Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lesson 1: "Emotions"

Sabbath School TodayWith the 1888 Message Dynamic
Jesus Wept: The Bible and Human EmotionsLesson 1: "Emotions"

Those who believe the dynamic of the 1888 message is the beginning of the latter rain which focuses our attention upon the ministry of Christ as our Divine Physician in the heavenly sanctuary, will immediately recognize the importance of this quarter's lessons on "The Bible and Human Emotions." There is no more practical application of the truth of Christ's High Priestly ministry than the healing power of the gospel in such a modern setting. The world is filled with Christians as well as heathen who are hurting. It's good to know that Christ is not on some holiday, but is working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to heal those who are emotionally damaged.

Most people do not associate their feelings as subjects of restoration in the plan of salvation. It is a simple matter of dismissing emotions such as anger, frustration, impatience, and sensitivity as exempt from change. But one's temperament is no insignificant aspect of the total person to be so lightly set aside as unaffected by "the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1:16). "The God of peace" proposes to "sanctify you wholly; ... your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:23). Hence, Christ has, as His specific objective in our cosmic Day of Atonement, to get at the root cause of our damaged emotions and set about His gracious processes of healing.

The excuse that is given for negative emotions is that it's in our DNA, some defective inherited gene; or, it's a disease. "It's not my fault I have a bad temperament. I've got a disease." It's similar to the defense that alcoholism is a disease; or, destructive behavior or criminal activity is a disease. It is really a cop out for bad choices which result in weakness of character. Evil choices do trigger biological changes in the body so that what began as sinful unbelief and rebellion becomes a full-blown mental or emotional disease for which drugs become necessary for control. All this supports Proverbs 5:22: "His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden [held tight] with the cords of his sins." Or as Jesus says, "Whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin" (John 8:34).

We have usually supposed that those statements have reference to people who are not church members, those who are "outside" who do not know the Lord as we know Him. I wonder if they could have meaning for us who are "inside" the church, even us who are workers? We may not know if there is any conscious sin or anxiety that troubles us; but could we suffer from some deep-seated anxiety or discontent that "breaks down the life forces" unconsciously? "Sickness of the mind prevails everywhere. Nine tenths of the diseases from which men suffer have their foundation here" (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 444). Jesus, "Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses" (Matt. 8:17). In some unexplainable way, Christ bore our mental weaknesses as well as our bodily illnesses.

The human mind captures a perfect record of every life's experience. The person may not be able to perfectly recall every minute event, but it is nevertheless all there awaiting the circumstance for its recall. We can explain this by an illustration from nature. If you visit the western United States, you will see the beautiful giant sequoia and redwood trees. In most of the parks the naturalists can show you a cross section of a great tree they have cut, and they will point out that the rings of the tree reveal the developmental history, year by year. Here's a ring that represents a year when there was a terrible drought. Here are a couple of rings from years when there was too much rain. Here's where the tree was struck by lightning. Here are some normal years of growth. This ring shows a forest fire that almost destroyed the tree. Here's another of savage blight and disease. All of this lies embedded in the heart of the tree, representing the autobiography of its growth.

That's the way it is with us. Just a few thin layers beneath the protective bark--the concealing, protective mask--are the recorded rings of our lives. There are scars of ancient, painful hurts. Here is the discoloration of a tragic stain that muddied all of life. And here we see the pressure of a painful, repressed memory.

It begins with the mind, and the bad things that happen over the course of time in our relationships get stuffed down deeper and deeper just in order to survive. It's like a volcano with its subterranean fires of molten lava burning and emitting toxic gases with nowhere to go except upward through small vents to the surface of the earth's crust. Frequently, given the right set of circumstances, the weakest fracture line becomes the point of explosion. So what we don't know and understand about ourselves can inevitably hurt us and others.

The good news of the 1888 message is the emphasis it lays upon the complete identification of Christ with our humanity. We have a Saviour who exhibits the full range of emotions common to the human race. If the perfect repentance of Christ on behalf of humanity means anything, it means that in His mind is recorded every little detail of all the individual lives which have entered into the world. He knows intimately the emotions of every soul that has ever lived.

Isaiah imposed on the monitor screens of the human race the horror of Christ's suffering which He endured for humanity, yet it was not mere senseless physical brutality that Isaiah described, not a pathetic, mindless flogging of a human body almost to pulp, but Isaiah portrays the infinite mental and emotional suffering of One who is a God-man. Isaiah's version has created the noblest music and poetry of the human race: "Behold, My Servant ... shall be extolled, and be very high. ... His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men: .. Kings shall shut their mouths at Him: ... He is ... a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: ... Surely He hath borne our griefs, ... He hath poured out His soul unto death [the Bible knows only the second]: ... and He bare the sin of many" (52:13-53:12).

Jesus had emotions. Jesus is human, and all human beings have feelings. Without emotions, we are stunted and shrunken. Some think of emotions expressed in tears and smiles and embraces as signs of weakness or as contradictions to intelligence. If that were so, then we would have to think of Jesus as weak and ignorant. On the contrary, because He was a fully human being, He showed how to feel and express emotions in a fully human way.

Jesus did not count it loss to take on human flesh, even to the sharing of our emotional experiences. He Himself did not seek to eradicate them but, in fact, bore them and used them in glorious perfection. He did so in the temperament, of humility and in perfect balance. In His example, a believer is not only persuaded of Jesus' humanity, and thus His ability to identify with human infirmities, but His life is the encouragement for a believer that the whole personality is to be redeemed and restored.
--Paul E. Penno

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Baruch: Building a Legacy in a Crumbling World"

"Baruch: Building a Legacy in a Crumbling World"

It was a time of trouble, the outcome of which hinged upon the repentance of God's people. The consequence for not believing the Spirit of Prophecy would be the destruction of their cities and captivity in Babylon.

