************ Sermon on Exodus 25:31-40 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 10, 2014
"The Golden Lampstand"
Last week we looked at the basic architecture of the tabernacle. Today we begin to examine some of the important furniture that was found within the place where God dwelled during the old covenant period. The first piece we will consider is the golden lampstand.
We learned last week that God gave Moses the pattern for the tabernacle. Worship is so important to God that He leaves nothing to the imagination and ingenuity of man. It is so important that God spelled out all the details of where and how He was to be worshiped. So, we see this week that even the golden lampstand received God's attention. Moses was instructed to make the lampstand "according to the pattern shown you on the mountain" (Ex 25:40).
I The Tabernacle's Lampstand
A Remember, the tabernacle was divided into three parts: the outer courts, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. The golden lampstand was set up in the Holy Place. It was placed just outside the curtain covering the entrance to the Most Holy Place (Ex 26:31-35).
The lampstand was among the most ornate pieces created for use in the tabernacle. Amy included clipart of the lampstand in this week's bulletin. Those familiar with modern Judaism will realize that the lampstand basically looks like a seven-branched menorah. It also resembled a tree with the cups at the end of each branch shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms.
The purpose of the lampstand was to provide light for the priests to do their work, since there were no windows in the tabernacle through which light could enter. For whatever reason people imagine the lampstand as having candles. The lampstand doesn't burn wax; it burns oil. The light doesn't come from candles; it comes from lamps. The almond blossom-shaped cups were filled with olive oil; wicks were inserted into the oil and lit to provide light.
Standing just outside the Most Holy Place, the place of God's presence, the lampstand was made of valuable materials like gold and fine wood. "Make a lampstand of pure gold and hammer it out," says God. This means a wooden frame was created and then covered with "a talent of pure gold" – which is about seventy-five pounds (Ex 25:31,39). The gold was hammered out to cover the entire wooden frame – the base, shaft, and even the flowers. It was very rich in decorative detail.
Remember, the golden lampstand was used in the worship of God. God deserves the very best to be used for His worship and thus He commanded Israel to use the finest materials in His presence.
B All sorts of symbolism was tied in with the golden lampstand. The light from the lampstand was a powerful reminder that "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 Jn 1:5).
Many scholars believe that God commanded the floral design to remind the Israelites of the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:9). As such, it reminded the people that true life is found only in the Lord's presence (Ps 16:11).
The unique design of the golden lampstand with its almond blossoms was also a source of encouragement as almonds were a symbol of hope and fruitfulness in the Ancient World.
II A New Lampstand
A Despite its importance as the first structure indwelt with God's presence, the tabernacle was only a temporary dwelling that King Solomon late replaced with the temple (2 Chron 7:1-3). Solomon's temple, however, only stood for about four hundred years, being destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. At that point all but the poorest people were carried into exile; and, the vessels used in the temple, including the golden lampstand, were also carried off to Babylon (2 Kings 24:10-17).
We can never overestimate the devastation experienced by the people of God in the exile. Remember the words of Psalm 137?
(Ps 137:1-6) By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. (2) There on the poplars we hung our harps, (3) for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" (4) How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?Did you hear that? The people found themselves unable to even sing while in Exile!
In this light we also cannot overestimate the joy the people felt when, in 538 BC, God appointed King Cyrus of Persia to return the people to their land (2 Chron 36:22-23). Once in the land, the nation began rebuilding the temple and its furniture, including the lampstand.
However, not everything went according to plan. We know from Ezra that the returned exiles faced opposition from neighboring peoples:
(Ezra 4:4-5) Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. (5) They hired counselors to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia. (Cf Neb 2:16-20; 4:1-14).Those who opposed the rebuilding efforts wrote letters of protest to the king (Ezra 4:7-16). The king responded by ordering all construction on the house of God to stop (Ezra 4:17-24).
The opposition of the heathen was not the only problem faced by those rebuilding the temple. The prophet Haggai tells us there were those in Israel who lived in paneled houses while the Lord's house remained a ruin (Hag 1:4). They faithlessly kept saying "The time has not yet come for the Lord's house to be built" (Hag 1:2). Their mantra was, "Later! Later! We will rebuild the temple later! Let us establish our homes and businesses first. Let us plant our fields and setup our vineyards first! Then we will look after the house of the Lord."
The task before Israel was immense. Their resources were paltry in comparison. And the people despaired.
