LIGHT AND LUMINARIES
BY: ADOLPH E. KNOCH
Our popular versions do not discriminate between the Hebrew words, aur light (Gen.1:3, 4), and maur, light (bearer), or luminary. (Gen.1:14-16) The herbage of the third day (Gen.1:11-13) could not have lived in total darkness. In my very early years we lived in a four-apartment house with a rather small yard in the rear. I wanted to grow a garden, and was very serious about it. But where? I had a brilliant idea. I would dig a cave under the back-yard and grow my garden in that! I dug quite a hole, but, to my chagrin, we moved to another place, where I could not dig at all. Not till I came to California did we have a garden, and I learned that gardens do not grow without light! Whatever light there was on the earth up to the fourth day seems to have come from invisible sources. The luminaries, with which we are now so well acquainted, could not be seen. These play a very important function during the eons, for they not only give an appreciation of the source of light, and, through it, of God Himself-for He is light-but they are the basis of all time periods. We could hardly measure time without them. We could not set any dates or fill any appointments without such a calendar, or time-piece.
Besides being God’s great clock, they are the visible representations of the invisible celestial powers. As the sun “rules” the day, so Christ as the sun of righteousness will rule in the day of Yahweh. The moon is not a true luminary, for it only reflects the light instead of giving it forth. So the rulers of darkness have a pale adumbration of the true light. Moreover, the moon, unlike the sun, is variable, and so the rulers of this darkness, now waxed to the full, will wane to almost complete extinction when the sun competes with it in the day of Christ’s glory. The little phrase “the stars also” (Gen.1:16, AV), marks a crisis in my life. I was intensely interested in the stars, and awed by the immensity and glory of the universe, and intended to make astronomy my life work. I also decided to read all the great books. Being too poor to buy any, I commenced with the Bible given to me some time before by my parents. But I insisted on understanding what I read.
Nevertheless I did not dally with the first part of creation, as I supposed it to be. But when I came to the “lights,” and read that God made “the stars also,” as if they were a mere side issue, I was quite overwhelmed. In my studies I had been utterly amazed at their number and immensity. To dismiss them with the terse touch, “the stars also,” seemed incredible. It greatly enhanced my awe of the Bible, and led me to study it closely. But, as I expect to take up astronomy later, when I visit the stars, I have changed my vocation to the study of the Scriptures.
The light within the tabernacle was very different from that without. Its source is full of significance. The process by which it was made is in highest harmony with the elementary truths of the evangel. It was not a “candlestick,” which burned tallow tapers, but lamps, which used olive oil. It is not by chance that this was produced by beating and crushing or pounding. These bring to our mind the great Antitype, Who is the Light of the world. (John 8:12) Just as the olive berries are beaten with a rod in order to loose them from the tree, so He suffered at the hands of the soldiers. (Matt.27:30) I once was witness to the beating of an olive tree just outside the window of the Jewish pension at which I stayed in the new part of Jerusalem. Alas! How little did the Jewish children who did the beating understand of the sufferings of their Messiah, which they rehearsed!
But the beating given the berries on the tree did not turn them into oil for the light. A much more painful process was pictured by the various ways in which the oil was expressed. First they are usually crushed into pulp in a stone mill. But this does not extract all of the oil, so that the pulp was sometimes sewn up in canvas or horsehair bags and trodden by the feet of the women. More often still it was put into small flexible baskets and placed under a wooden press operated by a screw or lever. But the clearest oil, such as was used for the lampstand in the tabernacle was extracted by pounding. (Ex.27:20; 29:40; Lev.24:2; Num.28:5; 1 Kings 5:11 (25) The same Hebrew stem is used in the recurrent phrase “pound their swords into plowshares.” (Isa.2:4; Joel 3:10; Micah 4:3)
Thus is provided the illumination, which comes from the oil in the seven-branched lampstand. This is the light that is shed abroad in the hearts of all the saints who are privileged to go inside the portiere. This is the illumination which is indispensable for all who desire to have fellowship with God, as set forth by the bread of the presence, and who wish to worship Him, as typified by the golden altar of incense. This is the light that Cain lacked. He sought to have communion with God and to sacrifice to Him in the darkness of unbelief. And today, even in Christendom, are there not myriads of pious religionists who are worshiping in the way of Cain? The fact that oil is one of the symbols of God’s spirit is evident from its use in anointing for spiritual power in ordaining a priest, a prophet, or a king. But its special significance, as seen in the tabernacle, makes it the source of light. Darkness hides the false, and light reveals the truth. Hence it is essential in any present offering to the Deity. It was absent from Cain’s offering, which shows that it was false. This was confirmed by his later actions. In literal language we are told that, by faith, Abel offers to God more of a sacrifice than Cain, through which he was testified to that he is just. (Heb.11:4) The light that he had came from believing God, and the lack of light on Cain’s part arose from his refusal to accept God’s Word. Apart from oil, from truth, from the light of faith, no worship or sacrifice can possibly be acceptable to the Deity.
Notwithstanding the fact that the lampstand had seven lamps, the light it shed was not very bright. It was not to be compared with the Shekinah glory behind the inner curtain. Visiting the sites of archaeological explorations, I have seen hundreds of very ancient lamps. They were mostly quite small, shaped like a sauce dish, with an outlet for a wick opposite the handle, and could hardly have given as much light as a modern lamp with a chimney. They were burned all night through, for it was usually considered impossible to sleep in the dark. To say that a man’s light had gone out was a feelingful figure of his death. But even this had its significance. The holy place was not perfection. It was only the anteroom to the most holy. It typifies the time, which the apostle Paul declared to be immature, an installment, when they saw by means of a mirror, in an enigma (AV, “through a glass darkly,” 1 Cor. 13:9-12). Up to the time when Christ, the great Antitype of all the sacrifices, expired on the cross, the curtain between the holy and most holy places kept out the light of the glory, so it was comparatively dim in the first compartment, even as it was in Israel before Christ, the Light of the world, offered Himself to God.
