Seven Oil Lamps


When you set up the seven lamps, they are to light the area in front of the lampstand. … This is how the lampstand was made: it was made of hammered gold: from its base to its blossoms.  – Numbers 8:2,4

These are the oil lamps on the lampstand of the Tabernacle: golden, pure, and precious.

In Numbers the people of Israel are on a long journey to a destination they can’t see, and there’s plenty of time for bad things to happen. There is grumbling and complaining (Egypt was better!). There is discouragement on the report of powerful enemies (oh that we had died in the desert!). There are threats to good leaders (let’s find someone to take us back to where we came from!).

The Tabernacle was one place Moses went to talk to God about all of this, and it is where God spoke to Moses too. That’s what’s happening just before we hear about the lamps: when Moses entered the Tabernacle he heard the voice of the Lord speaking to him (Num. 7:89). This voice, which speaks from between two cherubim, tells him how to set up the oil lamps of gold, there in the Tabernacle.

Those lamps will need some tending. There’s no electricity, no switch, no sensor. There’s only oil, a fire, and some people to tend it on a daily basis.

There it is before your eyes: hammered gold from base to blossom, seven points of warm light, alive and slightly flickering, tended faithfully, gently burning, in the presence of the cherubim of the Lord.

What an image. What an invitation to prayer. What a presence of prayer in our hearts.

Moses had some good reasons both outside and inside that Tabernacle to visit it.

Another man of God saw something similar later on: “I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it, with seven oil channels to the lights.” This man of God was a prophet, and he saw it because an angel showed it to him. Because of this the man asked the angel, what is this?

The angel gave a surprising reply, a very surprising reply – a reply so surprising that it is easy to miss the connection the angel makes for this prophet, and for us.

The name of this man of God was Zechariah, and the angel told him that the meaning of this golden, pure, and precious thing, tended always, these gently burning lamps, was this: “Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.” (Zech. 4:6).

The angel introduces this startling identification by saying something else unusual: “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel.” (Zech. 4:6). Why not Zecharaiah?

Zerubbabel was the man who had the hard job of rebuilding Temple from the ground up – the Temple of the Lord, who is sending word to Zerubbabel by means of Zechariah by means of an angel – that had been destroyed,that had replaced the Tabernacle, in which could be found a lampstand of pure and hammered gold.

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