The Seven-Branched Lampstand

Christ and the Church in Life and Testimony. (Exodus 25:31-40).

There is a wonderful wealth of teaching in the Lampstand (as it should be translated, not Candlestick). It brings before us—1st, the Holy Spirit; 2nd, the Lord Jesus Christ; 3rd, our Lord Jesus Christ and His people in union with Him; 4th, the Church as God’s witness during Christ’s absence, tended and cared for by Him, as Aaron cared for the seven lamps of the Lampstand.

The Lampstand was a very ornate piece of work. Out of one solid lump of gold weighing one hundred and fourteen pounds, worth about $29,085, or six thousand one hundred and fifty pounds sterling, was hammered out of one piece, the shaft and its six branches with all their beautiful ornamentation.

The Lamps.

We must carefully distinguish these from the stand which supported them. The only light of the Holy Place was that which these lamps gave. By that light the Priests were able to wait upon their office, serve at the Golden Altar, and partake of the Shewbread from the Table. And so only the Holy Spirit can open up to the heart of the believer the truth of God, and lead him out in praise and worship, as he draws nigh as a believer-priest. We read, too, in 1 Cor. 2:14, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” He may be an educated man of great mental ability, but if he is only a “natural man” (one who has never been born again), he is no more fit to understand or expound the Word of God than a blind man would be to give a lecture upon colours.

When the priest went into the holy place to minister at the Golden Altar or Golden Table, the only light he had was that shed by the seven lamps on the Lamp-stand, all of nature’s light was excluded. So when it is a matter of the things of God, the only adequate light is that of the Holy Spirit. A Christian who held a very responsible position under the New Zealand Government was making a trip to the homeland on a large liner. He had some meetings for preaching the gospel on board, and at the close of one meeting, some young men said they would like to discuss with him some of the truths which he held. He replied, “All right gentlemen, but on one condition.” They asked what that condition was, and he replied, “The discussion must be conducted in Japanese.” “But we do not understand Japanese.” “I am sorry for that,” said my friend, “but that is my condition.” And then he made use of the incident to show them that apart from being born again and having the Holy Spirit, they could not understand the truths which they wished to discuss.

The Seven lamps are a symbol of the Holy Spirit, as we see in Rev. 4:5. “And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.” This does not mean that there are seven personal Spirits, but the Holy Spirit in His plenitude and power. Seven is the number of perfection. When we read in Rev. 5:6, that the Lamb has seven eyes and seven horns, we know that these speak of His omniscience and His omnipotence.

The great work of the Holy Spirit in this dispensation is to unfold the glories of Christ to the hearts of men.

You may have been struck with what seems somewhat peculiar. I refer to the way verse 37 reads, “They shall light the lamps thereof, that they may give light over against it.” We think of a lamp as especially used for lighting up a house. Here it would seem as if it were to show the Lampstand itself, that these lamps are lighted. And this is God’s design in thus wording the verse. When Christ was down here, He honoured the Spirit. All the miracles He performed, all the words He spake, were by that blessed Spirit who abode in Him in ungrieved and unhindered power. Now exalted to the Father’s right hand, the Holy Spirit has come to earth on a very special mission. It is given us by Christ in these great words which we get in John 16:14, “He shall glorify Me.” All ministry that is of the Spirit of God will ever do this. When the one who is ministering attracts to himself, there is something wrong.

Christ As The Lampstand.

In the lampstand we have not the two natures as in the other vessels, it is gold only, for the Spirit would occupy us here in the contemplation of Christ as the glory of God, as we read, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). With this verse before us, we can appreciate the marginal reading of Ex. 25:37. “They shall light the lamps thereof, that they may give light over against the face of it.” Just as the lamps would shew the beauty of the lampstand, so the Holy Spirit ever unfolds to the heart of the believer, the glory of the Son of God.

The lampstand was a central shaft with three pairs of branches coming out of the sides of it. When we turn to Isa. 11:1-2, we see something that answers to that. “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots; And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” Again in Isa. 61:1 He can say, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” See also Luke 4:18. And in Rev. 3:1, “He that hath the seven Spirits of God.” and in chap. 5:6 we have the same thing also.

The Lampstand And Its Branches.

Here we have Christ in union with His people. As we read those words, “His branches,” it would seem as if the central shaft were the lampstand, and the branches had come out from it. And we are reminded of the words of John 15, “I am the Vine, ye are the branches.” Union with Christ could only be through death and resurrection. In John 12:24 we read, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone.” And wherever we get this wondrous union brought before us, we may look also for that which shadows forth how it could be accomplished.

How was this Lampstand made? It would have been comparatively easy to have cast it. But God has told us definitely how it was to be made. It must be hammered out, “One beaten work.” As we see the workmen bruise the precious metal, our thoughts turn to that Scripture in Isa. 53:5, where we read of Christ that “He was bruised for our iniquities.” Only by this bruising could the branches of the Lampstand be brought into existence; and only by the Divine Son of God being bruised under the hand of God in judgment, could we ever be one with Christ.

