Sometimes I suck at making decisions. Whether it’s trying to decide what to do with a friend or which outfit to purchase, I get stressed out wondering if I will regret my choice later on. Will I look back at this moment with irritation, desperately wishing I had committed to something else? It would be so much easier to be able to choose everything or choose nothing at all. Nevertheless, a decision must be made.
Speaking of decisions, a lot of them were being made on Mount Sinai, where God was still giving Moses detailed instructions about the tabernacle. In this chapter, God described for Moses the altar on which all of the offerings that the Israelites would bring before the Lord would be made. Despite all the blood that would be spilled on it, it was to be made beautifully, of acacia wood and bronze. Next, God describes how to shape the courtyard from the multitude of curtains and bases and pillars that made up the tabernacle’s structure. Finally, God declares that the priests must keep the lamps in the tabernacle’s lampstand burning 24/7. Slowly but surely, God’s plans for His Dwelling Place with His beloved children were becoming clear.
The Treasures Within:
This chapter is business as usual: an altar, a courtyard – until it gets to the constantly burning lamps in the tabernacle (verse 21). You don’t have to think about this long to realize how expensive and time-consuming that had to have been. Imagine leaving a light on in your house constantly. Imagine having to regularly check to make sure that light was flipped on. That is a lot of work…and for what? This particular tabernacle instruction is not explained, except for one sentence at the end of the chapter: “This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come” (verse 21).
The word “ordinance” isn’t an unfamiliar one: God has already used it several times in speaking to Moses and the Israelites: for instance, when He commanded them to celebrate the Passover. God’s ordinances were things He wanted His people to do regularly; in order to point them towards Him and remind them of Him. The Passover took place yearly. The Sabbath was to be honored weekly. But these lamps were to remain lit every minute of every hour of every day. God wanted His beloved to always be reminded of Him. Isn’t that romantic?
Committed For Life
Or is it a bit much? It does seem so to us, humans who are used to much less consuming relationships. If someone you were in a relationship with asked you to think of them every second of every day, you’d probably start to back away slowly. But God’s request to the Israelites has less to do with painstaking timekeeping and more to do with a commitment. You see, the Israelites didn’t form a circle around the lampstand for hours on end, gazing at it, making sure its fires didn’t go out. The lamps remained burning constantly because the Levites periodically checked on them, refilled the oil, protected them from a strong breeze. The bottom line was that they were committed to keeping those flames going. Nothing would extinguish those flames. Nothing would distract the Levites from maintaining their bright glow.
And what about the fires in our lampstands, the light inside of us, burning for our Lover and Creator? So many things threaten to put them out, like disbelief in Jesus’s resurrection, His word, His reality. So many distractions keep us from fueling our flames, like social media, our favorite TV shows, and the newest Marvel movie. So many fierce winds are poised ready to snuff out our fires, like tragedies, disappointments, and prayers answered in ways we didn’t want. Our lamps are under attack. Satan does not want them to keep burning. He wants them to go out; he wants us to break our covenant with God; he wants us to die. Meanwhile Jesus has only ever been working to give us life. We can have this life, and eternally too, if only we commit.
God’s Message To Us:
“I am yours from evening until morning.” You know what else constantly burning lamps remind me of? It’s random, but I think of the old Motel 6 slogan, “We’ll leave the light on for you”. The lamps the Israelites kept perpetually lit not only signified their commitment to God but also welcomed Him in to His dwelling place. When we commit to Jesus, He doesn’t just give us a thumbs up and a wink from afar, He draws near to us. He talks to us. He teaches us. He comforts us. Our life is filled and enriched by Him because we have finally allowed Him into it. And then everything changes. Decisions, choices, commitments are terrifying because we don’t know whether or not we did the right thing. A commitment to Jesus, however, comes with a 100% lifelong guarantee of peace, joy, and zero regrets.
What do you think? Do you keep your lamps burning constantly for Jesus? What do you think God wanted you to get out of this chapter of the Bible?