Numbers 8: Lessons for You and the Church to Fulfill God’s Calling to be a Light to Others

Introduction: God sought to prepare the Jews for their journey to the Promised Land. He also seeks to prepare His people to serve as they journey through life on the way to the eternal Promised Land. From God’s instructions to His people regarding the golden lampstand or “menorah”, the bronze laver, the wave offering, and other details, God reveals important lessons for both you and the Church to fulfill His calling to be a light to the rest of the world.

1. True Worship Shows Gratitude By Being a Light to Others. Nu. 8:1-4; Ex. 25:31-40.

  • God’s instructions to Moses and Aaron regarding the lampstand. Many people are confused by the first nine chapters of Numbers. Many of the laws and references to the Tabernacle would seem to belong in the books of Leviticus and Exodus. Why discuss them again? These things were a “copy and shadow of the heavenly things” to come (Heb. 8:5; 9:23). After the Church was organized and worshiped with one accord, God spoke to Moses at the end of chapter 7, signaling His approval (Nu. 7:89). But God’s people still were still not ready to move out towards the Promised Land. God first instructed Aaron to light the lampstand with the seven lamps, “the Menorah”: “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to Aaron and say to him, ‘When you mount the lamps, the seven lamps will provide light in the front of the lampstand.’” 3 Therefore Aaron did so; he mounted its lamps at the front of the lampstand, just as the Lord had commanded Moses. 4 Now this was the workmanship of the lampstand, hammered work of gold; from its base to its flower ornamentation it was hammered work; according to the pattern which the Lord had shown Moses, so he made the lampstand.” (Nu. 8:1-4; Ex. 25:31-37; 37:17-23). This lampstand represented several things about God’s purpose in sending out His Church through the world as they journeyed to the Promised Land.

  • The gold in the lampstand / “Menorah”. After describing the table and food to be presented in the tent of meeting, God described the golden lampstand or “menorah” that would illuminate it (Ex. 25:31-40). The gold symbolized divinity. Yet, unlike the other fixtures which were “gold plated,” the menorah was pure gold. It also had no exact measurements. This reminds us that God is infinite beyond time and space. Yet, based upon the size that the Jews created, the golden lampstand would have weighed more than 90 pounds. This would have exceeded more than one-half a million dollars in today’s prices. Thus, this fixture was extremely valuable and important in God’s Tabernacle.

  • The symbolism of the golden lampstand. The lampstand was meant to look like a golden tree. It had three branches on each side and a trunk in the middle (Nu. 8:1-4; Ex. 25:31-40). God promises that believers will one day see this same golden lampstand in heaven (Zech. 4:1-6). Jesus is the trunk of the lampstand (Jo. 15:1-4; cf. Jo. 11:25-26). The six branches symbolize all of the believers in Christ (Jo. 15:1-4). God created mankind on the sixth day (Gen. 1:26-27). Yet, mankind is incomplete without Him. With Christ in the middle, there were seven complete lights. The lampstand was also perfectly balanced with three branches on each side, a symbol of harmony. We have peace with God through Jesus (Ro. 5:1). Yet, any branch that does not abide in Jesus is cut off (Jo. 15:6). The branches also contained three symbols, which represent the stages of a believer’s walk with Christ. The branches included buds, flowers, and almonds. The buds symbolize a life of potential in Christ. The flowers symbolize the beauty of a life in Christ. The almonds symbolize the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Does your life show the fruit of the Holy Spirit?

The Golden Lampstand (image credit)1

  • Be a beacon to others. God instructed the priests to ensure that the golden lampstand remained continually burning to provide a beacon of light (Lev. 24:3-4). He gave the Law to the Jews and called them to be holy so that they would be a light to the nations: “I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, and I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations,” (Is. 42:6). The golden lampstand symbolized their purpose as light to others (Jo. 1:4-5, 9). The lampstand, however, had to be covered from the eyes of the laypersons until their sinful eyes could be atoned for (Nu. 4:9). Yet, Jesus explained that a lampstand was not meant to be hidden. It should instead give light to those around it (Matt. 5:15). Jesus is the true light of the world (Jo. 8:12). But the world did not want His light (Jo. 1:10). Indeed, people turned away from the light because they love darkness (Jo. 3:19-20). Today, the light of Jesus burns in us because the Tabernacle now lies within us (Matt. 5:14-16; 1 Cor. 3:16). Is your life a light to others to bring them to Christ?

