Saturday, 21 November 2020

The Meaning of the Menorah

In these days our movements may be limited but God has called us to be light to the people around us.

God’s detailed instructions to Moses on how to set up the tabernacle included a lampstand made out of a whole talent (35kg) of pure gold, hammered in all its intricate detail out of one lump. (see Exodus 25). The word ‘menorah’ is derived from an original Hebrew word meaning to shine or give light.   This crafted and intricate masterpiece held seven lamps burning olive oil which lit up the holy place in the tent of meeting. Seven is a significant number, denoting completion.  Seven lamps, yet mounted on one unit, God’s perfect presence among His people.

Today there is a large monument depicting the menorah standing outside of the Knesset (parliament building) in Jerusalem, reminding the leaders of the nation that they govern according to the light of their Lord.  And that they are called to be ‘a light for the nations’ (Isaiah 42:6-7, 49:6).  The emblem of the menorah is prominent on the Israeli coat of arms, flanked by olive branches, and is based on Isaiah 60:3, ‘Nations shall come to your light’.

In Jesus’ day there would have been a huge menorah lighting the temple area, in particular the treasury area (John 8:20).  In this very spot Jesus declares: ‘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).  If not true then these words would have been serious blasphemy, which is why the religious authorities who refused to recognise Jesus wanted him arrested.  But it was not yet His time.

When the time was right Jesus was arrested, tortured and crucified, dying at the precise moment when the Passover lambs were slaughtered.  At that instant the massive temple curtain was torn from top to bottom and the light of the huge menorah streamed from the Holy Place into the outer court, signalling the start of God’s light pouring out to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and spreading to the ‘ends of the earth’.

As the light of the gospel reached the gentiles Jesus spoke through John to His church: ‘The words of Him who holds the seven stars [angels] in His right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands [congregations]’. (Revelation 2:1)

God’s purpose and plan for us today is:  ‘that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world’. (Philippians 2:15)  Impossible, were it not for the power of the Holy Spirit poured out for us and in us.

In these days our movements may be limited but God has called us to be light to the people around us.  Jesus commands us: ''You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.'' (Matthew 5:14-16)

Just one more detail – the cups on that first menorah described in Exodus 25 were made like almond blossoms.  The root of the original word for almond also means diligent and hardworking, because the almond was the first in the season to flower.  

So let us burn, with diligence, with the light of Jesus to the people around us.  Just as moths are drawn out of the darkness to a lamp, so they will come, that they too may receive the gospel message and shine for Jesus.  The shape of church as we know it has radically changed, and meeting may be limited, but the doors for effective witness are open.  Mission begins at home.

Author:  John Plumb

May God bless and enrich your life

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