“You shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand shall be made of hammered work: its base, its stem, its cups, its calyxes, and its flowers shall be of one piece with it. 32 And there shall be six branches going out of its sides, three branches of the lampstand out of one side of it and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side of it; 33 three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on one branch, and three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on the other branch—so for the six branches going out of the lampstand. 34 And on the lampstand itself there shall be four cups made like almond blossoms, with their calyxes and flowers, 35 and a calyx of one piece with it under each pair of the six branches going out from the lampstand. 36 Their calyxes and their branches shall be of one piece with it, the whole of it a single piece of hammered work of pure gold. 37 You shall make seven lamps for it. And the lamps shall be set up so as to give light on the space in front of it. 38 Its tongs and their trays shall be of pure gold. 39 It shall be made, with all these utensils, out of a talent[e] of pure gold. 40 And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain. (Exodus 25:31-40)
Last week we considered the Table for the Bread of the Presence in the Holy Place, and today, we come now to another piece of furniture in the Holy Place, the Lampstand. The Lampstand was hammered of pure gold with 3 branches on each side for lamps and one on the main stem in the middle, 7 total. The lampstand was very important because there were no windows or lightbulbs or any other source of light in the Holy Place. The lampstand is its light.
Now as we consider the lampstand and its construction and purpose, it is important to restate and remind ourselves of our hermeneutic principle and approach to understanding the significance of the lampstand. In Hebrews 8 it is contrasting the offering and service of the priests of the Old Covenant to Christ in the New, and it says this in Hebrews 8:5, “They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, ‘See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.’” So all of these old covenant elements of tabernacle priestly service are copies or shadows of the heavenly things. This means we do not just look at the lampstand and stay there. No, the lampstand is a copy or shadow of heavenly things – of something spiritual. So we are to look through the lampstand to see the greater thing. And notice that Hebrews quotes the refrain that we see all throughout this section of Exodus, which we see in Exodus 25:40, “And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain.” So we know from Hebrews that God is not speaking to Moses there merely about a blueprint. The lampstand and the tabernacle being patterned after heavenly things is more than just a blueprint for Moses. It is a typological hermeneutic for understanding the lampstand and the tabernacle.
A Tree of Lights (Almond Blossoms, Calyx, and flower)
So let’s look at what the text tells us about the lampstand. The big thing that stands out throughout our whole passage is that the lampstand is to be made like a tree. There are six branches, three on each side, that go out from the main stem. Each branch is to have a cup where the actual lamp and light would go, but this cup was to be made to look like a flower with calyxes. A calyx is a part of a flower, the cup-like protective base around the petals. So the lampstand is like a tree. It’s a tree of lights. The tabernacle is basically made to look like a garden sanctuary, which reminds us of Eden, where man walked with God. In the tabernacle you have this tree of life, if you will, like in the garden. You have the cherubim above the ark of the covenant, like the cherubim guard the garden.
These similarities are showing Israel what God has said about the tabernacle. In Exodus 25:8, God told Moses to make a sanctuary so that He may dwell in their midst. Mankind had been removed from God’s presence in the garden, and now God is beginning the process of dwelling once again with His people. And He gives them instructions to build Him a sanctuary and it has themes that remind the people of the garden, to remind them and show them that this is where God dwells. It would remind them of their sin and God’s mercy despite their sin to again dwell with them. Of course even this was just a step in the redemptive history toward fellowship being restored between God and man. That would come in Jesus Christ who came and dwelt, or tabernacled, among us, in the flesh.
So not only was this lampstand made to look like a tree, but specifically we are told that the cups on the branches were to be made like almond blossoms with the calyx and the flower. So these were budding almond blossoms. So what’s the deal with the almond blossoms? For some of you, Aaron’s staff might come to mind. There is a story in Numbers 17 where the Lord caused Aaron’s staff to produce blossoms and ripe almonds. They then kept the staff before the ark of the testimony as a sign. But there are a couple other passages that give us a better understanding of the significance of the almond blossoms on the lampstand.
The first I want to point out is Jeremiah 1:11-12. As the Lord calls young Jeremiah to be a prophet, this is part of the vision that he sees.
And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond[a] branch.” 12 Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.” (Jer. 1:11-12)
So Jeremiah sees an almond branch, and then the LORD tells him what it means. The almond branch signifies that God is watching over His Word to perform it. We don’t have to wonder what it signifies. And it is interesting to note that the Hebrew for “watch” sounds like “almond.”