2. To Be a Light to Others, God Must First Purify You.

  • The “beaten” olives of life and the Holy Spirit. God instructed the priests to only use “beaten olives” for the oil for the golden lampstand (Lev. 24:1-2). The burning olives created holy smoke for God to be in the presence of His people. The oil also symbolized the Holy Spirit (1 Sam. 16:13; Zech. 4:2-6). Like the Holy Spirit, the olive branch is a symbol of life. It was the first thing that God had the dove bring to Noah (Gen. 8:11). The fact that the olives had to be “crushed” also has meaning. In order to have the Holy Spirit be fully manifest in your life, your own will needs to be crushed (2 Cor. 4:8). Are you emptying your own pride, vanity, and the desires of the flesh so that the Holy Spirit can lead you?

  • Find a balanced life through Jesus. The lampstand was also perfectly balanced. It was balanced with three branches on each side, the symbol of the trinity and a life of harmony. We have peace with God through Jesus (Rom. 5:1). Yet, we as Christians can also become overly focused on one aspect of our walk, worship, reading, prayer, or service. Is your walk balanced? What is missing from your walk?

3. To Be a Light, Let Others See the Fruit and the Manifestations of the Spirit in Your Life.

  • A Spirit-filled life is evident by the nine spiritual fruits. The branches included buds, flowers, and almonds (Ex. 25:31-40; 37:17-23). The almonds symbolize the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Jesus said that you will know a person by his or her fruit (Matt 7:16-20). Does your life show the manifestation of the nine fruit of the Spirit: (1) love; (2) joy; (3) peace; (4) patience; (5) kindness; (6) goodness; (7) faithfulness; (8) gentleness; and (9) self-control? Or, do people know you by the deeds of the flesh? (Gal. 5:19-20).

  • A Spirit-filled life bears witness to the seven manifestations of the Spirit. While looking at the throne of God in heaven, the Apostle John explained that the “Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.” (Rev. 4:5, same Rev. 3:1 “Seven Spirits of God.”). He also explained that “[i]n the midst of the throne. . . stood a Lamb . . . having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” (Rev. 5:6). Zechariah also saw “. . .a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps.” (Zech. 4:2). Zechariah also revealed that the seven lamps are both God’s Spirit (Zech. 4:2) and His eyes (Zech. 4:10). They are the seven characteristics of the one Holy Spirit. These include: (1) the Spirit of the Lord (Salvation); (2) the Spirit of wisdom; (3) the Spirit of understanding; (4) the Spirit of counsel; (5) the Spirit of might; (6) the Spirit of knowledge; and (7) the Spirit of fear of the Lord (Sanctification). Isaiah 11:2 explains these seven manifestations:

The Seven Spirits of God (image credit)2

1. The Spirit of the Lord (Salvation). There is One Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:4). The Spirit of the Lord is the central trunk from which the branches flow. Those whom the Spirit of the Lord have not grafted onto Christ can have no part in Him. The first work of the Spirit of the Lord is when one is born again  (1 Cor. 6:11). The Spirit selects us knowing that we will accept Jesus: “...God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” (2 Thess. 2:13). The Spirit “dwells in you.” (Rom. 8:11; Jo. 14:17). By dwelling within you, the other manifestations of the Spirit can come upon you. Knowing that the Holy Spirit dwells within you, have you kept your body holy? (Rom. 12:1).

2. The Spirit of wisdom. The seven eyes (Rev. 5:6; Zech. 4:10) represent spiritual vision, which leads to wisdom and understanding. These eyes represent the ability to see by the Spirit while in the physical world to discern right from wrong. If you pray correctly, the Holy Spirit will never withhold wisdom from you (Jam. 1:5).

3. The Spirit of understanding. When we pray in Jesus’ name, the Spirit of truth (the Helper) will give us understanding: “But the Helper,  the Holy Spirit,  whom the Father will send in My name,  He will teach you all things,  and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jo. 14:26). “The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (Jo. 14:17). To have this Spirit of understanding, you must follow the light of Jesus: “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (Jo. 8:12). To have the Spirit create a light unto your feet, you must also read the Word (Ps. 119:105; 2 Pet. 1:19). Are you reading His Word every day to give light to your feet?

