Recently I’ve written a fair bit on the importance of reading our Bibles, and given some suggestions on how to do this.  In this article, I’m going to give you an example of Spirit guided Bible study.  I hope and pray that it will spur you on to further Bible reading.

A couple weeks ago the Parable of the Talents was mentioned during our church service.  Immediately I felt that familiar nudge from the Holy Spirit letting me know He had something there for me to study.  The first thing I did was begin to pray, seeking understanding from the Holy Spirit.  As soon as I was able, I sat down to read that parable.  Then, knowing that the true meaning of all Scripture has to be found within the context that it was written, I looked at the chapters and verses surrounding it.  The Parable of the Talents is found in Matthew 25:14-30.  But I found that it is part of a teaching that began at the beginning of chapter 24.  The Bible generally gives clear breaks indicating changes in topic.  In this case, Matthew 24:1 begins with the phrase, “Now when Yeshua went out….”  That tells the reader that there has been a shift in location, and usually a shift in The Parable of the Talents is found in Matthew 25:14-30.  But I found that it is part of a teaching that began at the beginning of chapter 24.  The Bible generally gives clear breaks indicating changes in topic.  In this case, Matthew 24:1 begins with the phrase, “Now when Yeshua went out….”  That tells the reader that there has been a shift in location, and usually a shift in topic, as well.  If you are a student of end times prophecy as I am, you will recognize Matthew 24 as Yeshua’s description of the signs that point to His return.  Matthew 26:1 is where we see the next transition to a new topic…”Now it happened that when Yeshua had finished all these words….”

The Parable of the Talents is in the midst of Yeshua’s discussion of the signs of the End Times.  This was the first thing that caught my attention.  The Talents parable is instruction for those who would watch for the signs of Yeshua’s second coming.  Who would be doing that but His followers?

Next, I noticed that the parable immediately preceding the Talents is the Parable of the Ten Virgins.  Very recently I learned that the 5 virgins who had no oil for their lamps represent those people who believe they are saved because they have done all the right things (go to church, give to the poor, live a good life, etc.), but have not done the one essential thing, and that is to put their faith in Yeshua for their salvation.  They believe they are ready to go to heaven, but they are relying on their own works, and will find out too late that their lamps are empty of oil (faith).  This message is not to those who already believe in Yeshua and have trusted Him, but to those who will hear this being taught while in the company of believers, in the act of living out a false salvation.  It is a warning, a wake-up call.

Yeshua went straight from the story of the virgins to the story of the talents.  Please take a moment to read this in your own Bibles.  As an overview, the master leaves to set up his own kingdom.  While he is gone, he gives 5 talents to one servant, 2 talents to another, and 1 talent to a third.  A talent was a large sum of money-  approximately 16 years’ worth of wages.  When the master returned after an extended time away, he has now become king, and called his servants to show him what they have done with the money he left them in charge of.  The first two servants doubled the money, the third one did nothing with it.  Rather, he had buried it and simply returned it to the king at face value.  The king praised the first 2 servants and promised them they would be put in charge of much.  However, the third servant was called evil and lazy, stripped of what he had, and cast out into the darkness where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The first two servants doubled the money, the third one did nothing with it.  Rather, he had buried it and simply returned it to the king at face value.  The king praised the first 2 servants and promised them they would be put in charge of much.  However, the third servant was called evil and lazy, stripped of what he had, and cast out into the darkness where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

I know that Paul taught very clearly that we are saved by grace, through faith, and not of works.  So verse 30 could not be talking about losing salvation.  I was really stumped.  I read this whole passage over and over again, and in several different versions.  I prayed continuously.  It just didn’t make sense.  Something was nagging at me.  As I pondered, I seemed to recall another recording of this parable elsewhere in the gospels.  I did a Google search and found what I was looking for.

Luke 19:11-27 recalls a similar telling of the same parable, and even though it follows right after the story of Zacchaeus, I knew it was the same topic because of verse 11:  “As they were listening to this, Yeshua went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem and they supposed that the kingdom of God was about to appear at once.”  So just as in Matthew 24-25 where Yeshua was addressing the people’s questions about when the kingdom would come and what the signs would be, here in Luke, He is also explaining the same thing.

The parable told in Luke is essentially the same, but there is a difference in the last verse that clarifies the parable of the talents in Matthew.  In Luke 19:27 the master of the story says this:  “But those hostile to me, who didn’t want me to reign over them, bring them here and execute them before me.”

The servant who buried the money was not a believer, but someone who refused to accept the lordship of the king; an unbeliever who will face spiritual death as punishment for their rejection of Yeshua, the king.

What solidified this for me was reading past the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 onto the end of that chapter.  That is where Yeshua talked about his coming judgments, when He will separate the sheep from the goats.  Those who fed Him when He was hungry and gave him something to drink when He was thirsty, etc. will go to the right, while those who did none of that will be told that He never knew them and be sent to everlasting punishment.

I have always believed the Parable of the Talents was about the faithfulness of believers in using the gifts, talents, and abilities that God has given us for the work of the Kingdom of God.  But the Spirit has taught me that it is about the process of Yeshua weeding out those who reject Him as Lord of their lives.

Every person is given the opportunity to accept Him as Lord.  Paul said in Romans 1:19-20 that God has put in the heart of every person the ability to know Him, and has shown Himself in all of creation.  Therefore there is no excuse for denying knowing Him.  We were created to be in a relationship with God.  We were designed by God that way.  Our very inmost being searches for that relationship, longs for it.  It is why people the world over seek the meaning of life and ask the question, “Why am I here?”

That instinctual knowledge that God is real is the “talent” that the Master gives to each of us.  We can accept it and seek Him out, making Him the Lord of our lives, in which case we will seek to serve Him to the best of our abilities, or we can reject Him, lose everything, and suffer eternal punishment.  In a sense, God has built Himself into our very beings, and it is unnatural to reject Him.

Is it any wonder why those who do ultimately feel so hollow, alone and desperate? 

Accepting Yeshua as Lord and King completes who we are made to be.  Are you prepared for the King’s return?  Is your lamp full of oil?  Have you capitalized on the “talent”, the knowledge of God built into you, and accepted his lordship in your life?  Or will you be caught without oil and without excuse when you stand before Him in judgment?  Time is running out.  Choose TODAY whom you will serve!