"The principle that man can save himself by his own works lay at the foundation of every heathen religion; it had now become the principle of the Jewish religion. ... Wherever it is held, men have no barrier against sin" (The Desire of Ages, pp. 35, 36).

Anathoth means the city where "prayers are answered"; and Jeremiah's name means "THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS establishes." (YHWH = THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. See marginal rendering on Jer. 23:5, 6 and 36:15, 16, NKJV.)

Hope is given to all who are under the siege. Jeremiah is told to buy a field while he is in prison and while Nebuchadnezzar holds Jerusalem hostage (cf. Jer. 32:8-15). He purchases a field in Anathoth, and then charges "Baruch before them, saying, Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this purchase deed which is sealed and this deed which is open, and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may last many days" (Jer. 32:14, 15).
This act is a metaphor of the 1888 message. It demonstrates the cross; the righteousness of Christ; the power of God to recreate in us His own image; with the cross laying our pride in the dust so that only Christ may be seen. God has given His people a "most precious message" which has, for the most part, gone unrecognized. It is the hope of Christ's final victory in the great controversy and the bride of Christ cooperating with her Divine Lover. Must this message be safely "stored away" for some future people to see and appreciate?

The Apostle Paul continues this demonstration and "fleshes it out" for us: "For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us" (2 Cor. 4:6, 7).

What is this treasure? The treasure is Christ in you, the hope of glory. "The mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To Them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:26, 27). Christ is in us through the Spirit of God and the faith of Jesus.

2 Corinthians 1:20-22 states that He has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. Ephesians 1:13-15 follows by saying, "... you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory."

Baruch, the notary public, did the legal work of placing the sealed deeds of purchase into the earthen vessel. This deed of purchase was evidence of the prophet's hope for the restoration of Judah to the Promised Land. Our hope for the future is the cross. Only Christ's voluntary death in our place can reconcile our hard hearts. This is the plan of redemption; the third angel's message; the Laodicean message; the Elijah message; the righteousness of Christ, and the everlasting covenant. It is Christ in you, the hope of glory--it is the Gospel. It is the 1888 message in verity and the outpouring of the Latter Rain.

What the placing of the open and sealed deeds of purchase into the earthen vessel is not, is the mainstream belief that man must contribute something to make good his salvation; it isn't faith and works, for this is "at the foundation of every heathen religion"; "but faith working through love" (Gal. 5:6). "I have been crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20), therefore we are dead to our old life and it is the life of Christ that now lives within us. It is His faith working in us, because a dead man has no faith.

Paraphrasing E. J. Waggoner, "A vessel can't do anything; it can however receive what is put into it and it is this that it can dispense; however the work is done by the One using the vessel."
Is there any further evidence regarding this earthen vessel and what it contained? Yes! Christ said, "... a body [an earthen vessel] You have prepared for me ...Then I said, "Behold I have come- in the volume of the book it is written of Me- To do Your will, O God." ... [When He says] Behold I have come to do Your will, O God, He takes away the first [sacrifice and offering] that He may establish the second. Christ, in our fleshly humanity, became our sacrifice and offering by subjecting His will, humanity's will, to the will of the Father. By Christ submitting His will to the Father's will, we have been sanctified" (Heb. 10:5-10).

The vessel must be emptied of self--this is done by Christ, the only One that has ever held His will, the will of our flesh, in perfect subjection to the will of the Father.

Jesus came into this world and took upon Himself our sinful fallen human nature, took upon Himself this fragile earthen vessel. In it He overcame sin in its strong hold, the flesh of man, and made us partakers of His Divine nature through His great and precious promises.

Jeremiah has also shown us how the righteousness of Christ would prepare His people for the marriage of the Lamb and that it will happen and it will be a success! Please compare carefully the words of the Bible: Jeremiah 23:5, 6 and 33:15, 16. In the first it is said, "Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS" and in the second, "And this is the name by which she will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS."

His people, His church, finally have the same name as His. The earthen vessels are now emptied completely of a "self" that positions itself against God's will, and are now filled with Christ. Now the angel of Revelation 18:1 can "illuminate the earth with His glory"--Just as Gideon illuminated the darkness by breaking the earthen vessels to reveal the blazing torches (glory) concealed within!

So, in a time of national disaster, even Baruch was given a special message that is for each of us today, "This is what you shall say to Baruch: These are the words of the LORD: What I have built, I demolish; what I have planted, I uproot. So it will be with the whole earth. You seek great things for yourself; leave off seeking them. I am about to bring disaster on all mankind, says the LORD, but wherever you go I shall let you escape with your life" (Jer. 45:4, 5, REB). When Baruch finally did need to escape with just the clothes on his back, we hope he was thankful! Jesus, The Faithful Witness, gave us this same counsel in Matthew 6:25-34!

Seeking great things for yourself is not a heavenly principle. Believing that man's efforts are needed in conjunction with the cross to be saved, is heathen to its core and any that take up and teach this satanic principle have no light in them. Our memory verse attests to this: "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isa. 8:20).

There is another time of trouble just on our horizon--a time of trouble such has never been seen since the world began. The outcome hinges upon the repentance of the angel of the church of the Laodiceans. The consequence for continued unbelief and stubbornness in regard to the message sent in "His great mercy," will be to be spewed out of the mouth of Christ.

This lesson concludes the fourth quarter of 2010. During this quarter we have looked at the "Background Characters of the Old Testament." We have seen men and women that have been placed in the Scripture by the Holy Spirit for our examples. From Caleb, Hannah, and Jonathan, to Abigail, Uriah, Abiathar, and Joab. From Rizpah, a widow of Zarephath, Gehazi, and now Baruch. All different people; all different times; all earthen vessels.

