By Thomas Newberry
"And thou shalt make a lampstand of pure gold." (Ex. 25. 31).
THE golden lampstand, with its seven lamps and centre shaft, is the type of ministry according to God in the power of the Holy Ghost, in its various branches of testimony, having Christ for its centre, source, and subject. In the CHERUBIM, on the mercy-seat, we have ministry in its heavenly and divine source; in the LAMPSTAND, ministry in its exercise on earth.
. That which is here signified by the "pure gold" is ministry according to God, and not according to the principles and practices of men - ministry after a divine model, maintained in the power of divine grace. "If any man speak," says Peter, "let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth; that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 4. 11). Not cultivated intellect, putting forth its strongest efforts to the credit of the preacher, and to the honour of the ministry, but divine grace, manifested to the glory of God.
This ministry looks to no earthly source for its authority, but has its sanction and its strength in God. It is GIFT received from the Lord Jesus Christ, risen and glorified; distributed by the Holy Ghost according to His own will, and exercised in subjection to the supreme authority of Christ (1 Cor. 12. 11). There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; differences of administration (or services), but the same Lord; diversities of operations, but it is the same GOD which worketh all in all (1 Cor. 12. 4-6).
"Of beaten work shall the lampstand be made." "Beaten work" for the lampstand, and "beaten oil" for the light (Exod. 27. 20). The lampstand was not cast by one simple operation, but wrought. This shews the labour, care, and skill which is required in ministry according to God. It is not simple gift, but gift stirred up, laboriously fulfilled, and strengthened by its exercise. (See 1 Tim. 4. 13-16; and 2 Tim. 1. 6).
THE CENTRE SHAFT AND BRANCH.
His shaft, and his branch (not branches, see chap. 37. 17), "his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of of the same." This is the centre shaft and branch, which is called, by way of pre-eminence, "the lampstand," in 5. 34, and is typical of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the centre and source of testimony in the power of the Spirit, and the great example and pattern of it in His personal ministry on earth. As to fruit bearing, He is the true vine, and His disciples are the branches. As to testimony-bearing, He is the true Lampstand, and His servants are branches of the same. In either case, without Him we can do nothing.
THE SIX BRANCHES
Verse 32. 'And six branches shall come out of the sides of it; three branches of the lampstand out of one side and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side.'
The apostles and prophets of the present dispensation, having laid the foundation, and all the fundamental points, whether of truth or practice, being settled, and contained in the inspired Scriptures, the three standing branches of ministry in the Church, and for its adding to, and building up, until it is complete, are those of the EVANGELIST, the PASTOR, and the TEACHER (Eph. 4.). The six branches proceed from the main shaft in PAIRS, expressing fellowship and concurrence in testimony. They proceed from the sides, and not the front; for the object of ministry is not to make it or the minister prominent, but for the exhibition of Christ. "We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.' Standing aside that He may be visible to all, and thus giving Him in testimony His own proper place. "Jesus in the midst"
These branches, as the original implies, are hollow. In Zech. 4 we have a lampstand of gold; the representation of ministry in the power of the Spirit, in the latter day, in connection with Israel. This lampstand had a bowl on the top, and seven pipes leading to the seven lamps. While two olive trees supply the oil to the bowl - and thence to the seven branches and lamps. The two Olive trees are representations of Zerubbabel and Joshua; but these are typical of the Lord Jesus in his Melchisedek character as priest and king. The great lesson is -"Not by might, nor by power, but by my Holy Spirit, saith Jehovah of hosts." "Branches," hollow , thus adapted to receive and convey the oil. The import is expressed by the apostle, "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God." "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."
The SOURCE of supply for ministry is in Christ, the POWER for all testimony is the Spirit of God. Three branches on either side. The EVANGELIST begins the work , and lays the foundation, which is Christ Jesus; his sphere is the widest, his parish is the world. The PASTOR carries on the work in caring for the blood-bought flock of God. The TEACHER leads the soul yet higher into the truth of God, and the apprehension of the divine glories of the person of Christ.
