Bible Study - Holy Spirit Oil Part 3: The Lamp, the Oil & the Word

Home >  Full Study List >  Bible Study - Holy Spirit Oil Part 3: The Lamp, the Oil & the Word

Bible Study Series: Holy Spirit - Roles, Types and Imagery

Holy Spirit - Oil Part 3: The Lamp, the Oil & the Word

by I Gordon

“To get light from an oil lamp, filling it first with oil is entirely reasonable. To get a car to provide you with transportation, filling the tank with gas is completely logical. In the same way, divine logic affirms that obtaining righteousness from a man or woman happens only when that person is filled with God. Oil in the lamp, gas in the car … and Christ in the Christian. It takes God to be a man, and that is why it takes Christ to be a Christian, because Christ puts God back into a man, the only way we can again become functional.”
Major Ian Thomas

Welcome once again. We are now in our third message on oil as a type of the Holy Spirit. The first looked at oil as a picture of the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon believers. The second looked at oil in the clay jar which was an important picture of the ongoing need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This third and final message on the oil looks at it's importance to give light to the lamp. And yeah, you are that lamp! And God's Word is that lamp. 

So... have you ever been camping? What did you use for a light? A fire? A torch? Your mobile phone? Ok, but have you ever used an oil or kerosene lamp? If so you will know that you don't want to run out of fuel because that lamp is giving you all the light you have. Been there... done that... had the early night! Before electricity and batteries people used oil lamps as their source of light. This goes right back to early biblical days including the perpetual light that came from the golden lampstand in the tabernacle and temple. Oil, as a source of light, is very important in Israel's history, the Word of God, and for our lives (spiritually speaking) as we walk through this dark world by the illumination of the Holy Spirit through God's word.

So what are we going to look at today?     

  • We'll start with a general use of the lamp in the Bible
  • We'll explore the picture given in the Old Testament instruction of the lampstand and the importance of the oil
  • We'll look at how the Holy Spirit illuminates and gives revelation through His Word
  • We'll close with an example of this illumination from God's word. 

Right... no more dilly-dally. Let's begin!

Biblical imagery concerning the Lamp 

As previously mentioned, for thousands of years, once the sun went down, people relied on oil lamps to see what they were doing and where they were going. If it was night time and you didn't have a lamp then you weren't going far! At its simplest it consisted of a clay bowl, a linen wick and olive oil. And that was it. A simple design, but one with an important practical use! Because of it's importance, the Bible uses the lamp as imagery in different ways. Can you think of any? I once heard that people can only take in and remember 7 points at once. So, like eating one too many hot dogs, here are 8 points concerning the lamp in scripture. Instead of heart-burn this might cause brain-burn but let's do an experiment and see what happens!

