Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
— Matthew 5:15
Once while in Israel, I took a break from the speaking schedule at a conference we were conducting to enjoy a quick visit to a local archeologist’s office and take a look at ancient oil lamps he had collected throughout the years. I eagerly waited for him to pull those rare lamps out of a box so I could examine them, but I had no idea how many of them he had collected. There were scores of them — and he let me know that this was just the tip of the iceberg compared to the large collection he had put away in storage.
When he saw the surprised look on my face, he immediately began to explain how the soil of Israel is loaded with archeological relics, including ancient oil lamps. “There are so many of these in the ground that you can just about dig anywhere and find an oil lamp,” he said.
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I asked, “After thousands of years have passed, I thought these would be pretty rare, so why are there still so many of them still being found?”
He answered, “These lamps were the only source of light in the ancient world. As you can see, these lamps aren’t very large. If a person really wanted to light his house or building, he had to use a lot of these lamps. That’s why there are still so many of them scattered in the dirt throughout the land of Israel.”
I reached out to take one of the lamps in my hand. The archeologist told me, “That’s a Herodian lamp that dates to the time of Jesus.” It was small, formed of clay, shaped to hold oil, and had a small opening at the end of the spout where a wick could be inserted into the base of the lamp to soak up oil. In ancient days when it was time to light the lamp, fire was put to the wick. As long as oil was supplied to the base of the lamp, it would keep burning and giving light.
Today that Herodian lamp sits on my desk in Moscow — and every time I stop to look at it, my mind goes to Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:15. He said, “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.”
The word “candle” in this verse gives the impression of a wax candle like we use today, but during the days when Jesus walked the earth, there were no wax candles such as the ones we use. This word “candle” is an unfortunate translation of the Greek word luchnos, a word that refers to an oil lamp exactly like the ones I just described. A literal translation of this verse should read, “Neither do men light an oil lamp and put it under a bushel.…”
In this text, Jesus was exhorting the disciples — and us — to let our light shine before men so we can influence the world around us. He used the example of an oil lamp to make His point, so before we proceed any further, I believe we should delve deeper to see why Jesus used an oil lamp and why this imagery is such a perfect illustration of us!
Oil lamps were made of clay and were very fragile. In fact, they were so fragile that they could be broken by a mere squeeze of the hand holding them. Even in Jesus’ day, these oil lamps had to be handled carefully lest they break, the oil spill out, and the light be lost.
Now do you see why Jesus used oil lamps to depict you and me? Although our bodies are a miracle created by God, like the oil lamps in this illustration, we are made from the clay of the earth and we are very fragile. The real miracle is that God would choose to put His Spirit inside us. That is why the apostle Paul wrote about it with such wonder in Second Corinthians 4:7. In that verse, he said, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels….”
The example Paul gave in this verse is not exactly the same as the oil lamps in Jesus’ illustration, but the point is precisely the same. In this verse, Paul used the Greek word ostrakinos when he referred to us as being “earthen vessels.” The word ostrakinos describes easily broken pottery made of inferior materials. Shoddy, deficient, substandard pottery is exactly the kind of “earthen vessels” Paul had in mind when he wrote Second Corinthians 4:7. He used the illustration of cheaply made pottery to epitomize us. That explains his amazement that God would place His Spirit in us! Think of what a miracle it is that God would place His Spirit inside you and me!
The lamps in Jesus’ illustration were fragile oil lamps, yet they contained oil that empowered the light. In the Old and New Testaments, oil is the symbol of the Holy Spirit. Just like the oil in the lamps to which Jesus referred, God has placed His Spirit in us. Although at times we feel fragile, as long as we yield to the Lord, He continually resupplies us with enough of the Holy Spirit’s oil to keep us burning through the night so we can give light to those who are in darkness around us. We have a continual supply of the oil and the fire of the Holy Spirit!
But in Matthew 5:15, Jesus told us, “Neither do men light a candle [i.e., an oil lamp], and put it under a bushel.…” What did He mean when He spoke about putting a lamp under a “bushel,” and what is a “bushel”?
