It is written, "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:13-16). The word translated candle in verse 15 literally means lamp. Candles, as we know them today, were unknown during the days when the early Christians lived. Note the following quotations from the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible; pgs. 1303, 1304:
"The clay bowl was fashioned first, and the rim was folded over to help contain the oil. A spout was pinched in place at one end, into which the wick would be placed. When the clay dried, the lamp would be fired to a dull brown shade. The wick was generally made of flax, although an old piece of linen cloth was sometimes used. Salt could be added to the wick for a brighter flame, and frequently extra wicks were used. Olive oil provided the commonest form of lamp fuel, and the average lamp could hold enough oil to burn through the night. Despite this, the housewife would have to get up several times to tend the wick and keep her precious lamp lit." See Proverbs 31:18.
During the days of the early Christians, some lamps bore inscriptions, such as: "The light of the Lord shines to all;" "The Lord is my light," (or "beautiful light"). Lamps were frequently used in funeral rites, and have been found in burial places. (Cf. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)
Some vivid applications can be drawn from the "lamp."
The Lamp Is Lit! "The clay bowl was fashioned first." Before our lights can shine, we must become "vessels" for God. And it is God who, through His Word, creates true "vessels unto honor" who can truly carry His light. Thus, it is written, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). Until one obeys the Gospel of Christ, he remains "unlit." "For Thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness" (Psalm 18:28).
While many claim to be Christians, God knows those who really are. "Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: The Lord knows those who are His, and, Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work" (2 Timothy 2:19-21). Have you "prepared" yourself to let God's true light shine through you?
The Lamp Burns Brightly! "It giveth light unto all that are in the house." Thus was the light in the upper chamber where the disciples gathered to worship God. "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread..." (Acts 20:7).
Something else--the lights of the Christians--burned brightly in that upper chamber; and their light illuminated God's house! Does your light burn brightly in the assembly, or is it habitually dark in the seat you should fill? "These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:14,15). What is your attitude toward God's house? Does your light shine on all who are in His house? Note carefully the following scriptures:
* David said he was happy to go to the house of the Lord (Psalm 122:1).
* Paul told the Galatian Christians to do good to all men--especially the brethren (Galatians 6:10).
* The Hebrew writer encouraged brethren to, by meeting with the saints, provoke one another to "love and good works" (Hebrews 10:24,25).
* We are also instructed to "hold fast" to this attitude until the end (Hebrews 3:5,6).
How bright does your light shine in God's house?
Lamps Emit a Sweet Aroma! Today, instead of lamps, we use candles. And some of these have added fragrances that, when burned, emit an aroma that fills the house with a sweet smell. As we burn brightly for the Lord, do we produce an "aroma" that is a "sweet-smelling savor?"
Old Testament sacrifices had an "aroma" about them. One of the first about which we read concerns Noah. "And Noah built an alter unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the alter. And the Lord smelled a sweet savor; ..." (Genesis 8:20,21). We should be "living sacrifices" unto God, and He should smell a sweet savor from these living sacrifices. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable (spiritual) service" (Romans 12:1).
Also of interest is what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16: "For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: to the one we are the savor of death unto death; and to the other the savor of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?" Do our lives give off the "fragrances" of death and life? Are we, like our Savior, a "sweet-smelling savor"? It is written: "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor" (Ephesians 5:1-2).
How Long Will the Lamp Remain Lit? Before you read further, please study Matthew 25:1-13. The wise virgins made preparation, and took oil with them. I liken the oil to God's Word. We need to be constantly "renewing" the oil supply to our lamps; so that we will not run short, as did the foolish virgins. Regarding the exhortation to be living sacrifices, it is written, "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:2). Let us endeavor to ensure the brightness of our lamps for as long as we live.
"The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength, they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" (Psalm 90:10,12). Truly, life is like a vapor (Cf. James 4:14-17). How then are you living your life before God? Are you applying your heart to wisdom? "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:15-17). Let's be certain our lamps are always lit!!!
By Dennis Ross -- Via the Monthly Messenger of the Knollwood church of Christ, January 2004
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