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The Golden Candlestick
“And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestick be made: his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same. And six branches shall come out of the sides of it; three branches of the candlestick out of the one side, and three branches of the candlestick out of the other side: Three bowls made like unto almonds, with a knop and a flower in one branch; and three bowls made like almonds in the other branch, with a knop and a flower: so in the six branches that come out of the candlestick. And in the candlestick shall be four bowls made like unto almonds, with their knops and their flowers. And there shall be a knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two branches of the same, according to the six branches that proceed out of the candlestick. Their knops and their branches shall be of the same: all it shall be one beaten work of pure gold. And thou shalt make the seven lamps thereof: and they shall light the lamps thereof, that they may give light over against it. And the tongs thereof, and the snuffdishes thereof, shall be of pure gold. Of a talent of pure gold shall he make it, with all these vessels. And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount.” (Exodus 25:31-40)
The tabernacle and its furnishings, the priesthood, the sacrifices, the ceremonies, the sabbaths, the holy days, and the events of the Old Testament were all types and pictures of heavenly things by divine design. They were all intended to portray Christ and God’s salvation in him. This is clearly stated by divine inspiration, with regard to the tabernacle and its furnishings and sacrifices, in Hebrews 9:1-12. In Hebrews 9:23 we are told that these carnal things were “patterns of things in the heavens.” And in Hebrews 10:1 we read that they were “a shadow of good things to come.” That is exactly what we read about these things in Exodus 25:40. — “And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was showed thee in the mount.”
Try to get a picture of the tabernacle in your mind’s eye. As you approach it, the very first thing that strikes your eye is the brazen altar, the place of sacrifice. Between that brazen altar and the door of the tabernacle stands the laver of brass, the place of cleansing. Then, if you pull back the curtain, you enter the outer court of the tabernacle, “which is called the sanctuary.” In the sanctuary (the holy place), there were three pieces of furniture. On your right is the golden table of showbread, with twelve loaves of bread and incense on it. In the back, just before you get to the veil separating the sanctuary from the “Holiest of all,” is the golden altar of incense. On the left side is the golden candlestick, a candelabra with seven candles burning constantly.
Then, if you could go with Aaron behind the veil on the day of atonement into the inner sanctuary, “which is called the Holiest of all,” you would see just one piece of furniture, the center of Israel’s worship, the ark of the covenant, overlaid with pure gold. Inside the ark is a golden pot of manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of God’s law. Over the ark, completely covering it, is the mercy-seat, the place of atonement, symbolizing the very throne of God, the throne of grace. At each end of the mercy-seat are cherubs facing one another, looking constantly upon the mercy-seat. This is where God declared he would meet with and commune with men (Exodus 25:22).
The spiritual significance of these things should be obvious to all who read the Scriptures. Those things involved in the tabernacle worship were given in vision to Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-8), Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1-10), Daniel (Daniel 7:9-14), Zechariah (Zechariah 3:1 - 4:14), and to the Apostle John ((Revelation 1:10-20; 4:1 - 5:14).
Exodus 25:31-40 describes just one of the three pieces of furniture in the outer court of the sanctuary — the golden candlestick. In Leviticus 24, we have a few additional instructions about the candlestick and its seven lamps.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually. Without the veil of the testimony, in the tabernacle of the congregation, shall Aaron order it from the evening unto the morning before the LORD continually: it shall be a statute for ever in your generations. He shall order the lamps upon the pure candlestick before the LORD continually.” (Leviticus 24:1-4)
We do not have to guess what this candlestick represents. The Holy Spirit specifically tells us that this candlestick represents the church of God in this world (Revelation 1:20). More particularly, it represents the Lord Jesus Christ the Light of the world in glory (John 8:12; 9:5) and his mystical body the church, which is the light of the world on earth (Matthew 5:14).
God required the children of Israel to bring pure olive oil for the candlestick (Leviticus 24:1-2), oil from the olives of their own olive trees, to the priests, to be burned in the candlestick. It had to be “pure,” the very best, undiluted and clear. It must be oil “beaten” from the olive, prepared with the greatest of care. I see four very important lessons here.
By requiring the children of Israel to bring the oil used by the priests to be burned in the candlestick, the Lord gave them assurance of acceptance. Accepting their oil, he said, “I have accepted you.” By this seemingly insignificant gesture, he was saying to his people, “This candlestick and the light it gives burns for you. Though you are not in the holy place personally, you are there representatively in your priest; and all that goes on in that holy place, all the transactions of the sanctuary are for you. You have an interest in them.” Believer, read Hebrews 10:16-22 and rejoice in your assured acceptance with God in Christ.
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”
These seven lamps and the candlestick holding them are highly significant. God commanded “Make it a candlestick of pure gold” (Exodus 25:31, 37; Leviticus 24:4). This candlestick made of pure gold had seven lamps at the ends of seven branches, upheld by one shaft. As such, it was typical of God’s church in this world, upheld by Christ (the shaft of gold), being constantly supplied with light, life, and grace by the Holy Spirit.
Put this together with John’s vision in Revelation, and we see that Christ upholds and sustains his church in all its branches (The number seven suggests the fulness and completion of the church.), each true gospel church being represented in the seven branches of the candlestick. The Holy Spirit indwells his church (each individual believer and each local assembly). Every true gospel church is “an habitation of God through the Spirit.” And our Lord Jesus Christ, who dwells in his church by the Spirit, upholds it and walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, protecting both his church and the angels of the churches.
These lamps were to be kept burning continually (Leviticus 24:4). That does not mean that they were never allowed to go out. They were. The priests did not keep them burning when they were moving from place to place in the wilderness, but only when they were encamped in a specific place for a time.
