Wick or Wicked

This devotional uses a simple illustration and plays on some words to illustrate our need for God’s light and His Spirit. It has a message to consider that will bring light to your soul.

First the simple illustration, take fresh cotton wick that has never been used put in an empty old time kerosene lantern and light it with a match. You’ll get generally a brief flame before it burns down to the wick holder and sputters out and just smolders. Light it again and a brief flame will appear but soon snuff out. You could advance the wick and repeat this endlessly but it seems pointless, it will not do the job of lighting up dark places or providing any comfort or warmth. You will eventually either run out of matches or run out of wick so it becomes an exercise in futility. Yet we do this futile exercise with our lives, we want to shine, our lives are designed for it, just like the wick is; we sense this. So we work at it, we light up briefly throwing a lot of effort into this “shining” business only to sputter and smolder as we try it in our own strength. That plan doesn’t work so we try a different match, a different method but with the same results. Maybe a new philosophy will work, maybe a self-help book, maybe if I am religious, maybe if I succeed in business or culture or climb in social status, maybe if I am famous I will find that light and warmth I crave. I can do this. I can justify myself. I can pull myself up by my own bootstraps all the way to heaven. But we can’t really; eventually we run out of wick to burn for all flesh is like the withering grass, we all die, we come to the end of the wick. Each flame out leaves us smoldering, disheartened and feeling like “we got burned by life”.

It’s not that we are wrong about the “shining” part, we are meant to shine, we are correct in sensing this, even God tells us to shine. We are also correct in we have to sacrifice something to do this so yes you do have to light the wick but we are missing the point when we try to do it in our own strength. A wick is designed to burn but only after it has immersed itself in oil, soaked it up and brought it up to the top. Oil is an ancient symbol for the Holy Spirit. The word Messiah literally means “the anointed one” which was symbolized by being anointed with oil like King David was. It was a picture of the Holy Spirit being fully upon someone, totally immersed.

There are other illustrations of this concept in the Bible as well. In the New Testament we read about 5 wise virgins and the 5 foolish virgins who awaited the coming of the bridegroom (a picture of Christ coming to take his own to heaven) and how the foolish virgins forgot to bring any oil with them and were shut out of the marriage feast.

The allegorical message here was that they did not have the Holy Spirit and the words of the bridegroom are severe, “depart for I do not know you”. John the Baptist speaks of one who would come who would baptize ” …you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3:16) and Jesus said “I have come to bring fire upon the earth and I wish it were already kindled.” (Luke 12:49).

At Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 the coming of the Holy Spirit is announced with tongues of fire upon the apostles’ heads. The power to shine is not within us, it was always meant to be through cooperation with the Holy Spirit. We are meant to soak up the Holy Spirit like a wick. That is done by walking with Christ, immersing our self in the Word, praying in the Spirit, and following the Spirit’s guidance. That is the job of the “wick”.

A play on words ought to be mentioned here as a comfort, because sometimes we get low spiritually, the word “wick” is actually an old English word designating “being alive” or green, even when hidden. The mental picture here is that even in the dead of winter you could cut into a branch or twig with a sharp knife and see some green showing and though it looks dead it is really alive. Soon it will burst forth, showing life and there will be no doubt that it is alive, but right now only cutting it reveals that it is “wick”.

Some of us are like this; it is hard to tell we are alive in the Spirit without cutting deep; we have a flame of the Spirit on low.

Scripture warns us to not quench the Spirit yet we have allowed the flame to go so low or even it feels like just smoldering. We miss the light, the warmth, the fellowship and we worry God has given up on us. Yet God promises in Isaiah 42 “…a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” 2 Samuel 22:29 says “You are my lamp, O Lord, the Lord turns my darkness into light. A smoldering wick can with a breath be blown back into a flame. In John 20:22 it is written “And with that he breathed on them and said, “receive the Holy Spirit”. The disciples were at their lowest, locked in a room, in fear, their faith nearly quenched and Jesus came to them and gave them the Spirit, gave them life. John 8:12 “…I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” They are wick, they are alive, they are wicks burning with the light of life, the Holy Spirit.

My other play on words is “wicked”. Remember the wick at the beginning trying to burn but without the oil being a picture of our lives outside of God? For some this is because they have never heard the word – “which is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path”, Psalms 119:105 – and believed in Christ. For others though it is a foolish rejection of what God offers, they want to justify themselves, they want nothing to do with the light of God, they wish to make their own way in this world. They rebel against this light. Proverbs 13:9 says “The light of the righteous shines brightly, but the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out” and Luke 11:34 says “Your eye is the lamp of the body. When your eyes are good, your whole body is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness.” Finally in Isaiah 50:10-11 it says “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of Lord and rely on his God.” These are the ones who by trusting in God receive the Holy Spirit and their light does not go out even in the darkest valley of the shadow of death.

But the verses continue and warn about those who will reject God’s light and try to walk in their own light. “But now, all of you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go walk in the light of your fires and of your torches you have set ablaze. This is what you will receive from my hand. You will lie down in torment.” You see they wanted nothing to do with God’s Light, they had their own torches, their own way. So God let them walk in the feeble light of their own cleverness.

This is a clear picture of our world today, one of mankind rejecting God and boasting of it’s own light. They do not fear God nor consider him and their end will be torment. “…and the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever…” Revelations 14:11.

These are the five foolish virgins who have no oil and the bridegroom, who is Christ, says to them “depart for I never knew you”. They never had the Spirit of God, never the oil for the wick, never the life within them. They trusted in themselves. These are the wicked.

So are you wick or wicked?

by Jeff Turner, 2015