Welcome to Chapter 4 of Part 3 of Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is introducing us to the Golden Lampstand: The Lamb of God.
Join us here also, as we continue to share daily free will offerings of praise to our God – the Lamb who was slain to give us life, to shine the light of His love upon us and through us.
Exodus 25:31 “You shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand shall be made of hammered work: its base, its stem, its cups, its calyxes, and its flowers shall be of one piece with it.
John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Revelation 21:23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.
The golden lampstand (Ex. 25:31–40) was made of pure gold, hammered out of one solid piece. Resting on a base, the central stem had six branches, three on either side, together carrying seven lamps. The lampstand with its branches was modeled on a flowering almond tree. Although the Bible text does not specify the size of the lampstand, the text indicates that the lampstand (and the utensels) were made out of pure gold, weighing one talent (about 75 lb. or 34 kg). The lampstand may have been 5 or 6 feet (1.5–1.8 m) tall.The Golden Lampstand (source: https://www.esv.org/resources/esv-global-study-bible/illustration-02-golden-lampstand/)
In Revelations 2, God praises the church of Ephesus for their unwillingness to tolerate evil and for their “works, toil and patient perserverance”, telling them that He sees that they have not grown weary and are bearing up. But He also warns them (Revelations 2:4-5, ESV):
But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
When God opened my eyes to a newborn faith, after more than twenty years as a Prodigal, I began to pray for answers to my wayward turning. I couldn’t understand how I could have ever become so blind. But through Christ’s words to Peter, God turned my prayerful questioning upside down.
He asked me to stop praying for answers explaining my turning away. He invited me instead to open my eyes to His sovereign hand upon my life and His perfecting work in my weakness. He asked me to look for His Presence with me, at every point in my journey, and to see how He was the lamp unto my feet and the light unto my path. He showed me how He had been patiently shaping and moulding me into His image, my whole life long.
This morning I awoke to this Promise on my Bible app:
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
Hebrews 13:8 KJV
I have recently returned to my habit of praying through my Bible app verse in the morning and returning to it in the evening to see how God has returned His Word to me to root it deeper in my heart. As this new Word returned to me, it broke my heart.
I remembered how as a teenager the Holy Spirit fell upon me at my school camp and I couldn’t stop crying as I confessed one sin after another. God’s mercy and tenderness toward me overwhelmed me. But I also remember words being spoken to my parents about my unusual and concerning behavior and how this recently returned missionary kid – who was already all too aware of being oh so different – cringed at once again being set apart from her peers.
As God turned my face toward Him to remove that veil, I chose to turn my face back toward man, choosing to hide the light of God in me.
Then, I remembered God giving me verses in Hosea to pray over a friend at my former church, three years after He had brought me home. This happened only days before He commanded me to leave that very church and to cut all ties. But what I didn’t see until more recently, is how those very verses were not just given to me for my friend, but for my own heart also.
As He led me to Hosea 2 for my friend, a friend He was about to ask me to surrender into His hands, He was in fact praying it over me also. That I, just as Peter and Howells, might live the very Word I was given in prayer for the Body of Christ.
What did that process of Hosea 2 look like in my own life and heart? First, He showered me in blessings upon my return to Him as a Prodigal child, as I sought His face and humbled myself before Him in His leading. Then, I saw those blessings He had showered upon me as coming from my own striving – from the steps I had chosen to take that led to my healing from trauma.
And she did not know
that it was I who gave her
the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and who lavished on her silver and gold,
which they used for Baal.
Therefore I will take back
my grain in its time,
and my wine in its season,
and I will take away my wool and my flax,
which were to cover her nakedness.
So, He humbled me anew. Sending fresh trauma triggers, He exposed my weakness and sin, as I openly confessed my need for God’s grace. Around the same time He began leading me to share specific Scriptures with one of my pastors. I now realize these Scriptures were not only confronting the false teaching going on behind the scenes, but also my own pride and idolatry.
The false teaching directly contradicts the Good News that declares Christ’s power as being perfected in weakness and the blood of Jesus as having broken the curse of sin and death. It also sets itself up in the place of God. It denies the power of the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us to lead us to repentance – not just once and for all, but on a daily and moment-by-moment basis. And it encourages people to put their trust in human doctrine, leading them away from an experiential understanding of our freedom in Christ, in a unique and very personal way, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
The false teaching does what I had wanted to do, after I began to pride myself in my “healing” from CPTSD. For, I had begun to set myself up on a pedestal, wanting others to follow what God had me do that had led to my “healing” from trauma. But beautifully, right when He had me sharing those Scriptures with my pastor, God began to humble me with fresh trauma triggers, to help me live the very Word He had me sharing. I didn’t see that though, until I looked back years later.
I began to face rejection in my open confessions of sin and weakness, and in my obedience to God’s prompting to share the Scriptures He gave me for my pastor. Each rejection I faced, as hearts hardened toward me, took me back to my childhood experience of rejection. I heard those same accusations from my past screaming at me, that I had agreed with as a child: “God has abandoned you, you don’t belong to Him, you are evil, look at how sinful you are, you are inherently wrong, God made a mistake with you, look at how you repel other Christians.”
