Dear Beloved in Yeshua,
All About Oil
In Israel this month: “The unripe green olives have turned purple and then black, and are now— just in time for Hanukkah—bursting with their precious oil. You can take a ripe olive in your hand, squeeze it gently—at a safe distance from your friends—and the oil will come squirting out” (“Neot Kedumim Shorashim, Year End 5768” by Beth Uval).
Oil—specifically olive oil—is one of the Seven Species of the Land of Israel (Deut. 8:8), connected in the Holy Scriptures with light and anointing. No oil, no light. Yitzhar יצהר (yitz-HAR), one of the biblical terms for oil, comes from the Hebrew root meaning “light.” Clay lamps, the main source of light in Bible times, functioned with wicks and olive oil. Beth Uval mentions in her Neot Kedumim article that it is precisely at the peak of the light-producing olive harvest that we celebrate the Festi- val of Lights: Hanukkah. The holiday also occurs just when the days are shortest, and the nights are darkest. (I am always aware of the shortest day of the year: December 21st. I turn 75 on December 21, 2022, which is also the third day of Hanukkah.)
The shortest day of the year means that daylight starts increasing. Take heart: just when things seem darkest, they can start getting better. Light conquers darkness. The oil has begun to flow! May we all be like the green olive tree of Psalm 52:8, “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever.” What are the characteristics of olive trees? They are tough; you can’t kill them very easily. They are green; they always bear fruit. They live in any conditions and any climate; they will grow, even if cut down or transplanted (Dr. James Fleming, “The World of the Bible Gardens”). And—olive trees produce lots of OIL.
Oil in Our Lamps
When Neil and I received the Lord in 1973, we enjoyed singing a popular chorus about oil. Perhaps some of you also remember, “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 ’til the break of day.”
The Lord spoke to Moses about a light that must never go out—a light fueled by oil. “And you
shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually” (Ex. 27:20). This referred to the ner tamid, תמיד נר (NEHR tah- MEED), the eternal light in the Tabernacle. Our light must also keep burning—continually.
Oil and Anointing
Oil was intimately connected with anointing in the Old Covenant Scriptures. The first time anointing with oil occurs in the Torah is in Gen. 28:18 when Jacob anointed a stone that he had placed under his head. The word for oil in this verse is shemen, one of the most common words for oil. The Lord spoke to Moses about making a holy anointing oil, shemen mishkat kodesh קדש משחת שמן (SHEH-men meesh-khat-KO-desh) (Ex. 30:25), and using this oil to anoint Aaron and his sons as an act of consecration. (Ex. 29:7)
The word shemen is related to shaman which means to shine or be glossy. A special Hanukkah word, shamash, שמש (shah-MAHSH) or servant, refers to the “servant candle”—number nine that lights the other eight. The Hebrew word mashach, משח (mah-SHOCK) means to anoint with oil as to put oil on. From mashach we get the word Mashiach, משיח (mah-SHEE-akh) which means the Anointed One, the Messiah.
While shemen had many uses in Bible times, its sacred use—consecrating to God—was of utmost importance. Prophets, priests, and kings were all anointed with holy oil to set them apart for God’s service. For example, Samuel was told by God to anoint David king of Israel. “… And the LORD said, ‘Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward …” (I Sam. 16:12-13). Here we see the anointing with oil related to the Spirit and Presence of God.
In the Brit Hadasha, Yeshua the Messiah is anointed with the Holy Spirit: “how God anointed Yeshua of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). Rabbi Saul says about followers of the Mashiach, the Anointed One: “Now He who establishes us with you in Messiah and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (II Cor. 1:21- 22). The Ruach HaKodesh, הקדש רוח (ROO-akh ha-KO-desh) Holy Spirit, is the spiritual oil in our hearts that testifies to our eternal security in our Mashiach.
God wants us to be anointed with the oil of His Holy Spirit. Yeshua was anointed with the “oil of gladness”—shemen sasson ששון שמן (SHEH-men sah-SOHN) (Ps. 45:7; Heb. 1:9). We can be anointed with fresh oil (Ps. 92:10). The Good Shepherd anoints our heads with oil (Ps. 23:5), and the Lord wants to give us the oil of joy instead of mourning (Is. 61:3).