So in the tabernacle you had the ark of the testimony – the testimony being the covenant, or the word. You have the cherubim who are above the mercy seat over the testimony watching over it as it were. You then have the table with the bread of presence, the bread signifying the covenant, a memorial to the covenant, which is God’s Word. And we can even see the bread signifying the word made flesh, the true Bread of Heaven. And then here is the almond blossom tree, watching over the word, watching over the testimony, making sure it is performed. Watching over the service of the priest. Should they improperly perform God’s word in the service of the tabernacle they would die, for they were being watched over, God’s testimony and word is being watched over to see that it is performed.
Furthermore, the golden almond blossoms were the cups for the lamps, which would be where the flame from the lamp was. So these were flaming almond blossoms, if you will. With that in mind, it is so fascinating to find that Jesus is described as being in the midst of seven lamps and as having eyes like flames of fire.
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire,… As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. (Rev. 1:12-14, 20)
So in the Revelation given to John, the seven lampstands, are the seven churches of Revelation, and Jesus is in the midst of them with eyes like flames of fire. And then we know, next in Revelation, Jesus is going to write letters to the seven Churches, telling them of all that He has seen in their churches. So here we get this picture of Jesus performing the true heavenly or spiritual pattern of the almond blossom lampstand of watching over His Word, which is in the churches, to make sure that it is performed.
Furthermore, one of the Old Testament prophecies of the Christ is that He would be like a branch that brings forth fruit in Isaiah 11:1-2.
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
2 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 the fear of the Lord.
So in this prophecy Christ is a fruit bearing branch. Not only that, but this prophecy speaks of the Spirit of the LORD that will rest upon Him. This leads us to our next major consideration of the lampstand. Not only does it signify God watching over His Word, or not only is it a type of Jesus watching over His Church, but it is also an emblem of the presence and witness of the Holy Spirit. So in Isaiah, we saw a fruit bearing branch filled with the Holy Spirit. We know in the doctrine of the Trinity that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one in substance, yet three distinct persons. So we can speak of God as one, knowing the three persons are there. And we can and should consider the specific works of each of the three, while knowing they are one.
The Holy Spirit
And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep. 2 And he said to me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. 3 And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” 4 And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” 5 Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” 6 Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. 7 Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’”
8 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 9 “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. 10 For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.
“These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth.” (Zech. 4:1-10)
So Zechariah has a vision of a golden lampstand with seven lamps. The angel tells Zechariah that the Word of the Lord is, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts…” Then he is told what the seven lamps on the golden lampstand are, verse 10, they are the seven eyes of the LORD, which range through the whole earth. So again, there is the idea of eyes and watching, and the Spirit of the LORD. So keep that in mind. We’re going to see that these seven eyes of the Lord, or the seven spirits of the Lord is a way the Bible refers to the Holy Spirit and His work in the world.
Revelation 4:5 says, “…before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God…” So we have seven flames as the seven spirits of God – fire is often a sign of the Holy Spirit in the Bible, think of pentecost, the Spirit coming down in flames of fire.
Then Revelation 5:6 says this…
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
So here Jesus is seen as the Lamb that was slain, and He’s got seven eyes, which it says are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. So when we read that Jesus has eyes like flames of fire, we should see the Holy Spirit there. So Jesus watches over the earth and watches over His Word in His Church by His Spirit.
Furthermore, Leviticus 24 gives instructions for keeping the light of the lampstand burning. And it tells of how Aaron will keep it lit with pure olive oil in the lamps. And it is to be kept burning regularly. There is to be a diligence and a watching over of it. Often in the Bible, we also see that the Holy Spirit is signified by oil.
Not only does the lampstand signify the eyes of the Lord, the Spirit of God, and the work of Christ. But as we passed by earlier in Revelation, the lampstands in revelation represent the church. Revelation 1:20, “the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” I believe this speaks to the amazing union of Christ and His Church, and the Spirit of God in the Church, and the amazing identifying of Christ with His Church. It’s like how Jesus is the light that has come into the world, and then Jesus says in the sermon on the mount, “You are the light of the world.”
- The light illuminates the showbread, the table, etc. The Spirit illuminates Christ.
- No other light source but the Spirit of God…
- 2 Peter 1:19, “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place…
- “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105)