Oil In My Lamp

Okay. So, the older you get, the larger your inventory from which to reminisce, right? This post is about prayer but I’m taking a 60’s detour to get there.

I listened to lots of music growing up. Yes, I do regret that I didn’t save that first Beatles album, along with my Beatles collector cards. Who knew that this stuff would be worth something someday? Along with the Fab Four, I loved the Dave Clark Five, the Kinks, Herman’s Hermits, the Animals, and  believe it or not, I was even a fan of Tom Jones! This was the music culture that this grade school boy grew up in. In my teen years  I became a bit more sophisticated, listening to my older brother’s Sinatra and Streisand vinyl. Which brings me to my point, almost.

In the mix of the popular British bands was an American group out of L.A. called “The Byrds.” One of their greatest hits was a cover of  Pete Seeger’s “Turn, Turn, Turn”. Lyrics are right out of Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven.” Little did I know as an eleven year old “Byrds” fan, that my life would have a major shift take place ten years down the road; thankfully, a “turn” in the right direction. Oddly enough, when I was fifteen, the group released their “Ballad of Easy Rider” album, which included a rendition of the traditional Christian song, “Oil In My Lamp.” It’s personal impact was simply a folk ballad with sweet harmonies at the time, but I know it now as an essential lifeline for existence. Let’s fast backward to it’s origin.

Nearing the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus imparted sobering instructions to His followers about the crises that would come upon the earth prior to His second coming and the importance of being watchful. One illustration He gave was that of  ten maidens who were invited to a wedding. (Matthew 25:1-13) Five He deemed foolish because they did not bring enough oil for their lamps and five he called wise. The crux of the matter: the bridegroom had delayed and the foolish burned up their oil with no reserves. The consequence was no admission to the wedding feast. When understood along with the other teachings Jesus gave both before and after this section, one must conclude that to be without oil is not a  good thing.

The foolish virgins were not so much evil as they were unprepared and disconnected. They tried to gain entrance to the wedding after the door was shut: “Later the others also came, and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open [the door] for us.’ But He replied, ‘I assure you and most solemnly say to you, I do not know you [we have no relationship].’ (Matthew 25:11-12 AMP) 

The ready and watchful heart is one that is pursuing heaven’s wealth, the true riches for which we all ache. It is this pursuit that keeps us clothed with anticipation. 

Oil is clearly linked in scripture to the Holy Spirit. It signifies the Presence of God. Thus to have “oil” in one’s life is to have a vibrant, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. There are myriad blessings that accompany such a connection and dreadful repercussions without it. To be consistently in a “ready” posture, which includes resisting the dulling effect of the world we live in, one must have fuel for one’s lamp. The gospel of Luke ties this together nicely for us: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit.” (Luke 12:34-35)

Oil is maintained as we hone our focus towards enduring treasure. 

I heard “about”  oil many times as a young boy. I heard the Bible being read but it was only as lyrics to a song, penetrating perhaps to a surface degree, but not to the vital place in my heart. Later, in my college years, I was witnessed to by believers on my campus, but I was too cool for that religious stuff. I even recall the foolishness of my words, “I’ll take my chances with the man upstairs when my time comes.”

Thankfully, my life took the ultimate “turn” forty years ago. All this year I’ve been celebrating life at forty! My advice to all of us – get oil.

Jesus said of John the Baptist, “He has borne witness to the truth… he was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light.” (John 5:35)

The world is held captive by darkness and lies. People need the body of Christ to represent truth. They need to experience the light in you that will steer them to a true joy of their own.

“Lord, give me oil in my lamp; keep me burning.”

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