(Sorry for the last few weeks of quiet here. I had been travelling. A lot [for me].)
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man (Rev. 1:12-13a).
The first readers would have understood quite a bit from the image of the seven lampstands. When God told Israel to make a tabernacle, he instructed them to make a lampstand with seven lamps upon it (Ex. 25:31-40). Those lamps were to be kept burning as a perpetual sign of God’s presence in the tabernacle (and later, the temple) among his people. As long as those lights were burning, Israel could have assurance that God was with them in the holy place. The fire upon those seven lamps pointed to the presence of God’s Spirit (Zech. 4:1-8).
In John’s vision, we see Jesus “In the midst of the lampstands.” There are few more comforting phrases in Scripture. The lampstands aren’t there in John’s vision to make sure he can see everything alright; the “one like a son of man” is giving off enough light to allow him to see everything just fine (v.16). The seven lampstands are the seven churches of v.11. The “one like a son of man” wants John to write to these churches, but he doesn’t need John as a go-between. This Shining One is not in some distant land far away from these churches. He is “in the midst” of them, among them, right smack dab in the middle of them.
How many times have I felt God’s distance? How many times have I looked around me and felt alone, believed I was on my own, that whatever I was facing it was all up to me to get through it? And yet, what John sees behind heaven’s curtain is that the Lord Jesus—the “one like a son of man”—is never far off from his people. He is right in their midst. The church, as long as it has its lampstand, is never without the presence of our Savior.
Of course, I should never doubt this fact (Josh. 1:5; Heb. 13:5). Yet there is something so comforting about “seeing” Jesus there, among the golden lampstands. When I’m honest, I know there is nothing particularly holy or appealing about me. When we are honest as a gathered church, we know there probably isn’t much about us that would make God want to hang out with us. And yet, there is Christ, telling us through his apostle of his profound love for us, revealing himself in all his glory and splendor, and reminding us that, even in his all-consuming holiness, he is right there among us. “In the midst of the lampstands.”
He is never far off. We are never alone. And when we feel it, we can remember the image of Jesus shining brightly in the splendor of his holiness, standing among us, the golden lampstands.