4. The Spirit of counsel. A counselor gives legal advice to guide someone through trials and defends against an adversary. The Holy Spirit is our advocate: “He [the Holy Spirit] intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom. 1:27). The Holy Spirit is also our counselor: “But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me.” (Jo. 15:26). The Holy Spirit, for example, gave instructions to the apostles after Jesus’ death (Acts 1:2). To be called sons of God, you must be led by the Spirit (Rom. 8:14). Are you seeking and following the Spirit of counsel in each of your important decisions?

5. The Spirit of might. He gives you courage for God: “you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again. . .” (Rom. 8:15). He helps in your weakness to tell you what to pray for: “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses; for we do not know how to pray as we should. . .” (Rom. 8:26). He gives you the strength to be witnesses for God: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me . . .” (Acts 1:8). He also gives you the power to deliver others from sin and bondage: “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God . . .” (Matt. 12:28). Have you sought the Spirit of might to serve God to the fullest?

6. The Spirit of knowledge. You are not to be carried away by “strange doctrines” (Heb. 13:9). To avoid this, “the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.” (Eph. 1:17). Not only will the Spirit give you a knowledge of Jesus, but He will give you insight into Christ’s mind and what He is doing (1 Cor. 2:6-16). The Holy Spirit is your teacher (Jo. 14:26). Do you know what you must do for the Spirit of knowledge to protect you and guide you? (Acts 17:11).

7. The Spirit of fear of the Lord. (Sanctification). The fear of the Lord is to hate evil. (Prov. 8:13). A believer should be separated from sin and purified by life lived in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25; Ro. 8:1-14). “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom. 8:2). Do you hate evil in the world, by being salt in a wound of sin? Are you praying for sinners or our country to repent? Or, to be politically correct, do you seek to ignore or accept sin around you so as not to offend others?

4. To Be a Light to Others, You Must be Cleansed of All Unrighteousness. Nu. 8:5-10.

  • Instructions for purification. Another part of the preparation for the journey included a requirement that God’s people purify themselves: “5 Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 6 “Take the Levites from among the sons of Israel and cleanse them. 7 This is what you shall do to them, for their cleansing: sprinkle purifying water on them, and have them use a razor over their whole body, and they shall wash their clothes and cleanse themselves. 8 Then have them take a bull with its grain offering, fine flour mixed with oil; and you shall take a second bull as a sin offering. 9 So you shall present the Levites in front of the tent of meeting. You shall also assemble the whole congregation of the sons of Israel, 10 and present the Levites before the Lord; and the sons of Israel shall lay their hands on the Levites.” (Nu. 8:5-10).

  • The bronze laver. A priest cannot help others if they are still ignoring their own sin in our lives (Matt. 7:3). To become cleansed of sin, the priests were sprinkled with holy water (Nu. 8:7; Lev. 8:6). The priest made himself clean by washing in the bronze laver, the “kiyyor”, that sat in front of the tent of meeting (Ex. 30:17-21).

Let Jesus purify your hidden sins3

  • Let Christ expose your hidden sins. A priest who entered the Holy of Holies without washing his feet would die (Ex 30:20). The reason for this is that God is a consuming fire that destroys any unholy thing in His presence (Ex. 24:17; Heb. 12:29). The laver was made of bronze (Ex. 30:18). The bronze symbolized God’s judgment of sin. The altar of judgment was also covered in bronze (Ex. 27:2-5). Weapons were also made of bronze. Jesus is likewise described as having “bronze” feet (Rev. 1:15). His bronze feet will bring judgment to Satan by crushing him (Ro. 16:20). He will also judge those who fail to repent: “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son.” (Jo. 5:22, 27; Acts 10:42; 17:31). Even saved believers will be held to account for their actions at the Berma seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:9). Thus, you should be motivated to let Him expose and cleanse your hidden sins (Ps. 19:12).

  • Reading God’s Law allows the Holy Spirit to convict you of your hidden sins. The bronze wash basin would have been highly reflective. If a priest looked down, he would see his own reflection. In a similar way, God’s Law reflects the sin in your heart: “23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:23-25). To emphasize this point, God told the Jews to use mirrors for the bronze laver: “Moreover, he made the laver of bronze with its base of bronze, from the mirrors of the serving women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting.” (Ex. 38:8). The women who handed over the mirrors foreshadowed the Church (the bride of Christ) when it submits to reflect upon its sins. Are you memorizing God’s Law so that He can expose your hidden sins?