  1. First mention: The Holy Place contained the golden lamp - Exo 25:31 "Then you shall make a lampstand of pure gold....'
    We'll focus more on this later so for now just note that the first mention of the lamp in the Bible concerns the golden lampstand that stood in the Holy Place in the Tabernacle which would burn perpetually.
  2. A certain leader was said to be a lamp - A king was once called the lamp of Israel. Do you know who? 2Sa 21:15-17 Once again there was a battle between the Philistines and Israel. David went down with his men to fight against the Philistines, and he became exhausted. (16) And Ishbi-Benob, one of the descendants of Rapha, whose bronze spearhead weighed three hundred shekels and who was armed with a new sword, said he would kill David. (17) But Abishai son of Zeruiah came to David's rescue; he struck the Philistine down and killed him. Then David's men swore to him, saying, "Never again will you go out with us to battle, so that the lamp of Israel will not be extinguished."
    David's men called him the 'lamp of Israel'. He was their leader. The king of Israel. Despite his sins and mistakes, David had a heart after God and as such gave light and direction to the nation. So in the later part of his rule the people didn't want David to go with them to war anymore in case he was killed and Israel's lamp went out. Now what do you think David thought when he heard them calling him the lamp of Israel? Do you think he thought 'Oh the lamp of Israel... I kinda like that. The lamp who gives light to all of Israel. Yeah, I could get used to that. That's me. The lamp. The light. Oh how I shine!' Do you think David thought that? Let's look at the next point because it relates to this.
  3. The Lord is the true Lamp! - 2Sa 22:29 You are my lamp, O LORD; the LORD turns my darkness into light.
    Thankfully, though given such an honor by his people, David knew who the true lamp was and so we read in the very next chapter that David sang to the Lord saying 'You are my lamp. You turn my darkness into light'. He knew about his darkness. darkness that sometimes came from not knowing where to go or what to do. Darkness in his own fallen nature that had deceived him into sin. But he also knew that the Lord was his light, his lamp. This is a good reminder especially for those famous pastors, evangelists and teachers that may get put on a pedestal today. We live in an age that loves celebrities and this even comes into the Church. We have Pastors that are lifted up as if they are the light of the Church. Yet we all need to be clear that no one is a lamp without the true lamp. No one can shine without the One who is the Light of the World. If you think that you are an impressive light... well, think again! You, like me, are only the dry old dusty moon that reflects the light of the Son as you expose yourself to His light!
  4. The word of God is a lamp - Psa 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
    This is a well know and well loved verse and how true this is! The word illumines our path in this dark world. It gives wisdom, insight and direction. Imagine for a moment not having God's word! Imagine not knowing what was to come. Imagine being an unbeliever and not knowing the way to find God or even who He is. Imagine not knowing God's plan of salvation for yourself or this world. How dark that world would be! How dark it is for those that don't know. Thankfully God's word is a lamp and shows us the path forward in a very dark world.
  5. Human life is likened to a lamp - Pro 13:9 The light of the righteous rejoices, But the lamp of the wicked goes out.
    In Biblical days, when the lamp went out in the night it was very dark and this pictures the human soul. The believer has light, life and hope. The wicked, once the lamp of their life goes out, have none of these to look forward to. Sobering thought!
  6. Believers are specifically said to be a lamp - Mat 5:14-16 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; (15) nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. (16) "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
    When you get to the New Testament, Jesus said that believers are a light, they are a lamp. And the key instruction is not to hide that light! Don't cover that lamp! What does this mean? It means that we are not to cover up our Christian faith or shut up mouths when people need to hear of the hope we have in Christ. And we are to shine the light we get from God in such a way that brings glory to God not ourselves. Will people respond well? Maybe, maybe not... but I like the following quote on this:

    "Some people change their ways when they see the light, others only when they feel the heat."
    Source Unknown

  7. Bible prophecy is a lamp - Here is a very relevant verse for today: 2Pet 1:19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.
    We are in a dark confusing time. People can't see which way to go and are wondering where things are headed. The following quote puts in bluntly:

    “We now live in a nation where doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, universities destroy knowledge, governments destroy freedom, the press destroys information, religion destroys morals, and our banks destroy the economy.”
    Chris Hedges, American Journalist 

    There is too much confusion. Too much darkness. Too much that is upside down and back to front. Yet, as mentioned earlier, the word of God is a light. And getting even more specific, God's prophetic word is a lamp to show us the way in these days. When we see prophecy fulfilled we know where we are on God's time clock. And best of all we know that we are close to the new day of light dawning when the Lord Jesus returns. This brings us to the last lamp mentioned in the Bible.... 
  8. Jesus is the ultimate lamp in the age to come - We started with the first mention being the golden lampstand in the Holy Place. But this is but a picture of the last lamp mentioned in the Bible: Rev 21:23 And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. Rev 22:5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
    I wanted to end this section with this for it gives so much hope for the future. Imagine the New Jerusalem, with all its gems and previous stones, all lit up with the glory of God and enlightened by the light of Jesus. Amazing. What a future for believers! He is the true source of all light and this will be visibly expressed, seen and felt in the age to come.

Oil for the lamp

So far we have focused on the lamp. But remember - the biblical lamp was useless without the oil. And in like manner the believer, who is to be a lamp, has no ability to shine without the Holy Spirit. Like I said earlier, I remember going camping with a lamp that required fuel. Once the fuel ran out it was an early bedtime! So let's focus on the oil more and go back to the first mention of the golden lampstand in the tabernacle. God gave instruction to the priests to keep these lamps burning at all times.

Exo 27:20-21 Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. (21) In the Tent of Meeting, outside the curtain that is in front of the Testimony, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the LORD from evening till morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come.

There are some quick key points that come out of this passage. 

