Grow Deep: What's in Your Hand Edition, Week 2
Week 2 - November 12-18
“Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.” - Matthew 25:13
At the top of our September prayer list was our nephew, Danny, and his family. You see, Danny has a beautiful farm on the outskirts of Fort Myers, Florida, where he grows tangerines and other citrus fruits. When Danny received the unwelcome news that his farm sat right in the middle of the projected path of Hurricane Irma, he quickly sent his wife and three small children to safety in South Carolina. Then, he worked day and night to be prepared for Irma’s coming. As expected, Irma came, knocking down trees, flooding the orange grove, and blocking the service roads. But farm and family came through the ordeal with minimal damage. Many neighbors were not that fortunate. They were not as prepared as they should have been.
In the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, Jesus calls on us to be prepared to take part in the marriage supper of the Lamb and not be left out in the dark. One important question raised by Bible students as they read this parable has to do with the nature of the oil in the lamps. There is an old gospel song in which we sing:
Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning.
Give me oil in my lamp, I pray.
Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning.
Keep me burning till the break of day.
In the other stanzas of this song the oil is described as love, then joy, and finally, faith. Some of the Church fathers declared that the oil we need in our lamps is charity and giving alms to the poor. Others insist the oil is the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Most Lutherans would say that it is the Word of God; that is, the message of the Gospel that declares us forgiven and accepted by God, not by what we have done but by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Personally I prefer not to separate the Word from the Spirit, nor faith from love and the other virtues. Where the Gospel is proclaimed, the Spirit is active in creating faith, love, and the other fruits of the Spirit.
Sunday, November 12
Read: Matthew 25:1-13
The parable describes a Jewish wedding feast like the one we remember from the Fiddler on the Roof. There is a wedding feast, the invited guests, the groom, and a procession to the groom’s house, but where is the bride? The parable does not mention the bride, but it does mention ten virgins or bridesmaids.
Reflect: Is it possible that the ten virgins taken together represent the Bride of Christ? The Church? Us? Why is it impossible for us to buy the oil that our lamps need? What do the lamps into which the oil is poured represent?
For the Family: What lesson was Jesus teaching in the Parable of the Ten Virgins? Who are the virgins or bridesmaids? Who is the bridegroom? How can we get ready for Christ’s return?
Monday, November 13
Read: Psalm 119:105-112
Psalm 119, the longest chapter in our Bible, is full of synonyms that describe the Word of God. One of these synonyms is that of a lamp or a light that guides us through the darkness. The blessed person is the one who meditates in the Torah of Instruction of the Lord day and night. It is the lamp of the Word fueled by the oil of the Spirit that opens our eyes to behold our Savior and all He has done to rescue us from all wickedness.
Reflect: Make a list of all of the synonyms of God’s Torah that you can find in Psalm 119:105-112. What leads the Psalmist to willingly take an oath to follow God’s righteous laws and to set his heart on keeping the Lord’s decrees? In what way do these verses in Psalm 119 find fulfillment in Christ?
For the Family: What is the Word that the Psalmist is talking about in this passage? When are the times we might feel like we are walking in darkness? How can we use God’s Word, the Bible, as a light in the darkness?
Tuesday, November 14
Read: 1 Timothy 4:7-16
In the first six verses of this chapter, Paul speaks to his young disciple, Timothy, about those who will abandon their faith in later times. Paul does not want Timothy and the members of his church in Ephesus to lose their faith, which is apparently what happened in the case of the five foolish virgins. In the appointed verses, Paul gives sound advice to Timothy on how to preserve his faith and remain faithful to his Lord.
Reflect: Paul cautions Timothy, telling him not to neglect the gift he was given. When we neglect the gifts of the Spirit, we are in danger of losing them and of running out of oil. What gifts have you been given? In what ways can these gifts be neglected? How does the Spirit renew us in faith, hope, love, and service to others?
For the Family: What are some ways you can train yourself for godliness? How can your parents assist you in this? How does this passage instruct us to set an example to our peers? Make a list of ways you can be an example to the world and those you know who don’t know Jesus yet.
Wednesday, November 15
Read: Psalm 145:15-21
Is it possible that the five foolish virgins let their lamps run out of oil because the long wait made them forget for whom they were waiting? Do we grow weary because we are prone to forget for whom we are waiting? Psalm 145 is an alphabetical song. Each verse begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Alphabetical songs and poems are rhetorical devises that help jar our memories. Remembering who God is will lead us to praise the Lord.
Reflect: Make a list of the adjectives in Psalm 145 that describe the character of the Lord whose praises are sung. What are, for you, the seven most important attributes of the Lord found in this psalm? Why do you think this psalm was chosen to be chanted three times a day in the synagogue? How can the singing of praises help to keep our lamps burning?
For the Family: What does the Psalmist mean by “you satisfy the desires of every living thing?” How does this show that God is always watching over us and taking care of us?
Thursday, November 16
Read: 2 Peter 3:1-18
In the parable of the ten virgins, five of the young ladies run out of oil because they did not count on there being such a long wait before the coming of the bridegroom. The Lord often delays His coming. Four days passed before Jesus came to the house of Lazarus. Jairus’ daughter died because Jesus stopped to heal a woman with an issue of blood instead of coming to Jairus’ home right away. In today’s reading, some believers have fallen away because Jesus seems to have forgotten about coming back. The problem of five foolish virgins also had to do with the delay of the second coming. They were not prepared for the long haul.
Reflect: What are some of the reasons given in this chapter to explain the delay of the second coming? Are we prepared for the delay of Christ’s Second Coming and the suffering this delay entails? How should we spend our time as we wait for the Bridegroom’s coming?
For the Family: What do you think the new heavens and new earth are going to be like? How can we prepare for that day? What does diligence mean? How can you be diligent to complete the tasks God has assigned for you?
Friday, November 17
Read: John 14:23-27
It should be clear that people who fall away from the faith, as did the five foolish virgins in the parable, do so because they feel that Jesus’ return to the Father means that He has left them alone as orphans in a hostile world ruled by the prince of this world. In John 14:23-27, Jesus assures His disciples they will not be abandoned but rather instructed, led, and comforted by the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in the name of Jesus.
Reflect: What promise of Jesus should sustain and strengthen the wise virgins as they await the coming of the Bridegroom? Why should the ascension of Jesus bring us peace and gladness? According to this text, what is the most important work of the Spirit in our lives?
For the Family: Just as we are to obey our parents and listen to their words, we are commanded to keep and listen to God’s Word as well. What does this look like in your life? How is God’s peace different from the world’s peace?
Saturday, November 18
Read: Psalm 95
In the last part of Psalm 95, the writer mentions those Israelites in the wilderness who hardened their hearts and grumbled against the Lord. We, like the children of Israel, are also tempted to grumble against the Lord because of the difficulties we encounter as we travel through the wilderness on our journey to the Promised Land. Grumbling can also embitter us and cause us to use up the oil in our lamps.
Reflect: Instead of grumbling, the writer calls us to engage in activities that will strengthen our faith, our hope, and dedication. What has God done that would make us shout aloud and extol Him with music and song? How can worship in Spirit and in Truth help us to keep from running out of oil?
For the Family: God is an amazing God, and He is our Rock of Salvation! Throughout the Bible, we also learn that God is our Shepherd. Read verse 7 again. How are we God’s sheep? How does He take care of us? How does this mean we should live our lives?