  • Jesus’ warning to wash your feet before you approach Him. At the Last Supper, Peter initially refused Jesus’ offer to wash his feet. Jesus responded by rebuking him: “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” (Jo. 13:8). Peter then asked Jesus to wash his feet, hands, and head. Jesus responded: “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet.” (Jo. 13:10). “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” (Jo. 15:3). In other words, Christ died once for your sins (Heb. 10:12), but your flesh gets dirty each day and must still be washed. To wash yourself, you read God’s Word: “so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word . . .” (Eph. 5:26). The process of washing feet also implied that the person with the dirty feet was allowing his or her life to be closely examined by someone else. Likewise, the person washing the feet symbolically became acquainted with the other person’s sins for the purpose of helping to cleanse them. Are you submitting yourself to be accountable to someone else? Likewise, are you taking time out of your busy life to be a mentor to someone younger in the faith?

  • Cleanse your life of pride. The priests were also told to use a razor to shave their whole body (Nu. 8:7; Lev. 14:9). The loss of hair symbolizes humiliation. Jesus, for example, had His hair plucked (Isa. 3:24; 50:6; Jer. 7:29). Humiliation is often humbling. “Christ did not glorify Himself to be a high priest . . .” (Heb. 5:5). He instead emptied Himself and made Himself a man of no reputation (Phil. 2:6-8). You cannot serve the Lord if your walk is filled with pride (Phil. 2:3, 5). Are you humble when you are successful?

  • Cleanse your life of unclean habits. The priests were also told to wash their clothes (Nu. 8:7; Lev. 14:8, 9). Clothes in the Bible symbolized a person’s habits, acts, endeavors, or righteousness (Isa. 64:6). By washing your clothes, you cleanse yourself of your dirty habits. If “you want to clothe yourself with Christ” instead of our own filthy rags, Paul encourages that you “put on Christ.” (Gal. 3:27, See also, Ro. 6:3-7). He wore the clothes of a servant. If you overcome the world, He will clothe you in fine garments in heaven (Rev. 19:8). Are you clothing yourself in Christ by making yourself a servant to others?

  • Repent of your sins and remember the price Christ paid for you. The priests were also told to sacrifice a bull as a sin offering (Nu. 8:8, 12; Lev. 8:14). The life of an animal is in its blood (Lev. 17:11). The shedding of blood symbolizes the power to forgive sins (Heb. 9:22). The sin of the priest was vicariously transferred to the bull to be killed. By faith, our sins were also transferred to the blood of Christ: “[God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 3:25; Gal. 3:13; Mk. 14:24; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; 2:24; Isa. 53:4-5, 10, 12). If you do know the price Christ paid for you, what are you doing to thank Him?

  • Remember Christ’s sacrifice by making your life a thank offering. The priests were also told to make a grain offering with “fine flour with oil” (Nu. 8:8; Lev. 8:26; 14:10). The fine flour symbolized the best that the person had to offer from his or her labors. The grain offering was given out of thanks for being freed of sin (Lev. 2:1-16; Dt. 29:8-11). If you are to be grateful for what Christ has done for you, you can offer your life as a “living sacrifice” for Him (Ro. 12:1; 1 Cor. 6:19-20). Are you giving Him the best of your time, talent, and treasure? Or, does He get more time each week than your television?

  • A life offering without the Holy Spirit cannot please God. The grain offering was made with oil (Nu. 8:8; Lev. 8:30; 14:18, 29). This symbolizes the Holy Spirit (1 Sam 16:13). Your life offering is not pleasing to Him if it is led by the flesh instead of the Spirit (Rom. 8:8; Gal. 4:6). Are you serving Him for His glory or your own?

5. To Be a Light to Others, You Must be Set Apart From the World. Nu. 8:11-18.

  • Instructions for the sin and wave offerings. Another part of the preparation for the journey included a requirement of a sin and wave offering: 11 Aaron then shall present the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the sons of Israel, so that they may qualify to perform the service of the Lord. 12 Now the Levites shall lay their hands on the heads of the bulls; then you are to offer the one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering to the Lord, to make atonement for the Levites. 13 And you shall have the Levites stand before Aaron and his sons so as to present them as a wave offering to the Lord. 14 So you shall single out the Levites from among the sons of Israel, and the Levites shall be Mine. 15 Then after that the Levites may go in to serve the tent of meeting. But you shall cleanse them and present them as a wave offering; 16 for they are exclusively given to Me from among the sons of Israel. I have taken them for Myself instead of the firstborn of every womb, the firstborn of all the sons of Israel. 17 For every firstborn among the sons of Israel is Mine, among the people and among the animals; on the day that I fatally struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified them for Myself. 18 But I have taken the Levites instead of every firstborn among the sons of Israel.” (Nu. 8:11-18). Each of these offerings pointed to Jesus Christ.