  • Pure Oil - Firstly the lamp required pure (or clear) oil - This is what burnt best and is a pointer to the purity of the Holy Spirit which always gives the best light!1 It is also a pointer to what Jesus said 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.' (Mat 5:8) Being pure in heart doesn't mean being sinless. It means being honest about your condition and need for God. Those people will see God. They will receive pure oil. 
  • Beaten olives - the oil used came from olive trees. I have read that if you visited the garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem today, some believe that there are trees still there today that go right back to the time of Christ!2 So these olive trees last and produce for a long time. But to get the oil out they have to beat or press the olives. This gives a little pointer back to 2 Cor 4:7-16 that we spoke about in the last message where the life of the Lord is often seen greatest through times of difficulty. Maybe you are experiencing a time when you are 'hard pressed on every side'. Don't despise such times. This is the way that the oil comes forth all those years ago and is still used by the Lord today!
  • Perpetual light - The lamp burned continually. It was an ever present light that didn't go out. Do you know someone whose light has gone out? I often think back to my days at Bible College where there were many young people, all on fire for God, wanting to know Him and make Him known. That is nearly 30 years ago now and I often wonder how many are still shinning for the Lord. For some, there is burn out. Some go into ministry thinking they need to do do do and go go go and end up trying to be the source of their own light. In doing so they become very tired and the light fades. Burn out. The first Pastor I was under after leaving Bible College experienced this. He couldn't take it anymore and one day just packed up and left. Like literally one day he was there as our Pastor, the next day he was gone. Well that was how it seemed to us though it would have been developing for sometime I'm sure. So always remember that we are not the source of our own light. And also remember that learning that you don't have what it takes can be a blessing in disguise!3 Moses had to see that he was not the light of Israel and spent 40 years in the gloom of the wilderness before being called back to be a light for Israel to lead them out of their darkness.4 
  • Ongoing maintenance - Aaron the High Priest and his sons kept the lamps burning but this required ongoing maintenance. As a mountain biker I know a little about ongoing maintenance... unfortunately! The chain especially has to be cleaned and oiled pretty regularly. The lampstand was no different. As well as a supply of oil, it was essential that the Priests made sure that the wicks of the lamp were trimmed removing any charred burnt areas so that the oil could be taken up. So does this relate to us you ask? Well Jesus, our High Priest, trims the wicks of those that believe in Him so that they can absorb more oil and shine brighter. Maybe you feel like you are being trimmed? Being cut back a little? Remember His words - 'every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.' This is the same message, the same cutting, as we see with the wicks here with the lamp. It is all for ongoing maintenance to produce a good light! 

Pastor David Guzik sums this passage up well:

"The priests were to tend the lamps, making sure that the lamps had oil to burn and that their wicks were trimmed, so that the lamps would never go out - especially during the night. God never wanted the lamps to lose their fire. Only by a continual supply of oil and trimming of the wicks could keep them burning. We can only continue to be on fire for God if we are continually supplied with the oil of the Holy Spirit, and are "trimmed" by God to bear more light."
Pastor David Guzik

The light from the Spirit through the Word

Let's now have a look at how this relates specifically to getting light from the Word. We saw earlier that the word is a lamp unto our feet. The Apostle John tells us that an important way that this light comes forth is through the Holy Spirit illuminating5 and teaching God's word to us. Do you remember John 16:13-14 and 1 John 2:27? 

Joh 16:13-14 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (14) He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.

1Jn 2:27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit--just as it has taught you, remain in him.

These passages emphasize the role of the Holy Spirit to illuminate and teach those that are His. Now it is not saying that there is no need for teachers at all in the Church. That would contradict Eph 4:11 and other passages that specially say that God has given teachers to the body of Christ to teach His word and (hopefully) make the difficult parts simple. Though sometimes, getting a little confused, they have been known to make the simple parts difficult! : ) What it is saying is that each believer has the ability to learn from the Holy Spirit because we have received that anointing from God. So as you read His word or listen to a speaker in Church or online, you should in your heart be saying 'Lord, help me to understand. Help me to discern what is right here. Illuminate your word through your precious Holy Spirit so that it will be a light for my path. What would you have me to take from this for my life? What are you saying to me Lord?' When we take the time to listen, God's sheep hear His voice and He will respond to a humble dependent prayer such as this. He desires to teach us. We may sometimes be slow to hear and understand but thankfully He is a very patient teacher! And, as Adrian Rogers said well (which I like!):

God does not flunk any of His children. He just re-enrolls them.
Adrian Rogers

So here are four quick tips as you approach the word of God in your personal time with God, knowing that the Holy Spirit is your teacher and desires to guide you and bring you into truth.

