By Edward Dennett
AFTER the table of showbread follows the candlestick. The altar of incense, though belonging to the holy place, is omitted here, because it was a vessel of approach, rather than of display; and, as already pointed out, everything connected with the manifestation of God is given before that which was needed to come into His presence is described. Unless this distinction is borne in mind, instead of order and method, all will seem to be confusion.
"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 of 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 snuff-dishes 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 showed thee in the mount." (vv. 31-40.)
First of all, we have the form of the candlestick. If the description be carefully read, it will be seen that the candlestick had seven branches; i.e. a central shaft with three branches springing out from either side. (See vv. 31, 32, also Ex. 37: 17, 18.) There were, therefore, seven lamps upon the one candlestick. The number seven also plays an important part in its ornamentation. There were "three bowls made like unto almonds" in each of the six branches (v. 33), and "four bowls made like unto almonds" in the candlestick (v. 34); i.e. in the central stem from which the branches sprung. The number seven is thus a marked characteristic.
The next thing for consideration is the material of which it was made, and the character of its light. As in the mercy-seat, so in the candlestick, there was nothing but pure gold. (v. 31.) No shittim-wood is found in its structure, and hence nothing human is prefigured by it. All is divine. From Ex. 27 we gather that the light was fed by "pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always." (v. 20.) Oil in Scripture is ever a symbol of the Holy Ghost. The apostle thus says of believers, "Ye have an unction from the Holy One" (1 John 2: 20); and Paul speaks of our having been anointed." (2 Cor. 1: 21.) Putting therefore these three things together in their typical meanings — the number seven, the gold, and the oil — the result is that the significance of the candlestick is, — Divine light in its perfection in the power of the Spirit. It is God giving the light of the Holy Ghost, and this is displayed in its sevenfold perfection. In addressing the Church in Sardis, the Lord speaks as having "the seven Spirits of God "; i.e. the Spirit in His perfection (as indicated by the number seven) and energy (Rev. 3: 1); and we read also of "seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God." (Rev. 4: 5.)
What, then, it may now be inquired, was the purpose of the candlestick? This would seem to have been twofold. First, it was set in the holy place "over against the table." (Ex. 26: 35; Ex. 40: 24.) It thus stood opposite to, and threw its light upon, the table of showbread This therefore it may be inferred was the object in its being thus placed. Now the table of showbread symbolizes, as explained in the last chapter, the manifestation of God in man (Christ) in perfection of administrative government; and the twelve loaves on the table represent Israel, and also in principle believers of this dispensation, in association with Christ before God. The light of the candlestick shining, then, upon the table is the Holy Ghost bearing testimony to the future display of administrative perfection in Christ, when He shall have taken His power, and shall reign from the river unto the ends of the earth; likewise to Israel's (as well as the believer's) true place in connection with Christ before God. These truths may be obscured or forgotten on earth, but there in the holy place before the eye of God they are fully displayed, and exhibited by the perfect light of the Spirit. But secondly, the light was for the illumination of the candlestick itself. "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron, and say unto him, When thou lightest the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light over against the candlestick. And Aaron did so; he lighted the lamps thereof over against the candlestick, as the Lord commanded Moses." (Num. 8: 1-3.) That is, giving out the light of the Holy Ghost, reveals the beauties of (or beautifies) the vessel through which it is displayed. A perfect illustration of this is seen in the transfiguration of our blessed Lord, when, as we read, "His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light." (Matt. 17: 2.) It was ever so throughout the whole of His blessed pathway for those whose eyes were opened (see John 1: 4; John 2: 11); but on the mount His beauty was manifestly displayed. So also in the case of Stephen. We read that he was "a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost," and that "all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel." (Acts 6: 5, 15.) It is so with every believer in the measure in which the light of the Holy Spirit — Christ, indeed, shines out through his walk and conversation.
But it may be further asked, What answers on earth to the perfect light of the Spirit as symbolized by the seven-branched candlestick in the holy place? Christ when here answered to it perfectly. He was thus the light of men, the light of the world, etc. (John 1: 4; John 8: 12.) Never for one moment was the light of the Spirit obscured in Him; it shone purely and steadily, illuminating the darkness through which He passed with its blessed, life-giving radiance throughout the whole of His life. He was a perfect vessel. After His departure from this scene, and His ascension,. the church was constituted the light-bearer. (Rev. 1: 20.) That is her character, however grievous her failure — a failure which will finally issue in her utter rejection as the vessel of testimony upon earth. (See Rev. 3: 16.) The individual believer answers to it also in the measure in which he presents Christ in his walk and ways. Paul thus writes to the Philippians, "Do all things without murmurings and disputings; that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation (generation), among whom ye shine as lights in the world." (Phil. 2: 14, 15.)
It is also interesting to observe how the light was maintained. "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." (Lev. 24: 1-4; also Ex. 27: 20, 21.) First, the children of Israel were to bring the pure oil olive. This will point to the responsibility of God's people on earth, the vessel in which it was to be displayed — Israel then, now the church. Aaron was to order the lamps. By this is taught that the light of the Spirit, in its display, can only be maintained by the priestly care and intercession of Christ. He alone could use "the tongs thereof, and the snuff-dishes thereof," for both alike were made of pure gold. (v. 38.) Every ray of light that shines out below, whether through the church or the individual believer, is but the answer to His priestly work. In this connection, it may be remarked that the oil olive was to be "beaten" for the light (Ex. 27: 20), and that the candlestick itself was to be made of "beaten" work. This may point to the fact that the intercession of Christ is grounded upon the efficacy of His work on the cross, the term "beaten" shadowing forth the sufferings of Him, by whose stripes we are healed.
Lastly, notice the duration of the light. It was to be "from the evening unto the morning." The lamp is for the night; and all through the night of Israel's unbelief, until the day dawn, and the shadows flee away, the golden candlestick is to be ordered before the Lord. The testimony to their true place is maintained all through the weary years of the darkness of their unbelief by the intercession of Him whom they have rejected and crucified. But at last He Himself shall be for them "as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain." (2 Sam. 23: 4.) The hope of the Christian is more immediate; for "the night is far spent and the day is at hand." But while waiting, may our lamps — fed with the true oil, and ordered before the Lord continually — shine out ever more brightly until the Lord's return!