THE SACRED CANDLESTICK
“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 shewed thee in the mount."-Exodus. xxv. 31-40.
ONE of the grand distinctions between a true religion and a false one is that the true seeks light, and diffuses it, the other shrouds itself in mystery; the one opens the mind, the other closes it.
The characteristic of opening the mind, and making it free by enlightening it, which is the virtue of true religion, is presented to us both in the world and in the Word? by many symbols. The world rejoices in the light, trees grow in light, flowers derive their varied hues and loveliness from the light, and disclose them to the light. The sun, moon, stars, are things of light, and things of beauty.
So with Israel in Egypt; while their oppressors were in thick darkness, they had light in their dwellings. During the forty years of the sojourn in the wilderness the pillar of fire by night gave light to the camp.
The Lord Himself is light (Ps. XXVII. 1). His Word is light (Ps. CXIX. 105). "Light is sown for the righteous,” -Ps. XCVII. 11. “The path of the just is as the shining light."---Prov.IV. 18. The disciples of the Lord are to walk in the light (John VIII. 12) ; and to believe in the light (John XII. 36). The light of the wicked will be put out, and they shall never see light (Ps. XLIX. 19). But to the good, " the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended." -Isa. LX. 20. When true religion comes, it is light opposed to blindness. "Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee."-Isa. LX. 1.
It is this same lesson, with the beautiful and important details connected with it, that is given in the description of the Golden Candlestick, or more strictly speaking, the lamp-holder of the Jewish sanctuary.
This Candlestick was the representation of the Church, as to its office of enlightening the world; and in relation to an individual, it represents the intellect or understanding of man in its capacity of holding up the truth and enlightening the mind. The Church has the duty of enlightening the great world, the intellect that of enlightening the little world of each soul. To illustrate and enforce the Church's character as a diffuser of light from its Lord, who is the centre of light, the Sun of righteousness, when John was in vision, he saw a representation of "one like unto the Son of Man standing in the midst of seven golden candlesticks"; and the seven candlesticks are declared to be the seven churches (Rev. I. 20).
The appropriateness of the symbol flashes upon the mind when it is mentioned. The world is like a dark valley until the light of life is thrown over it, by the formation of a church, which becomes a city of light, a city on a hill. The Church is not self-luminous, nor self-created. It is a lamp to hold the light. The Lord is the light itself. He is in the midst of the candlesticks. They derive their light from Him. His countenance is like the sun shining in his strength (Rev. I. 16). "That was the true light which lighteth everyman that cometh into the world." -John I. 9.
The church that does not hail the light, hold up the light, pray evermore for an increase of light, has lost the spirit of its Master, the very warrant for its existence; it has become a dead thing. Its very office, and reason for being, were that it might exhort every man to become good, and to become wise; to cry incessantly, "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light."-Eph. v. 14. When it ceases to do this, it becomes an old lamp; it has no value; it impedes rather than aids mankind. The light that is in it is darkness and it goes about to rail at the light, and pretend that mystery is better, "If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! ---Matt. VI. 23.
We have said the intellect to the mind, is like the Church to the world. The Candlestick, or lamp-holder, which represents the one, represents also the other. Hence we read in the Scriptures declarations like these: Thou wilt light my candle, the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness."-Ps. XVIII. 28 ; "I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed."-Ps. CXXXII. 17. Also in Proverbs: "Whoso curseth his father, his lamp shall be put out."-xx. 20; "The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord."-XX. 27. And in the Gospel our Lord describes His Church as consisting of ten virgins who take their lamps, but only the wise take the oil of love sufficient to prevent the light from going out (Matt. xxv).
Let us consider, then, the golden lamp-holder in our text as the divinely appointed type of a truly heavenly intellect, and we shall find in all its parts lessons of wisdom, which will amply disclose to us the reason for the closing command of our text, "And look that thou make them after their pattern which was shewed thee in the mount."
Firstly, then, let us notice that the Candlestick was to be made of pure gold, of beaten work.
Secondly. There were to be six branches and a central pillar having various ornaments and connections among themselves; knops and flowers and bowls made like almonds.
Thirdly. There were snuffers and snuff-dishes, made out of the same gold as the Candlestick itself, the gold of the whole being one talent.
The first particular, that the Candlestick was to be formed of gold suggests not only that we should serve the Lord with what is most valuable and best, which is undoubtedly a truth not to be forgotten, but teaches us that a true heavenly understanding comes from true heavenly love. Gold is the symbol amongst metals, of such love. "For brass I will bring gold, saith the Lord.-Isa. LX. 17. "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire."-Rev. III. 18.
The state of the heart affects the state of the thought far more than many suppose. It is very common to assume that the intellect is guided by evidence only. Give a man facts and reasons and you will compel him to believe. Nothing evinces a more shallow observation of mankind, or a less acquaintance with divine teaching. "He that loveth God knoweth God, said one apostle, "With the heart a man believeth unto righteousness," said another. None are so blind as they who will not see, adds the old proverb. The poet was a much shrewder observer of human nature than the philosophers who suppose the intellect acts responsively to pure evidence when he writes:
" The heart ay's the part ay
Which makes us right or wrong."
