The next article in the holy place, the golden candlestick, or lamp-stand, is now to occupy us. Like the mercy-seat, it was beaten out of pure gold — with no acacia wood in any part of it. Minute and elaborate directions were given as to its form. As to its size, conjectures have been made, some thinking it must have been about the height of the table; but where Scripture is silent, we are wise to remain so too, while gathering, if we may, some lesson as to the reason of its silence; this we may do, if the Lord enables, after we have learned the significance of the candlestick.
It was made of one talent of gold, said to be equivalent to $27,000 [in 1914]; which would seem to allow for a large and magnificent article. Its general shape is easily gathered from the description given. There was a base (as the word "shaft" probably means), which served as the solid foundation; the "branch" coming out of that would be the shaft, or central stem. Branching out from this central, upright shaft, at regular intervals, were three pairs of side branches, opposite to each other, making six branches in all. These oranches, and the central shaft as well, were ornamented with "bowls, knops and flowers," "made like to almonds." The "bowl" is said to have been like an almond; the "flower speaks for itself, and the "knop" or "knob" might suggest the rounded unopened bud. Others, as the R.V., translate the first word "almond-flower," in which case the rounded ' knop" might suggest the fruit, and the "flower" would be the bud. In either case we may have the three parts of the almond — its bud, flower and ripened fruit, clustering together on the branches.
The central shaft had four bowls or almonds, with knops and flowers: one cluster (bowl, knop and flower) separated between each of the three pairs of branches, being under it, while the fourth cluster may have been at the top, to serve as a resting-place for the lamp. In the same way each branch had three clusters, one probably at the end corresponding to the central shaft, and the other two arranged somewhere along its length. Upon the end of each branch was set a golden lamp. The general appearance of the candlestick would thus be a golden almond bush, with buds, flowers and fruit; and from the tip of each of the branches and central stem burst forth The light. Seven lamps were thus giving their light in the holy place. In the vision of Zechariah, we have two olive trees; one on either side of the golden candlestick, which furnished the oil for it (Zech. 4:1, etc.) Here, however, the only thought of the tree would be in the branching figure, with its flower and fruit.
While it was to give light throughout the entire holy place, the candlestick is mentioned in connection with each article in the room. It was set "over against the table" (Ex. 40:24, 25), which would thus be completely illumined by it. It is also spoken of in connection with the burning of the incense on the golden altar (Ex. 30:7, 8); and its seven lamps were to give light over against the candlestick," to illumine it, and bring out the beauty of its construction. Thus each article of furniture stood out clearly in the light of the candlestick, and service could be rendered from each in connection with its light.
The oil to be used was specially provided for (Ex. 27:20, 21). It was the purest part, "beaten" from the olive, leaving what might be secured in other ways for other uses. It was brought by the children of Israel, God delighting to use His people for this as for all other service for which they were fitted.
Lastly, we must speak of the snuffers and snuff-dishes, to trim the lamps and to carry off the burnt portions of wick. These, as well as the lamps, were all made of pure gold. This trimming was to be done morning by morning, so that there was no dimming of the light in the sanctuary. It was in connection with the trimming of the lamps in the morning, and their lighting at even, that incense was to be burned, as already noted. We pass now to the spiritual meaning of these various features.
We are already familiar with the fact that gold is a symbol of divine glory, in distinction from the acacia wood, which speaks of our Lord's perfect and incorruptible humanity. The deity of our Lord, therefore, seems to be emphasized here. We have however in the almond buds, flower and fruit, a suggestion of His resurrection, which would pre-suppose His humanity and His death. But it is as risen and glorified in the place which was His with the Father "before the world was" that we see Him here.
We will anticipate for a little the significance of the lamps, which would naturally occupy us later, to gather their significance from Scripture, and see the connection between them and the golden lamp-stand which bore them.
