Attending Sunday School as a young girl, I often sang this song,
“Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning.
Give me oil in my lamp, I pray.
Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning.
Keep me burning ’til the break of day.
Sing hosanna! Sing hosanna!
Sing hosanna to the King of kings!”
A chorus like this seldom leaves you when it’s etched in your memory. It’ll cling to you like truth, if you allow it to wrap you.
One day as Jesus went up on a mountain, a multitude of ordinary men, women, and children followed Him. When He was seated, He said to them, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matt 5:14-16
A lamp primarily consists of a vessel with a wick soaked in combustible material, usually oil. Its primary purpose is to allow other things around you to be seen more clearly. A lamp without light is of little use. We’re called to illuminate the world, to allow others to see Jesus more clearly. The lamp represents our confession of faith, and Jesus says we’re to be light in a dark world.
The lamp doesn’t exist to be the centre of attention, but draws attention to the goodness of our Father in heaven. For the lamp to shine, it needs oil, and I‘m impressed that the Lord is saying to us, “Fill your lamp with oil and do not just have enough oil, fill your vessels with more oil.”
In Luke 12:35-36, Jesus said, “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks, they may open to him immediately.”
We’ve had an amazing 2019 as a church, but if we think that this is it, we’ll not be prepared for the things ahead. God is saying, “Keep your lamps burning brightly!”
The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins tells us that they had prepared their lamps, but for them to burn brightly in the midnight hour, more oil was needed than what they had. When the foolish ones heard the cry, though their lamps were burning, they discovered that it wasn’t enough for the journey ahead as their lamps were going out.
When it dawned on them they had neglected to bring oil in their vessels, it was too late in the hour and the wise didn’t have enough supply for themselves and the foolish when they tried to get more oil. Eventually, the foolish had to go out to buy oil for their vessels and, when the bridegroom came, those who were ready went in with him to the wedding – and the door was shut.
It wasn’t that one group didn’t have oil, but they weren’t expecting such a long delay for they all slept.
Now this is what it means for us – the oil represents our communion and fellowship with the Holy Spirit, and our state of preparedness is very personal – it cannot be transferred. This is evident when the five wise virgins told the five foolish virgins to buy oil for themselves, for they didn’t envision the possibility that the bridegroom would come later than expected. And, when they were awakened by the cry, they had no time to fetch more oil to fill their lamps.
The oil must be bought, it cannot be borrowed, and it can’t be passed from one person to another. Our relationship with God is very personal and we can’t buy discipline, character, attitude, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. These are developed through time and established over months and years.
We can decide for ourselves before the year ends if our faith is just perfunctory, that is, it’s enough to confess that we’ve beliefs, character, and motivation to show up for church services – or we can give attention to our spiritual priorities. For each man stands on his own with God.
For we know that the coming of the Son of man is described as in the days of Noah, and God makes this clear in Ezekiel 14:14, “‘Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,’ says the Lord God.”
Therefore, as we end one year and move into the next, we must be prepared by the Holy Spirit through vision and foresight to have more than enough. And so I pray and ask of God that He’ll bring us to a place of humility and obedience, where we’re prepared for more and that He’ll use us to carry out His will.
Ps. Daphne Yang