The Good News for us today is that the cross of Christ, planted within our heart, is our open evidence of purchase, and the gift of the Holy Spirit is the sealed evidence of purchase, to take of Christ's and minister it unto us.
--Daniel H. Peters

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gehazi: Missing the Mark

Sabbath School TodayWith the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Background Characters in the Old TestamentLesson 12: "Gehazi: Missing the Mark"

How like Gehazi we all are. Unable to discern the important from the peripheral. We are so enthralled with ourselves and the things of this world that we are blinded to the "better things" that Jesus commended Mary for seeking (Luke 10:38-42). The Faithful Witness has given us a most solemn warning regarding our condition in Revelation 3:17-19.

Throughout his years of employment as Elisha's servant and assumed prophet-in-training, Gehazi didn't seem able to develop the necessary spiritual discernment that would have prepared him for the mission to which God was calling him. Having before him the gold of faith, and the white robe of Christ's righteousness, Gehazi choose instead the silver of an earthly king and "Babylonish garments." We are reminded of the sin of Achan that brought disaster at Ai (Joshua 7:1-26).

"Be sure, your sin will find you out" (Num. 32:23). The One who "is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. 4:12) sought to give the blessing of repentance to Gehazi, but he refused it. He was blind to the depth of sin that resided in his own heart. Reading ahead slightly from the lesson, we find another man in the same condition. Hazael, whose name means "God has seen," a royal officer of Ben-hadad II, was sent to Elisha to inquire whether the king of Damascus would survive his illness (2 Kings 8:7-10).

When informed of the depth of unknown sin that resided in his heart, Hazael "could not bring himself to believe that he was capable of doing the unspeakable things the prophet Elisha had discerned he was capable of" (vss. 12, 13). "Hazael was sincerely unconscious of what lay buried in his own heart. In the same way, we are sincerely unconscious of our true motivations, apart from the Holy Spirit's conviction." (Robert J. Wieland, The Knocking At the Door, p. 30). Had Achan been faced with the reality that through his sin he would hinder the progress of gaining the Promised Land, he would have denied it vehemently (see Testimonies vol. 4, pp. 89, 90, and 492, 493).

"God's law reaches the feelings and motives, as well as the outward acts. It reveals the secrets of the heart, flashing light upon things before buried in darkness. God knows every thought, every purpose, every plan, every motive. The books of heaven record the sins that would have been committed had there been opportunity. God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing." (Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, July 31, 1901). Personally believing that God desires to produce such a deep cleansing of our feelings and motives, and allowing Him to accomplish it, prepares us for the necessary corporate repentance which will remove the choke hindering the latter rain.

Corporate repentance does not mean repenting for the sins committed by another person, whether those sins are in the past or yet future. Neither does corporate repentance involve a legislative vote to repent "in behalf of" some other person's rebellion against God. Corporate repentance is the blessing of seeing the true condition of our own heart; that we all have within us the same concealed root of sin that openly has manifested itself in others. When we realize that awfulness of sin in ourselves, it will mean death to "self" (see 2 Cor. 5:14, 15; Gal. 2:20; Rom. 6:4-7). Once we comprehend the depth of sin that resides in our own heart, then we can truly repent corporately for the continued resistance of the "most precious message" that has delayed the Lord's return for more than 120 years. Then we will be ready to receive the seal of the Living God in our hearts, and Rev. 14:12 can be fulfilled (see Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 214, 217).

"We have been content to have the blood of the Lamb provide a legal cancellation of the record in the books of heaven without the law being written in the heart. … For years we have been praying for the latter rain but the latter rain can never come until we understand what the former rain did …The latter rain will enable us to hear and see and to know that which we now resist. The Holy Spirit will bring a message and confirm the message which exposes every deception and unveils every apostasy and makes the glory of God manifest." (Donald K. Short, "Then Shall the Sanctuary Be Cleansed," p. 89).

We are no different from Gehazi. He was offered repentance when Elisha confronted him upon his return from meeting Naaman, but he refused to see his sin. It is time for us to realize our destitute condition and our great need of repentance. Only when we are humbled in the dust at the foot of the cross can we complete the work God called us to accomplish. Under the promised Latter Rain power, we then will declare to the oppressed, lonely inhabitants of the world that there is a Comforter and the dearest of companions, Jesus Christ our Redeemer and Lord. He alone can fulfill all our heart's desires and give us everlasting happiness.
Ann Walper
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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"The Widow of Zarephath: The Leap of Faith"

 "The Widow of Zarephath: The Leap of Faith"

There is a long forgotten person in I Kings 17, whom we shall discover in this widow of Zarephath. First, let's locate the city on the Mediterranean coast, 14 miles north of Tyre and 8 miles south of Sidon, in the center of the Phoenician heartland, now modern day Lebanon. The Phoenicians were descendants of the people of Canaan, where Baal worship was uplifted during the time of Elijah.

Let's observe the handiwork of God in His messenger, Elijah, and in the faith of the humble widow. God provided this widow with a lesson on faith, and drew out her faith into a "catering service."

In 1 Kings 17:7-16 Elijah's luxury that God provided of being fed by the ravens and watered by the brook ran out. There was famine in the entire region and God directed Elijah to journey on to Zarephath where there would be a widow to supply food. It's amazing how God chose this particular widow of Zarephath, who was a single parent of a son and barely had any flour and oil to make bread. Let's examine Luke 4:24-27, where Jesus speaks about the existence of many widows in Israel during Elijah's time of famine, yet God chose the region in Zarephath, and a particular widow to provide food for Elijah. God reached out to the Gentiles who were more accepting of the gospel, whereas Israel rejected Jesus and the gospel.

