31 “You shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand shall be made of hammered work: its base, its stem, its cups, its calyxes, and its flowers shall be of one piece with it. 32 And there shall be six branches going out of its sides, three branches of the lampstand out of one side of it and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side of it; 33 three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on one branch, and three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on the other branch—so for the six branches going out of the lampstand. 34 And on the lampstand itself there shall be four cups made like almond blossoms, with their calyxes and flowers, 35 and a calyx of one piece with it under each pair of the six branches going out from the lampstand. 36 Their calyxes and their branches shall be of one piece with it, the whole of it a single piece of hammered work of pure gold. 37 You shall make seven lamps for it. And the lamps shall be set up so as to give light on the space in front of it. 38 Its tongs and their trays shall be of pure gold. 39 It shall be made, with all these utensils, out of a talent of pure gold. 40 And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain.” – Exodus 25:31-40 ESV
The opening lines of the book of Genesis tell of God’s creation of the universe, and it begins with His dispelling of darkness with light.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.
Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. – Genesis 1:1-4 NLT
In God’s grand plan for the universe He created, light would always be preferable to darkness. God deemed the light to be good because it symbolized His own nature.
God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. – 1 John 1:5 ESV
Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. – James 1:17 NLT
In the same way, God planned for a source of light that would penetrate the darkness of the Tabernacle. This tent-like structure was designed with no windows to let in the light of the sun. And in its innermost recesses, where the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies were located, the darkness would make these small rooms virtually unusable. In the impenetrable blackness of these spaces, the priests would have found it difficult to carry out their God-ordained duties. So, God designed a light source, “a lampstand of pure gold” (Exodus 25:31 ESV).
Within the Holy of Holies, God’s presence was intended to dwell above the Mercy Seat which was located on the top of the Ark of the Covenant. Just outside the veil, in the Holy Place where the Table of Showbread and Altar of Incense were located, the Golden Lampstand would symbolize the light of God’s presence. The flames from its seven lamps would illuminate the room and serve as a constant reminder of God’s glory and holiness.
From God’s description of the lampstand, it appears that it had a central shaft or trunk with six branches. At the top of the central shaft and six branches, oil lamps were to be placed. This meant that the lampstand offered seven sources of light to illuminate the Holy Place. This tree-like object was covered in almond blossoms made of pure gold. These budding “flowers” were intended to communicate the idea of light and life. This symbolic tree was to be a constant reminder of God’s providential care for His people. Perhaps it was meant to serve as a symbol of the Tree of Life that was located in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9). This same tree is mentioned in the final chapter of the book of Revelation. In his vision, the apostle John is given a glimpse of the New Jerusalem, the city of God that will descend from heaven and serve as the dwelling place of God among men. In that city, the Tree of Life reappears.
Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.
No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever. – Revelation 22:1-5 NLT
Notice that there will be no need for lamps or even the sun, “for the Lord God will shine on them.” In this eternal city, God’s presence will come to dwell among His people, and John indicates that in this New Jerusalem, there will be no need of a Tabernacle or Temple.
I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city. Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. – Revelation 21:22-27 NLT
But in the Tabernacle God provided for the people of Israel, light would be a necessity. So, God designed a lampstand, a tree of light and life, to dispel the darkness and display His glory. And this lamp would serve as a foreshadowing of a greater and brighter light to come. It was Jesus who would later declare Himself to be the light of the world.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12 ESV
And the apostle John would describe the impact of this divine light.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:4-5 ESV
But Jesus was more than just a source of light; He was the key to life, and He pointed the way to God. Yet, John reminds us that the light of the world was not well received by all.
“…the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” – John 3:19-21 ESV
To come into God’s presence is to enter the light. His glory and goodness expose our sins. But Jesus made it possible for those sins to be atoned for so that we might walk in the light and enjoy the illuminating presence of God in our lives.
The prophet, Isaiah, predicted the coming of the light of the world. Centuries earlier, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Isaiah wrote these promising words:
The people who walk in darkness
will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness,
a light will shine. – Isaiah 9:2 NLT
Then he went on to provide the identity of this “great light.”
For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace
will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
will make this happen! – Isaiah 9:6-7 NLT
The Golden Lampstand was to be placed in the Holy Place. It was reserved for the benefit of the priests. But the light of the world came to illuminate the lives of all men. He came to penetrate the darkness of sin and provide light to illuminate the way back to God. This child would grow to be a man, who would die on the cross for the sins of mankind. But He would be miraculously raised back to life as proof that His death had satisfied the just demands of a holy God. His dead body was placed in a cold, dark tomb, but that foreboding place was invaded by the light of God’s glory when Jesus was resurrected.
The light still shines in the darkness. Jesus still illuminates the way to God. He remains the light of the world and the light of life, dispelling the darkness of sin and displaying the glory of God as He transforms the lives of those living in darkness. And the apostle John wrapped up the book of Revelation with this promising statement from the lips of Jesus Himself.
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star.” – Revelation 22:16 NLT
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.