But it is in Resurrection that His people are linked to Christ. Is there, then, anything in the Lampstand that will set forth that? Yes! we believe there is. It was to be ornamented with fruit blossoms. Now what shall the tree and the fruit be that God will select. He had a wide field from which to choose, and we find he chose the almond tree. The Hebrew word for almond, means “to hasten.” The almond tree is covered with blossoms before it shows leaves, and while other trees are still bare and dead looking. In Jer. 1:11, God asks the prophet what he sees. He replied, “a rod of an almond tree.” And God says, “thou has well seen, for I will hasten My Word to perform it.” But perhaps the chief passage which will decide the meaning of the almond as a picture of resurrection, beyond any doubt, is Num. 17. There, we get the account of Aaron’s rod. It, with the other eleven, was laid up before the Lord all night. In the morning it had “brought forth buds, bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds.” Like that rod, Christ was the Living One. Cut down in death, He lay in Joseph’s new tomb, but He has risen to be “the first-fruits of them that are asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20 R.v.). Like that rod, He has borne fruit which we are now in the enjoyment of. The “blossoms” may remind us of fruit soon to be ours at His coming, while the “buds” may surely speak of blessing more remote, yet not less certain, for Israel and the nations.

It must have been a work of considerable difficulty to beat out such a large vessel with its spreading branches so highly ornamented. Why not make the stem and branches separately? It would be so much easier to manipulate. Then these branches could be brazed to the stem. But this would not do. It would not thus be a true type of the union that exists between Christ and His saints—which is vital, not artificial. It is most important then that it be made in God’s way, no matter how difficult. So out of one piece of gold the entire Lampstand is hammered, “One beaten work of pure gold.”

Well may those words of Heb. 2:11 come to our mind as we look at the process of forming this Lamp-stand, “For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of (out of) one.” So close is the union, that when Paul (as Saul the persecutor) was making havoc of the Church, the Lord Jesus could say to him, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me.” Though glorified at the Father’s right hand, yet such was the intimate relation that His people sustained to Him, that if they suffered, He suffered. What comfort this gives to the tempted and tried child of God now, for that word to Saul expresses how the living Lord in Heaven feels toward His members still.

The Lampstand, Ministered By Aaron; Or The Church Cared For By Christ.

When, as in our picture, we see Aaron ministering to the lampstand, he is a picture of Christ and the lampstand the Church. In Rev. 1:20, we are told that the seven lampstands of gold are the seven churches, to whom the apostle John was to write. The Lord walks in the midst of those churches, doing to them what Aaron does to the lampstand in the Tabernacle. He uses the golden snuffers, His blessed Word to remove the things about the believer which, like the burned wick of the lamps, would hinder the light, and to supply the Spirit, that testimony to Himself might be continued.

In the sanctuary the lampstand is one, with seven branches, but in Rev. we have seven separate lamp-stands, as there we have the Church looked at as in responsibility in the world.

Each lampstand is dealt with on its own merits, and maintained or removed by Christ, as that is His prerogative alone. It is nowhere suggested in the seven epistles, that any one of those assemblies had any jurisdiction over another.

The Use Of The Lampstand.

The lampstand held up the lamps, and the Church is in the world for the express purpose of holding up Christ, the light. When it ceases to do that it is useless, and sooner or later will be removed by Christ. The great thought in the lampstand is testimony, or witness bearing. The Lord said to those who were waiting the coming of the day of Pentecost, and the setting up of the Church, “Ye shall be witnesses unto Me” (Acts 1:8). That witness will become more and more necessary as the age nears its close. Paul at the close of his life had to exhort Timothy, “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner” (2 Tim. 1:8). If that exhortation was needed then, it is a hundredfold more needed now. The testimony of the Lord embraces His Deity: His virgin birth; His holy spotless humanity; His vicarious death; His physical resurrection; His literal ascension to the Father’s right hand; His personal return for His people; and the Divine Authorship of the Bible; the fall of man; his total depravity, and his absolute need of regeneration by the Holy Spirit; salvation full and eternal through the blood of Christ; and the eternal punishment of all who reject Christ. This is the testimony which was committed to the Church.

No Size, But Weight Given For Lampstand.