Hanukkah, an inter-testamental holiday celebrating the victory of the Maccabees (a small group of guerilla fighters) over the powerful Syrian-Greek army, is most often associated with the “miracle of oil.” Even though the greater miracle was the supernatural victory of God’s people over their anti-God foe, He is certainly able to make one supply of holy oil last for eight days.
Jewish people all over the world serve oil-fried treats as they celebrate Hanukkah and relate how the Maccabees went to restore their desecrated temple in Jerusalem, finding only enough holy oil to last for one day. The oil lasted for eight, however, until new oil could be consecrated. Hence, the eight-day holiday. The oil-fried treats in Israel are called sufganiyot (SOOF-gah-nee-YOTE)—also known as doughnuts—and are only available from November to December during the Hanukkah season. Latkes (LAHT-kus), potato pancakes fried in oil, are standard fare in the U.S.
God has done other oil miracles, as recorded in the Tanakh. In I Kings 17, the Lord told the prophet Elijah to go to Zarepath where a widow lived who would provide for the prophet. When Elijah met her and asked for bread, she explained that she only had a handful of flour and a little oil in a jar, and she and her son were on the verge of starvation. Elijah gave her instructions and told her, “…The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth” (I Kings 17:14). God performed a miracle and, “The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke by Elijah” (v.16).
Another oil miracle is recorded in II Kings chapter 4. A widow had nothing left in her house but one jar of oil. The prophet Elisha told her to borrow vessels from all her neighbors and pour what oil she had into the vessels. She did and all the vessels were filled. Then the oil ceased because there were no more vessels. The widow was able to sell the oil, pay her debts, and live with her sons on what was left. We can learn from this widow to bring our empty vessels to God and let Him fill them with His oil.
An Oil Crisis
Sometime during the pandemic, a worldwide oil crisis began. People were distressed each time
they went to fill their cars with gas. Oil prices sky-rocketed. Although it’s under $4.00 per gallon now in Florida, our local newspaper still has articles about a gas crisis, especially in the context of climate change and saving the environment around the world.
A group of activists in the United Kingdom, “Just Stop Oil,” is using civil resistance and direct action with the aim of stopping the British government from the licensing and production of new fossil fuel. They comment, “It’s the very first step to ensuring our survival. We already have more oil and gas than we can afford to burn.” Oil is just as controversial in our country. It is considered the cause of our climate and cost of living crises. I don’t pretend to understand the problem completely, but it’s obvious that more “oil,” especially “new oil,” is currently looked upon in the world as very bad and dangerous. But this is not the case in the Kingdom of God and our metaphorical (and spiritual) “oil.”
We need some oil miracles today—more, not less oil. Some believers in Messiah have a habit of living on fumes—a near empty gas tank. Is that you? A full tank is a good thing in God’s Kingdom.
Ten Virgins and Their Oil Supply
A parable about ten virgins (five wise and five foolish) appears in only one of the four gospels: Matthew. This gospel “looks back” and is considered the gospel most directed toward the Jews. Per- haps that is why there are ten virgins. (Ten is the number of a spiritual community.) Over the centuries, there has been considerable controversy over the meaning of this parable. All biblical commentators do agree, however, on one thing: the oil in the story is a symbol of the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit. This is a crucial point.
“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. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 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.’ 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. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”
Selah. Those who heard Yeshua tell this parable were familiar with the Hebrew marriage customs of the time. They knew that following the betrothal, the bridegrooms left to prepare a place for their future wives in their father’s house. They would return for their brides at a time determined by the father of the groom, usually twelve months later, and often at the midnight hour. The brides had to be prepared at all times, in order to be ready when their beloveds came for them.
What is this parable saying to us today?
- We need to be prepared for the return of our Heavenly Bridegroom, We must be watchful.
- Our Bridegroom will return at the midnight hour of history, at a specific time determined by God the Father (Matt. 24:36). We are in that midnight hour Gross darkness covers the earth. (Is. 60:2)
- We are surrounded by many who have been invited to the wedding but not all are true. Only God knows who is “wise” and “unwise,” “good” and “bad.” (See Matt. 22:9-10.)