Pure Christian love disposes the intellect to receive the truths which flow from Divine Love. "Charity, or love, believeth all things," says Paul, "hopeth all things, beareth all things." Time was, when heavenly truths flowed out of celestial affections as flames from fires, or instincts from the affections of animals; but after the Fall, and through long ages, the human will became so degraded and corrupt that the imaginations of his heart were polluted and abominable, only evil continually (Gen. VI. 5). Then it became necessary for truth to enter the soul by an outward way, and it is only by the victories of truth over our evils, and the formation of a new heart with new affections that golden states of love are obtained once more. An inner golden age ,is once more realized in the soul, when from a loving heart a loving intellect is formed, or in other words the Golden Candlestick is formed of pure gold, or pure love. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."-Matt. v. 8.
Our Lord said, " Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." The selfish, the sordid, the corrupt, have no wish, and hence no power to see divine things.
"Pure love, within itself, includes
The source of all beatitudes,
And they who act from love'
Whate'er they do, find pleasure still;
Performing thus their Father's will,
His nameless peace they prove.”
The Candlestick was of pure gold, then, to represent that all our light should be embraced by love to the Lord, the gold of heaven. The word beaten would be better rendered solid and the gold was to be solid, to indicate its genuine character. True goodness is ever solid. There is nothing either hollow or pretentious about it. It is sincere, thorough, solid.
We are secondly led to consider the progressions of love into intelligence, and into act, in the description given of the six branches of the Candlestick; of their knops, flowers, and almond-shaped bowls.
Celestial love is an active principle. There is a sentimentality which takes the name sometimes, and simulates some of the appearances of love, but is quite another thing. Mere sentiment is self-absorbed, or evaporates in wishes and dreams. Love works and sends out arms like branches to pour out its blessings upon others. It seeks light, and it desires to impart light to others.
The six arms and the central stem or shaft, making seven in all, represent love sending out truths and principles on all the subjects and states of the regenerate life. The seven lamps of fire before the throne of God undoubtedly represent the perfect and entire divine wisdom; and that same divine wisdom, when received by man, would be fitly represented by the seven lights of the divinely arranged Candlestick.
The Word is such a light unto our path, and such a lamp unto our feet. Its very commencement describes the particulars of our whole regenerate life, as creation through seven days. And what thus forms the commencement of the Word, when amplified and varied, forms the whole Word, for what is the whole Word but light from the Lord upon all the states needed to train us for heaven? In its spirit, it is a divine Candlestick, having seven lamps. These lamps illuminate the whole road that leads to life. They are golden lamps, and clear as crystal. The nations of them who are saved shall walk in the light of them. The great King of the city to which we go, has prepared and arranged them so that earnest travellers shall not err upon the royal highway. There are seven lamps, and they illuminate the whole way, and they are always burning.
Under each two branches there was what is called a knop, and also under each bowl. In the original the word rendered knop is pomegranate. We presume it was a ball, or small sphere, in the shape of a pomegranate. The pomegranate is a fruit usually about the size of an orange, full of red seeds, sweet and pleasant for food.
The pomegranate form at the base of each of the two branches and then again under separate lamps, seems to represent those views of good, those schemes of mercy and love which form the delightful contemplation and purpose of those who have taken up the cross. It is their deep determination to follow their master doing good. They see as many objects of active use as seeds in the pomegranate, and they are sweet to their taste. Their aim afterwards is to realize these in the various stages of their religious progress, Their frames of minds and feelings may vary, but their active life of good is still the same. There was a pomegranate under every lamp. In every state they still are ministers of good; they still aim at blessing others.
There was also a flower under each bowl, to receive it as a cup, and the bowl itself was in the shape of an almond. Flowers represent thoughts concerning heaven. Their delicate forms and lovely hues everywhere diffuse beauty and raise the soul towards the source of all good. Trees which grow up from seeds represent the perceptions of divine truths which grow up from the seeds of divine knowledge in the Word: the seed is the Word of God. In the development of a spiritual understanding, there are first thoughts derived from the letter of the Word, these are like leaves; then there are spiritual thoughts derived from the spiritual understanding of the Word, these are like flowers; they are inner leaves, of greater delicacy and greater beauty. On each branch there was first the golden pomegranate, representative of the inner views and purposes of good; then the flower representative of the heavenly thoughts which follow such inward views and aims; and lastly, the almond-shaped bowl, representative of the fruits of justice, goodness, charity, and piety, to which all real religion tends. The four bowls of the shaft or stem in the centre are expressive of the tendency from within to make the character complete. Four represents conjunction, the conjunction of goodness and truth, and the conjunction of inward and outward goodness ;-affection and act.
The almond tree was ripe the first of the fruit-bearing trees of Palestine, and here intimates the divine blessing on piety in youth. Its pure white blossoms and its early fruit well typify the loveliness of the religion of the young. How tender is the young heart yearning after eternal things! How ingenuous, how pure, how straightforward the early thoughts of a soul lighted up with inner wisdom, and all-devoted to the Divine Will. It is like the fresh vernal beauty of the youthful year, and has flowers and almonds full of promise, and full of peace and joy.