Oil was one of the most useful of the products of the land of Israel, both for domestic and sacred purposes. There were three general uses to which it was put: for food, for light, and for anointing. Thus the widow of Zarephath had "but a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse" (1 Kings 17:12); the virtuous woman was well supplied with oil — "her candle goeth not out by night" (Prov. 31:18); David, after the death of his child, washed and anointed himself (2 Sam. 12:20). These are examples of the domestic uses to which the oil was put, and the sacred uses were similar. Thus the meat-offering, when baked, was made of "fine flour mingled with oil," or anointed with it (Lev. 2:4). Its use for light we are now considering in the lamps of the sanctuary; and it was constantly used in anointing or consecrating persons, places and articles. So priests were anointed (Ex. 28:41); the tabernacle and its various articles of furniture (Ex. 40:9); David and all the kings of Judah were anointed (2 Sam. 2:7; 1 Kings 1:34); Elisha the prophet was to be anointed (1 Kings 19:16). A striking case is that anointing of the pillar at Bethel by Jacob (Gen. 28:18; Gen. 31:13), where he set apart the place as "the house of God," a kind of anticipation of the tabernacle. As is well known, Messiah means "the Anointed," and the "Lord's anointed" is constantly used as designating the king, and was the recognized title of our Lord; "Christ" being but the Greek equivalent for Messiah, "the Anointed" (Ps. 2:2; Ps. 18:50, Ps. 84:9; Dan. 9:25, 26).
In sacred uses, anointing seems to have been the primary use of oil, and, may we not say, is the final thought also. Jacob's anointing the pillar at Bethel is the first mention in Scripture of the use of oil for any purpose, and the thought of consecrating or setting apart to God is there suggested, which finds its full meaning, as all the thoughts of God do, in His beloved Son, the Anointed. The significance of the oil from this point is clear, and a few scriptures will give it to us. "Lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him" (Matt. 3:16). An inspired comment upon this is given in Peter's address to the company in Cornelius' house, where he shows that, from His baptism, "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him" (Acts 10:38). The same Spirit in the disciples at Pentecost witnessed to the risen and ascended Christ. The anointing of David by Samuel connects closely his setting apart to the kingly office and the Spirit's power for that exalted position (1 Sam. 16:13).
Setting apart then by anointing was largely for service and divine use, both of tabernacle, priests, prophets, and kings. This enduement for service was two-fold — direct worship to God, and in government and testimony to man. It is this last which we connect especially with our Lord's ministry. And do we not pass at this point to the added thought of light? "And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of Him through all the region round about. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all" (Luke 4:14, 15). The same Evangelist goes on at once to the account of His visit to Nazareth, where He read from the prophet Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor" (vers. 16-22). Here is the shining out of the lamp of testimony in the power of the Holy Spirit. The same may be said of the manifestation of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost: "There appeared unto them cloven (or parted) tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them" (Acts 2:3). The thoughts of light and testimony seem to be connected here, as they do in another passage, where indeed the Spirit is not mentioned, but testimony: "The sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life" (Phil. 2:15, 16).
Returning to the Old Testament, we have the suggestion of anointing and the lamp together: "There will I make the horn of David to bud: I have ordained a lamp for Mine Anointed" (Ps. 132:17); "That David My servant may have a light alway before Me" (1 Kings 11:36). David himself was spoken of as "the light of Israel" (2 Sam. 21:17); and, in a far higher sense, our Lord Jesus declares Himself "the Light of the world" (John 8:12). We see, then, that oil is a type of the Holy Spirit, and that anointing was by Him, as well as the power for light or testimony.
We come next to direct scripture interpretation of the meaning of the lamps in the presence of God: "And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God" (Rev. 4:5). The similarity to the golden candlestick and its seven lamps is so plain here that the interpretation seems to apply as clearly to that as to the symbol in Revelation, where the imagery of the throne and altar of incense reminds us of the tabernacle and temple.
We return now to the significance of the candlestick, having learned that the lights were typical of the light of the Holy Spirit, through whom the sanctuary of God is illuminated. We may look at this more fully a little later on, but will now ask: What does the candlestick which holds the lights set forth? We have already anticipated this, as Christ is presented to us in each article of furniture; the candlestick, therefore, is no exception. Its material being all gold sets forth His deity, as we have seen, with but a minor thought of His humanity; we will look more fully at this now. The gold was in the form of an almond tree, with seven branches, having buds, flowers and fruit upon them. The seven would speak of the perfection of our Lord as the Light-bearer and Giver; the flowers and fruit of the almond also have their special significance.
