Command the children of Israel, that they bring to you pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually.…
To many the regulations of Leviticus seem a cryptograph to which they have no key. To others, an inscription of old date with no reference to present concerns. Yet, dull-eyed must we be if we can discern no lessons for ourselves in the construction of the tabernacle and its furniture. The Hebrew can be translated into modern English, the Law stated in terms of the gospel. The tabernacle was the meeting-place of God with his people. It was his house, where his servants ministered and his guests were entertained. Light was needful therein, - the great requisite of life, without which men grow pale and plants sickly, work ceases, and festivity is impossible. Let us consider the candlestick with its light.
I. AS SETTING FORTH THE CHARACTER AND ATTRIBUTES OF GOD.
1. The characteristics of light.
(1) Its beauty. Naught excels it; it is splendour itself, and invests other objects with radiance. "God is light." What a combination of hues constitutes the pure white ray!
(2) An emblem of knowledge. "Thy Word is a light unto my path." "To the Law and to the testimony: if they... no light in them." Light is the revealer - indicates our position and prospects. The wisdom of God is infinite; an inscrutable blaze that baffles the strongest vision. He devises plans for every emergency. Whilst men argue concerning the possibility of some works, he calmly does them; yea, whilst they prove (!) that no God exists, he is occupied in balancing the worlds, directing the course of the ages, hastening the day when all shall perforce know him.
(3) Typical of joy. "Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart." Illuminations are a worldwide method of rejoicing. The notions some hold concerning God as a hard Taskmaster, a Judge of severe countenance, a Father who never smiles, are not Biblical representations. We read of "the glorious gospel of the blessed (happy) God." Joy is an emotion that loves to communicate itself to others, and from the throne of God issues a stream of untainted happiness to enrich the lives of his children.
2. The burning lamps showed the constant wakefulness of God. The people retired to their couches for repose, darkness brooded over the camp, but the holy place was unaffected by the shadows of the night. God never slumbers nor sleeps. It may not have occurred to the Israelites that God heard prayer from o'er the compass of the globe; but, in order to be the God of the whole earth and to listen to the petitions of all its inhabitants, it follows of necessity that God has no couch in his sanctuary, for he resteth not. Whilst the day is closing in the one hemisphere it is beginning to dawn in the other. "In him is no darkness at all."
3. The candlestick indicated perpetual existence. "A statue for ever in your generations." Aaron might pass away, but the candlestick continued to give light in the tabernacle. Men die, God survives. As we behold the same sun and moon that gladdened the eyes of our forefathers, so it is the same God that hears our prayers and blesses us with the light of his countenance.
II. As SETTING FORTH THE RELATIONSHIP AND FUNCTIONS OF THE PEOPLE.
1. Their privileged condition as favoured with a special revelation of the being and character of God. They were the only nation to possess such a candlestick made "after the pattern showed in the mount." All the heathen constructed deities and images of Deity according to their own judgment, taste, and caprice. The night during which the lamp burned was a fit emblem of the moral state of the world lying outside Israel. The Israelites were blessed with the light of the Law; "to them were committed the oracles of God." In the symbols of the Law was taught the way of salvation, to be completed by a coming Mediator. So in Jesus Christ we have "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God." At the Feast of Tabernacles, when according to custom large golden lamps were lit at dark in the temple court, our Lord termed himself "the Light of the world." We have the Spirit of God to illumine our consciences, to show unto us the things of Christ. We read in the Revelation of the seven burning lamps before the throne, which are the sevenfold Spirit of God. In Zechariah's vision of the candlestick he saw the bowls supplied with oil from two olive trees, representing the continued grace furnished by the Spirit of God, keeping alight the knowledge of God in days of the Church's decline. And we have the Word of God, "a light shining in a dark place." Let not this light condemn us as did the sacred candlestick removed to Belshazzar's palace, where its rays revealed the fingers of a man's hand writing the monarch's doom. "The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day."
2. Their duty to minister to the glory of God. The people were permitted, yea, expected, to bring the oil for the lamps, as they had previously offered the gold for the candlestick itself. They were to keep the light of God burning in the world. It is incumbent on Christians to support the ministry and the operations of the Church, that there may be a continual testimony to the existence and majesty of the Eternal. God requires us to render the best service at our command. It must be pure. The candlestick was of gold, as were the tongs and snuff-dishes, and the oil was of finest quality, free from dust, not crushed, but beaten. If preparing a meal for one we lightly esteem, little trouble is taken, but where we delight to honour our guest, what anxiety is displayed in all that concerns the banquet! Our devotion must be regular. The lamps were lit each evening, trimmed and dressed every morning. That the full light did not shine during the day is evident from 1 Samuel 3:3. Josephus, however, says that three of the lamps burnt all day long. The lamp is said to "ascend," it rises to heaven as a tribute of adoration to God. We may think of him as viewing his world, and expecting light to arise from different quarters where his children dwell. But how often must disappointment accrue! No morning perusal of his Word, no evening worship. A mother on her birthday delights to turn over the letters from her children, that greet her upon her plate, but if one familiar handwriting be missed, what a shadow darkens her joy! The chill that creeps over her heart seems to nullify the gladness which the tokens of remembrance cause. Let not God have to sigh over our neglect. All is accepted through the priesthood. No Levite or layman must enter the holy precincts, the priests represent and are supported by the people. Jesus Christ is our means of access to the Father; through him our service is acceptable. To venture to draw nigh in our name is presumption; it sets at naught the solemn regulations of the Most High, and it will receive the rebuke it merits. The Son of man must walk in the midst of our golden candlesticks, or else we know not that they are in accordance with the Divine mind; and only thus can we hear the exhortations that shall prevent the candlestick from being removed out of its place because of failure to discharge its proper functions. - S.R.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually.