Flickering lamps and empty vessels
Jesus shares a parable about 10 bridesmaids who are preparing to meet a bridegroom. Each bridesmaid leaves with a lamp. But only five are wise.
“Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps” (Matt. 25:3-4 NKJV).
When the bridegroom doesn’t come at the expected time, they all sleep.
“And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’” (V. 6 NKJV).
The ten bridesmaids wake up and begin preparing their lamps.
“And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out’” (V. 8 NKJV).
But the wise refuse to share any oil. Why? Because there isn’t enough for all of them. Therefore, the foolish bridesmaids quickly run to the store for oil. Unfortunately, they don’t make it back in time.
The bridegroom comes while the foolish bridesmaids search for oil. The wise bridesmaids enter the wedding, for they are ready. The door is shut.
“Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you’” (V. 11-12 NKJV).
You see, we must be ready at all times for the second coming of Jesus Christ. But I’m afraid most Christians aren’t ready. I’m afraid most Christians are flickering lamps and empty vessels.
Let me explain. You may want to cover your toes!
Lamps need oil to burn. In the parable, five bridesmaids lack oil. Consequently, their lamps flicker. The Bible refers to us as both lamps (see Matt. 5:14-16) and vessels (see 2 Tim. 2:20-21). I’m just afraid most Christians are flickering out because they have no oil.
The bridesmaids need olive oil, and this is a special type of oil. In the Bible, olive oil represents anointing. Allow me to show you an Old Testament example.
The prophet Zechariah sees a vision of a lampstand and two olive trees. God is speaking to him about Zerubbabel’s anointing to complete the Temple.
Zechariah says, “Then I answered and said to him [God], ‘What are these two olive trees — at the right of the lampstand and at its left?’ And I further answered and said to him, ‘What are these two olive branches that drip into the receptacles of the two gold pipes from which the golden oil drains?’” (Zech. 4:11-12 NKJV).
Turns out, the olive trees and branches represent the anointed of God (V. 14).
Olive oil represents anointing. What is anointing? It represents the power of God’s Spirit at work in your life. It represents God’s favor. In the Old Testament, God’s Spirit (His anointing) rests upon kings and other significant leaders.
But today, the Holy Spirit is available to all. The Bible says, “In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants — men and women alike” (Joel 2:29 NLT).
I’m just afraid most Christians are flickering lamps and empty vessels. Like the foolish bridesmaids, I’m afraid most Christians are trying to steal the oil of others because they have none for themselves.
Maybe you come to church every Sunday, but you neglect to open your Bible throughout the week. Instead of seeking a personal relationship with God, you steal the oil of your pastor to keep your flickering lamp burning.
Maybe you have a Christian family, but you haven’t decided to seek Jesus for yourself. There comes a time when stealing your parents’ oil no longer keeps your lamp burning.
Maybe you’re looking for a church, and no matter where you go, it’s never good enough. You say it’s because of the preaching, but maybe it’s because you don’t have any oil for yourself. When is the last time you opened God’s Word and really sought Him?
Do you have oil, or are you stealing oil from others?
Now, please hear me. I’m not saying we should neglect others. We need one another. It’s very important for pastors to feed God’s Church. It’s very important for parents to feed their children with God’s Word. But we must decide to let God fill our own vessels with oil — with His anointing and power. Only then can our lamps shine brightly.
I don’t know about you, but I desire a personal relationship with God. I need oil. I need God’s anointing and presence in my life. I’m thankful for the people in my life who draw me closer to God, but I want to seek Him myself. Intimately. Genuinely. I need my vessel full of oil, for I must be ready when my Savior returns.