Verse 33 "Three bowls made like unto almonds, with a knop and a flower in one branch, and three bowls made like unto almonds in the other branch, with a knop and a flower; so in the six branches that come out of the lampstand"
The oval form "made like unto almonds" is significant. The root of the Hebrew word for "Almond" signifies to WATCH, also TO BE EARLY, READY or PREPARED. The almond tree was noted for its early blossoming. See Jer. 1. 11, 12, "Moreover, the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree. Then said Jehovah unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten [am watching over] My word to perform it."
So also 2 Tim. 2. 21, "If a man, therefore, purge himself for these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, prepared unto every good work." And 2 Tim. 4. 5, "But watch thou in all things, . . . do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry." These bowls, therefore, made like almonds, express watchfulness, readiness, and preparedness for the Christian ministry. But this preparedness consists in an acquaintance with divine truth; the Word of Christ dwelling richly in the heart, in all wisdom.
Like the scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, bringing forth out of His treasure things new and old (Matt. 13. 52).
So Paul wrote to Timothy, "Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all" (1 Tim. 4. 15). "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2. 15).
THE KNOPS AND FLOWERS.
"Knop." Round, the original word signifies, and smaller in size than the bowls. These knops I understand to be typical of GIFT, such as that of the evangelist, pastor, or teacher.
"AND A FLOWER." The Septuagint says, a lily. As the bowls express PREPAREDNESS for ministry, through a deep acquaintance with the Word of God; and the knops, distinct GIFT for its ministration; so by the flower is expressed the FULL UNFOLDING of divine truth -. in actual testimony.
This suggests an instructive lesson, that God would have His truth presented in attractive form. "The preacher sought to find out acceptable words," or words of delight (Eccles. 12. 10). "The sweetness of the lips increaseth learning" (Prov. 16. 21). On the lips of the great Teacher, the people hung, and marvelled at the gracious words that proceeded from Him; and no wonder, for "never man spake like this Man."
Three bowls, one knop, and one flower in each branch. Significant of a threefold capacity or preparedness, a general acquaintance with each branch of divine truth -"three bowls." One distinct gift, as that of evangelist, pastor, or teacher -"a knop." And one manifestation of gift - "a flower." Every EVANGELIST should not only be acquainted with the truth of the gospel, but with other truths of God's Word, so as to be prepared to give the word of exhortation and instruction as needed, though his distinct work be that of preaching the gospel.
So the PASTOR'S especial call may be, to deal with souls experimentally, "To reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine," but he should be ready also to present the gospel of the grace of God to perishing sinners, and to instruct the souls he deals with. And while the TEACHER makes full proof of his own ministry, he will find it profitable to "do the work of an evangelist" as God gives him opportunity (2 Tim. 4. 5). Experimental dealings with souls in secret, will tend to increase the richness and value of his ministry in teaching.
THE CENTRE SHAFT.
Verse 34. "And in the candlestick four bowls made like unto almonds, with their knops and their flowers."
"The Lampstand." This is the centre shaft and branch, the type of the Lord Jesus, the great Pattern, Centre, and Source of ministry in the Spirit. "Four bowls." All treasures of wisdom and know-ledge are in Him. "Four knops." He was the great Evangelist, the Good Shepherd, and the perfect Teacher, and the great Apostle and Prophet of our profession.
"And their four flowers." The very perfection of beauty and excellency shone out in His ministry. When He PREACHED THE GOSPEL, all the publicans and the sinners drew near unto Him for to hear Him. And what can equal the rich unfoldings of grace contained in the fifteenth of Luke? When He FEEDS HIS SHEEP, what green pastures and still waters do His cheering words provide! When He INSTRUCTS HIS DISCIPLES, what rich unfoldings of divine truth! what revelations of a Father's love! And when He UNFOLDS THE FUTURE, how distinct the prophetic visions stand before the eye! How vivid the brightness of His coming! How gorgeous the mansions of His Father's House appear! and that ONE place which He is gone to prepare for us!
In verse 31 we have noticed "His BRANCH," for He too was the empty and dependent One in ministry on earth. His language was, "I can of Mine own self do nothing. As I hear I judge," and "My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me." And when, from the height of His glory, He gives the revelation to His servant John, He writes upon it the title, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him." What an example for us!
THE KNOPS UNDER THE BRANCHES.
Verse 35. "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 lampstand."
