Priesthood, Part 4: Priestly Duties in the Holy Place
Last month we began looking at the duties of the priesthood in the Tabernacle and how they relate to us today. We saw that the Tabernacle was a place of holiness. Upon entering God’s gates, we begin our path of worship by entering with thanksgiving in our hearts and, as we enter His courts, with praise. We first stop at the altar where Yeshua, our sacrifice for our sin, was offered up, and now He becomes the altar that we lay down our lives on as an offering to God, and then we stop at the Laver (the fountain filled with Yeshua’s blood, the fountain of eternal life) to be cleansed. We did not discuss all the vessels used for the service of the Tabernacle, but even the vessels had to be clean and holy. Paul writes to Timothy, “Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if a man cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel of honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” What were these things Paul was referring to? The things that are not confessed and repented of that keep a person impure and not holy, the things we need to cleanse ourselves from.
After repentance and cleansing and sacrifice, we are now ready to enter into the next section of the Tabernacle: The Holy Place, the mikdash, also known as the sanctuary, which was the exact replica of heaven’s sanctuary. God said, “Let them construct a mikdash (Holy Place) for Me, that I may dwell (shachan) among them.” This was the whole idea behind the Feast of Tabernacles, God dwelling with man. This feast represents the coming age when God will permanently dwell with man, the Bridegroom and the Bride dwelling in the bridal chamber. Scripture tells us that we are being built into a mikdash so that God may shachan with us. Shachan is the root word in shachanah, as in God’s presence. This is why the feasts are so important for us believers to celebrate. They represent and speak of God’s plan for us.
Upon entering the Holy Place, one would see the Menorah (the lamp stand) on the South, the Table of Showbread on the North, and the Altar of Incense on the West just in front of the veil into the Holy of Holies.
The menorah was a seven branch candlestick. It weighed about 125 pounds and it was made from a single piece of gold. The menorah actually does not have candles, but seven branches like pipes that contain olive oil fed by a single source. The menorah represents the Tree of Life. The sages called the menorah the “Light of the World.” Now, do not get this confused with the Hanukkah Menorah, which has nine branches and was designed especially for Hanukkah to celebrate the eight day miracle. The menorah was the only source of light for the Tabernacle. The priest’s duty was to trim the wicks and keep the lamp lit at all times. The menorah represented God, who is light. Yeshua said that He was the “Light of the World” in John 9:5. When Yeshua returns, He will be the Light (the menorah) in the Tabernacle as it is said in Revelation, “The Lamb will be its light.” We are to be the Light of the World. We are going to stop here for a moment and take a look at what kept the menorah lit and what it takes for us to be the “Light of the World”.
God commanded Moses to only use pure olive oil to light the menorah. That was its source. We want to take a closer look at this source.
The Olive Tree
God told Moses, “Command the sons of Israel that they bring to you clear oil from beaten olives for the light, to make the lamp burn continually.” Olive trees have played a prominent role in Scripture, not only as the source of oil for the light in the Tabernacle (Temple), but the doors in the Temple were made from olive trees, as were the carved Cherubs which covered the Mercy Seat. It was at the Mount of Olives that Yeshua was taken up to heaven and where He will one day return. We, Gentile believers, have been grafted into the olive tree (Israel). We see in the Book of Zechariah the two olive trees next to the Menorah, which were the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth. These were specifically the two branches that dripped into the receptacle, the main source of the menorah. Yeshua is referred to as the Branch in Zechariah. It says, “Hear O Joshua, the high priest, you and your companions who sit before you, for they are a wondrous sign; for behold, I am bringing forth My Servant, the Branch,” the Branch dripping the oil for a light to the nations.
The oil represents the Holy Spirit. The two offices of Messiah, as our High Priest and King, both were anointed with oil. The word Messiah means “anointed one.” In Revelation, we see also these two witnesses who are referred to as the two olive trees and the two menorahs that stand before the Lord of the earth. As disciples and priests, we must also be anointed with the Holy Spirit. So we are going to look at the significant relationship between the making of the oil used for the menorah and for anointing and being a disciple of Yeshua.
Squeezing Out a Disciple
To start the process of extracting the oil, the olives were crushed under a stone for thirty to forty minutes. The crushed olives were then transferred to round baskets and were placed under high pressure to squeeze out all the oil. The first pressing was the purest, and only this could be used to light the menorah. The pressing and crushing of life is in our trials and tribulations. The Psalmist writes, “For Your arrows have sunk deep into me, and Your hand has pressed down on me.” We see this when Paul refers to all things as being lost and rubbish just to know Yeshua. He says, “I press on,” giving the allusion of the olives being pressed and everything being squeezed out. Again, he writes to the Corinthians, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even our lives.” Yeshua was crushed for our iniquities. It’s through this pressing and crushing that we are made pure and holy. It’s through this that the anointing flows throughout us.
