Throughout the Bible, the candlestick, or menorah, is used as a symbol of God’s presence, revelation, and truth. In both the Old and New Testaments, the imagery of the candlestick carries deep spiritual meaning for believers. In this post, we will explore the significance of the candlestick and what it represents according to Scripture.
The candlestick, also known as the lampstand or menorah, was an important part of the tabernacle and temple worship in the Old Testament. God provided detailed instructions for the construction of the candlestick for the tabernacle (Exodus 25:31-40). The candlestick was to be made of pure gold hammered into shape. It had a central shaft with six branches, three on each side, each shaped like an almond blossom with buds, flowers, and petals. The candlestick held seven oil lamps that were to be kept burning continually.
Later on in Israel’s history, a ten lampstand menorah was placed in the first temple built by Solomon. The imagery of the temple menorah became an important symbol of God’s presence and a reminder of his covenant with Israel. The candlestick served as the only source of light in the Holy Place where it stood. The lamps were fueled by pure olive oil, representing the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is depicted as the true light of the world. The menorah symbolism points to Christ as the light that shines in the darkness. Believers in Christ are also called to be light, shining forth truth, revelation, and the presence of God to others.
Throughout Scripture, the candlestick takes on rich theological significance. Here are some key things the candlestick represents:
- God’s Presence
- Revelation and Truth
- The Light of the World (Jesus Christ)
- The Holy Spirit
- Believers as Light Bearers
- Vision and Understanding
- The Church
Now, let’s take a deeper look at the meaning behind the candlestick.
In the tabernacle in the wilderness, the candlestick stood in the Holy Place outside the veil thatseparated the Holy of Holies. The Holy Place contained three items: the altar of incense, the table of showbread, and the golden candlestick. The candlestick illuminated the Holy Place and the other furniture. This indicates that the light from the candlestick enables ministry in the Holy Place and represents the light of God’s presence.
The temple built by Solomon also featured a golden candlestick along with 9 other lampstands (1 Kings 7:49). These lampstands illuminated the Holy Place continuously as a sign of God’s faithful presence with his people. The priests were commanded to keep the lamps burning night and day (Exodus 27:20-21; Leviticus 24:1-4). The eternal flame of the candlestick symbolized God’s ever-presence, enlightening and sustaining his people.
Revelation and Truth
In the Bible, light represents truth, revelation, and understanding. As the only source of light in the tabernacle and temple, the candlestick illuminated all that took place in God’s presence. The lamps did not project light in just one direction but in every direction, representing the all-encompassing nature of divine truth and revelation. As believers came to meet with God at the tabernacle, the light enabled them to see Him and receive insight from Him.
Furthermore, the imagery of the candlestick shining in the darkness depicts God’s truth dispelling the darkness and blindness of human understanding. Through His word and presence, God brings revelation that gives His people spiritual vision and comprehension. As Psalm 119:105 declares, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” The candlestick in the sanctuary served as a continual reminder of this promise of God to reveal Himself to those who draw near to Him.
Jesus Christ as the Light of the World
Likely the most significant meaning behind the candlestick comes from how it points to Christ as the true light. In John 8:12, Jesus declares, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Jesus came as the light of God into a spiritually darkened world. Like the tabernacle candlestick that illuminated the Holy Place, Christ’s light fills the lives of believers and chases away darkness. Jesus as the light shows us truth, gives understanding, imparts wisdom, and shows the way to salvation.
Moreover, the lampstands in Revelation 1-2 represent the light of Christ present in the church through the Holy Spirit. Jesus walks among these lampstands showing He is present and at work in and through His people. The imagery conveys that the church now bears Christ’s light to the world. His illumination shines through us.
The menorah candlestick foreshadowed the coming of Jesus who would bring the light of God’s full revelation to humanity (John 1:4-9). He illuminates our path and shows us the way to eternal life with the Father.
