John conveys a greeting from the Trinity to those who read these prophecies. He identifies the Father as Him who is and who was and who is to come and the Son by name in verse five. But when it comes to the Holy Spirit he calls Him the seven Spirits who are before His (the Fathers) throne
. And unless we hear these words from the deeply Jewish perspective, which John intends, we will end up quite confused. Some might, and probably have, conclude that somehow there are seven spirits before Gods throne, which is, to say the least, a strange concept. Some view it as merely a poetic way of describing the Holy Spirit drawing on Isaiahs description of the different ways the Holy Spirit would minister through the coming Messiah (Is 11:2; wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, fear of the Lord). But since Isaiah lists only six attitudes, this interpretation is less convincing. Thankfully, John explains what he means by this phrase later on. In chapter four, verse five he compares the Holy Spirit to the seven-branched lampstand which was in the tabernacle, and later the temple. In Hebrew that lampstand was called the menorah (Ex 25:31). John says, And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God. This comparison reveals one of the central ministries of the Holy Spirit. To discover what that is we need to go back and understand why God ordered Moses to place a seven-branched lampstand in the outer court of the tabernacle. What promise did it convey, and how does that truth change our lives today?
The tabernacle was not designed by Moses. It was something God revealed to him item by item, detail by detail down to the smallest matter. This is because it was designed to be a symbolic explanation of the kingdom of God. Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it (Ex 25:8, 9)
It was placed in the center of the camp to show that God would dwell in the midst of His people.
It was a tent not a stone temple because He would lead His people and move with them (not a stationary, territorial deity).
The Ark of the covenant symbolized His throne. The Holy of holies was His throneroom.
The outer court contained three articles of furniture which made important promises to Israel: a table with twelve loaves of bread, a seven-branched lampstand and a small altar where incense was burned just outside the curtain of the Holy of holies.
The promises of the outer court were profound: whenever Gods people needed bread (resource) or light (guidance, revelation) they need only ask God through prayer (altar of incense).
Like sweet-smelling incense their prayers were welcomed by God and He would answer them.
Seven oil lamps were placed on a lampstand with seven branches. The lamps were cleaned and the oil was replenished morning and evening seven days a week.
It was the only light in the tabernacle.
It was a constantly available light (7 days a week 24 hours a day).
The message it contained: whenever you need guidance, dont turn to divination or your own wisdom, ask God in prayer.
The Holy Spirit
By calling the Holy Spirit the seven Spirits God is telling us that even though the tabernacle on earth no longer stands, to those in Christ its promises are still in effect. There is, as it were, a heavenly tabernacle (Heb 8:1-5) before the throne of God and the Holy Spirit is our menorah, promising to give us spiritual light whenever we need it if only well come to God in prayer.
The Holy Spirit is the menorah of God.
He is to be our only source of light.
He is constantly available (24/7)
God welcomes our request for light (But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him; Jas 1:5)
Removing the lampstand
With this in mind we see what a chilling threat it was when Jesus warned Ephesus He would remove your lampstand (Rev 2:5). It means that the Holy Spirits presence would lift off the congregation, and His voice would go silent.
1Samuel 3:1-3; 4:21, 22; Amos 8:11, 12
How do we lose this light?
Stop caring for the poor (Rev 2:4)
Corrupt or ignore the gospel
Undisciplined immorality, division, gossip
False prophesy (Mic 3:5-8)
Atrophy of spiritual gifts (1Th 5:19, 20)
Stop asking for light, replace it with human wisdom
Receiving Gods light
Life forces us to answer questions we are not prepared to answer: What is the purpose of my life? Who should I marry? Where should I live? How should we raise our children? What can be done to save our marriage? Should I accept this new job offer? Should I accept this type of medical treatment? How will I ever get ahead in my finances?
Important questions like these are hard to answer because: there are so many unknowns; Im not sure who to trust; Im influenced by what others think of me; Im not confident I can do whats required of me; people are pressuring me to do what they want; my emotions are trying to take control; I feel too tired to try again; Im not sure what God wants me to do
What happens when we try to answer these questions by our own reasoning and willpower?
Like sheep, we follow what others are doing
Like scientists, we examine ourselves under a microscope and try to calculate the answer
Like a fortune-teller, we try to peer into the future and decipher the safest course
Like tiny babies, we passively wait for someone to pick us up and carry us where we belong
Like football players, we crash through obstacles and people to reach the goals we desire
Though each of us is wired differently and tends to handle life differently, all of these approaches have one thing in common: they rely on sources other than God. None of them require a living God who speaks to us, and none involve walking obediently in faith before Him.
Important facts to remember:
God has a plan for my life and wisdom for each decision.
God wants me to know His will, and will reveal it to me if I seek Him.
His will for me revolves around His kingdom, not my fleshly desires (fear, anger, ambition, greed, lust
There is a divine-timing in His plans that must be waited for patiently.
To realize His will I must walk in faith; it can be forfeited or reduced by sin or passivity.
His will leads us into discipline (trials) as well as reward, but will always lead to victory.
Its impossible to have faith without personal contact with God.
- It cannot be attained by mental energy or human willpower.
- It is imparted: a gift transferred from Him to us in moments when we commune with Him.
He speaks in many different ways, but how He speaks is not importantthat I realize Ive heard from God is whats important (Ro 10:17).
In matters of personal guidance, no one can hear God for me; even if they do, they cant give me their faith.
What steps can I take to hear from Him?
Learn to have quiet times with God.
Honor the Lord through the Sabbath (a day of rest and listening)
Sit quietly, read and worship until you sense His presence
Use fasting to help you focus
Freely speak your concerns to Him
Listen to the Holy Spirit, not your head or emotions
Write your questions and answers in a journal
Ask questions, but let Him talk about whatever He wants to talk about. This isnt divination, its fellowship. He knows better than you what you need to hear.
Have you learned to have a quiet time with the Lord? Is so, describe one where God spoke to you. If its not too personal, tell us what He said.
What makes it so hard for us to have a quiet time?
How do you tend to make decisions when you havent heard from God (sheep, scientist, fortune-teller, tiny baby, football player, other)?