God’s Word for You
Numbers 8:1-4 The eternal flame
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, July 16, 2021
The Light for the Dwelling
8 The Lord spoke to Moses: 2 “Speak to Aaron and tell him, ‘When you set up the lamps, the seven lamps are to give light in front of the lampstand.’”
Chapter 8 is primarily about the preparations of the Levites for service, and chapter 9 will describe the religious festivals of the Israelites. We have seen the ceremony for the consecration of the holy altar in chapter 7. This little account (8:1-4) bridges these larger sections and describes theologically what was happening: the illumination of God’s people by God’s grace and God’s word.
Seven is the number that most often reminds us of God’s holiness. The Holy Spirit is also called “the seven Spirits of God” (Revelation 3:1, 5:6). In John’s vision of heaven, he recalls that “Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God” (Revelation 4:5). Also, when Noah was commanded to bring certain clean animals into the ark, he was told to bring seven of each (Genesis 7:2-3) rather than the single pair of each of the unclean animals. This lamp was for God’s holy place, and was a representation of the light and blessings that come from God.
3 So that is what Aaron did. He set up the lamps to light the area in front of the lampstand, just as the Lord commanded Moses. 4 This was how the lampstand was made: It was a work of hammered gold. From its base to its blossoms, it was one hammered piece. So the lampstand was made according to the pattern that the Lord had shown Moses.
Unlike the Ark of the Covenant and other items that were made of wood and overlaid with gold, the lampstand was made of pure hammered gold. “From its base to its blossoms, one hammered piece.” This meant that it could not be taken apart, just as God’s Word cannot be broken (John 10:35), and God himself is not divisible into parts (“I and the Father are one,” John 10:30); he is One God, as we remember in the Nicene Creed that the Son of God “is of one being with the Father” (Article 2) and that the Holy Spirit “who in unity with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified” (Article 3).
The seven lights of the lamp were made to resemble almond flower blossoms (Exodus 25:33). Later, God asked the prophet Jeremiah to identify an almond tree (Jeremiah 1:11), and the Lord said that the “almond” (Hebrew shaqēd, which rhymes with “blockade”) means that the Lord is “watching” his people (see the EHV on Jeremiah 1:11 and the footnote there). “Watching” in Hebrew is shōqēd (rhymes with “brocade”). Perhaps here in the tabernacle lamp there was a subtle reminder of the same point: Just as the lamp gave off its light for the priests to see, so also God was watching over and seeing his people.
Another thing to notice is that the lights of the lamp were to be positioned (turned, perhaps even bent) so that their light fell forward, lighting the tent and the table of the showbread. There the twelve loaves of bread symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel were stacked in two rows (Leviticus 24:5-9), and the light of the lamp was to shine on them. This is clearly a symbol of God’s light and concern shining on his people at all times.
This has not ceased, even though the need for the tabernacle has come to an end. God’s light still shines on us through his word. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). And again, “You have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life” (Psalm 56:13). And most striking of all: “You may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
Aaron (the high priest) had to tend the lampstand twice every day to keep the light burning at all times. He also had to do this with the fire of the altar. Israel is depicted as being illumined by God perpetually, and his fire is always ready to receive the sacrifices of the people. God is ready to hear and receive the prayers of his people at all times. He is also ready to forgive at all times, whenever any of his people repent, turning away from a sin, and turning back to Christ. His forgiveness is always there, never fading, never spluttering out like a guttering candle. He is always there, as the final verse of Ezekiel (48:35) proclaims for everyone to read and to hear and to take heart: “THE LORD IS THERE.”
Pastor Timothy Smith