The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to Aaron and say to him, ‘When you set up the seven lamps, they are to light the area in front of the lampstand.'” Aaron did so; he set up the lamps so that they faced forward on the lampstand, just as the LORD commanded Moses. This is how the lampstand was made: It was made of hammered gold — from its base to its blossoms. The lampstand was made exactly like the pattern the LORD had shown Moses. Numbers 8.2-4.
In the tabernacle where God was present to his people during their wilderness journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, there were various sacred objects, each made and positioned in accordance with precise and detailed instructions given by God to Moses; and each was charged with future significance and hidden meaning. In today’s verses, the object in view is the golden lampstand … what has become known as the Menorah.
This was a seven branched lampstand that stood on the south side of the Holy Place, and was made of hammered-out pure gold (Exodus 25.31-40). On the end of each of the seven branches was a lamp of gold containing pure olive oil, and these were to be kept burning continually (Leviticus 24.4). It was the only source of light in the Holy Place; and here in this morning’s verses we are told something about the light that we are not told anywhere else — it had to be directed forward from the lampstand. Why?
The text does not say, but we can work it out. Opposite the lampstand, on the north side of the Holy Place, was the table on which lay the bread of the presence (Exodus 40.24).
There are lots of truths here on which I can dwell this morning. Gold is the symbol of divinity in scripture and hammering speaks of suffering, so the lampstand speaks first and foremost of Jesus himself … “I am the Light of the world” (John 8.12). But it speaks too of the church … “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5.14); and indeed in John’s vision on Patmos, he sees each church in Asia Minor as being represented by a golden lampstand (Revelation 1.12-20). The branches and the stem of the lampstand are one, which speaks to me of the unity between Jesus and his church. And the oil that keeps the lamps burning continually speaks to me of the Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4.2-6). But what I really need to think about this morning is the direction of the light.
The light of Christ that shines in and through me is to illuminate one thing — the bread of the presence. This used to be called the “shewbread”. It consisted of twelve loaves — one for each tribe of Israel — placed on the table in the Holy Place every Sabbath. The bread of the presence again speaks to me of Jesus … “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6.35, 48), who was in himself all of Israel and who was, and still is by his Spirit, the presence of God on earth. I am to throw light on him. That is my primary function. My whole ministry is to be that people see Jesus, the Bread of Life, and are drawn to him.
Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning.
Give me oil in my lamp, I pray.
Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning;
Keep me burning till the break of day.