Why have a menorah in a church?
The menorah is the seven-branched lampstand which God ordered to be placed in the tabernacle in the wilderness after the children of Israel were delivered from slavery in Egypt. It was one of only three pieces of furniture in the Holy Place.
Made of solid gold, it is described in detail in Exodus chapter 25. It was the only source of light in the 30x15 foot space. What a beautiful symbol.
God is light; the Lord Jesus is the light of the world; the children of Israel were the privileged recipients of the knowledge of God; and we who have accepted Jesus as our Saviour are to be lights in a dark world.
But surely the menorah was for the Jews and not us? Pastor Chuck Smith had a menorah in his Calvary Chapel, and in his teaching on Exodus 25 he explained why. He said he was often asked why they had a menorah instead of a cross and he explained:
‘The reason we have a candle holder here in the church is that the candle holder in the New Testament became a symbol for the presence of Christ within His church.
‘In the book of Revelation chapter 1 John turned to see the voice that spoke to Him and, being turned. he saw Christ walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks holding the seven stars in His right hand.
‘And the Lord spoke to John and. interpreting the vision. said the seven candlesticks are the seven churches, Christ walking in the midst of the churches, so it is a beautiful symbol of the presence of Christ in the midst of His church, the living Christ.
‘And though we are grateful and thankful and glory in the cross of Jesus Christ and thank God for it, we do not serve a dead Lord.
‘We serve a risen Saviour who is alive and walking in the midst of His church. And we don’t like to think of Him as dead, hanging on a cross.
We like to think of Him as alive and with us here walking in our midst, ready to minister and to meet whatever needs you might have had when you came to church tonight.
‘The Lord is here to minister to you and to help you through this week.
‘And so, because it symbolises the presence of the risen Christ within His church, this is why we have this particular symbol in our church, because it means so much to us.
‘I’ve been asked many times why a menorah in a church. That is the reason why.’
Then in verse 40 of Ex 25, the Lord said to make the tabernacle and its furnishings exactly as it was shown to Moses.
It had to be exact if it was going to be a model of the heavenlies. and in the book of Hebrews chapter 8 verse 5 we learn that the tabernacle was a copy and shadow, a pattern of heavenly things.
Chuck added: ‘So we know a little bit about what the throne of God is going to look like as we look at the earthly tabernacle and the things that were in it.’
Interestingly, the Jews in Israel have made a large solid gold menorah to go in the new temple they hope to build on the Temple Mount. It is on display in front of the Wailing Wall, safe behind a security screen, but visible to all, an amazing sight.
On a trip to Jerusalem, we were surprised to come upon it standing right out in the open in a kind of glass case.
Oddly enough, I had just bought a small menorah, at an Arab shop! They were happy to sell me a menorah, but they did not allow me to go up on the Temple Mount ‘because you have a religious artefact in your bag.’ Does that add up for you? It added up for the Arab shopkeeper, added up to $25.
Never mind! I love my little menorah, a symbol of my Saviour walking in the midst of His church, ministering to undeserving people like me.
I have looked at websites dealing with the menorah and found some more delightful insights. One is that the middle shaft is like Jesus, the vine, and we are like the six branches.
Another insight is that the lampstand was all made of one piece of beaten gold, all the same piece - and we are one with Christ when we believe in Him. Over and over the apostle Paul talks about us being "in Christ", and the lampstand, Jesus and us, all of one piece! It is beautiful.
It is also very comforting - that He will never leave us or forsake us, that no one will snatch us out of His hand, that whatever bad stuff might happen, we are in Him and He is in us. We are one with Him! Could there ever be anything more wonderful than this?
I do have one little bone to pick and that is that the middle shaft should be higher than the six branches, because Jesus has pre-eminence in all things. This is shown in God's instruction to Moses to decorate the middle shaft with four almond buds, while the six branches only have three, so the middle shaft should stand taller.
Then, in another great insight, I heard Chuck Missler use the lampstand as a visual aid to understanding the seven feasts of Israel. Wow.
He saw the first three candles or lights as representing the first three Jewish passover feasts in the spring, all fulfilled when Jesus died, was buried and rose from the dead.
The fourth candle or light, in the middle, holding the whole candlestick upright, representing the fourth feast, Pentecost, fulfilled by the Holy Spirit coming on that very day, the birth day of the church!
Then, after the middle candlestick, the last three, representing the three autumn feasts – still to be fulfilled folks! The next is Trumpets, typifying the Rapture of the church. Then the next to last candle or light – the Day of Atonement, when the nation of Israel turns to Jesus as their Saviour and begs Him to return!
And the wonderful last candle, the seventh, representing the feast of tabernacles, the 1000 year reign of King Jesus on this earth, the Millennium reign of Christ.
My goodness, such a wealth of truth and joyful expectation in one little symbol I can hold in my hand. Sometimes I put a candle in the fifth little hole, to remind myself of the Feast of Trumpets and the rapture of the church, which will take place at a time we do not expect.
The Lord told us to be watchful and to be ready, for He is coming at a time we ‘think not’.
Do you have a menorah in your church. folks? Our son-in-law in Israel does not have one even in the messianic (Christian) assembly which he co-pastors. Nor do they have a cross or any other symbol in the building. In a way, it doesn’t matter. It is what is in your head and in your heart!
Actually what they do have in Israel is a big sign over the door of their building saying in three languages: ‘Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life.”’
Anyway, back to Chuck Smith. At the end of his teaching on Exodus 25, he prayed for his people and here is what he said: ‘Now may the Lord be with you and may the Lord watch over you and keep you in His love and in His grace.
‘May the Lord cause you to abound in every good work for Jesus Christ and may the Lord grant to you new dimensions of relationship with Him that you might become more keenly aware of His presence with you and His power to help you.
‘May God bless you. May you have just a fruitful, blessed week walking with Jesus Christ.’
Note: I listen to Chuck’s through the Bible teachings on MP3, and used to be able to easily get them from the CCCM2000 website, but since he died, I have found it very difficult to get any more, which is quite upsetting. Maybe I am doing it wrong or something.
He went through the entire Bible verse by verse every Sunday evening with his people and it also went out on radio and was the most listened to program in Orange County, California, at the time!
How I wish something like that was happening here in England now. How I wish that I had known Jesus earlier in my life, and that people now might come to know and love Him and accept Him as their Saviour.
Are you ready for Jesus to come back, dear friend? Have you accepted the offer of forgiveness of all your sins? Jesus suffered for the sins of the world, but to get your own personal sins forgiven, you have got to believe in Him!
Here is a prayer to consider: ‘Lord Jesus, the Bible says you died for sinners, and I am one. Please forgive my sins! Please make me one of Your people!’
After all, what have you got to lose? You have Heaven to gain. The Lord Jesus Christ said He would never turn anyone away who comes to Him. Won’t you come to Him today? Whosoever will may come!
Note: Don't downplay the cross, dear friends! If it were not for the cross of Jesus Christ and His willingness to suffer and die for us, we would be without any hope. We would have no chance of ever being reconciled to God and reaching Heaven.
As Paul wrote in 1 Cor !:18, the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.
And in Galatians 6:14 Paul says he would boast only in the cross.
And we have a cross as well. Remember the words of the Lord Jesus in Luke 9:23, that if anyone wishes to come after Jesus, they must deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow Him.