The Golden Candlestick

Lesson 6: Exodus 25:31 - 40

Introduction

If you were able to step into the Tabernacle or just peek inside, perhaps your eyes would first be attracted to the beautiful Golden Candlestick sitting on the left or South side. Being made of a talent of pure gold (60 - 120 pounds), this exquisite piece of furniture must have been the most expensive. Yet, its true value can only be found in the truths that are readily available concerning life with God. Jesus claimed to be the light of the world, and also we find the candlestick as a main feature in the letters written to the Churches in the Book of Revelation. We shall see in this lesson that the Golden Candlestick throws some additional light on these passages as well.

The Conduct

Our text presents God's instructions for making the Golden Candlestick. Basically it was a solid gold structure used to hold lamps containing pure olive oil and a wick. It had a main stem with 3 symmetric branches coming out of each side providing a stand for 7 lamps. No size is given in Scripture but according to Jewish tradition, it was 5 feet high and 3 feet wide. The Arch of Titus in Rome, which commemorated the conquest of Judea and destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, contains a picture of a candlestick; but it seems unlikely that the candlestick used in the Temple at that time would have had the exact appearance of this candlestick used in the Tabernacle. According to Numbers 4:9-10, the priests were to cover the Golden Candlestick with a cloth of blue and place it in a covering of badger's skins before the children of Kohath could transport it upon a bar (probably from the Tabernacle structure).

Leviticus 24:1-4 provides a good description of the duties involving the Golden Candlestick. The Israelites were to provide oil beaten from olives. The oil had to be pure and therefore could not be processed by milling the olives which might introduce particles of stone. There is some disagreement as to the meaning of the word "continually" used in verse 2 though. Some believe that this means that the candlestick was kept lit both day and night. According to Josephus, only three of the lamps were kept lit during the day. However, the Bible gives more indication that the candlestick was lit at evening and put out in the morning as in verse 3. This is also evident in the story of God's first communication with Samuel in 1 Samuel 3:1-4. Thus the use of the word "continually" refers more to the necessity for the purity of the oil - that the lamp would have a steadfast flame.

The Context

It is critical that we understand the context of the Golden Candlestick if we ever hope to see its true typology. Whereas the furniture in the Outer Court (i.e. the Brazen Altar and the Laver) showed the way to God , we must realize that the furniture within the Tabernacle, and in particular the Holy Place, served a much different purpose. The Holy Place was the section of God's dwelling place where His ministers could stay. In other words, those who enjoyed the privileges of being inside the Tabernacle had obviously already made it to where God was. Therefore, we may conclude that the purpose of the furniture inside the Holy Place was to indicate the manner of life in the presence of God - that is they showed the way with God.

Without considering this context, it is quite easy to take well known truths from the New Testament and misapply them with the typology of the furniture in the Holy Place; and then totally miss the wonderful truths that God meant for us to see. For example, we know very well that Christ was bruised and beaten for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5), but there are some who teach that this is pictured in the fact that the candlestick was made of beaten gold (though they make no comments about the olive oil also being beaten). Yet this makes no sense at all to be applied to a piece of furniture found within God's tent. The sacrifices were slain in the Outer Court and burnt on the Brazen Altar and it is there that we should more correctly expect to see typology involving the suffering of the Messiah.

The Concept

If the furniture in the Holy Place revealed the kind of life which could be expected in the presence of God, what might the priests or even the Israelites in general have understood from the Golden Candlestick? It is difficult to think of the existence of life without light (see Exodus 10:21-23). In deed, could there be any life without light? One of God's first creative acts and the first to be named as good was the creation of light (Genesis 1:3). It would seem clear then that the Golden Candlestick represented life itself as could only be with God the originator of life. Truly David said, "For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light" (Psalm 36:9).

We might speculate much about the bowls, knops (knobs or bulbs), and flowers which decorated the Golden Candlestick, but if we stand back and consider its appearance as a whole it seems to resemble a tree. With the bowls being shaped like almonds, the priests may have instantly thought of an almond tree which is one of the first trees to blossom (in late winter). Could there be any more fitting emblem for life especially considering that these Jews would have had some knowledge of the Tree of Life that had been in Eden?