It will be remembered that when God would show that Aaron was the divinely-designated priest, to silence the murmurings of the children of Israel, each tribe brought a rod which was laid up before the Lord (Num. 17): "And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds" (ver. 8). The three stages of life are thus mentioned — bud, flower and fruit. Two of these words are the same as those used in the description of the candlestick — "buds" and "almonds," which would go to confirm the thought that all spoke of the nature of the almond tree.
The rods for each tribe would show the complete severance from the root, their original life. Any life they might now manifest would be apart from the root. It would mean a re-impartation of life; in other words, the work of God. The rods of the tribes remain lifeless; but that of Aaron not only exhibits signs of life, but produces the full results of it, in bud, flower and fruit. Here was a work of God which would forever silence all claims of others to the place of honor and service which God had given to Aaron. "No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron" (Heb. 5:4).
But God was teaching not only Israel, but giving lessons of mercy and truth for all time. He would show to man who alone is the true Priest whom He has exalted. Here, as in all else that God does, nothing but absolute righteousness and truth mark all His acts. There could be but one Priest; for the Son of God alone, become incarnate, was qualified to draw near to God and open the way of approach for a guilty and sinful people. This may come before us more fully when we speak of the whole subject of the Priesthood. It will suffice us now to see the nature of God's proof that Christ is indeed His Priest.
As the rods were cut off, so our Lord was "cut off out of the land of the living" (Isa. 53:8). That spotless and perfect life, which was not under sentence of death, as was the whole human family, was willingly laid down in sacrifice. But beyond the tomb God permits us to look within the sanctuary, and to see there the blessed Lord risen from the dead. His disciples had watched that cross, had lingered at the tomb, and brooded over all the wondrous life of which they said, "We trusted that it had been He who should have redeemed Israel" (Luke 24:21). But just where faith reaches its lowest point, light out of the grave begins to appear in the words, "Beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; and when they found not His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that He was alive" (Luke 24:21-23). Thus already, all unknown to themselves, there was a dawning toward resurrection faith, which needed but the confirmation of the Word to make their hearts burn, and to fit them for the direct manifestation of the risen Lord.
"The Lord is risen indeed" (Luke 24:34). But how much that means! It is God's seal upon every word He had uttered and all He had done during His life, and it was the complete reversal of the judgment of the world, civil and religious, which had rejected and cast Him out as a malefactor and blasphemer. More, it was the declaration by God of His acceptance of that sacrifice for sin which our Lord had offered upon the cross; further, it declared that death had no power over Him, that Satan's power had been forever crushed, and that God's Holy One could not see corruption (Acts 2:27, 31) "Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more" (Rom. 6:9).
Death indeed cut short the priestly service of all the house of Aaron, "Because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: but this Man, because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood" (Heb. 7:23, 24). This Priest is "made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life" (Heb. 7:16). While He ever had this life in Himself, yet it was in resurrection that it was declared in power. It was after He had passed through the anguish of Calvary, and had been "made perfect" — "the third day I shall be perfected" (Luke 13:32) — in resurrection He was "saluted of God a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 5:10, Greek).
Resurrection, then, is God's proof of the eternal priesthood of His beloved Son. And this seems to be what is set forth in the buds, flowers and fruit of the almond upon the branches of the golden candlestick. The Hebrew word for almond means "wakeful," or "hastener" said to have been given to it because it is the earliest of trees to awaken after the winter, putting forth its buds in January. This would fittingly suggest Him who is "the First-fruits of them that slept" (1 Cor. 15:20). The buds would emphasize this, for they are the manifestation of the life of which flower and fruit are the full display. Thus our Lord's resurrection was not, if we may so speak, a mere beginning of a life which would go on to fruition, but it was divinely perfect and complete as He took His seat upon His Father's throne.
