I remember when I had the strange idea to make an olive oil lamp at home. I was studying the parable of the ten virgins and their oil lamps when it occurred to me that I did not know how olive oil smelled as it was burning. I rummaged through the kitchen of my apartment and rigged up an oil lamp with what I found. I filled an old coffee mug with oil, twisted a wick out of a paper towel and lit it.
I was surprised by how cleanly my homemade oil lamp burned. It burned for several hours until the oil ran dry. Perhaps that is why the foolish virgins did not take any oil with them? They expected the small amount of the oil in the lamp to last as long as they needed? Perhaps they did not consider that the Lord might tarry in coming?
In the interest of experimentation, I turned off all of the lights in the house, closed the Persian blinds and walked around with my lamp. I immediately ran into a piece of furniture because I forgot the Bible verse “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” I was supposed to look at the path ahead of me instead of staring at the lamp! The light was with me and illuminating my way forward, just as the Bible does for the believer.
I was amazed by how such a simple act as making a homemade oil lamp could help me to understand a Bible verse in a deeper way. Often, we get separated from the people of the Bible and the world in which they lived. Since my days of beginner oil lamp fabrication, I have had the privilege of studying Bible culture in depth. However, whenever I walk into Zak’s Jerusalem Gifts on Christian Quarter Road and see the ancient oil lamps for sale, I am reminded of that experience in my apartment years ago.
Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.(Matthew 25:1-4)
I would challenge any pastor or Bible student to consider purchasing one of these oil lamps. They are very inexpensive and easy to transport, so there is really no need to make one at home in your kitchen! When you are alone with God’s lamp for us, His Word, light the oil lamp and imagine for a while that you are living back in the days of the Patriarchs or of King David. Back then, olive oil lamps were the only way to light houses after dark. If you are like me, this experience will make the Word of God come alive for you.
Zak’s Antiquities Jerusalem