The word "AND" shews that this is additional. There are four knops in the centre BRANCH above, and three in the SHAFT below the six branches, making seven in all, the perfect number; for the PERFECTION OF GIFT IS IN CHRIST; He has received gifts, all gifts for men And it is beautiful to see how each several branch of ministry is sustained, as it were, by the corresponding office and grace of the Lord Jesus, as we read, "A knop under two branches of the same," &c. The evangelist, the pastor, and the teacher all fall back on Him, that, out of His fulness, they may receive grace for grace in the exercise of their several gifts.
THE ONENESS OF THE LAMPSTAND.
Verse 36. "Their knops and their branches shall be of the same: all of it shall be one beaten work of pure gold."
How beautifully expressive of the oneness of His ministry, and labour, and patience! "He that planteth, and he that watereth are one," and one in Christ. Howsoever diversified the gift, the labour, the characters, and service of each; and though each one will receive his own reward according to his own labour; yet, in the end, he that soweth and he that reapeth will rejoice together. By the grace of God they are one in the service, and, when the whole shall result in the glory of God, they shall share in the joy. "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; differences of administrations, but the same Lord; diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all" (1 Cor. 12. 4-6).
Verse 37. "And thou shalt make the seven lamps thereof: and they shall light the lamps thereof, that they may give light over against [Heb. the face of] it."
"Seven lamps" - the perfection of testimony to divine truth. Six in the side branches, and one in the centre shaft, making the seven. For all testimony is incomplete apart from Christ. He gives it its perfection.
That ministry alone is complete, according to God, which has Christ for its central subject. "And they shall light the lamps thereof." Where God has given the gifts, it is that they may be exercised. "No man lighteth a lamp and putteth it under a bushel, but on a lampstand."
"That they may give light over against it." The design of testimony in the power of the Spirit, is the manifestation of the glory of God in the Person of the Lord Jesus. The whole circle of truth is to be connected with Him, that it may not merely be truth, but "as the truth is in Jesus."
How beautifully the Lord Jesus has taught this in speaking of the Comforter, through whom it is that this ministry is exercised! He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are Mine: therefore said I, that He shall take of Mine, and shall shew it unto you" (John 16. 14, 15).
In Ex. 27. 20, we read, "And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure oil olive beaten for the light [light-giver] to cause the lamp to burn always."
How this oil - that is, the supply of the Spirit - is to be obtained, we learn from the example of the early disciples, recorded in Acts 4. 23-3 1 : "They lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, . . . And now, Lord, . . . grant unto Thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak Thy word. . . . And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost." Paul says: "Brethren, pray for us," "and for me, that utterance may be given unto me,. that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel . . . that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak" (Eph. 6. 19). "Through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1. 19).
If the lamp of testimony should burn dim in the sanctuary, the real cause may not be so much on the part of the testimony-bearers, as that those ministered to may have neglected to seek from above, the needful supply of spiritual unction and power, in order that the lamp of God may burn with continual and increasing brightness.
THE VESSELS BELONGING TO THE LAMPSTAND
Verse 38. "And the tongs thereof, and the snuff dishes thereof, shall be of pure gold."
In Rev. 1., 2., 3. we have a beautiful example of the use of these golden instruments by the Lord Jesus, where He is seen in the midst of the seven golden lampstands, trimming the lamps. So also in the ministry of the apostle Paul, as seen in his Epistles to Timothy and Titus. And how, when needed, ministry is to be regulated, not by human authority, nor on human principles, but on those which are of God, and according to God, by godly counsel and admonition, exercised in spiritual wisdom and grace.
A TALENT OF GOLD.
Verse 39. "Of a talent of pure gold shall he make it, with all these vessels."
A talent of gold is computed to be about 114 lbs. in weight, and about £5,475 in value.
Ministry according to God, in the exercise of the gifts of His Spirit, and in connection with Christ, is a very Great and VALUABLE thing. That which gave the lampstand its weight and value was the pure gold of which it was composed. The highest order of natural ability, however cultivated, is but as inferior metal. It is the GRACE OF GOD, and the GIFTS OF CHRIST, exercised in the POWER OF THE HOLY GHOST, which gives to ministry its true dignity and real value.
Verse 40. "And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount." God has given us a divine and heavenly pattern for the ministration of His own Word; and our true wisdom will be, to seek conformity to this pattern in all the details, and this will secure to us the richest and finest blessing.