It is perhaps difficult to express the thought, but may we not have an illustration of this gradation in the evidences of the resurrection? The stone rolled away, the empty tomb, the linen clothes lying in quiet order, and the napkin lying by itself — no sign of a struggle, but the witness that the Prince of Life had risen from His sleep of death these may be called the "buds," the first signs of His resurrection. The angel who rolled away the stone and sat upon it (Matt. 28:2), the "young man sitting on the right side" of the tomb (Mark 16:5, 6), the "vision of angels," seen by the women who came early to the sepulchre (Luke 24:23); the "two angels in white sitting, the one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain" (John 20:12) these may be called the "flowers" of the almond rod, more advanced witnesses of His resurrection. Lastly, His own personal manifestation to Mary Magdalene, to Peter, to the women, to the two disciples at Emmaus, to the gathered disciples in the upper room, to them again when Thomas was present; again at the Sea of Tiberias, and at a mountain in Galilee — these and other "infallible proofs," might be called the full almond. fruit. The empty tomb would have been a precious boon to faith, and was enough for John (John 20:8) the testimony of the angels would have been stronger testimony, but the crown of all was to behold Him, to handle Him, to see Him eat, hear Him speak, this was indeed the full fruit. Truly the almond rod had borne.
We may be sure that God has recorded all this for the joy and strength of faith, and would have us dwell upon it, not satisfied with a single "bud" or "flower," but to feast the eyes upon the sevenfold beauty and the abounding witness of the Lord's resurrection. Thus in that great chapter of the resurrection, the apostle counts over some of the "almonds" of the Lord's appearances to His beloved people "That He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures: and that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve; after that, He was seen of above 500 brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, He was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time" (1 Cor. 15:4-8). We need not appose that the apostle, or any one of the Evangelists, is attempting to give a complete list of these appearings, but each gives that for which there was special reason in his own narrative, as guided by the Spirit, and all were exactly true.
We may further look at the buds, flowers and fruit of the almond as various stages in the apprehension of divine truth as exhibited in the risen Lord, answering to the three-fold condition of the saints, as "babes," "young men" and "fathers" (1 John 2:13) — a fulness of mercy which suits every one, and all centering in Himself, It seems to remind us also that divine glory has not changed the blessed One who is "the same yesterday and today and forever" (Heb. 13:8). Could aught of the freshness and vigor which marked each stage of our Lord's life here be lost in glory? They surely remain in that glory, eternally the same. In connection with His Melchizedek priesthood, it was said of Him: "Thou hast the dew of Thy youth" (Ps. 110:3). Those who worshiped Him as the Babe at Bethlehem, who marveled as the flower of His perfect child hood developed, and later saw the rich fruit of His maturity, will find all that preserved in divine freshness on high. How, we know not; but with the Lord one thing does not displace another. He passes on from one to another, and in that sense there is progress, whilst in another all abides. The manna — the food of the desert — laid up in the golden pot suggests a similar thought. It is not that with Him, the divinely perfect One, maturity would suggest previous immaturity as its opposite. With us, immaturity suggests something lacking, for which we must wait; with Him each stage was perfect, and nothing lacking; therefore all is displayed in heavenly glory.
But in the material, as we have said, emphasis seems to be laid upon His deity, though the form clearly speaks of His humanity and resurrection. The reason for this may be seen in the two following scriptures: "And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16, 17); "If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you" (John 16:7).
In the first of these scriptures we are told that the Holy Spirit was to come as given by the Father, in answer to the prayer of the Son. A divine Person, the Spirit, is given by the divine Father. But this might be interpreted to mean, as the heart of the natural man is so prone to degrade the Son of God, a denial of the essential deity and co-equality of the Son with the Father. The second scripture therefore is the refutation of this: "I will send Him unto you;" or, as Peter declares at Pentecost, "Being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear" (Acts 2:33). Is it not specially fitting that this mission of the Spirit should be from the Son as divine? And this would account for the absence of the acacia wood from the material of the candlestick, though the fashion of it is all the more exuberant with witnesses of the resurrection of Him who took a servant's form. Nor can we ever really separate the two nature s of our Saviour, for He has voluntarily declared His purpose to be "a servant forever" (Ex. 21:1-6). Another passage shows us how completely the Sou is identified with the Father in connection with the Holy Spirit. "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies, because of His Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Rom. 8:9-11). Here there can be no mistake; the Spirit of God is also the Spirit of Christ; He is also the Spirit of Him who raised up "Jesus" from the dead, and "Christ." Here, then, we have abundant evidence that the Spirit was sent by our Lord after His resurrection, as well as the fact that He was given by the Father. This will suffice as to the material of the candlestick.
