Some form of Lamp has been used by all peoples of the world, through all times.
But today, with the availability of electrical lighting, our understanding and comprehension of pre-electric and non-electric living, distances most of us from true biblical insight as to how important lamps were in The Old Testament, and to our ancestors.
Their lamps were of clay, or bronze and other metals if they were wealthy. They burned olive oil, pitch, naphtha, wax or any combustible available resources, using wicks of wool, cotton, flax or reeds as available.
Indeed, Jewish tradition says that the lamp wicks of The Temple were made from old linen garments.
Not only does it appear that the lamps burnt constantly in The Temple, but Jewish tradition hold that most Israelites burn their lamps all night, perhaps since the light made them feel safer.
The writer of Proverbs praises the virtuous wife saying of her,
“….. and her lamp does not go out by night.” Proverbs 31:18b emphasis added.
Conversely, having no lights or letting the lamp go out, was not seen as a good omen or reflection on one’s character or reputation.
“The light of the wicked indeed goes out, and the flame of his fire does not shine.
The light is dark in his tent, and his lamp beside him is put out.” Job 18:5-6 emphasis added.
“How often is the lamp of the wicked put out? How often does their destruction come upon them, the sorrows God distributes in His anger?” Job 21:17 emphasis added.
The LORD said when condemning Israel to seventy years of desolation,
” Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp. And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” Jeremiah 25, 10-11 emphasis added.
The removal of their lights — their Lamps — was seen as a very bad thing indeed, by all.
In the New Testament, this importance of Lamps continues — both symbolically and practically — as The LORD warns the Church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:5,
“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent.” emphasis added.
However, in The Words and parables of Jesus, the lamp can be seen as taking on a new significance here, a new role for us, as He speaks today through The Gospel of Luke:
The Parable of the Revealed Light
“No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light.” Luke 8:16 emphasis added.
The Lamp of the Body
“No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light.
The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness….”
…….”If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.” Luke 11:33-34,36 emphasis added.
The Faithful Servant and the Evil Servant
“Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning.” Luke 12:35 emphasis added.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?” Luke 15:8 emphasis added.
As I studied the Gospel of Luke and these same verses earlier this week, The LORD took me back in memory to my childhood and my grandparent’s house which had no electricity, but was lit with gas lamps. They had roles, priorities and practices that I do not have now, but have witnessed.
Their only electrical device was a 12V radio, powered by a car battery which needed regular overnight re-charging at the local garage.
As I tell these stories to youths around me, I see a glaze of incomprehension in their eyes. The same glaze of incomprehension The LORD must have seen in me, as He brought this before me last week.
He was asking me: What is The Lamp in my life that I must not hide, but set on a table or a lampstand, that it may be a light for others?
It has certainly made me think……
So I ask you in return: What is The Lamp in your life?
~ Angus MacKillop