But this time, strengthened by my experience of God’s mercy to me in bringing me home to Him after such a long Prodigal journey, I kept crying out to God. And He upheld me, even in moments I wanted to take my own life. He continually lifted me up out of the pit of self, pride and idolatry to set me on the Rock of His Word to me, restoring me unto Himself.
He had me lay down every accusation of the enemy at His feet, where He clothed me in the truth of His Word. He repeatedly showed me that my identity and worth is rooted in Him alone and can never be stolen from me.
As I poured out laments before Him, in my deep pain through each rejection, He again and again filled me with such deep grief for those I was praying for. He continually exchanged the bitterness, unforgiveness and hatred in my own heart of stone for fervent love, compassion and mercy, uncovering His heart of flesh beating inside of me.
Now, I know that God led me out of that church just as a disciplinary hearing was being planned to remove me from the ministry positions I had been given. God had had me openly rebuke hidden sin – a rebuke that did not lead to repentance. Then, as I was rebuked by those present in my own wrongdoing, He convicted my heart, leading me to confess my own sin of looking where I shouldn’t have, which had led to the discovery of that sin in the first place.
Now I will uncover her lewdness
in the sight of her lovers,
and no one shall rescue her out of my hand.
And I will put an end to all her mirth,
her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths,
and all her appointed feasts.
And I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees,
of which she said,
‘These are my wages,
which my lovers have given me.’
I will make them a forest,
and the beasts of the field shall devour them.
And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals
when she burned offerings to them
and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry,
and went after her lovers
and forgot me, declares the Lord.
Beautifully God placed a dear friend in my midst who had had a dream about what just unfolded and that dream encouraged her to speak up and affirm the choices He had asked me to take through His Word: both to speak up about the sin I had discovered and to confess my own sin.
In His great kindness to me, God then led me out before that disciplinary meeting could take place. His punishment of me was to strip me of the very idols of self, man, ministry positions and church, that were suffocating His breath in me.
At first I struggled to receive God’s love for me and His protection of my heart in this stripping. He took away what I didn’t realize I had begun to build my self-worth and identity upon in the pain and shame I felt through all the rejection. But then, this lifting off of the chaff, became His greatest gift to me.
I now see how God only took away my idols to reveal the beauty of Himself in me – truth, love and grace. He showed me that I need never be afraid of His discipline that is so different to the world’s discipline.
No! God’s training of us is never sent to shame and condemn us. It is never sent to set us aside to become worthless, as we remain chained to a vanity that leaves us perpetually empty and out in the cold. His discipline of us – His children – is a chastening in love that is sent to convict and free us of our sins that we might be set apart unto Him to bear abundant and abiding fruit.
In His great kindness to me, God led me out into the wilderness, to allure me and restore me unto Himself. He revealed His deep compassion for me in my weakness, meeting my desperate need to just be held in His arms. He revealed Himself to be so very different from the idol I had made of Him – an idol I had fashioned after my own idols of self, man, ministry and church.
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.
Not long after we buried my Mum, about three years earlier, God had given me a personal Promise to hold onto. I had framed this Promise with photos of my Mum, my sisters and myself (Isaiah 51:3, NIV):
The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.
What I didn’t realize is that for this Promise to be birthed in me, more and more, God would have to lead me into the wilderness to uncover my parched and famished heart and soul. For, only in His gardening – and not my idols’ – could the seeds of His Word take root and flourish in His heart for me. As Jeremiah 31:4 (ESV) puts it:
And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
By God’s grace, I am now relearning how to turn to Jesus in my need. And it is in fixing my eyes upon Jesus and the finished work of the Cross that my Savior is exchanging my hunger, thirst, pain and disgrace for joy and gladness, thanksgiving and the sound of singing. He is opening my eyes to His love for me right where I am. By His grace, I am learning to receive Him in those He hemmed me in with, as He is now leading me out to a spacious place with Him.
“And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.
God is truly sowing the Word of life so richly in my midst, as He is leading me and others around me to openly confess our weakness and sin before each other, to speak the truth to each other in love and to freely extend mercy to each other. We are learning and growing together, as Jesus is revealing Himself to us in an intimate and personal way.
“And in that day I will answer, declares the Lord,
I will answer the heavens,
and they shall answer the earth,
and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and they shall answer Jezreel,
and I will sow her for myself in the land.
And I will have mercy on No Mercy,
and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’;
and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’”
Yes, I am tasting and seeing the goodness of my God in the land of the living. For, in His love, kindness and mercy to me, He is proving me to be His child. He has set me apart according to His purposes for me. And as I come to Him for mercy in His hemming in, His mercy is being awakened in me for His Body, as I declare before Him: “You alone, are my God.”
When God sends out His Word to us, to warn us that we have abandoned our love for Him, He does so, not to condemn us. But to lift our fears and perfect us in His love. Why? Because He sees our true heart, hiding beneath a mask of pride and self-righteousness. The heart of Jesus that loves His Heavenly Father, not just in part, but completely and wholly.