We come next to a scripture which affords a beautiful comment upon the meaning of the seven branches: "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots: and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; and shall make Him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord; and He shall not judge after the sight of His eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of His ears: but with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked" (Isa. 11:1-4).
In this scripture the Lord is set forth as the true Ruler and Judge, who shall vindicate His feeble and needy ones and execute judgment upon the wicked. He is the true Son of Jesse, of whom David was a type. His qualifications for this supreme place are given in the sevenfold enduement of the Spirit. It will be remarked that we have here first the Spirit of Jehovah spoken of alone, answering to the central shaft — the one divine Being. Next we have three pairs of designations, which would correspond strikingly with the three pairs of branches which, with the central shaft, form the lamp-stand. The first pair is "the Spirit of wisdom and understanding." "Wisdom" is knowledge coupled with sound judgment; the word is found in Job and Ecclesiastes, where indeed it is largely human wisdom; and in Proverbs, where it speaks of what is needed for the path through this world, and also of that divine Wisdom who was the Companion and Co-worker with Jehovah from the beginning — the Eternal Son of God. "Understanding" is derived from a word meaning to "separate," "distinguish," which suggests that discrimination which is the necessary accompaniment of wisdom.
How truly did these two attributes of the Spirit characterize the Lord. From childhood He was marked by "wisdom," and when He went forth upon His ministry, all that He did and said was marked by the wisdom and understanding of the Spirit. Not only did He know what to do and say, but how, when and where.
"Counsel" is thought to be derived from a word meaning to be strong, then to command; and hence, advice. And does not this suggest what all true counsel is — authoritative and binding? Thus our Lord's teaching was "as one having authority." How full was His life of that divinely perfect counsel. A fit accompaniment of this was the Spirit of "might," which, while seemingly in contrast, was really associated with and complementary to the other, giving an evenly balanced display of the Spirit's working. When we think of all His mighty works in mercy upon the helpless and needy, we see how fully the Spirit of might rested upon Him as through the Spirit He wrought His miracles (Luke 4:14).
The last two attributes of the Spirit mentioned are "knowledge and the fear of the Lord." Knowledge is what the world craves, seeking it in order to display itself in independence of God. Thus sin first came into the world; knowledge was craved, knowledge apart from God, and in disobedience. The result has been a ruined world, under the righteous judgment of God. Knowledge can be of real value only as it comes from God, His gift. The wisdom and knowledge of the world have been used to shut out the knowledge of God: "The world by wisdom knew not God" (1 Cor. 1:21). The reason is simple and plain: man's pride casts off the fear of God, but "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Prov. 1:7). If knowledge is used to puff up, to lead men to think they are like God (Gen. 3:5), it can only produce more disastrous results than ignorance. Education, apart from the fear of God, tends to infidelity. It is not true, as Rome has taught, that "ignorance is the mother of devotion" (unless it be the devotion of worshiping images and relics), but neither is knowledge the parent of worship; something from above is needed for that.
But in our Lord how perfectly was blended knowledge with the fear of the Lord. He knew all things; He knew what was in man; He could have told all the secrets of nature, the wonders and glories of heaven. But we search in vain for one word to gratify mere curiosity. How truly did He reverence His God and Father. Obedience marked every motion of His being; the fear of the Lord controlled all the treasures of knowledge which He unfolded. Hence, what wondrous knowledge He manifested — knowledge of the heart of God, of His character and of His will; it characterized all His teaching and all His works. And what was so manifest in all the record of His life is characteristic of Scripture, for it is all "the word of Christ" (Col. 3:16). The Bible is a treasure-house of divine knowledge, but the one key to open it is "the fear of the Lord." It is a book for the conscience, and not for mere intellect. Heights and depths of knowledge there are in it indeed, but only the lowly- hearted who serve the Lord "with all humility of mind" (Acts 20:19) can apprehend them. These six characteristics then are the varied manifestations of that one Spirit of Jehovah that rested upon our Lord. All was divinely perfect.