- If we are wise, we will seek to fill our vessels (our bodies, ourselves) with the oil of God’s Spirit. (See the use of “vessel” referring to Saul in Acts 9:15; believers in II 2:21; and wives in I Pet. 3:7). The foolish virgins had no oil in their VESSELS—no Holy Spirit on the inside. (Lamps may also refer to the Word of God. We need Spirit and Word.)
- We, as believers, are all asleep in some way—a Sleeping Bride—just like the talmidim of Yeshua in Gat Shemanim, the Garden of Gethsemane (where our Lord was pressed like oil). (Matt. 26:40)
- It is time for Yeshua’s bride to arise and trim her lamp—get passionate, be revived, sharpen her spiritual sword—before the Second Coming of the Messiah.
- Every person has to “buy” the oil of God’s Spirit You cannot get His oil from your spouse, your parents, your friends, or your spiritual leaders. You can’t give the Holy Spirit to someone else.
In The Spirit and the Bride Say, Come! by Carol Arnott, the author emphasizes that NOW is the time for the Body of Messiah to “buy oil.” The oil is INTIMACY with our Beloved. That relationship comes at a price. A high price. When we have more of the oil of the Ruach HaKodesh, the flame of love is fanned.
Note that the bridegroom says to the foolish virgins, “I do not know you.” If he was speaking in Hebrew, he would have used the word yadah which is the same word used in Gen. 4:1, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived …” The foolish virgins did not have an intimate relationship with the bridegroom. The wise virgins knew him and eagerly awaited his return. (Heb. 9:28; II Tim. 4:8)
Carol Arnott sums up our end-time call as believers: “Be ready. Fall in love. Buy oil. When we nurture our intimacy with Jesus as our priority, we are filled with oil. All other things, all of which are very important, flow naturally, without striving from a heart of love.” When we continually buy oil, from our pursuit of intimacy with Yeshua, we can then minister to others from the overflow. The anointing of the Holy Spirit is the fuel that enables us to heal the sick, bind up the brokenhearted, set the captives free, break every yoke (Is. 10:27), and preach the good news of the Kingdom.
The Price of Oil
An excellent article by J.A. Dennis, “GO-BUY-OIL,” addresses the questions, “Go BUY oil? I thought heavenly oil was a free gift. Aren’t all of God’s blessings and gifts free? Isn’t the Holy Spirit a free gift? Aren’t the nine gifts of the Spirit free? (I Cor. 12:4-11) Yes, God’s blessings and gifts are free. But there is a price we must pay in preparing ourselves to RECEIVE the oil, the gifts, before God can entrust them to us. We must furnish the VESSEL.”
Mr. Dennis shares what he believes to be the price, the cost of the heavenly oil that will set us aflame for God. He says, “the price is Seven:”
- Stop talking so “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). (Eph. 5:3-4; Matt. 12:36-37)
- Live separated (II Cor. 6:14-18; I John 2:15-16)
- Know the Word of (II Tim. 2:15; Rom. 10:17) “Men of power, men with oil, are men saturated with the Word of God.” Great thought!
- (Luke 18:1; Mark 1:35) Yeshua set the example for us. He knew that the only alternative to “fainting” was to pray.
- “But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast” (Matt. 9:15). (Matt. 17:21)
- Exercise bold (Mark 11:22-23; Heb. 10:23)
- Crucify (Gal. 2:20; Matt. 23:12)
“If we want oil—the power of God moving in our lives—we must bring Self and Ego and Pride and Stubborn Will to the Cross of Christ and there condemn them to death with Him, that the old man may be dead and we may arise to walk in newness of life …”
Perhaps the foolish virgins were unwilling to pay such a high price for God’s holy oil. Are we? “Abba, please help us to be wise, to shine for You, saturated with the oil of the Ruach HaKodesh.” (Dan. 12:3)
Holiday Love and Blessings,
Thank you “beloved wise virgins” for your end-of-the-year giving. May your oil overflow.