Getting light from the word
  1. Acknowledge and thank the Lord that He has given His Holy Spirit to be your teacher
    As we have spoken about in an earlier message, the Holy Spirit is called 'the Helper'. And we all need a helper do we not? My mum is getting older now and the government pays someone to come to her house once a week to help with tasks around the house that she might not be able to do so easily herself. Mum is really grateful for this helper even though it is just one hour a week. But it really makes a difference. How much more should we thank the Lord that He has given every believer the helper to be with us for all time? We don't see this helper but He is there, so acknowledge and thank God for Him especially as you go to God in prayer and in reading His word.
  2. Pray specifically for revelation
    Remember James 1:5 - If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. And Eph 1:17 'I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.' This should be our prayer. This should be our heart - to know Him better. So pray that God would reveal truth to you through His Spirit.
  3. Ask questions of the word for your own life
    When we come to the Word we should be asking the Lord what we can take from His Word for our life. It is not about head knowledge or just learning 'facts'. You don't really need to know how far Jericho is from Jerusalem but you do need to know how far your heart is from the heart of God. So ask God questions as you read His word. 'Is there something that you would want me to see for my life in this Lord? What would you say to me here?'  
  4. Look for Jesus - the Word is about Him!
    Never ever forget the Word of God is primarily about Jesus! Remember when the hearts of the two disciples were down on the road to Emmaus and Jesus came alongside? He gave them a Bible study I would have loved to be involved in! Luk 24:27 'And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.' That set their hearts on fire! Always remember that the Holy Spirit has been given to glorify the Son (John 16:14). So the Spirit always likes to reveal Christ in ALL the scriptures. So look for Jesus in whatever book you are reading! It is about Him! True history is His-story.

An example: What does it mean for me? How does it point to Jesus?

So as we approach the end, let me give you an example that my Mum told me recently. She has been reading through the book of Acts and has been doing what I noted above. But not because I told her. In fact it is my Mum that has been saying to me how important it is to ask questions as you read the Word about what it means in context and what it means for your life. So here is one example (which I really liked) of how this worked out. She read the following passage:

Act 22:22-29 The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, "Rid the earth of him! He's not fit to live!" (23) As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, (24) the commander ordered Paul to be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and questioned in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. (25) As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, "Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn't even been found guilty?" (26) When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. "What are you going to do?" he asked. "This man is a Roman citizen." (27) The commander went to Paul and asked, "Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?" "Yes, I am," he answered. (28) Then the commander said, "I had to pay a big price for my citizenship." "But I was born a citizen," Paul replied. (29) Those who were about to question him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.

Now you have probably read this before. Maybe many times. As Mum read through it she found the story interesting but couldn't really see how it really related to herself. It was what happened to Paul 2000 years ago right? But because the Lord had been speaking to her about asking questions of the text instead of just speeding on through it she slowed down and re-read it... and again. And while she did she was asking questions - 'does this point to Jesus in anyway? What can I take for my own life from it?' And as she did, light was given. Now I'll elaborate on what she said to me but the essence and foundation is from what she saw.

Asking questions of the text - Citizenship: Jesus and Us

The first thing she noted in this passage is that being a citizen of Rome was a big deal in those days as it gave great rights and privileges to those fortunate enough to have such a position. There were two ways mentioned in the text that one could be a citizen of Rome. 

  1. You could be born to parents who were Roman citizens 
  2. Or you could purchase your citizenship for a large price

In this story one (Paul) was born with citizenship and one (The Roman Commander) purchased it with a lot of money. So how does that relate to us? And Jesus? This is where the questions come in. What questions would you ask as you read this passage? What would the Holy Spirit want to show someone about themselves and Jesus from this passage? 

Firstly, are believers now citizens of Heaven, a Kingdom far greater than Rome? Yes they are: 

Php 3:20 'But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.' 

And is not the position and privileges granted to a citizen of heaven greater than those of Rome? Yes it is. Far greater! There is no comparison for the first is eternal and the second temporal. So how then do people become citizens of Heaven? Are we like Paul or the Roman Commander? When we were born on this planet, were we automatically citizens of heaven or does that citizenship have to be acquired through a large price? We are not born citizens of heaven for scripture tells us we are born in sin in the kingdom of darkness. So that only leaves one way - our citizenship has to be purchased. Yet the purchase price is very steep. Incredibly steep. In fact it is outside the ability of anyone (even Elon Musk) to pay it. Sin has completely stopped that deal going through. 

