The tabernacle is an Old Testament picture of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. God gave Moses instructions on how to build the tabernacle. It was the place where God would meet with His people. Moses carried out the instructions he received from God very carefully. When the Tabernacle was completed the glory of the Lord filled it (Exodus 40:34). Almost fifteen hundred years later, the Apostle John wrote concerning the Christ: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (literally: tabernacled among us) and we be- held His glory as of the only begotten from the Father full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). God Himself has come into His sanctuary to meet with us and we with Him. We have gone past the bronze altar to offer up our sacrifice to God and receive forgiveness of our sins. We have been washed at the bronze laver to have the desire of sin removed from us and to be sanctified. We are now granted the right to enter into the Holy Place. There was no natural light in the Holy Place. As we enter, it is only natural that our eyes are at first directed towards the golden candlestick. Without its burning light, the Holy Place would have been in complete darkness and gloom. Now it is lit up manifesting the glory of God.
The Tabernacle Today
Jesus said: “I am the light of the world: he that follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). The light of man, Jesus Christ, is the golden candlestick who sheds His light upon each member of His body. No child need ever grope in the darkness. Jesus Christ is the Light of the World, but we must also see that His church is the lamp-holder. The church contains the knowledge, holiness, and consolation to be found in this dark, sinful world. The people of the world are strangers to this light. They wander aimlessly into error and destruction. The Bible tells us they love the darkness. Those who do come to the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, however, find that light fixed in the true church. There the light brings satisfaction to the soul, direction for life, and holiness before God.
The rays of the true light are thrown all around, inviting and attracting the entire world to enter. But you must come into the church to enjoy the light. That light comes to you from the Lord Jesus Christ in whom all fullness dwells. The Holy Spirit is the oil of gladness that Christ has freely given to the Church. As the light of the gospel is proclaimed, we are brought into the sanctuary where we find the very presence of God. It is by means of the golden candlestick that we have fellowship with God. The Necessity of Purity
The candlestick teaches us the necessity of purity both within the church and Christians. The candlestick upon which we place our eyes in Exodus 25 was made of pure gold. The furniture outside the Holy Place was made of bronze Those inside the Holy Place, the table of showbread and the altar of incense, were made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold. Not even the ark of the covenant inside the Holy of Ho lies was pure gold. The only other item in the tabernacle that was pure gold was the mercy seat that represented the throne of God.
It is a pure gold candlestick that sends its rays of light throughout the Holy Place so that those who enter in may have fellowship with God. It is a pure church that sends its rays of light so that to all who enter in can have fellowship will God. An impure church cannot keep the light. It cannot lead a person to a knowledge of Jesus Christ nor to fellowship with God.
In Revelation 2, the Church in Ephesus was told that they must repent. They must return to the deeds they once did. Jesus accused them of having left their first love—their love for the gospel. The church was warned that if they continued in their way, Christ would come in their midst and remove the candlestick from them. The result? They would be left in the darkness, pretending to be a church when they really were not.The light that must shine from the church is not formal or ceremonial; it is not new programs and special events. The light from the church has to point to the true light—Jesus Christ. It must contain the pure preaching of the Word, lighting people to the path that leads them, first of all, to the bronze altar where they acknowledge their sin and misery and repent. Then they must be led to the bronze laver where worshippers no longer desire to follow the world, and then on to fellowship with Christ. Unity with Christ
As we read the description of the candlestick, we notice that its center shaft rises above the branches. It had four bowls in the shape of almonds with their bulbs and flowers. The branches of the candlestick had three bowls, each with a bulb and flower. The golden candlestick is a wonderful picture of the union the church and her members have with Christ. Christ is the center shaft. We are His branches.
More than this, our Lord is not only the center shaft, He is the candlestick itself. As the branches are part of the tree, so we are joined to our Lord. On the way to Gethsemane, Jesus used the illustration of a vine saying to His followers, “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5). Paul wrote: “For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ” (I Cor. 12:12).
The branches of the candlestick and the candlestick are one. Our Lord does not say, “I am the stem and you are the branches.” He is the vine itself. Separated from the vine, the branches are useless.
Six branches were to come out of the side of the stem. Throughout Scripture, the number six denotes incompleteness. It is only when the branches are joined to the shaft that we get the perfect number seven. Separated from the shaft the branches cannot even stand upright. In fact, they have no standing at all; no right to be in the sanctuary.
