Leviticus 24:2 (HCSB)
2 “Command the Israelites to bring you pure oil from crushed olives for the light, in order to keep the lamp burning continually.
This pericope, following the listing of the holy days, outlines the responsibility to provide olive oil for the lamp, and loaves of bread to be laid out on the table, both in the tent of meeting. There are three things to notice here:
The Israelites are providers of these things: olive oil and bread. The olive oil is to be provided continually, since the lamp burns continually. And the bread is weekly, being replaced each Sabbath. So these are reminders, perpetual reminders, that we serve God. The weekly reminder of the bread, that God is our provider and sustainer, that we would not eat without Him. And the daily reminder that He is our light, our guide, and He alone shines through the darkness. How easy is it for us to “remember” God only on Sunday morning, and almost have forgotten Him by the time we drive out of the parking lot? Perhaps this was yet another safeguard that God so graciously provided the Israelites, so that they would not do exactly that.
- The lamp was to burn continually. Day or night, it was to be burning, inside the tent of meeting. Sure, it would have the practical use of light to see, but there is more to it than that. The fuel is to be pure olive oil. So a “pure” light? Symbolic of the light of the world? And Aaron is to “tend it continually”. It’s not a set-it-and-forget-it type arrangement. Surely the text does not mean Aaron literally stares and watches the lamp 24/7, but there is a sense of a regular checking of the lamp, to ensure the light has not gone out. We have a sort of reverence for the Olympic flame, which stays lit during the entire Olympic games, via a complex system to ensure the flame is preserved. Yet how much more meaningful is it for a people to be assured that their God is constantly with them, and alive and active, and dispelling the dark? This is what the lamp, it would seem to me, symbolized.
The bread is interesting in that it is tied to the Sabbath, being refreshed weekly. It would seem certain that it is unleavened, else we would not expect the priests to be eating it after sitting out for a week. It is interesting that there are to be 12 loaves… 12 being a sort of “perfect” number (12 tribes, 12 disciples, 12 apostles). The bread is part of the Israelites responsibility in the covenant with God, the observation of which means that they remain God’s people. We should note that the bread is not food for God! Man does not provide food for God, we have nothing God needs. It is a symbolic offering, which ultimately is consumed by the priests, God’s representatives, because they need food.
Lord, thank You for being with us always. For being the light in a dark, sinful world. And thank You for providing for us. I pray that we would always remember You are these things, as well as so much more: loving, merciful, patient, and the list goes on and on. I pray that You would help me to remember You daily, to stop cutting You out of my life at times, when I get caught up in the world, and instead be constantly reminded, and mindful, of You. Amen.