Torah Portion for week 22: Exodus 35:1 – 38:20
Vayakhel (And he assembled)
Many people are looking for the lost Ark of the Lord. Many are wondering what happened to the two stone tablets with the Ten Commandments on them. But what about the golden lampstand? What happened to this wonderful artifact; are we ever going to find it? In this week’s portion, we continue our journey into the tabernacle, and today we will take a closer look at the golden lampstand that stood inside the sacred tent, and try to discover what happened to it; not in history, but in Scripture.
We know from the account in Exodus that an Israelite named Bezalel was commissioned by God to craft several items for the interior of the sacred tent, one of them being the golden lampstand – a beautiful, seven-branched lamp holder which gave forth light continually for all who entered beyond the first veil of the tabernacle, where no natural light could reach. Decorated with almond blossoms, this lampstand not only gave light, but was also a vivid reminder of the tree of life that stood in the midst of the garden from which Adam had been banished.
Interestingly, of all the items in the tabernacle, it was the imagery of the golden lampstand that was later picked up in Scripture to represent the Lord and his followers. After the tabernacle account in Exodus, the lampstand first reappears in Zechariah 4, in the vision of a seven-branched golden lampstand with two olive trees, one on either side of it. When the prophet inquired about the meaning of the vision, it was explained that the olive trees represented the “anointed ones” and the lampstand represented “the Lord of the whole earth” (Zech 4:14). This same picture reappears in Revelation 11:4, in the account of the two witnesses; here again, the lampstand represents the Lord. But the imagery even carries on into eternity, in the new heaven and earth; in Revelation 21:23, speaking of heavenly Jerusalem, it says, “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” It should come as no surprise then, that when Yeshua came, he declared himself to be “the light of the world” – the divine lampstand that shines in the midst of spiritual darkness.
But not only the Lord, but we also, his followers, are said to be light, and are represented by the golden lampstand. In Matthew 5:14-16, Yeshua says to his followers, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.” In Revelation 1:12-19, John sees the Lord in the midst of seven golden lampstands, which are identified as churches (congregations of believers).
And so today, when there is no tabernacle or temple, where can we find the golden lampstand? We may never unearth the ancient lampstand in an archaeological dig, but we can still find its marvelous light, shining as bright as ever. We find it in the Lord himself, and we should also be able to find it in believers and congregations. Our own lives should be as lampstands, not hidden away in shame or darkened by sin, but rather giving forth light continually to those around us. In the same way, our congregations should also be as lampstands that shine brightly with the light of the Lord. The golden lampstand is more than an ancient artifact – it is a wonderful reminder of how God sees each believer and each congregation, and of how we ought to live our lives for his glory (Matt 5:16).