There is the story of the Cumaean Sibyl who came to King Tarquin offering for sale nine books which she declared would be of great value to him in the government of Rome in that they held the destiny of the world. She requested 300 pieces of gold which seemed an exorbitant price, and he would not buy them. He did not recognize that she was a sibyl. She left and in time she returned and offered him six books for the same price; 300 pieces of gold and again he refused. She had also informed him at that time that she had burned three of the original nine. After a time she returned, informed him that she had burned three more of them and 300 pieces of gold were required for the remaining three. King Tarquin, the last of the Roman Kings was of a mind to forcefully expel her from his presence but his most trusted advisors prevailed upon him to purchase them lest she burn the remainder and in the off-chance that they were legit and contained that which she claimed.
Now, for us Christians, there is a moral to this story: The longer we refuse God’s overtures, the less these overtures contain, while the demand on us is still the same for the remainder. Perhaps you are thinking, “C’mon, Pastor Ward, why are you bothering me with this old fable?”
Well, my reasoning goes a bit like this; have you ever stopped to wonder why the Romans treated the Jews a bit differently than most conquered people groups? Well, it is a matter of record that after the King’s counselors studied the books and reported back to King Tarquin he offered the Cumaean Sibyl a very large sum of money if she would reproduce the other books, but she refused. Those three books were venerated and studied carefully and kept in the Temple of Jove until its destruction by fire in 83 bc. Those books had in them, among other things, a prophecy regarding the birth of Jesus The Christ. Most of us Christians fail to realize that the Romans were expecting the arrival of The Messiah at about the time He did arrive. Yes, I am trying to tell you the whole world was actually anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Holy one of God and yet the majority missed Him because He came God’s way, with God’s agenda, not ours.
It is not always easy to distinguish the truly pious from those who are destitute at the very core of the matter. Then there is the illustration Jesus used regarding five who were wise and five who were foolish. They all had lamps. Outward form is one thing, inward life is quite another.
Every hour of the day and night there are souls going into eternity improperly prepared. One lies at death’s door, he cannot get his light burning. He comes up to the gate of heaven; he knocks, he cries: “Let me in!” He is not admitted. He screams: “I want to see the bridegroom.” The voices within say, “You cannot see the bridegroom, he is busy with His guests now.” Pleads the man, “I must come in; my children are in there, my beloved mother is there. I must come in.” A voice from within says, “You refused the grace that would have brought you in where they are and now it is too late.” The voice from within says to one outside, “You are twenty years too late;” to another, “You are a month too late;” to another, “You are a minute too late.” As the outer darkness engulfs them, the mob outside takes up the anguished lament, “Too late, too late.”
The wise went wholly prepared. The unwise probably didn’t want to seem to be too fanatical. He who has the most religion has none to spare. God calls everyone of us to be fully prepared by being completely consecrated Christians in this life.
The person who truly understands that he is an eternal being living a temporary human existence is the one who most understands his need to be fully prepared for when the transition from this world to the next is to take place.
— Pastor Ward Clinton