You shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may regularly be set up to burn. In the tent of meeting, outside the veil that is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening to morning before the LORD. It shall be a statute forever to be observed throughout their generations by the people of Israel.
Sometimes I wonder if I am completely insane, because of all the crazy stuff I see in Scripture. Do you see the parable of the talents in this passage? The gifts of the Spirit? Homeschooling? Mentoring and apprenticeship? I see all of those things, and I wonder if I’m hallucinating.
There are several different metaphors in those two verses.
Olive oil is healing, comforting, enlightening, a picture of the Holy Spirit, the Ruach haKodesh, and beaten oil is deliberate refinement in/of/by the Holy Spirit. That this oil for the Menorah is to be supplied by the people is a picture of every faithful believer’s priestly role in God’s service.
God has given everyone resources which they are required to use for the profit of his kingdom. We all have a gift, a calling, a special skill that can be made available to the Kingdom of God. Paul listed some of those gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, but he did not intend for us to take that list as comprehensive. He described three categories of contributions (gifts, services, and activities), and only expanded them in part. I believe that teaching and counseling could be included alongside faith and healing, as well as musical talent, mechanical aptitude, writing, and every kind of artistry and craftsmanship.
With the right refinement, all of those things can be fuel for God’s Light in the world.
Like its organic counterpart, the fuel God has implanted in each of us doesn’t come straight off the tree, ready to use. It must be harvested, pressed, and refined. Nor does it suffice to pour it into any lamp or onto just any fire. It must be channeled into the right reservoirs and tended by God’s appointed authorities.
Parents, first of all, and then pastors, educators, priests, and people of all kinds of skill and talent are to instruct their successors in serving God and using their spiritual gifts to the profit of God’s kingdom. Men with special skill in the engineering of homes and office buildings must mentor apprentices into building to God’s glory. Those with extraordinary artistic talent must work with the next generation of painters, sculptors, dancers, musicians, etc., use their gifts in ways that enlighten God’s kingdom rather than corrupting it.
God’s appointment of gifts is also like olive oil in this respect: it is counter-productive to isolate a single ingredient or aspect. Each person is a complex interaction of flaws and talents, and we need to seek a balance. While one of us might have a more beautiful voice than others, that isn’t a license to ignore character development in favor of breathing exercises. Olive oil is valued for its scent, flavor, color, and combustibility. It isn’t enough to achieve maximum caloric output. It must be an attractive, multi-dimensional output that allows God’s character to show through us.
As the keepers of God’s olive grove–and we are all both keepers and trees–he will hold us responsible for how we managed his oil. Are you a talented musician who can play any instrument he touches? Then play for God’s glory, and use your talents to encourage other musicians to use their talents for God’s glory. Are you a leader who can take the full measure of a man in minutes? Then lead God’s people, identify the potential leaders around you, and mentor them also into righteous, productive leadership of God’s people.
You are the priests in the tabernacle of your own family and community.
You are the people of God supplying the oil for the Menorah. You don’t possess even one skill or experience that is solely for your own benefit. God has entrusted you with a valuable treasure, and he will demand an accounting of it one day. He has not asked for volunteers, but has commanded every single one of us to produce or be cut off.