Size and appearance counts much with man, but not with God. In the fact that we have the weight of the Lampstand given us, 114 lbs. and nothing said of its height or the spread of its branches, we may get a useful lesson. Man likes numbers, and we have grown accustomed to “drives” for church members. To have a fine building and a large congregation, most of whom are unsaved, is something eagerly sought after. But three or four who are truly born again and who seek to honour the Lord Jesus by gathering in His name, has more weight with God than several hundred mere professors, though they possess everything, that in the reckoning of man, goes to make a church. I cannot but think that it is like something once quite familiar to us. We are in a home, it is getting too dark to read, we look at the lamp on the parlour table; it is a most ornate lamp, the bowl is beautifully ornamented, and the shade a work of art. I am about to light it when the housewife says, sir, it won’t light. What is the matter with it that it won’t light? She says there is no oil in it. Well then in that case, we say, bring that little lamp out of the kitchen and let us have it. Now for light giving, that humble lamp is a reality, and the fine parlour one is just a sham.

Christ’s Care Over the Church Unwearied.

Aaron had put on his shoulders the responsibility of caring for the lampstand and trimming and filling the lamps. He might fail, other priests did, but our Priest, the Lord Jesus will never relax His care for the church.

Looking back over the history of the Church, at times when it seemed as if the light were about to go out, if it had not already gone out, we see Him, true to His office. He comes in and blesses and revives His people. Take as an example the gracious work of the 16th century. Was ever the light so dim as then? But He uses the Golden Snuffers. He removes that which had well-nigh extinguished the light—the fables and dogmas of Rome, and He pours in the oil of His Spirit and His Truth. A fresh lighting up of “justification by faith” was what caused the light to shine forth as it did then, to the deliverance of multitudes of precious souls. Then again at the beginning of the 19th century, when the Church had sunk down to a very low level and her light was burning very dimly, He caused deep exercise among some of His people which led to such a clearing of themselves from worldly associations in which they had been hid, and in gathering together as simple companies of believers to carry out His own Word in His own way, free to be led by the Holy Spirit, without a humanly invented priesthood or a humanly devised ministry and order, to hamper and hinder the Spirit’s leading. It was then that the grand and blessed truth of the coming of our Lord to the air for His people, was restored, and how brightly the light burned up then. To read of those days is to feel yourself transported back to the second of Acts in a great measure. Such was the power of the gospel testimony, and the unworldliness of believers’ lives! But alas, that condition did not long continue. We need no more expect it to continue than we might have expected that of the Second of Acts to continue. For everything committed to man has been a failure. But our hope is in Christ, He never fails, and so right on until “the morning” dawns, we will look for and count on those gracious ministries of His, so needed to keep the light from going out. Nor shall we look in vain. We believe His word to the assembly in Philadelphia gives us the assurance that until the morning of His return, He will see to it that assembly testimony, however weak, shall not become wholly extinguished.

We do not read of any “extinguishers” among the instruments that Aaron used in his ministry towards these lamps. “Snuffers” there were, and they were golden—something we ever should remember—but no extinguishers. When we feel the Snuffers at work, may we ever welcome it. They must do their work before the oil can be poured in. Just as in Eph. 5:25-29, “sanctify and cleanse” comes before “nourisheth and cherisheth.” This will ever be His way.

Three Pairs Of Branches.

As the Lampstand is a picture of the Church, especially in testimony for Christ, we think it is very suggestive that the branches should be in twos. In Eph. 4:11, where we have Christ giving gifts wfiich are to continue until the completion of the Church (not like some of the gifts mentioned in Cor. 14, gifts which were not to remain), we have pairs—“Apostles and Prophets.” They have done their work and are only in the foundation (chapter 2:20). We have no living apostles or prophets now (except false ones) for however important the foundation is, it is not carried right up the walls. But the gifts which remain are “Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers”—just three. That the branches come out of the sides of the Lampstand in twos may speak of fellowship in the work of the Lord. Fellowship! what does that mean? The Apostle Paul, writing to the Philippians, knew by sweet experience what it meant. He could thank God for their “fellowship in the Gospel” from their beginning as an assembly, right on to the time he wrote the Epistle to them. He says in chapter 1:7, “Ye are all partakers (partners) of My grace.” He was, as we say, “down in the well, and they were holding the rope.” He was out on the battle field, and they were providing the “sinews of war.” How good when the assembly realises that whether he is preaching the Gospel to the lost, or seeking to bring the emancipating truths of God’s Word before believers, the servant of Christ and the assembly are linked together. But one fears this will never be fully apprehended by the majority of the Lord’s people. We would say to those who serve the Lord in local assemblies, while they do not give themselves wholly to this work, but work with their hands for their support: Seek to proclaim the Gospel constantly. Gather the sheep together, and teach them the truth of God. And all such deserve, and should receive the hearty fellowship in prayer and encouragement of their fellow saints. And in every godly assembly which is seeking to fulfil its responsibility as a lampstand for God, it will surely be given. One feels that there are some assemblies who do not realise why they were ever gathered in assembly capacity at all. There are some, concerning whom it may be said, that the world would not lose much light if their lampstand was removed. There is surely much cause for deep exercise of heart about such conditions altogether. The Lord give it.