Through Elijah God was drawing this widow to a walk of faith, by sacrificing and giving whatever she stored up in her kitchen. When Elijah ordered bread and water, and that he be fed first, before she and her son, one wonders how such a small food source could stretch to feed her and her starving son. The widow did as she was told, and the bin of flour and jar of oil did not run out! The widow took her first step of faith, and there was enough food for her family.

Ellen G. White writes, "No greater test of faith than this could have been required. The widow had hitherto treated all strangers with kindness and liberality. Now, giving no thought to the suffering that might result to herself and child, but trusting in the God of Israel to supply her needs, she met this supreme test of hospitality by doing 'according to the saying of Elijah'" (Review and Herald, Aug. 28, 1913).

Next, in 1 Kings 17:17-24, we learn that the widow vents her anger about how God can allow her son to become sick and die, thinking it's related to the sins of her past. She assumes that her son has died because God is punishing her for her sins, "Art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?" (vs. 18). Even today this is common thinking as a cause and effect of sin. If I do right, good will come, and if I do wrong, bad will come. Or we say, "Have I blown it somewhere?" or, "Is God punishing me?" As we read on we will see that God is merciful.

Elijah brings her son to the upper room, where he vents his feelings to God. When Elijah prays to God, pleading for the boy's life, he presumes that God has caused the death of the boy. "O Lord my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?" (vs. 20), praying three times in perseverance "to let this child's soul come into him again."

Elijah's prayer for the son uses the Hebrew word nephesh, indicating the breath of life.
Life was restored to the child, demonstrating to this foreign mother of Phoenician practices of Baal and superstitious magic that Elijah was truly a man of God and that he ministered God's word. You can almost hear Elijah saying to the widow, "Your son is well and alive!," and see her reaction, rejoicing and praising God to every soul in her neighborhood for the miracle.

We cannot limit God in a confined space. God leads us in many ways. Elijah was led one step at a time when God said that a widow would help him, not that he is to help the widow. God commanded the widow to sustain Elijah, and it was God who sent Elijah to her (vs. 9), seeking her.

It is the same as the Lord seeking constantly for you. He will hold on to you in His hand and will not let go. Let us respond just as this widow who gave her mite in humble faith. No matter who you are at the bottom of the rank, you can be used as God's instrument.
--Mary Chun

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"The Man of God: Obedience Is Not Optional"

 "The Man of God: Obedience Is Not Optional"

There's no better way to caption the lesson than the words of inspiration. "Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper" (2 Chron. 20:20). Three men (Jeroboam, the king; Ahijah, a man of God; and a false prophet) all learned this truth.

At the close of Solomon's decadent reign and extravagant building projects at the expense of heavy taxation on his subjects, the nation was slipping into idolatry (1 Kings 11:33). His son Rehoboam announced the same heavy-handed oppressive policies at his accession to the throne.

God gave Jeroboam a divine mandate to the throne which was delivered by the prophet Ahijah, who rent a new garment into twelve pieces and gave ten pieces to Jeroboam saying, "I ... will give ten tribes to thee" (1 Kings 11:29-31; cf. 12:15). Thus motivated by the Spirit of prophecy through Ahijah, Jeroboam proceeded to set up his capital city at Shechem (1 Kings 12:25).

In a stunning about-face from the worship of Jehovah, Jeroboam set up two golden bulls for places of worship: one in the north at Dan and the other in the south at Bethel. The ostensible reason for this was to make worship more conveniently located to his subjects so that they would not have to make pilgrimages all the way south to Jerusalem. The assimilation of pagan fertility symbols as representations of Jehovah was a rejection of the second commandment.

Jeroboam began with a motivation of zeal for the Lord, but he "flipped" because of his fear. "Jeroboam's greatest fear was that at some future time the hearts of his subjects might be won over by the ruler occupying the throne of David" (Prophets and Kings, p. 99). He rejected the divine mandate of the Spirit of prophecy through Ahijah.

Jeroboam assembled the people for worship at Bethel, himself officiating at the altar on a self-appointed festival, appointing priests from among the common people (1 Kings 12:31, 32). Again, the Lord sent Jeroboam an inspired "man of God" to directly confront him by cursing the altar (1 Kings 13:1).

The prophet foresees a son of David named Josiah who will desecrate this very altar with the bones of the priests of the high places who now make offerings here (see 2 Kings 23:15-18). "The altar will be split apart and the ashes on it will be poured out" (1 Kings 13:3).

In defiance of the Spirit of prophecy through the man of God, the king stretches out his hand to have the prophet seized. His hand shrivels, and he is not able to pull it back. Then, the altar is split apart, and its ashes pour out according to the sign from the man of God by the word of Jehovah. Jeroboam petitions the prophet to intercede, that his hand be restored, which the man of God does. Demonstrating the power of the prophet, the king's hand is restored and becomes as it was before.

In response, the king invites the man of God to his home for a meal and offers him a gift. The prophet from Judah declines, even for "half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place." He has "charged me by the word of the LORD, saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest." The Lord sent the man of God with a message to turn the erring king from his evil ways and not to abide with him in confirmation of his wicked idolatry.

An old prophet living in Bethel has sons who attend the dedication and are witnesses to what the man of God from Judah did and what he had said to the king. The prophet asks, "Which way did he go?" They show him the road that he took, and he rides after him finding him sitting under a tree.

The old lying false prophet (PK 106) told the man of God that the word of the Lord was now to return with him and eat bread and drink. So the true prophet from Judah suddenly abandons faith in the original commandment given him by God, and foolishly follows a deceiver home for his hospitality. Whereupon at table the false prophet, on the spur of the moment, delivers a curse, which is soon fulfilled by his falling prey to a lion. He is then picked up by the posing prophet for burial in his family plot.

