By Bob Bunn
A few years ago, a tornado ripped through our neighborhood in the middle of the night. Thankfully, we had heard the warning sirens and got to our safe spot. And, thankfully, the path of the storm skirted around our home. Neighbors within walking distance of us lost almost everything, while we only lost power.
I’ve got to admit, though, that lost power took its toll after a while. For nine days, we were living off a friend’s generator, which meant only a few things got electricity. One of the first things we plugged in was a lamp so we could have some light once the sun went down. In the midst of chaos, there was something comforting about light.
We learned something else about lamps during that nine-day stretch, though. Your lamp is only as good as the fuel that keeps it burning. See, our lamp was great as long as the generator kept running. And the generator was fine as long as it had gas in the tank. When the gas ran out, the generator stopped—and we were left in the dark again.
The lamp was important, but the fuel is what really mattered.
I think about that as I read Exodus 26–27, especially the section about the elaborate lampstand that stood in the tabernacle. The description Moses provided was magnificent, and God was clear that Aaron and his sons had the responsibility of making sure its light never went out. That lamp served as a twenty-four-hour reminder of God’s presence among His people.
The priests needed something to keep that light shining, though. Just like I needed gasoline to keep the generator running, the lampstand in the tabernacle required a steady supply of fuel. So, while the craftsmen shaped the lampstand, the rest of the people supplied the olive oil.
At first glance, that oil might not seem like a big deal, but God was pretty specific about what He expected (Exodus 27:20). First, the oil had to be pure. Nothing could contaminate it or defile it. Like everything else in the tabernacle, only the best would do.
Second, it had to keep the lampstand lit. In other words, the priests needed enough to ensure the lamp would never go out. Again, this flame represented the presence of God, so they never wanted the oil to run dry.
As I consider the oil and the lampstand, I’m reminded of our role as Christ followers. We’re called to be lights, to represent Jesus’s presence to the world around us. If we’re honest, though, we know that our light is only as good as the fuel that empowers us.
While the Israelites had gallons of pure olive oil, we have the perfect Spirit of God working inside of us. He is the fuel who lets our light shine every single day.