The candlestick was all of gold. It will be remembered that the Spirit's work is ever to glorify Christ (John 16:14). As the light was to shine upon the candlestick (Ex. 25:37), so the Spirit displays the glories and perfections of the Lord Jesus. It was by the light on the candlestick that the table was seen with its loaves of showbread, so it is by the Holy Spirit that the perfections of Christ as the Bread of God to sustain His people in communion is manifested; only through Him can acceptable worship be offered; and only through Him therefore can we apprehend the character and perfections of Christ, who has sent down the Holy Spirit. The Spirit's ministry is not to occupy us with Himself — divine Being as He is, one with the Father and the Son — but with the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus the proof of new birth is not gained by looking within at the Spirit's work in our souls, but at Him who "died for the ungodly," who "was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification" (Rom. 5:6; Rom. 4:25). Fruits of grace are for the eye of God, not for self. The fruits to be looked at are those wondrous buds, flowers and almonds of the risen Lord. He is the fruitful tree, and the full light of the Spirit is shed upon His perfections.
So sanctification is not some culture of the flesh, but the capacity for apprehending to the heart's joy what Christ is, and true subjection to Him. The Spirit does not tell a saint that he has attained to something in himself, but turns his eyes to the One who fills the heart of God with delight. Thus only is true sanctification produced. "We all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord," or "the Lord the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:18). For the sinner it is, "Look," and for the saint it is still, "Look."
Returning to the passage from which we have already quoted, we see the perfect character of the light which streams from the golden Candlestick (John 16:7-15): "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart I will send Him unto you" (ver. 7). The Lord must needs, in infinite grace, depart out of the world by way of the cross, in order that He might send the Holy Spirit. Christ is thus the Light-giver, as risen from the dead and entered into His glory. The Holy Spirit has come, and we have the nature of His light first in relation to the world, next in relation to the saints, and also in relation to the Lord Himself. His testimony in relation to the world is threefold: "He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (ver. 8). The light must reprove and make manifest all that is contrary to itself; so we have a trinity of conviction, the full manifestation of sin, its contrast, and the judgment which awaits it.
But it will be seen that this light of the Spirit in the world is in connection with Christ: "Of sin, because they believe not on Me" (ver. 9). The world is full of sin of every form and character — from the deep and fearful crimes which strike horror into the heart, to the "little sins," of which men speak so lightly — there are none such in the sight of God. But the Holy Spirit is not merely occupied in throwing the light upon all this ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, He sheds His beams upon the perfections of Christ, and tests the world thereby. Thus all alike are convicted — rich and poor, moral and criminal, intelligent and ignorant — they have one thing in common, they have not believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. The pleasure-seeking worldling, the man of affairs absorbed in trade, the profligate, and the man whose hands are red with blood, have this in common. That which was the cause of all sin was breaking loose from God, independence of Him; and that which the Holy Spirit witnesses against the world is its rejection of the remedy which divine mercy has provided.
So, too, the Spirit witnesses of righteousness: "Of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more" (ver. 10). The law was a declaration of righteousness which God justly required of man. If we examine it, we must own that its claims are righteous. But man is fallen, and the law can only prove his unrighteousness. Alas, had he been but willing to own his unrighteousness, and with the publican cried, "God be merciful to me the sinner," he would then have no sin, for the Son of God came to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Instead of that. man put the spotless Son of God on trial, and blasphemously accused Him; and sin therefore remains upon him. Here was One who always did those things which pleased His Father (John 8:29), whom no one could convict of sin, yet sinners condemned Him to a murderer's cross! And God remained silent; man had his way; his seal was put upon the great stone at the door of the tomb.
Shall such wickedness succeed? What witness does the Holy Spirit give as to this? He declares God's righteousness in the fact that "God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). God is not unrighteous to suffer the righteous One to lie under the imputation of sin. He is put upon the throne of glory: the highest place in heaven is His answer to the world for what it has done. And again we see how all testimony to righteousness is a testimony to Christ.
The Spirit further bears witness of judgment: "Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged" (ver. 11). The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ was seemingly Satan's triumph; it was "Your hour and the power of darkness" (Luke 22:53). But a lie can never finally triumph over the truth, nor the liar over Him that is the Truth. Satan's malice overreached itself, and his unutterable rebellion against God, in which he had involved the human race, met its doom in the very act which seemed to secure the world for him. The Cross, the death of Christ, is that by which He destroyed "him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb. 2:14). Satan is judged, and his self-chosen place is fixed for all eternity.