Thus by his life the true prophet rejected the Spirit of prophecy which was given through him; and by his death fulfilled the Spirit of prophecy which finally spoke through the imposter. It gave grounds for Jeroboam to reason that the curse originally delivered at the altar was bogus, and confirmed him in his evil course of leading Israel into idolatry and ultimately spiritualism.
We may flatter ourselves today that we would never be so foolish as to slide into idolatrous worship. However, the counterfeit today is extremely subtle. The religion of self is disguised as the worship of Christ. All self-motivated faith has its origins in the worship of a false Christ--ego. What Paul calls being "under the law" is self-centered faith that is motivated by hope of reward (greed) and fear (anxiety) of hell.

That which accompanies the religion of self is a rejection of the Spirit of prophecy, for the true prophet always points to the cross for conviction of sin and the source of true righteousness, accompanied by the discernment of the Holy Spirit. In 1888 God sent two messengers, A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, supported by E. G. White (the Spirit of prophecy), with a message of Christ their divine-human Lover. God's purpose was to draw them away from devotion to self in exchange for His cross, which revealed the fullness of God's love for His people.  The profound truth seems to be that this kind of devotion to Christ, this closer intimacy with Him, was unwelcome. "... If there is anything in our world that should inspire enthusiasm, it is the cross of Calvary" (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 80, 81; 1895). Thus we are brought to the foot of Christ's cross.

Ellen White did not consider Jones or Waggoner's presentations to be either extreme or radical, but tried to reason with the brethren who thought they were. "The comment ... passed upon me and the work that God had given me to do was anything but flattering. Willie White's name was handled freely and he was ridiculed and denounced, also the names of Elders Jones and Waggoner" (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 310, 1889).

She says that the Lord wanted the inspired trio to stay together in America and to fight the battle through to victory. Her own writings indicate that the leading brethren wanted both herself and Waggoner out of the way. "The Lord was not in our leaving America. ... The Lord would have had W. C. White, his mother, and her workers remain in America." "There we should have stood shoulder to shoulder, creating a healthful atmosphere to be felt in all our conferences. It was not the Lord who devised this matter. I could not get one ray of light to leave America" (Ibid., pp. 1622, 1623, Letter to O. A. Olsen, 1896).

E. J. Waggoner suffered a similar exile in being sent to England in the spring of 1892. There is evidence that similar attempts were made in 1890 to send A. T. Jones to Europe for an extended stay.

Unbelief in the Spirit of prophecy has been subtle and yet sustained over the course of our history on many subjects that she addressed, but none more so than the over 1800 pages having to do with the Minneapolis Conference of 1888. Our "reproach among the heathen" (Joel 2:19) will not be healed until we "believe His prophets."
--Paul E. Penno

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"Rizpah: The Influence of Faithfulness"

"Rizpah: The Influence of Faithfulness"

At first glance here's a classic Hebrew scripture story of blood and guts that should be left where it is--consigned to the obscure bit of 2 Samuel 21 in which it is placed. It appears to portray God as sending famine on the land because of Saul's treaty violations with the Gibeonites; and, bloodthirsty, needing human sacrifice to appease His anger.

Is God like the Gibeonite pagan Baal god who needs the sacrifice of Mot by Anat in order to restore the fertility of the earth? If so, it calls into question the whole issue of how the atonement for sin is accomplished--by human sacrifice or God's sacrifice? Rizpah's faith provides the answer.

Recurring famines were a part of ancient agrarian life. When a particularly hard-hitting three-year drought ravaged Israel, David inquired of the Lord for the reason. He was told, "It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites" (2 Sam. 21:1). Saul disregarded a treaty which the Gibeonites deceptively finagled with Joshua (Joshua 9:15, 16).

Instead of inquiring of the Lord for the remedy, David went to the Gibeonites for an answer to the dilemma. "... Wherewith shall I make the atonement, that ye may bless the inheritance of the LORD?" (2 Sam. 21:3). David's accommodation to the heathen in order to find a means of expiating God is striking. The assimilation of religious ideas indicates a lack of discernment on his part.

The Gibeonite response is that it's not a matter of money; nor that they have any power over the lives of others, for only the king has that right over his subjects. David asks, What do you need? They reply, "Seven sons of Saul." So David grants their request: two sons of Rizpah and five sons of Michal, Saul's concubine and daughter.

The Gibeonites took the seven to a high place and ritually sacrificed them by dismemberment "and exposed their bodies on a hill before the LORD" (2 Sam. 21:9, NIV). According to the pagan fertility rite, this sacrifice served to restore Baal to life, to cause the streams to flow, to rain down fatness, and to bring to an end the drought which reigned in the absence of Baal. Did it accomplish its intended purpose? No rain came. The only consequence of this kind of violence that could be expected was a spiral into more revenge slayings on the part of Saul's descendants against the Gibeonites or even David's household.

However, Rizpah appears suddenly on the scene of execution where the body parts have been left exposed to dishonor and indignity. She returns love and peace for vengeance and violence. She sets up a six-month vigil in honor of the dead, warding off predators and vultures. Her solitary mourning and repentance saved the king and the nation from the slippery slope of absorbing the pagan concept of the atonement.

The Gibeonites believed that they must offer human sacrifice on the high place in order to appease the angry Baal who has vanished. This alone will bring back the rains.

The idea of offering an expiatory sacrifice to an offended deity has been taken up into popular Christianity. The common view of the atonement is that since God is angry with sinners and His justice has been offended, Jesus takes the hit vicariously for sinners, and God's wrath is assuaged. The more near Protestant view is that God is angry toward sinners, but since He loves them He doesn't take His wrath out upon them, but takes it out on His Son. Either way the bottom line is a God who is angry with sinners and needs a target.

