FORFEITING THE BANQUET
Lord, you hear both my prayers and my complaints. I love you; still, I sometimes disregard you. I long for you today.
Read MATTHEW 25:1–13
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
25 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Lord, thank you for the parables of Jesus. Please help me in my study today to understand better what it means for our lives now.
You might be thinking, ‘Why are ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom? Which of them will be the bride?’ The answer is that ‘virgin’ simply means ‘young woman’ and these are invited wedding guests. Jesus’ parable is drawn from local custom. When a couple married they spent lavishly on a huge party, which could last for days. But it was normal for the bridegroom to keep his guests (and bride) waiting. At the signal of his arrival, everyone would awaken and, if dark, rush to meet him with the burning torches.
Because no one knew the time and date of the wedding in advance, people needed to be prepared for all eventualities. Half of the bride’s friends clearly weren’t. Sleeping was normal. Not having oil for their lamps was not. They couldn’t borrow oil from others – they needed it – so they were deprived of greeting the bridegroom and enjoying the wedding festivities. Some of Jesus’ followers would have grasped the story’s significance for Jewish people. As God’s chosen, their whole history was preparation for the coming of God’s Son. But, though invited, their unpreparedness might mean they forfeited being included when he came.
Bible scholar William Barclay cites two lessons we can all learn. First – some things cannot be left to the last minute. If we are going to take a driving test, we need weeks of preparation: it’s too late to start preparing as the examiner approaches the car! Second – some things cannot be borrowed. None of us can borrow a relationship with God: we must have our own. The consequence for the young women was that they missed a great party and heaps of fun. The consequences of being unready for Christ’s return are very much more serious.
Lord, show me today what I need to change in my attitude to you, so I can be more prepared for your coming.
Lord Jesus, from every detour and distraction that dazzles me, disentangle me. From every wrong turn, redeem me. Patient Father, slow me down and turn me to you, I pray.
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