The Holy Spirit
The olive oil that fueled the lamps on the candlestick points to a key idea – the flame needs oil to keep burning. In the Bible, oil often symbolizes the Holy Spirit who sustains believers and keeps their faith burning bright (1 Samuel 16:13; Zechariah 4:1-6).
Just as the lamps needed pure oil daily to continue shining, so believers need the ongoing work of the Spirit in our hearts. As we cooperate with the Spirit, He keeps our lives fueled and empowered with divine light. The Holy Spirit is the agent who forms Christ’s light within us. He cultivates the new creation in us (2 Corinthians 5:17). He produces the fruit of light in our lives – goodness, righteousness and truth (Ephesians 5:8-9).
Through the indwelling Spirit, we become shining lights bearing witness to Jesus, the true light of the world. The flame of the candlestick lived from the oil just as we spiritually live from the continual flow of the Spirit’s light and power.
Believers as Light Bearers
This leads to the next important meaning of the candlestick – God’s people shining forth His light to others. As those filled with the Holy Spirit, believers carry the light of Christ to dispel darkness and illuminate truth.
In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus told His disciples, “You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” As Christ followers, we are now the lampstand that carries the light of the gospel to illuminate the darkened hearts and minds of unbelievers. We hold out the word of truth to those lost in darkness (Philippians 2:15).
Just as the menorah lamps radiated in all directions, our lives should reflect the light of Christ in all directions through good works, purity, and sharing the gospel. We live as light-bearers, shining in the midst of darkness. Positioned throughout the earth, believers function as glowing lampstands spreading the illuminating truth of salvation wherever we go.
Vision and Understanding
The properties of light also communicate insight and understanding. So the imagery of the candlestick conveys a spiritual meaning of vision, comprehension, revelation and discernment. As the flame lit up the Holy Place, the menorah enabled the priests to see and function in that sacred space. Light grants vision and the ability to operate and fulfill God’s purposes.
Followers of Christ have the mind of Christ through the Spirit’s work (1 Corinthians 2:12-16). His light allows us to properly interpret God’s Word and operate according to truth. The Spirit gives discernment between truth and falsehood as we walk as children of light (1 John 1:5-7). Just as the candlestick illuminated the Holy Place, the Spirit enlightens the eyes of our hearts enabling us to comprehend God’s will and walk wisely (Ephesians 1:17-18).
Lastly, the menorah symbolized Israel as God’s chosen people while the lampstands in Revelation represent the church. This ecclesial meaning is significant. The light of the candlestick represented Israel’s divine calling as God’s light to the nations in the Old Testament (Isaiah 42:6, 49:6). Israel was to shine forth God’s revelation. Yet tragically, they did not live according to their purpose as the menorah.
In the New Testament era, Jesus established the church to carry His light forward. Believers embody the light of Christ as His body joined together to reflect His truth and hope. United we form the new menorah, shining the illuminating gospel to the world. The Spirit empowers the corporate witness of the church through each believer’s life.
The lampstand imagery conveys that Christ intends the church to function as His light-bearer. We hold out the word of life to a darkened world (Philippians 2:15). The church exists to shine forth the light of salvation and hope. United we reflect the illuminating presence of Jesus to the ends of the earth.
Throughout Scripture, the menorah candlestick takes on powerful theological significance. It represents God’s faithful presence, His revelation that brings understanding and vision, Jesus Christ as the true Light, the Holy Spirit at work in believers, the witness of the church, and the call for God’s people to shine His light in the world.
The golden lampstand spoke of the old covenant people Israel who failed in their mission. But now in the new covenant, Christ followers carry the light as Christ’s body empowered by the Spirit. This light overcomes darkness, displays salvation, and illuminates God’s truth to all nations.
May we walk in the light as He is in the light! As we yield to the Spirit’s leading, our lives will radiate the brilliant and pure light of Jesus Christ. We will shine as illuminating menorahs displaying the kingdom of God like luminous cities on a hill. Our worship and witness will exalt Jesus so the whole earth may see the beauty of His light.