When God gave the covenant to Abraham (Gen. 15:9-21), the ancient practice of walking between the animal parts solemnized God's promise. First, Abraham "reverently passed between the parts of the sacrifice, making a solemn vow to God of perpetual obedience" (Patriarchs and Prophets [PP], p. 137). Then God was represented as a "smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces" (vs. 17), "totally consuming them,"--"the severed victims" pointing to Christ (op. cit.)

God does not ask for our promises in order to enter into His covenant. Ellen White writes, "Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand" (Steps to Christ, p. 47). God found "fault with them" (Heb. 8:8) because Israel promised "all that the LORD hath spoken we will do" (Ex. 19:8)--egocentric-motivated faith. God's love compels us to believe His covenant "stablished upon better promises" (Heb. 8:6)--His own "better promises."

When Abraham passed through the victims, he represented Christ, the true Seed, through whom God's promise would be fulfilled (Gal. 3:16). In addition, Abraham represented his spiritual descendants. "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed" (3:29). Abraham made the "vow to God of perpetual obedience" as the representative of the Seed. "For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen" (2 Cor. 1:20). The only promises worth believing in the everlasting covenant are the mutual promises of the Father and the Son.

Ellen White writes, "The Lord condescended to enter into a covenant with His servant, employing such forms as were customary among men for the ratification of a solemn engagement" (PP 137). The pagan custom for the violation of mutual promises entered into was for the party to be dismembered or ritually sacrificed in disgrace. However, God's covenant-promise to Abraham was a one-sided land grant promise. God took the forms of ritual dismemberment of the victims. Instead of conveying the pagan message of appeasing the angry deity, God communicated the gospel message by "totally consuming them" (ibid.). The animals that were sacrificed in connection with the worship of Jehovah in the Old Testament were consumed with fire. Thus the victims pointed to Christ who bore the "curse" of God-forsakenness on the cross, dying our second death (Gal. 3:13).

Christ made the choice to die apparently cursed of God and totally forsaken--the second death. The last temptation of Christ was to come down off His cross and be with His Father. The revilers said, "If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross" (Matt. 27:40).
The Father did not abandon His Son in His greatest hour of need. He was there with Him. However, the great controversy with Satan would not permit Him to visibly support His Son, for Christ must endure the full wrath of sin which raged within and conquer by faith alone. As the world's Sin-bearer, He felt the condemnation that every sinner will feel when at last they feel God-forsaken because of their own choice to cut themselves off from Him.

Christ prayed, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46). His prayer was heard. "For He hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath He hid His face from Him; but when He cried unto Him, He heard" (Psalm 22:24). He died victorious over all outward evidences of defeat to the contrary. He died victorious over temptations from within to preserve self at all costs by rejecting the will of His Father--the cross. He kept His promise to be the Surety for the human race. In the final moment His faith declared, "It is finished" (John 19:30).

Oh, what price Love paid to sinners! The Father and the Son paid the price to you. It is for the purpose of winning enemy hearts to God.

What motivated Rizpah? She understood God's everlasting covenant promise to pledge Himself the sacrificial atonement for the sins of the nation. She chose to respond by faith to God's great love. She never spoke a word, but her life and example of repentance on a lonely mountaintop in identifying with the king and nation who were sliding into paganism, caught the attention of a messenger who reported it to David.

In response to Rizpah's "sermon" the king repented. He demonstrated by his actions that he was truly sorrowful. The neglected corpses of Saul and Jonathan, in addition to the dismembered Saulides, were given a proper burial; and the nation mourned. Following Rizpah's corporate repentance "water dropped upon them out of heaven" (2 Sam. 21:10).
--Paul E. Penno
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Joab: David's Weak Strongman"

"Joab: David's Weak Strongman"

The beginning of faith is believing the truth that "God's word" has inherent within it the power to create what it says. It is called the "beginning" of faith because one can believe this and still not act that way. One can believe that "God exists out there somewhere," that He is all-powerful, that He knows all things--even the number of hairs on one's head--yet act as if God is an impersonal Force in the universe that brought all the elements together to create the planet and set it in motion (through whatever means one chooses to believe). Therefore, it is now up to the human race to determine what is going to happen with it--thus hedging the concept of "God's word." However, believing that God exists and that His word has inherent within it the power to create what it says is the first step in the right direction.

That is the beginning of faith. But we don't want to stop short in any good thing. Let's take this one step further, that is, expecting God's word to do what it says. We are not going to be concerned about consequences if we do not expect anything to happen regarding our decisions, but when we believe God's promises to us, He can then bring His righteousness into our daily experience. So, if we believe that God's word has inherent within it the power to create what it says, to get the full benefit of that word, one can at least expect that benefit to come--that God will actually do something, even if it is only for somebody else. However, that still is not enough to cause us to do right. We need something more, for we are not capable, on our own, of making consistently correct choices, and we are not capable (on our own) of doing God's will. Psalm 14:3 says, "They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one." And Isaiah 64:6, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away."

There must be something that will allow God to bring our lives into harmony with His will.
We can take a lesson from the centurion of Mathew 8 who told Jesus that He did not need to come to his house, that indeed he was not worthy of such a majestic honor from Deity Himself. If Jesus would simply speak the word only, his servant would be healed. Listen to the response elicited by such faith, "When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, 'Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the [immature and self-centered] children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' And Jesus said unto the centurion, 'Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee.' And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour."

So what did the centurion do? Did he offer Jesus expensive gifts? Did he ask Jesus for His "help"? (To ask the question this way would imply that the centurion could heal the servant himself, that he just needed that extra little "push" to "get him over the top.") Did he insist on some sort of fanfare excitement with the press available to take it all down and spread it all around? Did he try to manipulate Jesus through intrigue--or force Him against His will? No, nothing like this. He didn't even think it was necessary for Jesus to come to his house! Just speak the word, only. That is all. The centurion didn't do anything except to make his simple request.

