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Sermon 8/3/08
Matthew 25:13 - Look to the Lord

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Look to the Lord

Watch therefore, for you do not know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Matthew 25:13)

I attended an event recently in which we broke into small groups and one of us was to be the speaker in each group. After the speaker finished, the listeners were to make a comment or two about what they thought the speaker had to say. The groups were not to mix with one another, but be in three different rooms, including the one we were in at the moment. Our table was assigned to one of the speakers and someone went out to see if the other two rooms were unlocked and available at the moment. The gentleman across from me asked which room we were to move to, and I replied, “Don’t worry, all we have to do is to keep our eyes on the speaker.” But while we were talking, our eyes were taken off the speaker for a moment and when we looked back, he was gone. Someone was motioning us to sit down and there we were, in the wrong room with the wrong speaker.

How often does that happen in our Christian lives? We know that we should look to the Lord and follow Him in everything, but people are easily distracted and suddenly find themselves in the wrong setting. The speaker that we heard did a good job and we were glad to hear him, but the right choice was to be in that other room with the speaker who was assigned to us. What in life has grabbed your attention right now?

Our Scripture for today is from a parable of Jesus, as related in Matthew 25:1-13, and it is often referred to as the “Parable of the Ten Virgins.” Jesus used as an analogy, “ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom” (Matthew 25:1). The parable is interesting. All “ten virgins” had “lamps.” All of them were looking for the arrival of the bridegroom. Externally they all looked the same, but we are told that “five of them were wise and five were foolish” (Verse 2). That statement was defined as follows: “Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps” (Verses 3 and 4). Everyone who heard the words of Jesus at that moment had an understanding of what He meant because they were intimately familiar with the nature of Jewish weddings. Here are some of the elements of such weddings at the time of Jesus:

The bride was chosen by the father of the bridegroom, much as the Lord’s people are carefully chosen by God (1 Peter 2:9, John 15:19). The father would send his trusted servant, the agent of the father, to search out the bride, not unlike the way the Holy Spirit leads us to Christ (John 16:13). Second, a bride price was established, much like the price paid for our sins. The price paid was Jesus’ life (1 Corinthians 6:20). Next the bride and groom were betrothed to each other, which legally bound the bride and the groom together in a marriage contract, except they did not physically live together – she was to wait for him. A written document was drawn up, stating the bride price, the promises of the groom, and the rights of the bride. The groom promised to work for her, honor, support, and maintain her in truth; to provide food, clothing, and necessities, and to live together with her as husband and wife. This contract was the unalienable right of the bride and it was executed and signed prior to the wedding ceremony. The Bible, the blood and the Spirit are written in the believer’s contract. The promises of God are legally ours when we trust in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). The bride consented by saying, “I do.”

The next part of this process was that gifts were given to the bride and “the cup of the covenant” was shared by the bride and groom. The rite of betrothal was complete when the groom gave something of value to the bride and she accepted it, as a ring is often received today. The groom solemnly gave the gift to his bride. This completed rite was known in Hebrew as "kiddushin," which meant "sanctification." The gifts to the bride symbolized love, commitment, and loyalty. The principal gift God gives to those who accept the Lord is the Holy Spirit (John 15:26). When Jesus ascended to Heaven, He meant for us to have many gifts, including forgiveness, salvation, righteousness, eternal life, grace, faith, and more; given to His bride, the people of God.

The bride had a water immersion, a ritual cleansing. This pledged separation to a new way of living. She left the old life for a new life with her spouse. Jesus said in John 3:3 that we must be “born again” to enter into the Kingdom of God. Believers are “buried with (Christ) through baptism into death” to our old lives (Romans 6:4). The bridegroom left the bride, returning to his father's house to prepare the bridal chamber for his bride. It was the man's duty to go away to be with his father, build a house, and prepare for the eventual wedding. Before he went, the Jewish man said to the bride, "I go to prepare a place for you; if I go, I will return again unto you." Jesus said, “In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).

The bride was now consecrated and set apart for a period of time while the bridegroom was away building the house. Through faith we see “the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). Before the bridegroom could go and get the bride, the groom's father had to be satisfied that the son had made every preparation. Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, no, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36). Meanwhile, the bride waited eagerly for the return of the bridegroom. In her mind, the bridegroom could come at any time, even in the middle of the night or at midnight. Therefore, she had to be ready at all times. The bridegroom returned with a shout, "Behold, the bridegroom comes" and the sound of the ram's horn would be blown. The bridegroom usually returned at midnight. The imagery is seen in places like 1 Thessalonians 4:16 – “The Lord will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God.

In Zechariah 4:1-6, the prophet was shown a vision of olive trees, connected by pipes to lamps lit by the oil from those trees. Zechariah asked, “What are these, my lord?” And the reply was, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” The olive oil seen so often in the Old and New Testaments, is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. When five of the “virgins” in today’s Scripture were shown to have “no oil,” it is meant that though they were religious outwardly and looked like the others, the Spirit of God was not in them. Are you ready for the Lord’s return?

Father, I want to be more than a believer outwardly - help my faith to be deep and real. Forgive me of my sins, entrust me to Your Son, heal me through the power of God, and fill me with Your Holy Spirit. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.

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