But now the curtain is rent! The blinding light of the glory, such as Paul saw when he was called, is illuminating all as never before. Its full significance was never realized by the earlier apostles. Only in Paul’s writings do we see the full and final and perfect illumination of the divine presence above the propitiatory. The glory light now shines, not only in the holy of holies, but illumines the holy place also. The very lampstand itself is glorified by its beams. Literally, where there was pardon, there is now justification, where there was redemption, there is now reconciliation. Where there was access to God only through intermediaries, through one nation, now all have access in one spirit to the Father Himself. (Eph.1:18)
In the far future, the new Jerusalem will need no sun or moon to give it light, for the glory of God illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lambkin. (Rev.21:23) Then the Shekinah will not be enclosed in walls, hid from mortal gaze, as in the tabernacle and in the temples, for there will be no temple on the new earth. But long before that blessed time, even today, we have this light, in spirit, for we are already a new creation in Christ. (2 Cor.5:17) We also have been given a literal intimation of this when the apostle Paul met our God on the Damascus road. He saw a light above the brightness of the sun. (Acts 26:13) What an appropriate introduction to his ministry! He it is who leads the saints beyond the light of nature, and even beyond the shadowy revelation given to the sacred nation in their holy place. He goes beyond the “veil.”
But we do not enter the holy of holies and close the curtain behind us, so that we no longer have the light of the lampstand or the communion of the table or the worship of the golden altar. No indeed! “Within the veil,” that is, inside the central curtain, there is no provision for fellowship or adoration. Shall we then cease to commune with God or offer praise to Him? By no means! The curtain has not been pulled back behind us, so that we are shut out of the holy place. It was not pushed aside to let us through. It was rent from the top to the bottom. Now the two holy places are one! All is a holy of holies!
The tabernacle brings before us three distinct stages of light. All are of God and were made by Him to reveal Himself; they are very different, especially in the degree in which He is illuminated by them. Outside, in the court, the cosmic luminaries, the sun, the moon and the stars, the light of nature. This was not present inside of the tabernacle, for there were no windows, and the portiere at the doorway had no provision for holding it open. Indeed, it was so arranged that the worshiper had to turn his back to the rising sun in order to enter. Within was the light of revelation, the seven branched lampstand in the holy place, which shed its rays upon the bread of communion, and upon the golden altar of worship. And beyond the inner curtain was the Shekinah. A clear differentiation of these three distinct kinds of light will help much to clarify God’s grand methods in revealing Himself. The light in the court was the same as that given to all men in every place. The light in the holy place was only for the priests, the holy ones, the saints. And the glory light in the most holy was only for the chief priest, who entered once a year. He was a type of the entrance of Christ into the divine presence after His sacrifice for the sin of the world.
Let us never despise the light of nature! It was created to reveal God. If men had eyes to see they would find Him and some of His attributes displayed on every side. By means of it God has manifested Himself to all men. His invisible attributes are descried from the creation of the world, being apprehended by His achievements, besides His imperceptible power and divinity. God’s indignation is not revealed against the irreverence and injustice of men who have no means of knowing about Him. In that case they would not be defenseless. But, with the light of nature, they have no valid excuse. (Rom.1:18-23) But the light of nature fails woefully in eliciting the worship of Adam’s race. Notwithstanding the knowledge of the Deity, which it does impart, they do not glorify or thank Him as God. They reason, but their heart is not intelligent. Even today the scientists seek to awe the rest of us with their superior wisdom. Yet their continually changing and conflicting theories show them to be stupid. No man, such as I am, is in a position to prefer such a grave charge against his fellows, for he must include himself. But, in His revelation, God has convicted us all of these crimes. It is because of this that the race is sunk in a morass of immorality and corruption and contention. Every effort to cure this condition, apart from the recognition of God, is doomed to failure. Only the lights within the tabernacle can bring about eonian bliss.
The book of nature is full of lessons about the Deity. Scripture itself assures us of this. Where else is His infinite power so fully displayed as in the starry heavens? Where else are His inexhaustible resources so evident as in the visible creation? No matter where we look, whether it be above at the mighty sun stars in their parabolic paths, or at the tiny insect beneath our feet, our hearts exclaim, “The hand that made you is divine!” Why, even if we were blind and deaf and bereft of the sense of smell, our own bodies are replete with superhuman wonders, so that we should bow down in the dust before its mighty Maker.
Indeed, nature provides the illustrations for the book of revelation. It is not merely in accord with it, but much of it could not be understood without it. If there were no heavens and no earth, who could understand the very first sentence? All the way through it, nature provides most of the background, the figures, the symbols, which are needed to it. Even the material types and shadows, such as the sacrifices and the tabernacle, depend on nature to large extent for their significance. The natural qualities wood and metal, plant and animal are woven into the fabric of divine revelation.
But, alas, men are blinded by the god of this eon. The apprehensions of unbelievers are unable to perceive the Deity in the world about them, and they cannot see through the thick curtain of unbelief, which bars God’s revelation from them. Is this not typified by the thick portieres which it impossible for outsiders to see the lampstand, the presence (or “show”) bread, and the golden altar, inside the place? Christ is the Antitype of them all. All knowledge of God, all communion with Him, and all worship of Him must come through Christ as the Mediator. Yet He is hid behind a thick portiere of unbelief from all except the saints who have been hallowed by His blood, and called by His spirit, through His Word.
LIGHT AND LUMINARIES [Adolph E. Knoch] 1