«He will change her deserts into a garden like Eden. He will make her empty lands like the garden of the Lord. People there will be very happy. They will give thanks and sing songs» (Isaiah 51:3, ICB).
AFTER ARRIVING in Rome, Italy, one of my greatest wishes was to visit one of its most emblematic places: the Arch of Titus. Located on the Via Sacra and very close to the Forum, that monument commemorates Titus’s victory over Jerusalem in the year AD 70. One of the arch’s attractions is the detailed relief that shows Roman soldiers carrying the Hebrew menorah. That relief is one of the most precise representations of that exquisite piece of furniture. Although Solomon’s temple had ten candlesticks (see 2 Chronicles 4:7, KJV), it would seem that the second temple only had one, since 1 Maccabees, a Jewish historical source, says that when Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated the temple, he took «the candlestick of light» (1:21). Years later, when the temple was reinaugurated, only one lampstand was once again installed. It’s almost certain that Herod’s temple, which was destroyed by Titus, only had one lampstand, and that’s likely why only one lampstand appears on the Arch of Titus.
One of the distinctive elements of the lampstand was its bowls in the shape of «almond blossoms» (Exodus 25:33). Almond trees were the first to blossom, a sign of spring. It’s not by mere chance that Exodus 40:24 says that the lampstand was placed «on the south side of the tabernacle.» Why on the south side? The south, negeb in Hebrew, entails the idea of «a ‘terror zone,’ a ‘land of difficulties and distress.’” And that was where God placed the lampstand with its almond flowers.
The lampstand proclaimed that there’s no place on this earth that cannot be lit and transformed by the Lord’s presence. By being placed toward the south, the dry land of difficulties and distress, we are reminded of God’s promise: «Her desert will blossom like Eden, her barren wilderness like the garden of the Lord» (Isaiah 51:3, NLT).
There, in the midst of the spiritual dryness we feel, in the midst of our personal desert, God’s presence can produce in us «fruits worthy of repentance» (Matthew 3:8). The Lord can shine His light within us today and ignite a spiritual spring revival.