But this settles the question for the world. It is no longer under probation; there is no longer a question as to its guilt and the character of its judgment. Its prince has been judged, and in his judgment that of his kingdom is also pronounced. The Spirit thus bears testimony to judgment in connection with Christ and His Cross.
In His own grace, which expresses His amazing love, God has connected this testimony of the Spirit to the world with the grace of the gospel in salvation. If the world is guilty because it believed not on Christ, let men now believe on Him, and eternal life is theirs; that righteousness witnessed by a glorified Saviour declares that God is just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. Satan's judgment will never come upon the man who, lost and helpless, casts himself on the Saviour. To such an one who believes, the Spirit bears witness that he is a child of God.
This brings us to see the nature of the Spirit's testimony to the believer. To the world it is a witness of Christ; to the saint it is the same. "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of (or from) Himself: but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come" (vers. 12, 13). Until the Lord was glorified He reserved much which the disciples could not understand. In spite even of His frequent declaration that He would be rejected and would rise again, they did not understand it. But this was all changed when He rose and ascended to heaven. Reading Peter's words on the day of Pentecost, we hear no uncertain sound as to man's guilt, as to forgiveness and salvation; they were borne witness to in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. And all centred about the person of our Lord, His death, His resurrection and glory, and His coming again. Truly the "cloven tongues as of fire" were the symbol of the Spirit's presence as the light of testimony — all shining upon Christ.
And Pentecost was but the beginning of that dispensation of the Spirit in which we are now living. It has been marked by the presence, power, revelation of the Spirit, whose work has been to glorify Christ. First of all, there has been the full revelation of truth: "He shall guide you into all truth." Christ is the Truth; He alone has shown what God is and what man is. We have seen what is the Spirit's testimony to the world. His testimony to the saints is to guide them into a knowledge of the fulness of Christ. This we see historically in the book of Acts, where the risen and ascended Lord is the source of all power and testimony, gradually leading the Church out of Judaism into the fulness of Christian liberty. In the Epistles, notably of Paul, what inexhaustible treasures of truth are unfolded: "the unsearchable riches of Christ." That "chosen vessel" was called, we may say, by the light of the golden Candlestick. He saw "a light above the brightness of the sun," and that light revealed Jesus, whom he had despised and hated, the lowly Nazarene upon the throne of glory. In this light Paul saw himself a lost sinner, saw all his "gain" of Judaism to be filthy rags; but the Object which absorbed his soul was Christ (Phil. 3:4-7). God had revealed His Son in him (Gal. 1:16), and his eyes were blinded to all else. Thus his very first testimony at Damascus was as to the deity of Christ: "Straightway he preached Christ in the Synagogues, that He is the Son of God" (Acts 9:20). Here was both a revelation of the glories of the golden Candlestick and a testimony to it.
Need we do more than refer to the epistles of Paul to show how this one theme, the glories of Christ, governed his entire ministry? In Romans, it is justification by faith in Christ; in Galatians, it is deliverance from the law through Christ; in Ephesians, he shows us in Christ in the heavenlies; in Colossians, the glories of the risen Lord are set forth; and in Philippians He is the life, example, object and power — all. The full light of the Spirit fell upon the golden Candlestick, showing all its beauties: "He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you" (John 16:14).
The writings of Peter, James and John, and of Jude, are the Spirit's light glorifying Christ. Even when the theme seems to be different, it will be found that it is to shut up the saints to Christ. Thus the book of Revelation, that book of judgment is the light of the seven lamps before the throne, which shows how Christ must reign until He has put all enemies beneath His feet. All evil is banished, all His persistent enemies are for ever shut up with him whom they have chosen instead of Christ, and then through heaven's eternal day there is no need of the sun or moon to lighten, neither is there night, "for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light (or lamp) thereof" (Rev. 21:23).
