Oil in Our Lamps
When just a lad, I was perplexed by phrases I often heard sung in church meetings, such as, "Make me a fisher of men, keep me sinking." At least that's how it sounded to my young ears. And: "Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning." The song seemed happy enough, but sinking and burning were not desireable to me. I figured the oil was at fault — a suspicion reinforced throughout my formative years.
There was the unfortunate year our family bought a used ’57 Plymouth Fury. It was red and white with gigantic fins and a darkly delinquent attitude. It gave sporadic indications of impending doom, but the end came abruptly during an aborted vacation. The first hints were roiling clouds of blue smoke. Long before the invention of personal GPS units, one could stand on a Seattle hill and track our family's progress throughout the city by the smoke trail. Benevolent souls pulled up beside us, pointing frantically toward the tailpipe — vain attempts at intervention. The end came abruptly on a hill descending into Madras, Ore., when the engine uttered its death rattle and the transmission ground to a halt with a few final forlorn puffs.
You'd think, then, when college-bound years later, I would have been savvy of the double-knit suit who persuaded me to become the legal owner of a 1974 Chevy Vega. He sold me on its sleek metallic gold exterior and fabulous black virgin vinyl upholstery. He skipped over the lack of air conditioning and the disturbing tendency of the aluminum engine to soak up oil like a sponge. So, within months, I rapidly developed a first-name friendship at the local hardware store, which saw its profits soar heavenward upon my weekly visits for additional cases of oil. My bright, shiny, gold Vega used gas by the quart — oil by the gallon.
The Bible speaks of oil in a more productive sense, which, of course, that old chorus had been trying to tell me all along. It was a vital component in the golden candlesticks of the sanctuary; it was a necessary ingredient for the widow of Zarephath and her boy; it was the most precious and sought-after commodity of ten virgins who awaited the bridegroom.
But beyond the stories, reality encompasses us who now await the Bridegroom foretold by Jesus' parable. The Bible metaphorically uses oil to represent the Holy Spirit. We don't have to buy it from BP — it's a free gift, offered to us without measure.
Unlike BP, the Source of this oil won't spill it indiscriminantly. It is placed just when and where it is most needed.
We need God's oil. We need it to keep burning. If our light has gone dim or even gone out; if our faith has run dry; if our courage has run cold ... we need it. We need Him.
"Lord, give us oil in our lamps, we pray. Keep us burning till the break of day."
"I rapidly developed a first-name friendship at the local hardware store, which saw its profits soar heavenward upon my weekly visits for additional cases of oil."