Exodus 27:20-21. 20 “You shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may regularly be set up to burn. 21 In the tent of meeting, outside the veil that is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening to morning before the Lord. It shall be a statute forever to be observed throughout their generations by the people of Israel.
The instructions for how to build the tabernacle have come to an end. The instructions for the priesthood will now begin.
The people needed the tabernacle. They needed to see that God was in their midst. They needed a place to find forgiveness and fellowship with God. But they also need priests. They need someone to guide them into God’s presence. A mediator between God and man. Sanctified men who can bridge the gap between divinity and humanity. As we go more and more details will be given, but right now we see that it will be Aaron and his sons who serve as priests in the tabernacle. They will be the lamplighters.
The very first job given to the priests in Exodus is to keep the lamp lit in the Holy Place throughout the night. From evening until morning the lamp must stay burning. Forever.
The lamp is the light of God. His holiness, and purity, and truth burning into the darkness. And this light never goes out. It lets the people know that God is always home. Like those old Motel 6 commercials God says “we’ll leave the light on for ya.” You can always approach God through the priestly mediator.
Genesis begins in the Garden temple of God. God creates Adam and Eve and places them in the Garden to “tend and to keep it” (Gen 2:15). They were priests. Those words “tend and keep” are the words of Exodus. The words of the priesthood. Priests tend and keep the tabernacle. The lamp. The table. They serve and guard in the presence of God.
The priesthood that God is establishing here at Mount Sinai is the new humanity. They are called to be what all of humanity was called to be before sin entered – holy, set apart, image bearing, servants of God who serve and guard the world pointing others to the holy God of creation through the worship of him.
And in Christ that is what we are.
Daredevil: the conflicted priest.
Many Christians have no idea that they are a priest. Or if they know it they have no idea what to do with that information. Aaron and his sons were the priests of the Old Covenant. Now everyone who is in Christ is a priest of the New Covenant. Why? Because we are the new humanity. The new creation. The royal priesthood.
1 Peter 2:9. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
We are the lamplighters. We keep the light of God burning for all to see. This is our first job as priests. Proclaiming the excellencies of his light.
What is the basic role of a priest? The priest is the bridge between God and man. The priest brings God to man and guides man to God. The priest serves the people in the presence of God.
Obviously we are not priests in a literal tabernacle, lighting a literal menorah, collecting literal oil. Because we are in Christ all of these earthly shadows have become spiritual realities. We are the tabernacle of God. We are the light of Christ to the world.
Matthew 5:16. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
The priestly duty of shining the light of God has been given to all believers. Not the light of a giant lamp. The light of your own life. Christ’s life. Your unified life with Christ seen in your good works.
In Exodus priests lit a lampstand so people would know God was home. Today you live a life of good works so people will know that God is home. Home in you and therefore home in this world.
The interesting thing about the lighting of the lampstand here in Exodus 27 is that the oil for the lamp came from the people themselves. God’s light cannot shine without God’s people. The light of the lamp (God’s light) is a pure light because it comes from the purest of oil (God’s people). Pure beaten olive oil. Hand crushed to prevent impurities. This would produce a translucent and even smokeless flame burning from the menorah in the Holy Place.
Not only are we the lamplighters shining the light of God in this dark world, but our own lives are the pure beaten olive oil that fuels that lamp. But only because of Christ’s life. His life is the oil. He was beaten and crushed so that his life could drip out pure and blameless like pure oil without impurities. The oil of his pure life is now in us. Imputed to us.
So let the light of your life so shine from the pure oil of Christ’s life. Embrace his purity. Embrace his suffering. Embrace his service. Embrace his light. Keep the lamp lit for all to see the glory of our God.
“To live is Christ” is to be a lamp lighting priest burning the oil of our pure lives in the darkest of places. What good works will you shine from the grace of Christ’s indwelling life today in order to guide others toward the presence of God?