Paul writes, “And not only this, but we also exalt in our tribulations knowing that tribulations bring about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope.” James writes, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” To be the true light to the nations, we must first be pressed and crushed and made holy and righteous, not putting confidence in the flesh, but letting God work through us. It is not by power or by might, but by the Holy Spirit that we can be the “Light of the World”. It is when we walk in the Spirit that we can be that true light, for the Spirit is Truth and He is never contrary to the Word. He is the light that dispels the darkness. He is the lamp to our feet and the light to our path. He is the oil in the receptacle (the source) that lights our lamp and as priests, we too must be that menorah.
Scripture says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under a bushel, but on a lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your righteous deeds, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Let us be like the five wise virgins who had enough oil for their lamps because they were tapped into the source. As priests, we must be filled with the Light so we can lead those who are in darkness to the truth. We do not want to overlook the command that the menorah is to remain lit at all times. The menorah, the ner tamid, which means “continual light,” hangs over the Ark which houses the Torah scrolls in the synagogue. God is ever present and so His light never goes out and we too as His priests should always let our light shine, always ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us. We must be ready to preach the Word in season and out of season, never ashamed of the Gospel. We must remain sober and alert.
We see that God takes it quite seriously that we be that light. In Revelation, John writes, “And I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden menorahs; and in the middle of the menorah one like a Son of Man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden girdle. And His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire; and His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been caused to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of mighty waters. And in His right hand He held seven stars; and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength . . . as for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden menorahs: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven menorahs are the seven churches.” To the church of Ephesus He writes, “The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden menorahs says this; I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot endure evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your First Love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and remove your menorah out of its placeâ€”unless you repent.”
As the assembly representing God, we must be holy and be the true light and not in any way misrepresent God who is light. If we have let the light go out or maybe our church just doesn’t have the oil any longer, then we must repent and once again light the menorah of our lives. Paul tells Timothy, “I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God (the Holy Spirit) which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” We are to kindle the fire and keep it burning (through the Holy Spirit) as this was commanded to us by the True Light. Let’s be like the five wise virgins, having our lamps ready and filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit.
We have seen that the menorah is called the Light of the World and, of course, Yeshua said that He was the Light of the World and as disciples of Yeshua, we too are the Light of the World. In Isaiah, the Temple is referred to as the Light of the World and all the nations will come to it. In fact, during the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, they would light these giant menorahs and the whole temple area would light up so that you could see the light for miles. Like a lighthouse guides ships, these menorahs would guide the pilgrims coming into the city. Isaiah also calls Jerusalem the Light of the World. And why were the temple and Jerusalem called the Light of the World? Because the Torah is called the Light of the World and Scripture tells us, “And many nations will come and say, ‘Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths, for from Zion will go forth the Torah, even the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” Proverbs tells us, “For the commandment is a lamp, and the teaching is light.”
Is your light shining today? Here is a little test found in 1 John: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and the Word is not in us. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His Word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him; the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked . . . The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him, But the one who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes . . . Do not love the world, or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
Remember the sequence: Thankfulness and praise, repentance and sacrifice, cleansing and light. Next on our path of worship, we will stop at the altar of showbread.
The Altar of Showbread
As we move on from the menorah, we then stop at the table of showbread. On the altar we see twelve loaves of bread. These loaves were for the twelve tribes of Israel. Every week, fresh loaves of bread are put on the table. Now, the miracle of the showbread is that this bread was eaten by all the priests who were on duty that week, about 150 men, and yet even though there were so many men that ate of the twelve loves, they ate and were satisfied. Sound familiar? Not only that, but the bread which was baked the week before was still hot and fresh as though it had just been baked. Yeshua said, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst . . . Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died . . . This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever, and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.” What was Yeshua saying? He was not saying to actually eat His flesh; that was totally against Torah. But what He was saying was that He was the Bread of Life. He was comparing Himself to the manna that came down from heaven. Yeshua is the Word made flesh and we are to eat of that Word. Isaiah writes, “Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance.”
Let’s stop at the table of the Lord and eat from His Word and delight in His ways as we walk in the light of His Word.