But there was One, and only One, who was a citizen of heaven right from birth. Because He came from Heaven: 

Joh 8:23 But he continued, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world." 

In fact He was not only a citizen of Heaven, He was and is the King of Heaven! Though the price to be a citizen of Heaven was incredibly large, He was not only able but was also willing to pay it. Yet not for Himself for He was already a citizen... but for everyone else. Jesus would purchase our citizenship and offer it to all who would receive so that all the rights, privileges and position that comes with being a citizen of Heaven, could be given to those who were outside the Kingdom.

And that, I believe, is the core message that the Holy Spirit would want to show us in this passage. That is the Gospel. That is the message of Passover. That is the most important message of all time, right there in a couple of verses in Acts 22:27-28! 


So what have we seen? We've seen that the lamp is incredibly important in Biblical days and for the lamp to shine it required the pure olive oil. In like manner, believers are a lamp but we must rely on the true oil, the Holy Spirit, to fuel our light. We've also seen that the Holy Spirit wants to bring light to His Word. He was given as a helper to teach us and to bring glory to Jesus. So as you approach the Lord in prayer or in His word, remember the four simple points:

  1. Acknowledge and thank the Lord that He has given His Holy Spirit to be your teacher
  2. Pray specifically for revelation
  3. As you read His word ask questions of what it means for your life
  4. Look for Jesus - the Word is about Him and the Holy Spirit desires to teach us more about Him!

  May God bless.

  1. A similar picture is given in Zec 4 emphasizing the work of the Holy Spirit to bring light to the lamp:

    Zec 4:1-6 Then the angel who talked with me returned and wakened me, as a man is wakened from his sleep. (2) He asked me, "What do you see?" I answered, "I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it, with seven channels to the lights. (3) Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left." (4) I asked the angel who talked with me, "What are these, my lord?" (5) He answered, "Do you not know what these are?" "No, my lord," I replied. (6) So he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty.

    I used to have a t-shirt that had a picture of a dove on the front and those important words on the back - "Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit'. It was a great shirt with a great message!

  2. For example see

  3. This short testimony from Major Ian Thomas shows how he dramatically found the truth through his own spiritual 'burn-out':

    At the university Ian became a leader in the Inter-Varsity Fellowship group. If ever there was any evangelistic activity going on, this youthful zealot was "buzzing around the place, every holiday, every spare moment"! He started a slum club down in the East End of London "out of a sheer desire to win souls, to go out and get them. I was a windmill of activity until, at the age of nineteen, every moment of my day was packed tight with doing things. Thus by the age of nineteen, I had been reduced to a state of complete exhaustion spiritually, until I felt that there was no point going on."

    Then, one night in November, that year, just at midnight, I got down on my knees before God, and I just wept in sheer despair. I said, "Oh, God, I know that I am saved. I love Jesus Christ. I am perfectly convinced that I am converted. With all my heart I have wanted to serve Thee. I have tried to my uttermost and I am a hopeless failure." That night things happened.

    I can honestly say that I had never once heard from the lips of men the message that came to me then but God, that night simply focused upon me the Bible message of Christ Who Is Our Life. The Lord seemed to make plain to me that night, through my tears of bitterness: 'You see, for seven years, with utmost sincerity, you have been trying to live for Me, on My behalf, the life that I have been waiting for seven years to live through you.'" That night, all in the space of an hour, Ian Thomas discovered the secret of the adventurous life. He said: "I got up the next morning to an entirely different Christian life, but I want to emphasize this: I had not received one iota more than I had already had for seven years!"

  4. I read the following illustration that says the same thing: 

    "Dr. Paul Brand was speaking to a medical college in India on Matthew 5:16: “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” In front of the lectern was an oil lamp, with its cotton wick burning from the shallow dish of oil. As he preached, the lamp ran out of oil, the wick burned dry, and the smoke made him cough. He immediately used the opportunity.

    “Some of us here are like this wick,” he said. “We’re trying to shine for the glory of God, but we stink. That’s what happens when we use ourselves as the fuel of our witness rather than the Holy Spirit. Wicks can last indefinitely, burning brightly and without irritating smoke, if the fuel, the Holy Spirit, is in constant supply.”


  5. In connection with this, can you remember how the Holy Spirit is pictured in the book of Revelation?
    Rev 4:5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God.
    The Holy Spirit is seen as seven lamps blazing with light. He is the source of light and always brings light!