the pages of the Bible. We pretend that God is talking to us individually. For example, Romans 8:31—“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (NIV)—may sound like this: “What, then shall I say in response to these things? If God is for me, who can be against me?”
Then we tell God all the challenges that we face. We share the fears, doubts, and uncertainties that we struggle with, and close by saying that despite all these things, we believe that if God is with us, nothing will prevail against us.
Notice there were no chairs at this table. As we are fed we cannot sit back and enjoy the “good life.” There is work to do. We are sustained for service.
The Altar of Incense
Ex. 30:1-10; 37:25-28
The golden altar of incense sat in front of the curtain that separated the holy place from the Most Holy Place. It was also made of acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold.
God commanded the priests to burn incense on the altar every morning and evening. The incense was to be left burning continually throughout the day and night as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. It was made of equal parts of four precious spices (stacte, onycha, galbanum, and frankincense) and was considered holy. God commanded the Israelites not to use the same formula outside the tabernacle to make perfume for their own consumption; otherwise, they were to be cut off from their people (Ex. 30:34-38).
The incense was a symbol of the prayers and intercession of the people going up to God as a sweet fragrance. The picture of prayers wafting up to heaven like incense is captured in this psalm: “May my prayer be set before you as incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice” (Ps. 141:2, NIV).
Prayer is foundational for spiritual growth. Here are some practical pointers to a vibrant prayer life:
- Choose a particular time, preferably before you start with the activities of the day.
- Choose a place—if possible, a quiet place with no distractions.
- Keep in mind the purpose of this time. This is time to commune with God, not to prepare a Bible study or church program.
- Take time to pray. You may choose to adopt the ACTS principle: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplications.
- Read your Bible or other devotional books.
- Determine how much time you want to spend with God. Remember that in 24 hours there are 96 segments of 15 minutes. You can start by giving one of those segments to God!
Now, just start and persevere. Don’t get discouraged if occasionally some obstacles interfere with your plans.
Whereas the table of showbread is where God speaks to us and nourishes us, the altar of incense is where we speak to God.
Ex. 25:31-36; 37:17-24
The “golden lampstand,” or “candlestick,” was hammered out of one piece of pure gold. The lampstand had a central branch from which three branches extended from each side, forming a total of seven branches. Priests were instructed to keep the lamps burning continuously.
Jesus is represented by the main branch of the lampstand, and we believers are represented by the six branches that extend from the original branch. As believers we live as “children of light” (Eph. 5:8), who draw their source of light from Jesus, the true light. Jesus calls us “the light of the world” and commands us to “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14, 16).
True spiritual growth involves sharing our faith with others and testifying about what the Lord has done for us. We may seek friends in the neighborhood, or at work, or in school, and, without formalities or hypocrisy, tell them about what Christ means to us; what He brings to our lives; how He helps us in our daily activities; and how He has given us peace.
We shouldn’t worry about methods and theories. Just being a friend and introducing others to our Best Friend, Jesus, will make the difference. We can share with them our faith journey and the changes Jesus has brought into our own lives.
Notice that in the holy place there is no light except from this lampstand. In our lives there should be no light but God’s light enabling us to be the light of the world.
Daily study of God’s Word, a vibrant prayer life, and the joy of sharing our faith with others will result in spiritual growth and a personal and close relationship with Jesus. n
Hensley Moorooven, originally from Mauritius, serves as an associate
secretary at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. He lives with his family in Maryland, United States.