Today’s Text and Thoughts of Encouragement:
“I have loved you, just as the Father has loved Me; abide in My love, continue in His love for Me.”
John 15: 9
“The love of the things that perish can only be driven out by the strength of a superior love. Love is pure and perfect discipline. She who is perfect in love, the love of the divinely beautiful and good, is perfect in life. She who loves finds sacrifice holy, battle joyous, toil easy; pain has even a sweetness when love imposes it, and tender touches purge all the anguish away…open your heart to the love of the Lord Jesus. Loving Him, all lovely things fall into their just proportion…while all unlovely things fall into their true contempt…(The love of God) will make such order in your nature as reigns in the bright universe around you. It shines resplendent as the essential glory in God’s children who bow before the eternal.”
J. Baldwin Brown
Today’s Study Text:
“Five of them (the bridesmaids) were foolish and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamp, they took no extra oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.”
Matthew 25: 2-4
“Wise or Foolish?” – Part 3
“Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise…There is no fool so great as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
During the “waiting times” in my life, how can I prepare to be ready for the arrival of the “bridegroom”?
Why do I believe that five of the bridesmaids came to the wedding feast unprepared?
“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”
“You will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”
II Timothy 2: 21
Weddings can be one of the most exciting times we as humans celebrate. But as we found out, in Jewish tradition, courtship, engagement and at last the wedding isn’t just an event to enjoy – it is an affair of commemoration. To be invited to be part of the ceremony would be an honor, indeed.
Dr. J. Alexander Findlay, after watching a wedding in Palestine which mirrored the events shared by Jesus in Matthew 25, penned this detailed description:
“’The Parable of the Bridesmaids’ begins with a picture which is stamped upon my memory, because when we were approaching the gates of a Galilean town, I caught sight of ten maidens gaily clad and playing some kind of musical instrument as they danced along the road in front of our car; when I asked what they were doing, the dragoman (guide) told me they were going to keep the bride company until the bridegroom arrived. I asked him if there was any chance of seeing the wedding, but he shook his head saying in effect, ‘It might be tonight, or tomorrow night, or in a fortnight’s time; nobody ever knows for certain.’”
With this piece of common information, you would think that the attendants at the wedding would certainly be prepared for every eventuality. Not only would they come with a lamp but having a flask of extra oil would seem like a necessity as well. But in the parable Jesus told, ample supplies of oil seemed to be in short supply for five of the bridesmaids.
In fact down through time, this particular parable has come to be known as the story of 5 Wise Virgins and 5 Foolish Virgins. The reason arises from the fact that the wise bridesmaids came well-stocked with oil and the foolish did not.
One other point Dr. Findlay makes in his personal recollection of the wedding party he witnessed in Palestine was the fact that at that time in history, “no one was allowed in the streets after dark without a lighted lamp.” This added piece of vital information makes it all the more essential for those with lamps to absolutely insure that oil was not in short supply. As William Barclay further enlightens our knowledge of this parable, “Those who were wise were prepared for the bridegrooms coming no matter when it happened. Those who were foolish let their oil run down and were caught unprepared. The lamps were rags soaked in oil and the oil needed to be replenished.” Author Barclay also tells of a story related from a traveler’s account of a personal experience in India where a very similar event took place. “All those taking part in the ceremony lighted their lamps, and, carrying them in their hands, hastened to take their places in the procession. But some of them had mislaid their lamps, and were not prepared to take their places; now it was too late to go and find their lamps; and the procession moved on to the house of the bride.”
As we reflect on the actions of the bridesmaids, it would do us well to take a look at the spiritual instruction we can gain for during the waiting times in our lives. Being and staying prepared becomes an important part of the insight we can gain. As Matthew Henry shares in his comments on this parable, “those are wise or foolish indeed, that are so in the affairs of their souls. True religion is true wisdom; and sin is folly, but especially the sin of hypocrisy, for those are the greatest fools, that are wise in their own conceit…it was folly of the foolish bridesmaids that they took their lamps, and took no extra oil. They had just oil enough to make their lamps burn for the present…they had a lamp of profession in their hands but not in their hearts which was necessary to carry them through…they had no provision for what was to come…the wise took oil in the supposition that the bridegroom might tarry.
“The wise prepared for a long siege.” I appreciate these words because if there is one lesson I have learned from the lengthy “waiting times” I’ve faced in my own life it is that I can’t skate through trouble with an empty vessel. I’m so glad I knew the power of God could carry me on dark days or I don’t think I’d have come out of the two years after our car accident with my faith intact. What’s more, as the past few years have only dumped one problem after another in my life, if I hadn’t seen the mighty right arm of the Almighty move when I pray, I would have crumbled in a heap, overwrought and destroyed by the enemy. But because I’ve experienced my Father’s care, even if it comes at the very last minute, He has restored my soul and the oil of His Spirit and grace has kept my lamp burning! Praise God!
I’ve found such encouragement from the commentary by Professor Mark Douglas who asks this important question: “So how are we prepared to wait? Gather with others who also wait – and stick with them!” As Pastor Barclay draws our eyes to the spiritual lessons of this parable, he reminds us that, “first and foremost this parable teaches the necessity of being prepared.” As he notes, “there are certain things it is simply not possible to get ready at the last minute.” Unless we prepare ahead of the wedding day, we won’t be prepared at all.
There are days here in Transformation Garden when I can only describe the prayer messages of praise and encouragement as an “oil refilling station,” for as we lift each other up and inspire each other on our earthly journey to our heavenly home, as Professor Douglas inspiringly reminds us, once we arrive at our heavenly destination, “There is already more than enough light at our Father’s banquet.”
“Therefore, with integrity of mind, firm faith, undaunted courage, thorough going love, let us be ready for whatever God’s will brings. Let us keep His commandments faithfully, and be innocent in our simplicity, peaceable in love, modest in humility, diligent in our service, merciful in assisting the poor, firm in standing for the truth.”
Take Heart and Wait
“If but one message I may leave behind,
One single word of courage for my kind,
It would be this – Oh brother, sister, friend,
Whatever life may bring – what God may send,
No matter whether clouds lift soon or late
Take heart and wait!
Despair may tangle darkly at your feet.
Your faith be dimmed, and hope, once cool and sweet.
Be lost – but suddenly, above a hill
A heavenly lamp, set on a heavenly sill
Will shine for you and point the way to go.
How well I know!
For I have waited through the dark,
and I have seen a star rise in the blackest sky
Repeatedly – it has not failed me yet,
And I have learned God never will forget
To light the lamp – if we but wait for it
It will be lit!”
Grace Noll Crowell
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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