Give Me Oil in My Lamp Keep Me Burning
“Give Me Oil in My Lamp Keep Me Burning,” is the title of an old gospel spiritual. In the song someone is asking God for the “oil” of the Holy Spirit to light up their lamp – or their life - and keep them “burning”. I think they want to be on fire for their Lord!
In describing a person who has new life in the Holy Spirit, Jesus said this: “The wind blows where it wishes: and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) So since Jesus says that the Holy Spirit is like the wind, then it sounds like we can’t control it or make it go where we want it to go.
But then Jesus also said: “Most assuredly, unless a person is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the
.” (John 3:5)
Jesus is saying here that along
with water we need to have the Spirit in our lives to enter heaven. So my question is: If we must be born of the Spirit to enter
heaven but we can’t control the Spirit, then how does the Spirit come into our
lives? Is there anything we can do to
make that happen? kingdom
Jesus gave us a story or parable in Matthew 25:1-13 about the importance of the Spirit in our lives. The story begins with ten virgins who were planning to meet the bridegroom and attend a lavish wedding feast. The ten virgins took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Jesus says that five of the virgins were wise and five were foolish. The foolish ones left without any oil for their lamps, but the wise virgins remembered to take the oil. The bridegroom was late so while the ten women were waiting for him to arrive they all fell asleep. But at midnight they were awakened by someone calling out and announcing that the bridegroom would soon be there!
The five who had no oil asked the five who had brought oil to share with them. But the ones with the oil were afraid that there wouldn’t be enough to go around. So the five without the oil ran off to the store to buy oil so they could light their lamps and meet the bridegroom.
Alas, the five foolish virgins missed the bridegroom when he arrived since they had gone out to purchase oil. And the five wise virgins carrying their lighted lamps joyously greeted the bridegroom and went with him into the place where the wedding would take place. And then the door was shut.
Let’s read how this story ends. “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know not the day or the hour when the Son of Man is coming.” (Matthew 15:11-13)
We have a sobering end to this story. The bridegroom says, “I do not know you” to the five foolish virgins who did not bring any oil. “Unless a person is born of the water and the Spirit (oil), he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” (John 5:8) The wedding feast represents the kingdom of heaven and without oil the foolish virgins didn’t make it. Time was up and the door was shut. A terrible ending!
Oil is symbolic in Scripture of the Holy Spirit. (Zeph. 4: Isa.61:1) So in this story that Jesus tells us I believe that the oil represents the Holy Spirit. Outwardly the ten virgins all look the same. They all act like they want to be a part of the wedding. All ten make the trip to meet the bridegroom. Say all the correct words. Bring along their lamps. If we could meet them would we be able to tell the wise ones from the foolish? – the real ones from the fake? No, we would think these young women were all alike – all ten going in the same direction with the same purpose.
But if we checked closer, the foolish five would not have oil (the Spirit) to light up their lamps (their lives?) or to light up the darkness around them. They might look good but there’s just something missing! Until the bridegroom is arriving they kick back and sleep and don’t seem to worry. Do they really need oil anyway?
Aren’t they good enough on their own? After all they are better than all of those other people who have messed up their lives. These five are successful - the “makers” and not the “takers”. They go to church on Sunday and give their nice offerings and impress their friends. They don’t drink and don’t chew. Do good deeds and work hard. Light candles and pass out fliers. Save money and drive the right car. Life is complicated but they know the correct formula. They have it all figured out so why would they need to worry about oil anyway?
And the other five virgins – the wise ones- the ones who bring oil to the wedding and seem to value it and hold onto it. Worry that they could run out. Already this mysterious oil seems to be influencing their lives in ways that they can’t understand. They don’t have things all figured out on their own so they wait for guidance. Pray for help.
And they do good deeds because they care about the people around them who are in need. They go to church because they love to hear Gods’ Word. They are humble and put others first. And their mistakes and sins keep them running back to God for forgiveness. But for these virgins who have the miracle oil, life is simple because they have the Answer – the Savior. And the Savior has them and the oil He has given them lights their lives. And they enter the wedding feast with the bridegroom because their lives are burning brightly with the oil of the Spirit.
What is Jesus trying to teach us when He tells this story- this parable about the ten virgins? Why did five virgins have the oil and the other five did not? How would one get the oil in the first place?
It seems to me that Jesus told this story to teach us that having the Holy Spirit (the oil) in our lives is all important. Scripture says: “There is a way that seems right to people, but the end thereof is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25) We can go through the motions of living but if we aren’t lit up with the light of the Holy Spirit we are still walking around in our own power. And that’s not good enough!
So how do we receive this Spirit that comes and goes like the wind? Acts 2:38 says: “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” So there we have it! We receive the Holy Spirit as a Gift when we repent (are sorry and turn from our sins) and when we accept Jesus into our lives. When Jesus spoke those words: “ …Unless a person is born of the water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven” (John 3:5) He was saying the same thing. When a person is “born of water” he repents (turns from his sin) and is cleansed of sin (is baptized in the water) as the necessary background for receiving the new life in Christ – given by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.
Maybe we aren’t always aware that we have the Holy Spirit (the oil) in our lives. Maybe we forget that we have this wonderful Gift to guide and teach and comfort us along the way. But Scripture teaches us that indeed we Christians do have the Holy Spirit in us. Let’s not quench the Spirit but instead make room in our lives for more of the Him. Let’s not hide our light under a bushel but instead open ourselves up so the Holy Spirit can light up our lives all the more. And we can be like the wise virgins and have our lamps lit and burning when the bridegroom comes. And we can keep praying the same prayer and asking for the same oil that the singer asked for so long ago in the old gospel song,- the one that goes: “Give Me Oil In My Lamp, Keep Me Burning.”