In the holy place, the sanctuary of God, we hear the wonderful message of salvation. We hear how Christ has died for our sins and begin to understand the need for the bronze altar and the bronze laver outside the holy place. They were for us: for our forgiveness; for our cleansing. They are to teach us our dependence upon the once for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s Cross.
There is no happier life for anyone than the branch-life—being part of the Vine. As part of the Vine you do not need to try to find nourishment for yourself, the Vine is responsible for it. You do not even need to hold yourself up; the Vine sustains you and carries you.
Part of that is worked out in the church. Here each branch of the candlestick is not only joined to the shaft, but also to the branches on the other side, one to another. God’s children are all members of Christ and also joint members of each other. We are many members, one body. We rejoice with those who rejoice; we mourn with those who mourn. Not only is the fellowship of kindred minds like to that above, but we also share in our mutual woes, and our mutual burdens we bear. And often for each other flows a sympathizing prayer. There is no substitute for Christian love.
As mentioned earlier, command was given to make the candlestick out of pure gold. The gold out of which the candlestick had to be made had to go through a two-fold process of refining. It had to be burned in white heat to be made pure. Then it had to be carefully beaten out on an anvil by a skilled craftsman until it was formed into a beautiful symmetrical candlestick.
It would be well for us to understand the words “pure” and “beaten” as they are used here in God’s Word. They point us to the suffering that Jesus Christ, the pure One, had to endure so that He might shine forth as the Light of the world. Luke reminds us of these words of Jesus: “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things, and then to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:26).
Consider the sufferings that Jesus of Nazareth endured. Jesus knew poverty. After His childhood, He was homeless. He was despised,misjudged, and falsely accused. He knew hunger, thirst, and weariness. He knew what it was to weep over the loss of a loved one.
The climax of His suffering came at Gethsemane and Calvary. There He felt the sting of the lash, the shame of being spit upon, the crown of thorns, and the awful pain of the nails and the cross. Far worse than any of these, He knew the awfulness of being forsaken by God. He experienced God’s wrath for the sin of the world.
Forsaken by the Father, the Light of the World was extinguished, put to death—the punishment for our sin. It was then that the darkness fell upon the earth. There “He was wounded for our transgressions. The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5, 6). The author of Hebrews reminds us in Hebrews 2:10 that the captain of our salvation was made perfect through sufferings. He also writes in Hebrews 5:8 “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”
Remember, also, that the candlestick was fashioned by beating one lump of gold into the center shaft and the branches. The same process that made that center shaft was used to make the branches. We become conformed to the likeness of Christ by partaking of the sufferings of Christ. Paul counted no price to dear that He might know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering (Phil. 3:10).
The shaft was of beaten gold; the branches, too, were of beaten gold. You have to be on the anvil. It is the only way to become pure gold.When Moses was forty years old he thought he could deliver his people. God could not use him then. He sent the man who was brought up in the king’s palace, schooled in the wisdom of the Egyptians, into the lonely desert. There he was in God’s school—forty years at the anvil—before God would have him return to Egypt to let God’s people free.
God sent Samuel to anoint David king. David slew Goliath. He became a favorite among the people. Then God sent him to the cave of Adullam to be hammered by the anvil. Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego refused to bow down to the image of King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel would worship only God. As a reward for their faithfulness they were put to the anvil into the fiery furnace and the den of lions. But afterwards they did shine like candlesticks.
Our heavenly Father takes His own children into His own training school. As I look back over the twenty-some years in the ministry, I can see the hammer blows that God has permitted to fall. There were blows of many kinds. Heavy financial losses; unfair accusations; serious illnesses; loved ones who died, some after very debilitating, lingering, painful illnesses; some snatched from us much to soon. Those hammer blows are not easy to take.
James writes in James 1:2 “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” Count it as joy? How is that possible?
Rejoice. Rejoice because you are a part of the candlestick, a branch that is being fashioned by God’s workmanship to be made like Christ. “Let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (I Peter 4:19). You are His forever and He is yours.
Do not think it strange when the fiery trials come our way. These are the trials of our faith. This is the day of our fellowship in His suffering. The day is coming, however, when we will glory in His light and walk into the Holy of Holies.
Rev. Wybren H. Oord is the Pastor of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He is also the editor of The Outlook.