“Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. In the Tent of Meeting, outside the curtain that is in front of the Testimony, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the Lord from evening till morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come.” (Exodus 27:20-21 NIV84)
I can’t help but think of the five wise and the five foolish virgins in Jesus’ parable every time I read about oil lamps and light. In the parable Jesus used the contrast to show us the ridiculousness of claiming to be in the faith but not having the one thing faith requires. In the time of Jesus, the women standing up in a wedding always prepared with lamps in order to light the path if the bride and groom decided to go anywhere in the evening. Culturally it was something they were expected to have ready. So, in Jesus’ parable, it is utterly ridiculous that any of the women would have a lamp but no oil.
In our verses for today, Moses was told by God that the Levites must always have oil on hand to feed the burning lamps in the tabernacle because they were never to go out. Why? Because God is Light! In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, we are told that John came to testify to the “Light” (Jesus), but the world preferred to live in the darkness. Jesus is the light of the world. It’s no surprise that the Lord would want the lamps of the temple to be lighted at all times. It would be a constant message to the Levites serving the tabernacle, as well as to every worshiper who would visit the temple, that they were in the presence of God, our eternal light.
May the light of God’s grace not only shine symbolically in our sanctuaries, but also in our hearts!