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The True Essential Oil
Robert Wurtz II
And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
You shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may regularly be set up to burn. (Exodus 27:20 ESV)
And the foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise answered, saying, “No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.” (Matthew 25:8–9 NKJV)
The burning lamp and oil motif are found throughout the Old and New Testaments and used by God to teach us tremendous spiritual truths. In Exodus 27, God commanded Moses to place the lampstand in the Wilderness Tabernacle. It was the only light source and consisted of a lamp, olive oil, and a wick. The High Priest was responsible for ensuring this lampstand with its lamps was adequately serviced. It was the responsibility of the children of Israel to bring pure oil to the priests to fuel the lamps (lights) on the lampstand (Exodus 27:20). This responsibility is a vital point to keep in mind. Simply put, the people were the sole providers of the oil to light the Tabernacle.
In Revelation chapter 1, Jesus, our Great High Priest, walks amid the lampstands. We know that the Old Testament (OT) pattern was a mere shadow of this reality. The High Priest was responsible for the lampstand in the OT, and Jesus is responsible for the lampstands on earth. In Revelation 1, we have a similar picture, but instead of a seven-fold lampstand, there are individual lampstands spread all over the earth. These lampstands represent individual churches. The people are still required to bring the oil for the lamps. No oil means no light.
The Essential Oil
Our third passage deals with the parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins. As with every good parable, the message is applicable in any number of related circumstances. (Mounce. NIBC). The primary aspect I wish to point out is that we are responsible for obtaining our own oil. And the foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise answered, saying, “No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.” The idea of “buying” is akin to the admonition of the Lord Jesus in Revelation 3:18 when He counseled the Laodiceans to “buy” of him gold tried in the fire. This is a metaphor for obtaining something by proper means or measures. It does not mean “buy” in the sense of purchasing with money.
The gifts of God are free — but they do not come without a cost. We must spend our most precious resource to gain them: time. We must go to Christ in prayer and ask for the oil we need to serve Him. Oil is a picture of the Holy Spirit, and we are admonished to “be being filled to the full” with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). If we lack the necessary oil, our lamps will go out. Consider a few examples from the Old Testament:
The light of the righteous rejoices, But the lamp of the wicked will be put out. (Proverbs 13:9 NKJV)
The light of the wicked indeed goes out, And the flame of his fire does not shine. (Job 18:5 NKJV)
Oil is obtained from crushing olives. Sometimes our devotions are like that, and so are our life experiences. As God deals with us, we turn to Him for the Spirit of Grace (oil) that enables us to do His will. Sometimes we don’t see the need until the word reveals it, or we find ourselves in dire straits, so we don’t ask for the oil as we should. We have not because we ask not (Luke 11:11-13, James 4:2-3).
Jesus said, “My words are Spirit, and they are life.” ( John 6:63) God speaks to us in our circumstances by His Holy Spirit and through His Word, and it becomes oil to us. No one can do this for us. We must do it ourselves. That is not to say that Christ cannot use our oil when He calls for it to be a blessing to others — He can; however, my oil is my responsibility. I need my own full flasks (so to speak).
We must “buy” of Him. This requires renunciation of self and of the world. (Vincent) It requires a willingness to take responsibility to work out our own salvation daily: my lamp — my oil. What are we saying? I will either be wise about my need for oil or foolish about it. I will either procure my own oil or procrastinate until it is too late and the door is shut.
Borrowing Oil (An Attitude of Dependency)
As a minister, I can usually tell when people come to service empty or low on oil. That is not a criticism, it is an alarming observation. G.W. North used to say that “we bring a week’s worth of living into a meeting.” Everyone may have bad days or bad weeks, but this should not be normal. The “spirit” of the five foolish virgins depends on others for the oil. They live on empty and come to meetings on empty, hoping to get refilled in the service, but this is not how the Christian life or church meetings are designed to work. Everyone should live daily and come to the service full of oil and ready to have church.
Jesus once said, “I perceive that virtue has gone out of Me” (Mark 5:30). Virtue is translated from the Greek word dunamis. This is the same word used in Acts 1:8 when it’s said, “You shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” The woman with the issue of blood made a demand on the Lord’s dunamis or oil supply (so to speak). Perhaps it all makes sense now? We can sense when “power” goes out of us, not merely in the fantastic episodes of Mark 5:30 and Luke 8:46, but as we teach, preach, pray, lead songs, or do ministry. Our oil supply diminishes and needs replenishing. The diminishing is proportional to the demand.
Taking the Oil of Others
It is possible to “make a demand” on another person’s “dunamis” (oil) without asking permission. The woman with the issue of blood did it, and I suggest that others might do it to us, too. When in meetings with those who have fallen victim to the “foolish virgin” outlook, who spend their days neglecting their flasks of oil, a “wise virgin” may find themselves drained and worn out. I’ve heard it said that the foolish virgin types (as it were) “steal” from those who have oil. This sounds harsh and unloving, but I understand what is meant.
When only a few come to a meeting or service with their oil, those who are ready end up supplying for everyone. It’s a mystery how this works, and it’s hard to put a theology to it, but those who have experienced it know it is true. Some meetings wear down and completely drain the ministers, prayer warriors, or song leaders because the multitudes have become spectators rather than participants. Some suffer lifelong consequences and leave the ministry for years at a time. The demand on their oil outpaces their supply and it has a damaging impact. Why? Because God never intended for a few to carry the spiritual load of the many.
The solution is for every Saint to live full of oil and come to the meeting prepared. Come with a full flask of oil as often as you can. The time will come when it will not be possible to borrow from others. This is the warning of the parable of the Ten Virgins. Don’t get into a mode that depends on a Sunday or mid-week service to get you through life.
If this Pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we all need our own oil. Many people were unable to attend church services and backslid as a result. I suggest this is largely due to a lack of oil. Many never developed their own procurement of oil. In other words, they lacked a devotional life and depended on church meetings to get through life. They lived spiritually from “service to service” and that doesn’t work in times like these. We must have our own oil supply and stay ready and full of oil even if church services are outlawed altogether.
Instead of living on empty, come with full flasks, ready to be a blessing and help lift the spiritual load of the service. In this way, you are both ready for the Bridegroom should He call and prepared to do service and ministry to those in need.