Today, we're going to take a break from Exodus, but notice how specific and detailed God is in his specifications for the Tabernacle, the Table, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Lampstand. These remind me once again, that there were no vague descriptions in Genesis chapter one. He meant every word literally! Each of these items is rich in symbolism, but that is worthy of in depth Bible study on your own.
Parable of the 10 virgins:
25:10 Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast... Remember, feast = appointed time or season. How fitting with our lesson yesterday is the story of the virgins, and the importance of keeping our lamps stocked with oil so our groom does not catch us unaware! I think that having our lamp lit means shining enough in this dark world by our deeds that our Savior can see our light.
Did you notice Exodus 27:20 today? "Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to keep the lamps burning continually." This is one thing I love about the One Year Bible. Going back and forth, you get to see these threads that weave The Story together!
Parable of the unfaithful servant: Here's Julie's modern day version, just so we might see how this nice little story applies to us:
There was a certain rich man going on a lengthy business trip. Being a compassionate sort, he called together his estate caretakers and gave them each some money to invest in helping the poor while he was gone, orphans, widows, the sick, the underprivileged, and all the downcast who were near and dear to his heart.
To his personal bookkeeper, he gave the means to financially help ten people in need. To his housekeeper, he gave the means to help five. And to his gardener, who was not known for managing money well, which is why he wasn't a bookkeeper, he still gave plenty to help take care of at least one needy person.
When he returned home a long while later, he asked the bookkeeper what happened. "Well, you gave me enough to help ten needy people. I invested part of the money in a mutual fund and earned so much, I had enough left over after helping ten orphans to buy myself a really nice new high-speed water-ski boat. But...I just didn't feel right using the money on myself like that. I mean, what good is a ski boat when others aren't even able to eat? So I used the money to help ten more kids get rescued from a poverty-stricken life, providing plenty of money to raise them in Christ-centered ministries."
"Well done! I am so proud of you because you did exactly what I would have done with my money. You were a faithful money manager so now I know I can trust you. I will give you even more ways you can help save poor and needy children because of my great love for them. They're going to change the world, you know. Just for this, I guarantee you will get a huge year-end bonus! Please, I insist you take a nice paid vacation for all your hard work and faithfulness."
Next he turned to the housekeeper. "So what happened to the money I gave you?"
"Sir, you gave me enough to help five people, which I did right away by helping people who were sick and had no means to take care of themselves. I also got a part time job while you were gone for some extra spending money. I worked all year to save enough money to buy a plasma flat screen TV that I've been eyeing down at COSTCO. But when I thought about the money you had given me for those in need, and how so many more were still out there, I just couldn't bring myself to spend the money on myself so greedily, so I was able to help an additional five chronically sick people get plenty of food and medical treatment, not to mention excellent Bible training!"
"Wow, that's amazing! I am so proud of you because you did exactly what I would have done. Not only did you use my money wisely, but you also sacrificed your own time and energy to make a difference. You were a faithful money manager so now I know I can trust you. I will give you even more ways you can help the poor. You too will get a nice fat bonus this year. Get ready; you'll have a hard time spending it all! Now please, take your family on a nice vacation, my treat."
Finally the estate owner turned to his gardener. "So what happened with the money I gave you? I'll bet you really did something great with it, too, huh?"
"Well, uh, sort of. I know you have high standards and hate careless spending. You expect a lot from us, for sure. When I saw how many people needed help in this world, I was overwhelmed. I'm only one person, after all. How could I make a difference, especially with how little money you gave me to spend? And even if I did give it to help someone in need, how could I be sure they actually received it? I was worried about your money being mishandled and unaccounted for. Also, I was afraid I might disappoint you with how little I was able to do, especially compared to what the others were doing. I'm not that good with money, you know that already. Anyhow, I dug a hole in the back yard and kept your money nice and safe. Here it is, not a penny missing."
The estate owner was furious. "That's a terrible way to live! It's criminal to live so cautiously! If you knew I was expecting only the best from you, why did you choose to do less than nothing? The least you could have done would have been to give the money to a homeless shelter or a struggling single mother. You're fired! And I'll see to it you never get job in this part of the country again."
"To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who are unfaithful, even what little they have will be taken away (Matthew 25:29)."
Today's Proverbs: a great set of verses to meditate upon for those someone struggling with unbelief!
Questions for reflection:
What is the lamp in the parable of the 10 virgins? What is the oil? Who is the virgin? See if you can relate these to your world.
Notice that all of the virgins fell asleep. This is not a good thing. Are you awake? Do you have enough oil? Is your lamp burning continuously? Can Jesus see it?
I used to think all those verses about rich people and ignoring the needs of others was for someone else. But then God opened my eyes to my own self-gratifying lifestyle and how much I neglect His work. I forget that I have been entrusted with the responsibility of His estate. Am I alone? Remember the statistic that only 2% of American Christian dollars go to mission work (we referenced that a few days ago). I also read recently that American Christians typically spend around a billion dollars at Christmas on media related items--DVD's, CD's, video games--for their kids alone! I'm afraid we've become so bedazzled by the American lifestyle that we've forgotten why we're here. Ask the hard questions (I have to do this continually). "Am I living for this world, or am I living for eternity?" We can find the answer by looking at our monthly visa bills and our checking accounts for help in making this assessment. Are we invested in the Great Commission, or are we keeping it for ourselves? Remember too, if your church does not have a great missions investment, you can locate and give to missions yourself. All the members of the Christian Orphan Alliance are doing a great ministry globally!
Recently I read James 5, and I felt a sickening feeling in my gut, because I fall so short of living sacrificially for the sake of the Gospel. When I realize that I am, as an American who only spends a small portion of my income per year on missions while enjoying the good life in America, the subject of this passage, I am absolutely brought to my knees in repentance.
"Look here, you rich people, weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. Your gold and silver have become worthless. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh in hell. This treasure you have accumulated will stand as evidence against you on the day of judgment. For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers (missionaries) whom you have cheated of their pay. The wages you held back cry out against you. The cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every whim. Now your hearts are nice and fat, ready for the slaughter." James 5:1-5
I'm not trying to lay a false guilt trip on anyone. There is a balance between living in the freedom of God's mercy, but taking His Word seriously and living in this world to make a difference by sharing His love with those who are lost.
More statistics on how the church is giving.