  • You are part of God’s holy priesthood. The priests made a wave offering to God (Nu. 8:11, 13). This showed that they were bound and connected to Him. The Levites were given to God in lieu of the firstborn from every family (Nu. 8:16-17; 3:41). If they had not done this, the firstborn of each family would have been given to the Lord as a substitute for being saved from death caused by the tenth and final plague in Egypt (Ex. 13:1-16). Today, we are God’s holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). Do you consider yourself to belong entirely to Him? If so, are you using your talents for Him? How much of your free time is spent in service to Him in prayer, reading the Word, or in service to others?

Wave Offering (image credit)4

6. To Be a Light to Others, You Must be Serving by Helping Others. Nu. 8:19-22.

  • Be a witness for God. Before Christ’s death, the “layperson” who came near to God would be put to death: 19 And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and to his sons from among the sons of Israel, to perform the service of the sons of Israel at the tent of meeting and to make atonement on behalf of the sons of Israel, so that there will be no affliction among the sons of Israel due to their approaching the sanctuary. 20 So this is what Moses, Aaron, and all the congregation of the sons of Israel did to the Levites; according to everything that the Lord had commanded Moses regarding the Levites, so the sons of Israel did to them. 21 The Levites, too, purified themselves from sin and washed their clothes; and Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the Lord. Aaron also made atonement for them to cleanse them. 22 Then after that the Levites went in to perform their service in the tent of meeting before Aaron and his sons; just as the Lord had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so they did to them.” (Nu. 8:19-22; 3:10). The Levites prepared the Tabernacle so that God’s glory could be with Israel without having God’s consuming fire destroy an unholy people. Christ ripped the veil to God for those who have accepted Him (Matt. 27:51; Mk. 15:38). Only faith in Christ will protect a person from His holy fire. Are you directing people to the one person who can protect them from judgment when they come into God’s presence?

  • Serve those in need. The priests were given over to Aaron for service to the church (Nu. 8:19, 22; 3:6). God looks at your faith as “dead” if you are not motivated to serve Him in some way (Jam. 2:14-26). Christ also expects every believer to seek to resolve injustice around them. “do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8). “[L]earn to do good, seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, [and] plead for the widow.” (Is. 1:17). On the Day of Judgment, Jesus will ask what each person did for the oppressed and needy (Matt. 25:40). If you trust God, He will direct you where to address injustice in society (Ps. 119:105; Jam. 1:27). Are you burdened by the deaths of innocent people? Are you and your church praying for the nation?

Live in service to God5

7. To Be a Light, You Must Mentor Others When You are Spiritually Mature. Nu. 8:23-26.

  • Our service to God never ends. Like us, the Jews had an age of retirement from physical labors. For the priests, the years of physical labor lasted from age 25 until 50, with the first five years working as an apprentice: “23 Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “This is what applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall enter to perform service in the work of the tent of meeting. 25 But at the age of fifty years they shall retire from service in the work and not work anymore. 26 They may, however, assist their brothers in the tent of meeting, to fulfill an obligation, but they themselves shall do no work. In this way you shall deal with the Levites in their obligations.” (Nu. 8:24-26). After age 50, the priests continued to serve God by teaching, mentoring, and serving others (Nu. 8:26). Moses was 80 years old when God called Him to service. Many Christians see retirement as a time to fish, golf, socialize, and just hang out. Yet, we are a nation of priests (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). If you are retired, are you using your free time to serve God? If you are mature in your walk, help another person in his or her walk with Jesus. Are you in a mentoring relationship?

Let the Spirit guide you to be a light to others6

  • Don’t cause others below you to stumble. Elders and deacons are held to higher standards because they are role models for others (1 Tim. 3:3, 8; Tit. 1:7). We are also to watch our behavior to make sure that we do not cause others around us to stumble: “It is good not to eat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.” (Rom. 14:21; Tit. 2:3). Are your actions in life worthy of a role model?

  • Mentorship requires Church organization. Today, people float in and out of large churches. For fear of offending, no lists are kept of who attends. Discipleship and mentoring exist only when people seek it out. But as a nation of priests, this is not the model that God intended for His priests (Nu. 8:26). If mentorship is missing at your church, help start it.