Does your lamp have oil?
One of the most significant parables that teaches us to prepare for the coming of the Lord is that of the ten virgins (Matthew chapter 25), to understand this parable a little background to the custom and practice may help.
In the ancient East weddings were almost always at night, involving ten maidens, the bridegroom would go to the house of the bride to escort her with splendour and cheerfulness either to his home or another place for a time of feasting. The ten virgins would have their lamps burning awaiting the wedding party at some point along the way, and they would then join the procession to the feast.
In those times it was usual for the bridegroom to tarry at the home of the bride, and it would be late before he went to the place of celebration. Meanwhile it was expected that the virgins were to remain alert with their lamps burning, no matter what time or how late the bridegroom and his company came by.
If the virgins went to sleep, or did not have sufficient oil in their lamps to keep them burning, or if they were gone for some reason when the bridegroom came, they would miss out on the festivities, and would bring embarrassment to themselves.
All the ten virgins in parable (Matt. 25), wise and foolish, had accepted the invitation to the wedding supper; they had knowledge of the program and had been warned of the important day to come. They were not the gentiles or the heathens or pagans, nor were they necessarily corrupt and reprobate, but they were a knowing people some of whom were foolishly unprepared for the vital happenings that were to affect their eternal lives.
They had the saving; exalting gospel, but it had not been made the centre of their lives. They knew the way but gave only a small measure of loyalty and devotion. I ask you: what value is a car without an engine, a cup without water, a table without food, a lamp without oil? Rushing for their lamps to light their way through the darkness, half of them found the lamps empty. They had cheated themselves.
They were fools, these five unprepared virgins. Apparently, the bridegroom had tarried for reasons that were sufficient and good. Time had passed, and he had not come. They had heard of his coming for so long, so many times, that the statement seemingly became meaningless to them. Would he ever come? So long had it been since they began expecting him that they were rationalizing that he would never appear. Perhaps he was a myth.
Hundreds of thousands of us today are in this position. Confidence has been dulled and patience worn thin. It is so hard to wait and be prepared always. But we cannot allow ourselves to slumber. The Lord has given us this parable as a special warning. At midnight, the vital cry was made, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him.” At midnight! Precisely at the darkest hour, when least expected, the bridegroom came.
When the world is full of tribulation and help is needed, but it seems the time must be past and hope is vain, then Christ will come. The midnights of life are the times when heaven comes to offer its joy for man’s weariness. But when the cry sounds, there is no time for preparation. The lamps then make patterns of joy on the hillside, and the procession moves on toward the house of banqueting, and those without lamps or oil are left in darkness.
When they have belatedly sought to fulfil the requirements and finally reach the hall, the door is shut. In the daytime, wise and unwise seemed alike; midnight is the time of test and judgment and of offered gladness. The foolish asked the others to share their oil, but spiritual preparedness cannot be shared in an instant. The wise had to go; else the bridegroom would have gone unwelcomed. They needed all their oil for themselves; they could not save the foolish. The responsibility was each for herself.
This was not selfishn0ess or unkindness. The kind of oil that is needed to illuminate the way and light up the darkness is not shareable. How can one share obedience to the principle of keeping the Sabbath holy; a mind at peace from righteous living; an accumulation of knowledge? How can one share faith or testimony? How one share good attitudes or chastity, (hakuna huro inomedzera imwe) each can and must obtain that kind of oil for them-self.
The foolish virgins were not averse to buying oil they knew they should have had oil. They merely procrastinated, not knowing when the bridegroom would come. In the parable, oil can be purchased at the market. In our lives, the oil of preparedness is accumulated drop by drop in righteous living. Keeping the Sabbath day holy adds oil to our lamps, drop by drop over the years.
Fasting, family prayer, control of bodily appetites, preaching the gospel, studying the scriptures each act of dedication and obedience is a drop added to our store. Deeds of kindness, and chaste thoughts and actions, marriage in the Lord’s prescribed way – these, too, contribute importantly to the oil with which we can at midnight refuel our exhausted lamps. Midnight is so late for those who have procrastinated.
My dear friends, the time is far spent, there is precious little remaining therefore prepare now before it is too late. Remember, In the parable all of the ten virgins appeared to be alike until the bridegroom came, In the church we may all appear to be alike, but when Christ comes again we will see that there are many hypocrites in the church It is my prayer that we will all be found on the right side, that of the wise. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.