The word “bushel” is the Greek word modios. It refers to a jar or container that was used to measure grain. To put a lamp under a jar or container where there is no oxygen would obviously put out the light. Do you see what a powerful statement Jesus was making? He was driving the point home that it makes no sense to light a lamp and then put it under a bushel where no one can see it. Why would anyone want to do that? Furthermore, putting a lamp under a bushel where there is no oxygen would be sure to smother the light.
By using this example, Jesus strongly admonished us to keep our gifts, talents, and influence out in the open where they can be seen, where they can grow, and where they can provide light to other people.
Why would God give you gifts to benefit others and then have you hide them where no one can see them or appreciate them? God never intended for you to conceal your gifts or to hide your influence. He wants your light to shine brightly!
Maybe you’ve seen yourself as being inferior, or maybe the devil has assaulted your self-image and tempted you to wrongly believe that you have nothing to offer. Perhaps you have felt that you fall short in comparison to others whose gifts and talents shine especially bright. But if you’ve kept your gifts and talents under wraps, you may be shocked to discover how gifted and talented you really are and how much potential influence is inside you just waiting to be tapped. You just have to give yourself the opportunity to shine!
It’s time for you to quit hiding in the shadows! God put His Spirit and supernatural abilities inside you — and that truth alone should bring you out into the open! His Spirit in you is a rich reservoir of oil that will burn long and burn brightly. You have what it takes to be a success!
But for you to be the phenomenal success and influence God knows that you can be, you have to be willing to quit putting yourself down. And then you have to choose to step out of the shadows! It’s time for you to come out from under that bushel where you’ve been hiding and let the Holy Spirit light your wick with a fire that will make you shine for Him! As long as you are willing to keep yielding to the Holy Spirit, He will keep filling and supplying you with enough oil to burn long and burn strong so you can be a source of light and illumination to many people all the days of your life on this earth.
What a waste of time it is for you to buy into the devil’s lies and badger yourself with thoughts that you have nothing to offer! God’s Spirit lives in you, and if you’ll dare to let Him do it, He will burn so brightly in your life that you will become an illuminating force to people all around you. But if you refuse to bring your gifts and talents out from under wraps, no one will ever know what God has put in you. And if you neglect those God-given endowments too long, eventually they will begin to diminish, just like a fire that eventually goes out for lack of oxygen.
So why don’t you make the decision today to get out of the box of insecurity and complacency that has contained you? Stop telling yourself you’re not as good or talented as others, and start using what God has given you for His glory! As you press into Him and put your wick down deep into the oil of the Holy Spirit, you’ll become so saturated with His presence that you’ll begin to burn brighter and brighter for Jesus. Just let your gifts flow, and become the influence He intended you to be! Believe me, friend, you’ve got everything it takes!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, my heart is filled with gratitude today for Your Spirit inside me. What a miracle it is that You would place Your richest treasure in me! Today I want to surrender to You anew, and I ask You to refill me with a full supply of the Holy Spirit’s oil so I may burn long and bright in this life. You have called me, equipped me, and anointed me to do great things in this life. I know I have been guilty of putting my light under a bushel, but I’ll do it no more! I’m making the decision to step out of the shadows and allow God to release my gifts and talents when and how He desires. I choose to shine my light where it will be a benefit to someone else. Jesus, I thank You for helping me realize that it’s time for me to step up and step out so that I can be the godly influence You want me to be in someone else’s life.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I am stepping out of the shadows. I am releasing my gifts, and I am making the decision to let my light shine so I can be the blessing to others God intends me to be. I am finished badgering myself and putting myself down. I will no longer hide my light and life under a bushel. I am filled to the brim with the Holy Spirit’s oil. His fire is burning brightly in me, and very soon it will be evident for all to see!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Can you truthfully say that you are using all the gifts and talents that God has given you, or have you been reluctant to step out in faith and let those gifts and talents work? What is stopping you from being all that God has planned for you to be?
- Think just for a moment about your life, and assess the various ways you are using the gifts and talents God gave you. Where are you using them, how are you using them, and are you using them to your maximum potential? Have you ever considered how your life would change if you actually let God’s gifts fully operate in you?
- Have you sought the Lord to discover where He might want to position you so your gifts can operate for His purposes? What is the lampstand where your gifts could be best utilized for His glory in this season of your life?