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Eternity 138 - The Ten Virgins

(Matthew 25:1-13 NKJV) "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. {2} "Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. {3} "Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, {4} "but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. {5} "But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. {6} "And at midnight a cry was heard: 'Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!' {7} "Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. {8} "And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' {9} "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.' {10} "And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. {11} "Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us!' {12} "But he answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.' {13} "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

This is one of the most controversial of the parables with a multitude of interpretations. It is a "crisis parable" where there is a decisive moment which people are prepared for or totally unprepared for. "On that Day" "in that hour.." is when the reality of our faith and wisdom is tested and found out. The parable of the ten virgins is a call to alertness, wisdom and spiritual preparation. Above all it tells us that we cannot sit on our lees in comfort and complacency. There is a time of reckoning and it may come suddenly, and catch us unprepared.

Folly is not a frequent theme in modern teaching and it is seen as almost harmless, almost like an eccentricity of sorts. Yet folly, slackness, and lack of wisdom are seen as truly catastrophic in their consequences in Scripture. (by "folly" I mean the biblical definition - poor judgment and a lack of practical wisdom). The foolish person is one who refuses to absorb the wisdom God so generously provides - and wisdom is one of the chief qualities that the Holy Spirit imparts (Isaiah 11:1,2 Acts 6:10). So by refusing wisdom the person is, in many ways, refusing God.

Good judgment and practical wisdom in living are often not thought of as spiritual qualities yet they are required to live a righteous and peaceful life. A clattering fool cannot fulfill all righteousness and a person full of their own opinions (as the fools in Proverbs are) are incapable of walking for any length of time in the ways of peace. Folly is a sure sign of spiritual inadequacy. Which is why the foolish virgins are soon spiritually depleted running out of the "oil" of the Holy Spirit. The wise however are spiritually receptive, they seek more, and are far better prepared spiritually for the day of crisis.

This is eloquently expressed in the speech of Wisdom in Proverbs chapter 1:

(Proverbs 1:20-33 NKJV) Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares. {21} She cries out in the chief concourses, At the openings of the gates in the city She speaks her words: {22} "How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? For scorners delight in their scorning, And fools hate knowledge. {23} Turn at my rebuke; Surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you. {24} Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, {25} Because you disdained all my counsel, And would have none of my rebuke, {26} I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your terror comes, {27} When your terror comes like a storm, And your destruction comes like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you. {28} "Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. {29} Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the LORD, {30} They would have none of my counsel And despised my every rebuke. {31} Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, And be filled to the full with their own fancies. {32} For the turning away of the simple will slay them, And the complacency of fools will destroy them; {33} But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, And will be secure, without fear of evil."

To repent and turn at Wisdom's rebuke is to have her spirit poured out on you. (Prov 1:23 above). However to refuse wisdom is to refuse God and to invite calamity and destruction upon one's life. (Proverbs 1:24-32 above). Folly is such an offense to the Holy Spirit that when fools in a time of crisis call out and seek wisdom at last God does not answer because "they have rejected knowledge and the fear of the Lord". (v29) They only want wisdom for their own self-preservation, not because it is true and good.

Physical fitness may also give us analogy. Take two soldiers, one of whom does not exercise and the other of whom keeps very fit indeed. What will happen in the day of battle? When the fitness is needed the unprepared soldier cannot go out and purchase endurance! it must be part of his life well before the crisis comes. So we must be prepared for days of spiritual trial and testing.

Why does Jesus lock the foolish virgins out? You cannot study after the exam has been held - it does not get you any marks, and you cannot go and get wisdom after the trial for which it is required. In the extreme case in Luke 16 the rich man wakes up to the nature of his life when he was in torment and asks Lazarus to go back and testify to his brothers. Did this realization change his situation? Not at all! It was wisdom but far too late. To be wise after judgment has come is of no use at all.

Christians are required to be "full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom" (Acts 6:3, Ephesians 1:17) and Paul prays that they will be given the spirit of wisdom and revelation and the apostle John makes the point that the Holy Spirit is our instructor in "all things" (1John 2:20,27). Wisdom is not optional. Wisdom is a sign of the Spirit's presence in a human mind and heart. The wisdom of Joseph and Daniel even caused kings to declare that a "spirit of the gods is in them". We must not live complacent, self-indulgent Christian lives but rather be disciplined, wise and watchful, full of the Spirit and inwardly prepared for every crisis that life brings.

The time preceding Christ's return will be "night". A time of darkness and instability. A time when the foolish will stumble and be destroyed and the wise will just be able to make it through. Strong temptations and false miracles will abound (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12) and Christians will need every ounce of discernment to escape. (Matthew 24:24) Those who have sought comfort rather than wisdom and spiritual growth will be unprepared. The door of opportunity for wisdom will shut and they will be left outside. Therefore while we have the light we should heed it, and strive to lay hold of the wisdom and truth of God in our lives so we may live in peace and enjoy God.