And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always. — Exodus 27:20
When I read today’s focus verse, I was struck by the thought that the Israelites had to do something in order for the lamps in the Tabernacle to burn — they had to bring the oil. It made me think of a documentary I watched recently about Japanese Christians who did something in the aftermath of the terrible earthquake and tsunami which struck their nation on March 11, 2011. In the film, titled “The Light of the World,”(1) it was not the horrific devastation that captured my attention. Rather, it was the believers’ moving response to the tragedy, many of whom had lost everything personally. One after another stressed how they wanted to use this time as an opportunity to point unbelievers to Christ.
One pastor, surveying the mound of rubble that once had been his church, said, “Let the glory of God shine as the Light of the World in this place!” Christians risked their own safety by traveling into evacuation zones with food for unbelievers, recognizing that suffering people are touched more by actions than by words. At each place where they distributed needed food and supplies to tsunami victims, they prayed with the people and shared what they brought in the Name of Christ. One worker said, with emotion choking his voice, “May God’s comfort be poured more fully into the people in times of sadness like this.”
In today’s text we read God’s directions concerning the bringing of oil for the lamp in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle. Some commentators suggest that the lamp was symbolic of God’s presence among the people — a visual reference to Christ, the Light of the World. Verse 20 reveals that the Israelites were instructed to bring pure olive oil in order to “cause the lamp to burn always.” Their efforts were needed if the lamp was to continue to shine!
The Japanese Christians who helped the suffering in their country were promoting and uplifting the Name of Jesus Christ, causing His Light to shine out across that country where only one percent of the people are believers. In effect, they were causing the “lamp” to burn!
Today, what kind of “oil” can we bring to make sure that the lamp will continue to burn always? What can we do to publish Christ, proclaim Christ, and impart Christ to those whose lives touch ours? God has a task for each one of us. Let us do what we can to cause the Light of the World to shine in our darkened world!
Chapter 27 continues the descriptions of plans for the Tabernacle and its service, with this section focusing on two aspects: the altar (verses 1-8), and the courtyard (verses 9-21).
In the first verses of this chapter, God gave Moses detailed instructions for the construction of the brazen altar, which was at the center of the Levitical sacrificial system. The altar, positioned in the courtyard surrounding the Tabernacle, was constructed of shittim wood covered with brass. (Shittim, or acacia, is a gnarled and thorny tree that yields close-grained and durable lumber.) The altar was a hollow square approximately 7 feet across, and about 5 feet tall. On the top of the altar was a grate that allowed a supply of air to the fire and permitted the ashes to fall through into the pan that was placed below. The horns at the corners of the altar were both ornamental and practical; the sacrifices were bound to these corners with cords. Various basins, hooks, and other tools were designated for use in making the sacrifices, removing the ashes, and maintaining the altar. The fire in the brazen altar was kept burning continually.
The Tabernacle stood in an enclosure, or courtyard, which was a large open area approximately 150 feet by 75 feet, surrounded by a fence of “hangings” (curtains) that were approximately 7½ feet tall. Since the curtains were only about half the height of the Tabernacle (see Exodus 26:16), the holy building was still clearly visible throughout the camp. The courtyard served as a protection to keep animals and intruders away from the sacred building. More importantly, it also visually set apart the Tabernacle as a place of worship, as the hanging curtains provided a distinct demarcation between this sacred spot and the camp of the Israelites outside.
Since the Tabernacle itself had no windows, the lamp in its interior was required to be lit during the day. This statute was in force as long as the Tabernacle stood. Later, when the Temple was built, it was implemented there as well.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
V. The construction of the Tabernacle
B. The instructions for the building
10. The altar (27:1-8)
11. The court of the Tabernacle (27:9-19)
12. The light in the tent (27:20-21)
In a world dark with sin, let us watch for opportunities to point others to the Light of the World!
1. Kim Sejune, “Japanese Christians as Light,” filmed April 2011 in Iwaki City, Fukushima, video, https://www2.cbn.com/video/news/japan-christians.