Getting a Handle on a Holy God
“And you shall make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings on the four corners that are at its four legs.” Exodus 25:12 &26
Handles. They’re important for picking things up. They’re vital for moving things. They’re an idiom for life as we continually try to “get a handle” on things, but can their presence, or non-presence, ever be indicative of something more…of something we fail to get our hands on? Perhaps, just perhaps, handles need to be handled more insightfully.
Today, as I was continuing my Bible reading in and through Exodus (get it… through Exodus…ha!) I encountered some handles that I’d never given much thought to before. But this time, for some reason, they kind of rose up off the page and I had to lay hold of them. I was in Exodus 25, reading about the Ark of the Testimony, the Table for the Showbread, and the Gold Lampstand. This was God’s description of the three items that would eventually be located in the innermost part of the Tabernacle. Each item was outlined in detail and as my eyes read, my mind pictured. I tried to visualize the ark covered with gold inside and out…with “two rings on one side and two rings on the other side…that it might be carried” (Ex. 25:12, 14). I attempted to imagine the golden table, it too having “rings on the four corners…close to its frame…that the table may be carried” (Ex. 25:24-28). And then there was the lampstand…it took a little more concentration as it was far more detailed and decorative with its branches, bowls, knobs, and flowers…but without any handles (Ex. 25:31-40). I went back over each item, tracing it out in my mind, making sure I placed those golden rings in the right spot. I had trouble with the table because I kept putting them in a place that would be in the way…I had to keep moving them until they were (I think) in the right place so as not to be thigh or hip bruisers. And that’s when I noticed the lack of handles on the lampstand. The ark had handles for moving; the table also had handles; why not the lampstand? How would it be moved? As I thought about it, I rethought what each item represented. And then my mind pictured far more than the description of each item; now, my mind looked upon the Deity each article represented. And when I saw the Father in the Ark, the Son in the Table, and the Spirit in the Lampstand, then I also saw a purpose for the rings…as well as a purpose for the lack of the rings.
One of the things I love about the Old Testament is the way in which it foreshadows the New Testament. It’s not an anthology of outdated, overwritten, or overshadowed texts that, thanks to the addition of the New Testament, are now chronicled as “archaic” transcripts. Rather, an understanding of the Old Testament adds to the context of the New Testament, providing the contextual pegs upon which we can hang our conceptual hats! (Think about that one…it spins for a while, but when it stops it becomes clear!) And, likewise, the New Testament enhances the Old Testament. By combining the two, we learn the literal and symbolic meaning of the ark, the table, and the lampstand. The ark, covered in gold without and within and containing the Ten Commandments, a container of manna, and Aaron’s rod, represents God, the Father. The table, also overlaid with gold and upon which the Showbread was placed, is Jesus, the Son. And the lampstand, ornamental in its design with bowls and blossoms, is the Holy Spirit. In addition to relating the items within the tabernacle with the Persons of God, there is also a relationship between the tabernacle and the believer. In 2 Corinthians 6:16, Paul writes, “For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make My dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’” If we are the present day tabernacle of God, the dwelling place of the Most High, then wouldn’t it be wise for us to take a closer look at the Ark of the Testimony, the Table of Showbread, and the Golden Lampstand…and at those handles?
The ark was simple in form with no blossoms or branches, but it was iron-clad, or should I say gold-clad? It safely housed the commandments, the manna, and the rod. When looked at through the overlayment of the New Testament, we see these as the Law, the Bread of Life, and the Rod of the Spirit. God the Father is our Ark of Testimony. In Him we find our Judge, our Provider, and our New Life. (I find it interesting that even in His Role as One-in-Three, He is still Three-in-One!) Next we have the table. It too was simple in its design, but it was solid, stable, and serviceable; upon it the show bread was placed. Jesus is both our table and our bread. His life was a counter upon which He placed His own body. Just as a table’s purpose is to serve others, so Jesus’ life was one of service to mankind. And, as the ultimate host, He not only offered the table, but He offered Himself that we might be filled and hunger no more. Finally, there was the lampstand. This item was beautifully adorned and embellished. Four times the word ornamental is used in describing this lampstand. It was meant to catch one’s eye. Here, I believe, the lampstand represents the Holy Spirit; different in appearance but not in substance.
So what of the rings, those handles of old? The ark had them as did the table, but the lampstand did not. Common sense tells me that the ark and the table would have been heavier and, therefore, would have needed “two men and a camel” to move them while the lampstand could have been picked up and carried by “one man and a donkey”. So, the rings are probably related to the weight of the articles. But, common sense sometimes keeps us at the gate rather than moving us through it, so sometimes I defy common sense…after thinking it through, of course. Today, I took a few steps past common sense and when I arrived at a clearing where the New Testament light shone upon the Father of the Testimony, the Son of the Showbread, and the Lamp of the Spirit, I saw the handles in a new light. While handles are necessary for the purpose of moving things, they are also needed for the purpose of holding onto things. When it comes to our relationship with the Father and the Son, I don’t know about you, but I need something to hold onto. I need to hold onto the righteousness of God that is revealed through His Law because it’s through the Law that I also receive grace. I need to hang onto the promise that God will always meet my needs, for He is Jehovah-jireh, my Provider. I need to grasp the truth that in His hands there is deliverance. Just as He used the rod in Moses’ hands to part the Red Sea, so too will He part the waters for me (Is. 43:2). I desperately need to cling to the table upon which Christ offered Himself for me and to me. I need to clasp onto the rings that remind me that I too am to make myself available to serve and to be served. For me, the rings are places where I can lay hold of my God…places where He allows me access to Him in a very close and personal way. So then, what of the Lamp, the Spirit, which has no handles? Well, the Holy Spirit is not in need of handles because He is God’s handle on me! Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, God keeps me tightly fastened to His throne…and nothing can sever that attachment. Thankfully, though I have a God I can hold onto, my salvation is not dependent upon the length or strength of my grip but on the everlasting hold He has on me through His Holy Spirit.
Handles. They help us move things, but they also help us grasp things. Today, the handles on the ark of the testimony and on the table of showbread did both; they moved me to a deeper understanding of God and they helped me grasp a new truth: I have a God with handles…and He lets me hold onto them!