Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Need for light from the Lord

Hebrews 9:1-2 Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary. 2For there was a tabernacle prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place.

Introduction: Connect Old and New Testament through Jesus Christ
From the background of Hebrews 8, the author proceeds to connect the dots between the Old Covenant (Testament) system and New Covenant (Testament) church age by way of Jesus Christ.  Old Covenant rituals and Israel provides pictures, patterns and shadows of the reality of Jesus Christ and His church.  Without replacing Israel entirely, Christ came to fulfill everything anticipated in the Old Testament, inaugurate the promises in the Church age and fulfill His promise to Israel in the age to come. 

With that big picture introduction, we can take a detail mentioned here in Hebrews 9, and trace it from its start in the Old Testament to what it pictures in the New Testament.  The detail which I would like us to consider today is the Golden Lampstand. 

The purpose of the Golden Lampstand in the Old Testament Tabernacle
Hebrews 9:2 makes mention of "the lampstand" among its descriptions of the Tabernacle built during the days of Moses in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers.  The Tabernacle was planned by God and built according to that plan in Exodus 25-40.  Leviticus describes the ministry performed in the Tabernacle, with Numbers listing or reiterating those details.  The Tabernacle was divided into three main areas: The courtyard and then the tent of meeting, subdivided into 2 rooms: the holy place and the most holy place. 

These latter rooms were covered over with several layers of animals skins and embroidered linen.  The one room, the holy place, was where the priests would enter to do their daily ministry on behalf of the people.  The only light source in that particular room would had been the Golden lampstand.  Called the Menorah in Hebrew, the lampstand was to be made of one solid piece of pure beaten gold, capable of holding on its evenly spaced branches seven oil lamps. (Exodus 25:19-40)  Day and night the priests would have to "trim the wicks" of each of the lamps to ensure the continual light needed to ministry in the holy place. (Exodus 30:7)

What we would had seen in the Holy place illuminated by the Golden Lampstand
If you would had been a priest, what would you had observed walking into that sacred room - the Holy Place?  After having washed your hands in the Bronze Laver located in the front of the Tent of meeting, you would had went through a linen veil, and to your left you would had spied the Golden Lampstand.  Its seven lamps would had been flickering but puring forth steady light.  Upon the ceiling you would had seen depictions of Cherubim, the Holy Angels around God's throne, woven into the purple linen.  You may had been overwhelmed, reminded of the fact that your were on holy ground.  Directly in front would be the golden altar of incense, where you would offer of prayers and sweet smelling aromas.  To your right would had been the Table, whereupon was placed twelve unleavened loaves of bread, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. (Hebrews 9:1-7 details this basic layout)  Unless the lampstand was lit, you would had been in total darkness, since no other lightsource existed in that room. 

Old Testament Israel's light grows dim
Throughout the remainder of the Old Testament, we find reference made to the Golden Lampstand.  In 1 Samuel 3:3, we find out that it came to be called "the lamp of God", and sadly, due to neglect, its light had almost went out.  Samuel ministered 400 years after Moses. 

If we fast forward another 400 or so years we come to the days of Daniel the prophet.  The year was 538 b.c, and it was the eve of the fall of Babylon to Persia.  The famous finger of God inscribed the judgment upon the palace wall of Belshazzar, the debaucherous grandson of Nebuchadnezzar and last function ruler of Babylon.  It says in Daniel 5:5 that directly opposite of that famous "writing on the wall" were the spoils of Jerusalem taken by the Babylonians some 70 years prior. In that collection is listed the Golden Lampstand - a mute testimony to the One writing on the wall of Belschazzar's palace. 

The Light that was ignored
The Light of God's word could not be quenched, and despite Daniel's interpretation of the fall of Babylon, the court of Babylon ignored the word and lamp of prophecy.  Sadly, following the ministry of the Prophet Malachi in 396 b.c, 400 years would pass in Israel and the world before a word from God would be heard again. 

The need for light from the Lord
The cry of the Old Testament signalled that Israel, God's lamp to the nations, had failed in her mission.  Though she had failed, God's plan was far from defeated.  Matthew 4:12-17 has Jesus preaching His first sermon, quoting Isaiah 60:1-3, telling the people that He was going to pickup where Israel had dropped the ball. Later on the New Testament tells us that through Christ, God is going to restore Israel, and is currently setting her aside to bring the light of the Gospel to the Gentiles. (Romans 11)  The scripture, preached and live out by the church, is currently is the means through which Christ the Lamp is shining, calling Gentiles to repent and making Israel jealous, preparing her for the time when her Messiah comes. (Romans 11)

Jesus Christ of course is that light.  He alone can fulfill the need for light from the Lord.  More to come tomorrow. 

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