I observed in my reading recently that the high priest of the tabernacle that God instructed Moses to make was himself responsible for the care of the lampstand. It was Aaron himself who was to arrange the seven lamps on the lampstand and light them every evening so that they cast their light in front of the lampstand—that is, toward the Holy of holies (Ex. 25:37, Num. 8:2,3).
And every morning he was to replenish the oil and dress the lamps in readiness—that is, he was to trim the wicks so that when lit again they would burn clearly and brightly without a smoky, sooty flame (Ex. 30:7,8).
I find great comfort in this, for the lampstands of our day are not burning very clearly or brightly, and I don’t seem to have any ability in myself to do anything about it.
What do I mean by the lampstands of our day? We understand that Moses was to make the lampstand of the tabernacle according to a pattern shown him “in the mount” (Ex. 25:40). In other words, there was a heavenly reality that this lampstand was just a representation of.
And what is the heavenly reality? It is the church. John in The Revelation describes a vision of a certain Man walking in the midst of seven golden lampstands, and John tells us a little further on that these seven lampstands are seven churches.
So a lampstand represents a church. And He must be a priest, then, this Man, for who but a priest has authority to walk amidst lampstands? And this is just what we discover Him to be by John’s description of Him. This Man is dressed in the priestly robe of fine linen down to the foot.
And so here in The Revelation we see our great High Priest walking in the midst of the seven golden lampstands—the seven churches—with loving care and attention tending them, replenishing their Oil, trimming their wicks, that they might shine forth with a pure clear light. He is intent on conforming them to God’s desire—if for their part they will but repent. He has no word of reproof at all for two of these lampstands (one is characterized by love and and the other by suffering). For the rest He has words of correction. In fact one of them (in spite of much that is commendable) is in danger of no longer being considered one of His lampstands.
As I said, I find great comfort in this—that it is the High Priest’s own responsibility to care for and deal with His lampstands. For, I often mourn over the state of things here in the western world. The churches of our day, many of them… if their light has not totally gone out, they are dim and sooty in their burning, and they are not focused forward toward the Holy of holies the way the lampstand is supposed to be. I am not alone in my mourning; many there are who anguish over this, sometimes to the point of despair. Where is the Oil? Where is the light? We are not pointing fingers, we often feel that the lamp of our own life is scarcely shining.
But when we are feeling like this, it is so comforting to remember that primarily it is not up to you and me to deal with all this. I am not providing excuse for those who don’t care anyway; I am speaking to those who care, those who love the church, and are burdened. It is the High Priest Himself who is responsible for the condition of His lampstands, His churches, and He will not be negligent in doing so. It is the light of the glory of God that is at stake, and He will not rest till His lampstands are shining forth the pure light of the glory of the Lord.
What does this mean for us, then, for you and for me? It means we can anticipate this One revealing Himself, this One who calls Himself “the faithful witness” (Rev. 1:5). Yes, He is faithful. He will not leave His lampstands in their present dismal state. This is what my heart is set on—seeing Him. It’s easy enough to point out how poorly the lamps are shining these days, and many major on this. But I don’t have much of a heart for criticizing churches. What I long for and set my heart on is the appearing of this Man who begins to walk in the midst of the lampstands dealing effectively with things.
He is going to do this, beloved.
But… think about this. Just how will He do this? Beloved, He will do this by walking in the midst of the lampstands, the churches—by the Holy Spirit in you and in me. Does this grip you the way it grips me? I know that in myself I can make no impact on the churches—nor is it my responsibility. But this One is going to make His appearing—in fact is beginning to make His appearing—and as I see Him in whatever way He reveals Himself to me… what I speak and do in whatever church situation I am involved in… will be His very own speaking and doing.
I tremble at that.
John describes this One. Clothed with a garment down to the foot, the fine linen of His own righteousness covering His whole body. Girt about the breasts with a golden belt or sash that sustains the heart and its motives with purity in every situation no matter how grievous. His head and His hair white as wool, as snow—the maturity and authority of the Ancient of Days, and perfect purity of thought. Piercing, penetrating eyes from which none can hide, yet consuming in fire all the uncleanness that is exposed. Feet (yes, His feet) glowing like bronze in a furnace as He steps forth for justice and judgment. His voice like the sound of many waters blended together in perfect harmony. Seven stars (His messengers, His ministries) in His right hand of authority, and a sharp two-edged sword proceeding out of His mouth. And His countenance like the sun shining in its strength.
You consider this, and you tremble. This One walks in the midst of the churches. This One has—or rather, is—in Himself all that is necessary to bring the churches into full conformity to the will and intention of God…
…So that God is as glorified in the church as He was in Christ Himself when He walked the earth (Eph. 3:21).
That is going to be utterly devastating in one sense.
But very, very wonderful in another.