The Lampstand Oil

Exodus 27:1-21, Zechariah 4:1-14, Revelation 11:1-4

BY Andrew Stoddard

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

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2 thoughts on "The Lampstand Oil"

  1. Matt Baker says:

    To have to go through the difficulty of maintaining the Tabernacle and assuming all of the responsibility yourself must have been exhausting. I can’t imagine the feeling of relief that Zerubbabel must have had when he let the Lord take his burden from him. It reminds me of the verse in Matthew where Jesus speaks to his weary followers.

    “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.””

    Our God will carry the load for us if we hand it over to him.

  2. Epp.ic says:

    Learning to recognize by whose strength and for whose glory we are called to do mighty things has been one of the greatest places of growth for my faith as of late.

    I’m beginning to realize how valuable it is to remind myself regularly of how the things I give myself to, and the capacity to which I serve the Lord, do not entitle me to anything more than a job well done. I am not owed anything by my saviour for whom and by whom I do all things. And it is refreshing to remember that his faithfulness is what it is irregardless of my effort.

    Jesus, may it be said of me, that I did not forget the importance of your gift, nor that I ever am entitled to anything more than I already have. Your love for me is the same whether I accomplish anything for the kingdom or in ministry, as it is if I plant the greatest church or speak to the greatest crowds. I am entirely yours, and my life will be used by you, in the way that you deem perfect. I trust you. Amen.

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