He depended on God's word only to do what it says.

Now it becomes personal. To depend upon our own plans to hold us up, for example, involves a risk, for this implies that there is a "plan B" (our plan) if "plan A" (God's plan) should fail (in our own perception). I saw on a poster the other day the saying that life is all about how you handle "plan B," and that is good for general use because not everything goes the way we hope or expect. But when it comes to God's promise of righteousness, there is no "plan B," which means that there will come occasions when we see no human way out. It is God and His word only that will hold you up and carry you through--it will look as if you are going to fall, but you won't.

The only proper response is to say "Thank you," as Abraham did regarding the same promise from God in Genesis 17 by falling on his face, and also in Genesis 22 when he believes God's word, even as against God's own word itself expecting God to raise Isaac from the dead (Heb. 11:17-19; Daily Good News, vol. 2, #158). These are expressions from a heart-felt appreciation of the gift and its cost to God, for it cost Jesus the hope of His own eternal life. Israel's immature and self-centered response in Exodus 19 to God's promise (that is, His word only), was "All that the LORD hath spoken we will do." And God had to bring in the entire earthly temple and priestly services to remind man every time he sinned, which was inevitable with man's promise, that it is only through the sacrifice of God that man can do His will. [1]

When Jesus was hanging on that cross, He depended upon God's word only (John 5:19, 30) to hold Him when all evidence indicated that He was eternally separated from His Father--while He experienced that second death for us. He could not see through the portals of the tomb and there was no "plan B" for victory. He thought He was going to be lost--except for His faith that depended on the Father only to hold Him. His triumphant cry, "It is finished," "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" [2], gained the victory for you and for me and brought the whole human race to the Father. We don't need to worry about how all this will come out in the end, as Joab did, or try to force God's will, as Joab appeared to be doing, for we are already on the winning team. Don't make a contract with anyone or anything else, not even with yourself or with God, but cling by faith to God's promise and to His promise only.

--Craig Barnes

[1] Note the ratification of Israel's broken promise to God in Exodus 24:3. This precedes the earthly services introduced in chapter 25.
[2] John 19:30; Luke 23:46.

For Further Reading:
Lessons on Faith, by E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones.
Give Us This Day Our Daily Good News, vol. 2, Waggoner and Jones.
The Desire of Ages by Ellen G. White.
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Abiathar: The Priest"

"Abiathar: The Priest"

In the Jewish sanctuary system, the priest was the appointed intercessor between God and man. One of the clearest ways God manifested His guidance for Israel through the high priest was by light or cloud appearing over one of two stones on the priest's breastplate, sometimes generally called the ephod. These stones were named urim and thummim. Abiathar, son of Adonijah, was a priest during most of David's lifetime, both before and after he became king. He was the priest on duty when David and his men entered the tabernacle and ate the showbread. Jesus mentions him in the New Testament when He used this event as an example of a seemingly unlawful act allowed because of extreme circumstances (Mark 2:26).

When Saul was anointed king, God provided guidance to him through the prophet Samuel and the temple priests. Saul's personality deteriorated during his kingship. Insane with jealousy, he felt sorry for himself imagining David was his enemy and everyone was in on the conspiracy. When Ahimelech rendered aid to defend David, Saul ordered the slaughter of him and 85 priests (1 Sam. 22:13-19). Abiathar demonstrated his loyalty to David by risking his life to tell him of the killing. Later, Abiathar (1 Sam. 23:6-12) brought the ephod to David who used it to seek God's guidance after Saul learned David's location and planned to attack and kill him.

By Saul's malicious act of killing the priests and their families, he deprived himself and his nation of God's guidance through this oracle and the priests who administered it. God used Abiathar to save the ephod and become a priest who could sympathize with David during most of his reign.

The intrigue and treachery of David's exploits make for interesting reading but remain just ancient stories unless we apply them to our lives today. God no longer uses priests and the urim and thummim to communicate with His church because He has given us His written word. In the late 1800s God selected two young men, A. T. Jones, and E. J. Waggoner, whom Ellen White described as having "heavenly credentials."* Over 350 times, this modern day prophet endorsed the message God gave them, yet she and they faced opposition wherever they went. While their battles were not physical as were David's, the intrigue and distortion of truth finds some parallel with David's story.

God chose Jones and Waggoner to present the actual message, but, like Abiathar, He used Ellen White to provide support. Frequently, her support came in the form of actual revelation settling various issues. A case in point would be her statement on the question of whether the law described as the schoolmaster in Galatians is the ceremonial or the moral law (Gal. 3:24). "I am asked concerning the law in Galatians. What law is the school-master to bring us to Christ? I answer: Both the ceremonial and the moral code of ten commandments" (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1725). Significantly, that letter was written in 1900 after the brethren struggled together to study the issue.

Another example of her clarification of the 1888 message: "Several have written to me inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel's message, and I have answered, 'It is the third angel's message in verity'" (Review and Herald, April 1, 1890). The third angel's message is the sanctuary truth. Hence, the 1888 message is an understanding of justification by faith, which is parallel to and consistent with the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary.

If we fail to use the advantage afforded us by the teaching of the prophet, are we in danger of repeating Saul's mistake? By keeping her endorsements of the message of righteousness by faith, are we in effect "killing" the prophet's message?

In David's declining years, because of political expediency, Abiathar changed his loyalty from his king to support Adonijah's bid for his father's throne. Abiathar knew that God had made his wishes clear that Solomon was to be king, but somehow he joined the conspiracy against Solomon. What kind of distortion did Abiathar invent to assuage his conscience and the consciences of his co-conspirators that God had made a mistake in selecting Solomon? When we distort both the actual message and the endorsements, do we join those who originally opposed the divinely credentialed messengers and the prophet? Do we not perpetuate the "conspiracy?"

