The Lampstand Oil
Open Your Bible
Exodus 27:1-21, Zechariah 4:1-14, Revelation 11:1-4
When I was about eight years old, my folks purchased a brand new basketball hoop for my brothers and me. If you’ve ever assembled a portable hoop, you know that one of the last steps is filling the base with sand or water, and then standing it upright. It was at this point in the process that my enthusiasm got the best of me and I began to try to lift the post all by myself. I pushed and heaved and strained, and miraculously, the hoop started to budge and began moving upward with ease.
For a moment, I was pretty impressed with myself. But then I happened to take a glance over my shoulder and noticed my dad hoisting the hoop upright a little further down the post. He righted the basket with little effort—with my help, of course.
It’s truly amazing how many details and instructions there were for assembling and maintaining the tabernacle in the book of Exodus. Much of today’s reading focuses on just a few key aspects: the altar, the courts, and the lamp stands. But the precision extends well beyond that. In those days, it was a full-time priestly role to care for the tabernacle in all its detail and glory. Since Israel, at its outset, was a nomadic people, the tabernacle was a tent. It was carefully and intentionally crafted as a meeting place with God, but was also meant to be mobile.
Eventually, God would bring His people into a more settled season where they were called to construct a more permanent fixture: the temple. It, too, required a great deal of upkeep and sacred attention. Many priests and leaders dedicated their lives to maintaining the temple and the sacrificial system.
But over the years, Israel began to forget the grace of God in His gift of the tabernacle, and ultimately, the temple. As they became more familiar with and possessive of its features, the religious elite began to think the temple was special in part because of their hard work, purity, and merit. They thought they were deserving of God’s favor and presence.
Israel’s leaders repeatedly needed to be reminded of Who was truly doing the heavy lifting, not only to bring a sense of humility, but also to bring a sense of freedom and release from a pressure that no human, or group of humans, could carry on their shoulders.
We ought to read the angel’s words of wisdom to Zerubbabel as a gentle reminder, and not necessarily a stern rebuke: “Not by strength or by might, but by my Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6). The angel spoke these words to Zerubbabel to offer encouragement. Once he was able to realize that the temple construction and duties were not dependent upon his power, Zerubbabel was free to worship and praise the God whose Spirit held it all together.
Today, we know that because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, our bodies are the new temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Once we’re able to see and believe that our salvation, our hopes, and our dreams rest in the might of the Spirit, and not our own strength, we are free to live with a deeper joy and intentionality.
When you’re an eight-year-old, it’s fun to pretend like you’re lifting the load. But as we grow and mature in our faith, it’s paramount that we shift the focus from ourselves, looking over our shoulders and upward. We must learn to recognize by whose strength and for whose glory we are called to do mighty things!
Written by Andrew Stoddard