Duration

If we take the Golden Candlestick as a symbol for life, the purpose for having it remain continuously lit through the evening hours becomes more evident. Whether you believe the lamps remained always lit or just through the night, there was always light in the Tabernacle. During the day there was the natural sun light and at night there was the Golden Candlestick providing a continuous blaze of light, and this went on every day of every week. Thus in the dwelling place of God, there was everlasting light. So we may conclude that the Golden Candlestick represented more than just life - it pictured eternal life which is a natural part of life with God.

Quality

In addition to the duration of life pictured by the Golden Candlestick, there are some great truths about the quality of life which may also be found in the symbolism of light.

Productivity

We are often hampered from being more productive because of the dark. Obviously this has become less of a problem with the invention of the light bulb, but there are still times where a lack of light has limited our abilities. Now, even if we always had light where and when we needed, we would still be limited by our physical need for rest. But, this life of continuous light in the presence of God shows how life could be as it is for God. He never sleeps nor does He have any limitations on when He can work. This is the kind of life that is possible with God.

Perfect Understanding

Both in Scripture and in society, light and dark are often used to describe a level of understanding. We refer to ignorance as "being in the dark" about something, and we find Paul referring to the lost as "Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them" (Ephesians 4:18). Clearly then the continual light from the Golden Candlestick pictures a life of perfect understanding. As the Psalmist wrote, "The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple" (Psalm 119:130).

Purity

Light and dark are also commonly used to differentiate between holiness and unrighteousness (see 2 Corinthians 6:14). No doubt this is due to the fact that sin is most commonly committed in the dark (John 3:19). Since God is light, and in him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5), life with God means a life of absolute Holiness.

Involvement

There is one aspect of the Golden Candlestick that seems rather peculiar. The children of Israel were to bring the oil to burn for the light, and the high priest was supposed to light the lamps and keep the wicks in proper condition. Yet, unlike the washing at the Laver, nothing is said about the consequences of failing to keep the lamps burning. Obviously had they failed to do their duty, there would have been no light to enjoy. This suggests a certain relationship between the quality of life in our present situation and involvement with the work of God.

The Connection

Now let us turn to the pages of the New Testament where we find the principles of the Golden Candlestick further applied.

The Light of the World

Any Jew with some familiarity of the Tabernacle or the Temple would have understood the claim that Jesus was making when He said, "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12). He came offering them all that was symbolized in the light of the Golden Candlestick as He plainly said, "he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life ". This is explained as well by John in John 1:1-9, Paul saw it on the Damascus road (Acts 9:3), and it can be found throughout the New Testament (Colossians 1:12; 2 Timothy 2:10; 1 Peter 2:9).

Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 5:14, "Ye are the light of the world". When we consider that we are a tabernacle for God, it is clear that there is a Golden Candlestick within each believer to show the world what life with God is like. What the world sees and understands of the blissful life with God will primarily come from the light emanating from the Golden Candlestick within Christians . The problem is that many believers are either using impure olive oil or they neglect to keep the wick trimmed and lit.

The Seven Churches

When we turn to the Book of Revelation we find a clear relation between the Golden Candlestick and the Church (Revelation 1:12 - 20). Obviously what has been said about the light from the believer can be said again of the Church, but there is something more to be understood here as revealed by the warning to the Church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:5). Jesus warned that if they did not repent He would remove their candlestick. Is this not a prefect picture of exactly what happens when a Church fails to do what God has commanded - the life is removed? Like the involvement of the Jews to bring the oil and the priest's job to care for the Golden Candlestick, it is our responsibility to keep life in the Church.

The Future State

The truest typology found in the Golden Candlestick has to do with the life that is to come. There is a light which is yet to be experienced as Paul says of Jesus, "Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see" (1 Timothy 6:16). It is the light that was on the other side of the veil. We may understand from Revelation 21:23-25 that in eternity there will be no need of the light of the sun or moon because the glory of God will illuminate the new heavens and new earth. Jesus will be the light and there will be no night. The life hinted at by the Golden Candlestick will become an everlasting reality with unlimited productivity, perfect understanding, and absolute purity.