The Torah, the Law of Moses, commands three feasts of ingathering, when Jewish men were to appear before the Dwelling Place of God (Ex. 23:17; 34:23).
Exodus 34:23 usually reads in a fashion similar to: “Three times a year all your men shall appear before the Lord God of Israel.” The text is saying, “Three times a year all your men shall see the face of the Lord God of Israel.” Notice the difference?
To read this in English, one would assume that they simply appeared before the presence of the Lord in the Tabernacle, or Temple in Jerusalem. Yet, there was a practice adopted for the three feasts of ingathering in the Second Temple period that is well documented, but not well known, described below.
The Lord commanded, among other things, that bread be included in the Holy Place of the Sanctuary: the Bread of the Presence. In Hebrew: the Bread of the Face(s).
This was a memorial bread of twelve loaves, only consumed by priests on Shabbat, each of whom received about an olive sized piece. It was offered as a bloodless sacrifice at the Brazen Altar before it was set in the Holy Place.
The Bread of the Presence was the memorial of God’s presence in the place of light, Menorah, and prayer, the Golden Altar. While only one priest ministered at a time in the Holy Place, kindling the Menorah morning and evening, God was always present in that light (cf. Luke 1:5-23; Jn. 8:12).
The priest had to be ever mindful of the Lord’s presence, set as the Bread of the Presence, and as wine.
According to the Babylonian Talmud, Menahoth 29a, a practice developed, but not specifically commanded by the Torah, that was preformed by the priests. Before the assembled pilgrim men at the Holy Temple, the priests would lift up the bread, displayed on the Table of Shewbread, and recite, “Behold, God’s love for you.”
The Bread of the Presence, a memorial of the miraculous heavenly bread (manna), of which the Talmud records this miracle: “for at its removal it was as fresh as when it was set,” was evidence of God’s love for Israel.
The men were commanded to go, and see the face of the God of Israel, there in the bread; and this hidden bread, ordinarily seen only by a priest, was revealed and elevated.
Then, the Bread came down from the heavenly Tabernacle, and there in the feasts of ingathering, Yeshua/Jesus met His people face to face; and before His elevation He gave us a remembrance of bread and wine, a memorial of His presence and salvation.
So many Scriptures in the Apostolic Writings attest to the fact that Yeshua is the fullness of God manifest in the tent of human flesh, given by God’s love for His people, succinctly, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16; cf. Jn. 1:1-4, 14: 6:33, 35, 48, 51).
To behold the Son, is to behold the One who sent Him, and in His lifting up, we see the greatest love displayed, and His abiding love for us; and now, every believer, called as a kingdom of priests (I Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6), shares in the Bread of His presence, His face, and in the rest He secured for us.
Be well. Shalom.