For many long years I have been reading the Bible. I’ve probably read from Genesis to Revelation somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 times. Yet, there are still things I read that confuse me and about which I do not have a grasp.
So, I was reading through Exodus recently and kept coming across this word “calyx” again and again. For instance, in chapter 25:31-36, “You shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand shall be made of hammered work: its base, its stem, its cups, its calyxes, and its flowers shall be of one piece with it. And there shall be six branches going out of its sides, three branches of the lampstand out of one side of it and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side of it; three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on one branch, and three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on the other branch- so for the six branches going out of the lampstand. And on the lampstand itself there shall be four cups made like almond blossoms, with their calyxes and flowers, and a calyx of one piece with it under each pair of the six branches going out from the lampstand. Their calyxes and their branches shall be of one piece with it, the whole of it a single piece of hammered work of pure gold” (see also Ex: 37:17-22).
Both of these passages are describing the Lampstand in the Tabernacle and how it was to be crafted. The lampstand was modeled after a budding almond tree. It was to be a seven stemmed accoutrement of the Tabernacle consisting of a center stem off of which six branches were attached (three on one side of the stem and three on the other). All these branches rose up to the top of the center stem to uphold seven cups, in which olive oil would continually burn in the Holy Place to shed light upon the Bread of Presence on the Table of Showbread as well as providing light in the enclosed part of the Tabernacle. If you think of a Jewish Menorah, you’ll have a similar picture in mind.
But this word “calyx” (translated “knop” in the KJV and “bulb” in the NASB) kept coming up and I had no idea what it was. So, I thought that after 45 years of reading the Bible, I had better dig a little deeper here and determine what a calyx was. So, I looked it up.
Turns out, a calyx is the sepals of a flower, typically forming a whorl that encloses the petals and forms a protective layer around a flower in bud. It is the stiffer outer layer of a flower bud that forms the cup in which the flower’s beauty is displayed and protected. It is the “setting” for the “jewel” that is the flower itself. Each of the branches on the lampstand had three of these calyxes and blossoms with the center stem having 4 for a total of 22. The Lampstand had these calyxes and almond flower bud as a decoration.
What a beautiful picture this is of how we as believers form the calyx for the gospel. The calyx relates to the believer as the “cup” in which the flower of the gospel and the glory of God grows. Our function is to both protect and display the glory of and beauty of the gospel to the world. Paul admonishes Timothy several times to “guard the gospel”. This was not simply a charge to Timothy but to all believers who have “… this treasure (the gospel) in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7). Not only are we to protect the gospel, we are to display the gospel in all its beauty, like the calyx does for the blossom (1 Tim. 3:15)
There is a beauty in the gospel that needs to be protected and displayed. The only way that is done is through “clay jars” that nonetheless serve to be the medium through which the gospel invades the world. We are clay jars, as Paul says, to the end that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. But we are also “calyxes” that surround the gospel, protect it, and put it on display. But always remember, the flower is the beauty and focus, not the calyx… “that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us”. May each of us play his or her part in displaying and protecting the gospel as “God’s Calyxes”.