Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Parable Of The Ten Virgins: In Such An Hour As You Think Not Part I

Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.  The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut.  Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour. Matthew 25: 1-13

Waiting. Waiting is hard. God does not always come quickly or according to our timing. I am constantly looking out for the kairos—the divine interruption of my mundane chronos. The Lord uses these waiting times to prepare and equip us for His bidding. Waiting is painful. Preparation is tedious and boring. Equipping is very frustrating. But if we submit to the process it will be far easier than fighting it.   

These ten women are awaiting the coming of the bridegroom; the Second Coming of Christ. We too, are awaiting the Bridegroom. We await His second advent, and we await His promises to be brought to fruition in our lives in the here and now. This waiting, this tedious, frustrating, hard waiting is preparing us to meet Him. It is a time to let Him search our hearts and to make us ready. Are we prepared to meet Him? If He came tomorrow, would your lamp be filled with oil? The wicks trimmed? We wait and wait, but are we really ready to meet Him? Do we wash ourselves in the water of the Word (see Eph. 5:26)? Do we pray without ceasing (see 1 Thess. 5:16-18)? Do we fast? (Matt. 6:16) Do we seek Him above all else? (Matt. 6:33) Do we have a sufficient supply of oil so our lamps will not burn out?  Will we be counted with the five wise or the five unwise?
The five unwise are obviously an example of ill-preparedness, but they did a few things right. First, they were all virgins which represents holiness. The wise and unwise alike went out to await the arrival of the bridegroom; they are all waiting for Christ. All of them were invited to the wedding; they all received salvation.  What did the five do to be counted as unwiseTheir lamps were filled with oil, they were ready, just as the five wise women. The lamps represent the Word of God.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Ps. 119:105

Though these five unwise had the Word, that is all they brought, and it was not enough.

Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. Matt 25: 5-7

Trimming the wicks on the lamp was important. Let’s revisit the tabernacle of Moses to understand the importance.

God commanded Moses to instruct Aaron to tend the lamps twice every day—once in the morning and once in the evening. Jesus uses the language of trimming the wicks, because the hearers would be familiar with the function of the priest tending the lamps. First, the high priest trimmed off the burned pat of the wick. If the flame is too big it creates too much smoke. Unfortunately, a lot of Christians are more a puff of smoke than a brightly burning light to lead others to Christ. There is no real warmth or power in his or her life. There is also nothing that would attract others to them; the overabundance of smoke chokes people and they can’t see the flame for all the smoke. Unless the wicks are trimmed properly, not only will there be an abundance of smoke, but improper light as well. God wants a pure light and a faithful witness to go forth.

 The trimming of the lamp speaks to Jesus our High Priest cutting off the burned part in our lives. He cuts away the sin that keeps us from Him—which happens while we are waiting for Him. Jesus desires to reveal that which needs to be removed from our lives; He has burned off those dead works and He wants to fill us with oil.

All ten women trimmed their wicks. This represents the salvation experience, and a desire to live for God.  The Lord is calling us to draw near to Him. He does not want a religious church. He wants a people who love Him and know Him. He wants to know you in a deep intimate way. He wants us to seek His face. The five wise virgins not only filled their lamps with oil to make it through one night, they brought extra for the journey.  

 Let’s take a look at the oil.  The five unwise filled their lamps but did not bring any extra oil with them. The other five were counted as wise for filling their lamps and bringing extra vessels of oil with them. What does this oil represent?  Oil in the Bible is the symbol of the Holy Spirit. Olive oil is mentioned over two hundred times in the Bible. Oil was used for lamps, it was also used as a medicinal agent for healing, anointing kings and priests, in the prayer of faith (James 5:13-16), and when miracles were wrought as in Mark 6:13.

The Israelites were to bring an offering of beaten olive oil for the light so that it would burn continually and not go out. As we read in Leviticus 24:2 the children of Israel were commanded to bring the oil for the lampstand. The people were to bring the oil in order for the lamp to burn continually.  Aaron was to trim the wicks and tend the lamps twice a day. He would trim the wicks by pruning away the burnt part of the wick and filling the lamps with oil.  But the people were commanded to bring the oil for the lamp. To keep our lamps burning, we need a filling of the Holy Spirit every day.  When the Tabernacle was dedicated, all the furniture was placed in order just as the Lord had shown Moses on the Mount. When the Tabernacle was dedicated, the Lord sent fire out of heaven and lit the Brazen Altar by divine fire. Though God lit the initial fire, the people were responsible to keep it burning. They were commanded to bring wood everyday so the priests could keep the altar fire going continuously. The fire from the altar was used to light the lampstand during the dedication. God draws us to salvation. He lights the initial fire in us. But it is up to us to keep the fire going. Many times we get caught up in doing works for God, and serving His house that we forget all about seeking Him. We can’t hear His voice if we’re not listening.    

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore, remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. Revelation 2: 1-5

The church in Ephesus was doing all the right things. The things that could hinder the church from being a light, were not allowed a foothold, and Jesus admired them for their discernment. They believed in Jesus, they remained true to the foundations of truth; they tried those who claimed to be true prophets and apostles and found them to be false. They trimmed their wicks.  So what was Jesus rebuking them for? He said they had lost their first love.  They were so caught up in doing the work of the Lord; they forgot to maintain their relationship with Him. Jesus came to be a personal Savior to each one of us. He wants to walk with us like He walked with Enoch. He wants to walk with us like He walked with Adam before the fall.  We can get so entangled with “works” instead of relationship. Holiness becomes an outward appearance instead of an inward heart issue.  Jesus felt so strong about their condition He admonished them to repent or He would snuff their light out!  They needed to repent and go back to their first love. All the good works they were doing could not replace the relationship they were neglecting with the Lord. 

The five unwise filled their lamps with the oil, but that was the depth of their relationship with the Lord.  They believed one lamp full of oil was enough. Their knowledge of Him and their relationship with the Lord did not grow. To keep our lamps burning, we need to fill it with oil every day, trim the wicks, and fill our oil pots. The Lord was purposeful in commanded Aaron to tend the lamps twice every day to paint a picture for us to not neglect our relationship with the Lord.  The oil they brought could not carry them until the arrival of the bridegroom. The five unwise only brought their initial experience with God to get them through. But the Lord is seeking intimacy with us. He wants an ongoing relationship. 

The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves. Matthew 25: 8-9.

There comes a time when we can no longer rely on other’s experiences and other’s faith. We have to know God for ourselves and see Him move on our behalf. We cannot get into heaven on another’s relationship. We are going to have to have our own relationship with Him.

Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. Isaiah 55:1-2

In this verse Jesus is inviting us to come and buy directly from Him. We can have what He has freely offered without price, because He paid the price for us.  

This is what the five wise were saying, It is too late to buy any—though you can try. But you can’t last on my oil.  My oil won’t get you into the wedding. The five were wise because they knew this.  There was not enough for them and everyone else. If you are not prepared, there’s one to blame but yourself.  This may seem selfish of behalf of the wise, but they paid their price. There was nothing they could do for the other five. They came prepared and they had their oil.  Often there are those who want what others have, but they don’t want the preparation time, or to wait. They don’t want to buy their own oil— it is too much work. They want the prize not the price.

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