B You may know that Zechariah the prophet was commissioned during this restoration period to encourage the returned exiles to complete the rebuilding of the temple and its furnishings when they were ready to give up. Please turn with me to Zechariah 4 (p. 1475):
(Zech 4) Then the angel who talked with me returned and wakened me, as a man is wakened from his sleep. (2) He asked me, "What do you see?" I answered, "I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it, with seven channels to the lights. (3) Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left." (4) I asked the angel who talked with me, "What are these, my lord?" (5) He answered, "Do you not know what these are?" "No, my lord," I replied. (6) So he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty. (7) "What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of 'God bless it! God bless it!'" (8) Then the word of the LORD came to me: (9) "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you. (10) "Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. "(These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range throughout the earth.)" (11) Then I asked the angel, "What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?" (12) Again I asked him, "What are these two olive branches beside the two gold pipes that pour out golden oil?" (13) He replied, "Do you not know what these are?" "No, my lord," I said. (14) So he said, "These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth."
Notice, Zechariah is given a vision. He is given a vision of a golden lampstand, with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it, with seven channels to the lights. In a vision Zechariah sees the golden lampstand that is put in the Holy Place. Telling us what? Telling us that God's plan to rebuild the temple cannot be thwarted – not by the opposition of the heathen, not by the lack of faithfulness of the people. Zechariah's vision of a new lampstand meant that God would certainly rebuild His house. Think about it: the lampstand is useless without the temple.
C However, there is something special about Zechariah's lampstand: the light of the lampstand will never go out. That's the reason for the two olive trees. Zechariah saw two olive trees, one on either side of the lampstand, which continually dispensed oil to the stand via golden pipes (Zech 4:3-4; 10b-14). Don't forget, the lampstand doesn't burn wax; it burns oil. The light doesn't come from candles; it comes from lamps.
Some of you might know that Jackie Kennedy requested an eternal flame for her husband's grave. Yet, a Google search indicates that JFK's flame has been shut off either for maintenance or by accident – therefore, it is not so eternal after all. What Zechariah, saw, on the other hand, was an eternal flame. With a continual supply of oil, the wicks would always burn and the light would continually shine.
It is God Himself Who explains why: "Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit," says the Lord Almighty (Zech 4:6). The oil for the lamp is the Spirit itself. That's why the light will never go out. That's why the lamp will continually shine.
So, what is the golden lampstand seen by Zechariah? It is the faithful people of God filled and infused and led by the Spirit. Faithful Spirit-filled people, like Zechariah, hold aloft the light of God.
A Now, remember, we are talking about copies and shadows. Remember what Hebrews says?
The tabernacle and the temple and their furnishings were but "a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: 'See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain'" (Heb 8:5).
Shadows. Copies. Let me hold up a couple of copies for you: apple, banana, glass of milk, hamburger on a sesame seed bun ... Would you rather have these copies or the real thing? Of course, we all want the real thing.
B It is John who shows us the real thing – of which everything we have been talking about tonight is but a copy – in the book of Revelation. Listen to John's vision:
(Rev 1:12) I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands ...John sees seven golden lampstands. At the end of the chapter it is Jesus Who explains the meaning of the lampstands: the seven lampstands, He says, are the seven churches (Rev 1:20). The Spirit-filled and Spirit-led church is the lampstand in the heavenly sanctuary.
Now, did you notice the difference from Zechariah? Zechariah saw one golden lampstand with seven branches. John, however, saw seven golden lampstands. Here we see progress in God's plan of salvation. In the Old Testament God's people were represented by one lampstand – a reminder that God's people were Jews. In the New Testament God's people are represented by seven lampstands – a reminder that God's people now come, as John puts it in a later chapter, "from every tribe and language and people and nation" (Rev 5:9; cf 7:9).
John "saw seven golden lampstands." Seven is the number of fullness and completeness. John saw the church in all her fullness. John saw a Spirit-filled church that was red and yellow and black and white. John saw a Spirit-filled church that was universal – of all times and all places.
C But John saw more: "among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man"" (Rev 1:13). Meaning what? Meaning that it is Christ Himself Who is "among the lampstands." Christ is in the middle of the churches. Christ is in the midst of the churches.
This means Christ is the center of His church. The people of God are no longer centered on bloodlines or gene pools or ethnicity as in the Old Testament. Rather, God's people are centered on Jesus Christ.
So, notice what has happened: the church has become the lampstand. And, the purpose of a lampstand is to hold up the light. The purpose of the church as lampstand is to hold up the light of Christ. The purpose of the church as lampstand is to let the light of Jesus Christ shine before men.
In Christ we stop dealing with copies and shadows. In Christ we have the true light and life of men (Jn 1:4). Jesus is the eternal light; His is the flame that never goes out. It is His light that illumines the darkness of our sin and ignorance.
It is no accident that during the Feast of Tabernacles (Jn 7:14) Jesus spoke to the crowds and said,
(Jn 8:12) "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."When Jesus spoke of Himself as the light, the people knew right away what He was claiming. He was claiming to be the pillar of cloud and fire that descended in glory upon the tabernacle and, later, the temple. He was claiming to be the light held aloft by the golden lampstand.
Jesus is the Light of the world, and His presence with His people is life itself. He is not a shadow. He is not a copy. He is the real thing.
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