The lamps were trimmed, filled with oil and lit every morning. They burned until nightfall. In the evening they were trimmed, filled with oil and lit again, and burned until the next morning. You may recall that the Lord God first called Samuel after he and Eli had gone to bed, “before the lamp of God went out in the temple” (1 Samuel 3:3).
The lamps were kept burning continually to tell us that the grace of God and the supply of it to our souls is constant, both in the day when the sun shines brightly and in the night when our vision is dim. Our experience does not, in any way, affect or alter God’s goodness!
Yet, the lamps were permitted to go out to teach us our unceasing need of the light and grace of God’s Spirit, and to keep us ever mindful of the fact that all light and grace bestowed upon us comes to us through the sanctuary work (intercession) of our great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. Our great Aaron orders the light and the candlestick before the Lord continually, from evening until morning (Leviticus 24:3-4).
The lamps were kept burning all through the day to teach that something more than the light of nature is needed to lead us out of this wilderness to the throne of God. And the candlestick was kept burning throughout the night, until the dawning of the new day, to teach us that the church of God in this world of darkness gives light and shall continue to give light, be it ever so dim or bright, until the Daystar, Christ Jesus, comes in saving grace to call his elect in regeneration and conversion (2 Peter 1:19; 2 Corinthians 4:4-6), and until he comes in the glory of his second advent to gather us to himself in resurrection glory (Revelation 2:28; 22:16).
Let no one be deceived by those self-serving religious teachers who assert that God has ceased to minister through the local church. That will not happen, so long as time shall stand. So long as the Son of God walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, the light of the gospel will shine from them!
The Light in the Lamps
Let’s take a careful look at this pure, golden candlestick, as it is stood in the tabernacle. This candlestick stands not in the most holy place (which refers to heaven itself), but in the sanctuary (which refers to heavenly things enjoyed on earth). Our Lord Jesus Christ, our High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, uses this candlestick to speak of himself and his churches in this world (Revelation 1:20). So it is clearly his intention that we should see it in this sense.
The seven lamps of fire burning before the throne of God are the sevenfold Spirit of our God (Revelation 4:5). The shaft, as we have seen, speaks of Christ. The seven lamps, we are told in Revelation 1:20, represent the church. But, in Revelation 4, we are told that they represent the seven Spirits, or sevenfold Spirit, of our God. There is no contradiction here, but a delightful, instructive picture. — Christ is the Candlestick. He upholds the lamps, his church and each member of it. Without him, we would all fall and come to utter ruin in a heartbeat (John 10:28-30; Jude 24-25). The light we have, the oil of grace we enjoy, is ours because we are in him and one with him.
The Lord Jesus gives light, life, and grace in this world by his Spirit, but he does so through the instrumentality of his church, using such things as we are to carry the light of his grace and glory into the corners of this dark, dark world. As the Apostle Paul stated, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
The olive oil feeding the flame is God the Holy Spirit. He is the unction, the anointing in and upon us, giving us light, knowledge, and understanding (1 John 2:20-27). And he is given to us by Christ, by the merit, mediation, and power of our Savior (Revelation 3:1). As all the light shining from the lamp comes from the oil, all grace is the gift and operation of God the Holy Spirit. And Christ pours out his Spirit upon us by the merit of his sacrifice (Galatians 3:13-14) continually, as the priest poured oil into the lamp in the tabernacle. He gives us his oil in the day and in the night.
The care of the lamps is all his. As our great High Priest, the Lord Jesus upholds the lamps, his churches and his people, in this world. He feeds them with oil. He lights them and keeps them burning. He trims them. He carries away the ashes.
The priest setting the lamps in order daily portrays our great Savior’s unceasing work of grace causing his people to receive and give forth light. You and I are the representatives of Christ himself, who shined as light in the midst of darkness (Philippians 2:15; Matthew 5:16). May he cause us to be, like John the Baptist, burning and shining lights all the days of our lives, shining clearly and constantly, always shining on Christ.
The candlestick shined only upon the golden table of showbread and the golden altar. It shined to give light only upon those two things. The bread on the table speaks of Christ, the Bread of Life, who gave his life for us. The golden altar of incense speaks of Christ exalted and accepted and full, complete salvation in him. Let us shine forth the light of the gospel, pointing the eyes of needy souls to him who alone is salvation and life!
Oh, may God give us grace to constantly hold before men the light of the gospel and the adorable name of Christ. We must never cover the light with religious ceremony, carnal reason, and religious traditions and customs. Let it be ours ever to hold forth that Word of life, not to set up new lights, or to defend old ones, but to faithfully proclaim the gospel of God’s boundless free grace in Christ. And let the light of our lamp be the light of the pure candlestick, the message of pure, free grace in Christ
There is a blessed unity about this candlestick and its lamps. The candlestick is one (Ephesians 4:1-7). And the light of each lamp is exactly the same. As the oil was pure, without mixture, the gospel is all grace. There is not a sputter of works or free will in it.
In Zechariah 4 God the Holy Spirit gives us his own interpretation of this typical picture. In Zechariah 3 we are given a picture of a sinner saved by the grace of God. Such men are men who shall never cease to be “men wondered at.” Then, in the opening verses of chapter 4, we learn that if we would see the light of the gospel, the light of this candlestick, we must be awakened by the Spirit of God (Zechariah 4:1-2). The Lord God tells us plainly that the meaning of the candlestick’s light is salvation by grace alone in Christ alone (Zechariah 4:4-9).
“And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep, And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord? Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it. Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you.” (Zechariah 4:1-9)