The last thought we will speak of in connection with the candlestick is the trimming of the lamps. The oil and the light we have seen to speak of the Holy Spirit; while the beautiful candlestick sets forth the glories of our divine Lord and Saviour; but for the actual light to be given either in the world or among the people of God, human vehicles are used. This indeed is grace; and in this we see His people, not as in all the perfections of Christ before God, but as wicks, which are not even named, save by implication. And if a wick is to be of use, it must be burned; if burned, it must be trimmed. Here are valuable and suggestive lessons.
Trimming was the work of the priest. No hand but his could remove the burned portion of the wick, to enable it to burn brightly. And so no hand but that of our Lord Jesus can cause the light of His people to burn clearly and brightly. Whomsoever He may use, unless it is Himself who is seen doing the work, it will not be effectual. This does not relieve the priestly family of their responsibility. We are to "wash one another's feet" (John 13:14). But how careful we should be to let Him control us, if we are to serve Him in ministering to one another. The beam must be taken out of our own eye, if a single mote is to be taken out of our brother's eye (Matt. 7:3-5).
Trimming the lamp did not imply that it had failed to give light; the priest would not let it reach that stage, but removed the charred part of the wick in order that there might be a fresh portion for the oil to pass through unhindered and to supply fuel for the lamp. The wick was not the fuel, but the channel for the fuel, though from immediate contact with the flame it would be consumed. So with the child of God: he is the channel through whom the Spirit flows to shed abroad that light which glorifies Christ. How much, alas, hinders this shining both in the world and in the house of God. It were blasphemy to think the dimness were due to the slightest failure in the divine Spirit. With us, and with us alone, is all the blame that we are not absolutely yielded up to the priestly hand of Him who in love would trim, not quench, the "smoking flax" of our testimony, that an ungrieved Spirit might pour forth the holy beams of His truth.
It is needless to go into details as to the trimming of the lamps. He who knows the need alone can do the work, making use of such instruments as He sees can be used. So completely is the work of these "snuffers" divine, that they are seen to be all of gold; the human instrument is entirely out of sight.
One thought is suggestive: the part of the wick that is removed is that which had been used to give forth the light. So it is that part of the believer's life which but lately shone so brightly in the power of the Spirit, which if dwelt upon, boasted in, rested in, would mar all the brightness. Past experience — of service, communion, worship — is but a burned wick; it cannot be a channel for today's flame. To be occupied with that is like gazing upon a charred wick instead of the glories and beauties of the candlestick, Christ Himself. The word is ever, "Forgetting those things which are behind" (Phil. 3:13). There is a subtle snare in self-complacent occupation with even the fruits of the Spirit in us, which mars the brightest usefulness. So Paul did not glory in all his faithful service, in suffering and ministry in which the Lord had used him. If compelled to speak of these, it was with a measure of shame: "I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me" (2 Cor. 12:11). He had a better object, and gloried in himself only as "a man in Christ." So too he submitted gladly to the trimming of the wick, knowing who it was that was doing it. Messenger of Satan though the outward circumstances might be, he saw the Priest's hand and the golden snuffers: "My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9).
And yet there would be a time when all the record of this faithfulness could be looked upon and occasion nothing but praise to God. "In that day," of which he loved to think, the apostle knew he would receive "a crown of righteousness," the Master's "Well done, good and faithful servant," and for that day he was content to wait — misunderstood, suffering, despised as he might be. There, not a single pang would be forgotten; every stripe and abuse he had received, and all his watchings, fastings, cold and nakedness. Ah, the Lord has gathered those up and put them in the "golden snuff - dishes," where they are effectually hidden from view in His own glory, to be displayed as His glory "in that day." Then we can look upon all service and suffering, be it great or small, and see it to have been the fruit alone of His grace. There will be no self-complacency in heaven, for "the flesh" will be forever a thing of the past. At the judgment-seat of Christ all will be manifested; the skill and care of the great High Priest will be seen, and "then shall every man have praise of God" (1 Cor. 4:5). A crown will be given, not to be worn in pride, but to be cast at His feet who alone is worthy.
The dimensions of the candlestick are not. given, the whole interest being centred upon its material, form and use. All was perfect. Number, ordinarily suggested by measured size, is given here in the perfect number, seven. This is the Spirit's witness to a glorified Christ — He is perfect, divine. Christ is all.