How happy will it be for the world when youth is led joyously to a religion awakening all their sympathies for God and goodness, for purity, intelligence, and nobleness of character. Too long has the godless fallacy been believed that there is something mean in gentleness and virtue, something manly in vice. Myriads of ruined minds, hopelessly enfeebled bodies, and misspent years of folly have been the result of the pestilential falsehood. Oh may the years be hastened when men will act in relation to immortal souls as they do in all great works, which they expect to be of an enduring character, lay the foundation well and carefully guard against all attacks of corruption, and hope for the crown of great success by acting sedulously on great principles. Each virtuous act is the seed of future virtues. In a pure and noble youth lie the embryos of self-respect, of loving appreciation, of a noble manhood, a successful and useful life, a home filled with grace and happiness, a green, dignified, honoured and esteemed old age, and a blessed eternity. These are what come from the pomegranate, the flower and the almond.
The snuffers and snuff-dishes must form the third subject for our notice.
They were to be made of gold, and of the same mass of gold as the Candlestick itself. They were necessary for the removal of the spent material of the light. There are appliances for the mind which are necessary to remove the crude and outgrown conceptions of our early days. "When I was a child I thought as a child, I spake as a child, but when I became a man I put away childish things."
We are constantly gaining experience, and realizing changes. The dreams and the attachments of youth, our manhood has outgrown. The hopes of enthusiasm have been sobered by the realities of life, and many a romantic scheme engendered by the fire of fancy, and full of the rosy hues of generous love has to be laid aside for the less brilliant, but more substantial plans of mature life. The friends of our youth need sometimes to be changed. The haunts of our youth filled as they were with fairy visions, appear very different when we return to them with the sobered impressions of later life.
Yet the utopias of early life were good. They had their use, and did their duty. When we lay them aside it should not be with reckless contempt, but as with golden snuffers.
Our early fancies gilded everything with glory,---let them be reverently laid aside. Our early religion seemed to bring us at once to the gates of paradise. Our thoughts derived from the letter of the Word were full of wonder, and full of admiration. We have since learned that we had only entered the outer gate of the way that looketh eastward (Ezek. XLVII. 1), that we have far to travel and many battles to fight before we get even a true view into the promised land. The letter is but the lowest part of the golden ladder reaching from earth to heaven, we must mount beyond it to realize its spirit and its life. Our early views, however, served us for the time. They must be laid aside with loving and gentle hands, and kept in loving memories. They must be removed by golden snuffers, and laid in golden snuff-dishes.
Have you ever seen a mother touch with peculiar tenderness some special drawer, lay gently the little clothes from side to side, move delicately the little shoes, the little cap, and when her loving gaze was satisfied, close up with a soft sigh, as if to guard from ruder notice, all that remained of what she fondly loved. Be sure the golden snuffers had laid in golden snuff-dishes the memories of a lost but blessed past.
There were vessels of olive oil to supply the lamps (Ex. XXVII. 20), and they were lighted from the fire of the altar of incense.
The oil of charity is ever required to make the light of faith to shine. Those virgins that took no oil with their lamps, found after a while, that their lamps had gone out. So will it ever be. He who has not charity will find in the hour of death he has lost his faith. The oil of gentle goodness alone keeps up the ability to keep our lights alive, and when the dimness of our states require their friendly help, they can all be lighted from the fire on the altar of incense. Love glowing in prayer will light all our lamps, dispel all our darkness, and fill the sanctuary of our souls with confidence, peace and joy.
Let us consider, lastly, that all the parts of the Candlestick and Its appendages were to be made out of the one talent of gold.
God is Infinite Love, and from that infinite love the universe has sprung with its innumerable systems, suns, and worlds, and all their myriad forms of benefit and beauty. So in heaven. the angels are forms of love. Love inspires them with quick impulses to bless. Love blooms in glorious talent. Love delights in serving. Love rejoices in the truth. Love finds blessedness in the humblest thing and multiplies the means of bless. So in the human mind. Love is the life of man. Love thinks, love learns, love believes, love remembers, love works, love has patience and perseveres. All these things are formed out of the same piece of gold.
Our Lord says, All the law and the prophets hang upon love to God and love to man. And love to man, undoubtedly, flows from love to God. Here, too, then, all things come from the one golden precept-LOVE.
How unspeakably important is it then that we should pray ever to our Lord for more love, for renewed hearts. Let the sacred fire be always on our altar. Let it never go out. Love rejoices in the truth. Nay, truth is but love drawn out. Love learns at the sacred pages given by the love of God and the stem, the branches sand the bowls of the heavenly lamps expand themselves, and in the beautiful lustre of an enlightened faith grounded in love, we shall be ready when the cry is heard, "the bridegroom cometh,” and Joyfully go forth to meet him.
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY --From From Egypt to Canaan (1867)