An example of distorting the 1888 message is to say that the church accepted righteousness by faith and is teaching it, when in fact, it is teaching the evangelical Arminian concept of righteousness by faith. Ellen White maintains that the message was not accepted (Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 234, 235). To insist that the church accepted righteousness by faith, contrary to her eyewitness account, is to participate in a falsification of our history.

Truth never suffers from study and scrutiny by honest and humble investigators. Our duty of loyalty to the church should be equal to Christ's (John 12:20-25), but even Christ spoke of the church's indifference to her Bridegroom in the Song of Solomon (5:1-3). Because He rebukes and chastens those He loves, He warned Laodicea of her apathy in Revelation.

We can with confidence, examine not only the message, but our history of its reception. If we are to learn from the mistakes of ancient Israel, does it not make sense that God also wants us to learn from choices made by our more contemporary brothers and sisters in the church's relatively recent past? In doing this, we must never be directed by a spirit of criticism or debate, but our motivation must always be the Spirit of Truth.

By failing even to investigate the past, we risk perpetuating the errors of the past. God has preserved enough of the record to make a thorough examination possible. No explanatory "filter" is needed as the original sources speak to us from the pens of those who wrote them. When we study to understand and submit to the Holy Spirit's guidance, there is nothing to fear.

--Arlene Hill

* Review and Herald, March 18, 1890 and Sept. 3, 1889; Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 412, 413.

Resources for Further Investigation:
1888 Re-examined, Robert J. Wieland
Let History Speak, Donald K. Short
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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Uriah: Faith of a Foreigner

Uriah: Faith of a Foreigner 

The story begins in 2 Samuel 11:1 where it says that it was the time of the year when the kings went out to battle, but David was in his palace and here is the first red flag pointing to the change in David. In the first part of David’s life, he was known as a man after God’s own heart, but not so any longer for David’s heart was knowing only self. 
David lusts after Bathsheba and has her taken from her home, and he commits adultery with her. Later Bathsheba sends David a message that she is pregnant. David’s mind begins to scheme to protect self and image.

He sent for Uriah, thinking that when he would go to his home and lie with his wife, the pregnancy would be covered up. Uriah appears. David encourages him to go home and wash his feet, eat, drink and lie with his wife. Uriah departs the king’s presence, goes just outside, and stays with the king’s servants—never once going near his house.

The next day David questions Uriah as to why he had not gone home, and Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields. Shall I then go to my house to eat and drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing” (2 Sam. 11:11).

Uriah’s words come from a man sincere in his love for God and His people. The natural human spirit has no such concern and is motivated only by what they want, when they want it and how they want it. Everything they do is centered in self and so their motivation is called an egocentric motivation. EGO stands for Easing God Out of the heart and life. The egocentric person finds the idea of a higher motivation too restrictive.

David was demonstrating an egocentric motivation – “Its all about me and what I want.” Uriah demonstrated a higher motivation than self – this higher motivation is the natural motivation of a converted person under the influence of agape.

“A higher motivation becomes realized in the close of time than has prevailed in the church in the past ages—a concern for Christ that He receive His reward and find His ‘rest’ in the final eradication of sin. All egocentric motivation based on fear of hell or hope of reward is less effective” (Robert J. Wieland, Ten Great Gospel Truths, #8, p. 27).

Uriah had an appreciation of the agape of God, which delivered him from egocentric motivation. We too can experience this change in motivation, providing we do not resist the drawing of the cross.

“Now as never before, we are to repent and be converted, that our sins may be blotted out, that an utter end shall be made of them forever in our lives” (A. T. Jones, The Consecrated Way, p. 127, Glad Tidings Publishers ed.).

This is the power and truth Uriah pointed out when speaking of the ark (sanctuary). While the ark and the congregation dwell in tents, David lounges in the palace shepherding his uncontrolled lusts with just as much concern as when he was tending his sheep.

Uriah rebukes David by asking, under the circumstances; shall I go home to eat and drink and lie with my wife? Then he takes an oath and says, “I will not do this thing.”

“Christ is a Good Shepherd who is seeking His lost sheep even though we have not sought Him. A misunderstanding of God’s character causes us to think He is trying to hide from us. There is no parable of a lost sheep that must seek and find its Shepherd” (Robert J. Wieland, op. cit., #4).

David the shepherd king is now only a lost sheep in a king’s palace.

“Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us” (1 John 3:15, 16). David then hated God and plotted His murder just as surely as he did Uriah’s.

The LORD sent Nathan to David—because the Good Shepherd always seeks His lost sheep—with the parable of the ewe lamb: “The light was flashed sharply upon the king, while he was in utter darkness as to what was thought of his actions in regard to Uriah. … The king was so completely wrapped in his garments of sin, that he did not see that he was the sinner” (Ellen G. White, Letter 57, 1897; Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 1023; emphasis supplied).

“Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die’” (2 Sam. 12:13, 14).

“David awakens as if from a dream” (The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, p. 379).

“The Lord draws us, but does not employ force. He calls, but does not drive. ... God has purposed salvation for every soul that has ever come into this world” (Ellet J. Waggoner, Waggoner on Romans, pp.140, 143).

David’s confession was deep and sincere. “Confession means, speaking the same thing; acknowledging that which is said; agreeing together. The confession of sin is the acknowledgment of sin that has been pointed out. The Holy Spirit comes as a convicter of sin, and says, ‘You have sinned in this thing,’ and we confess our sin when we speak the same thing, and say, ‘Yes; that is true.’ … Confession, therefore, means the acknowledging of what has been made known to us” (Ellet J. Waggoner, “Confessing Christ in the Flesh,” The Present Truth, March 8, 1894).

“Abraham believed [agreed with] God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). This is righteousness by faith. Confession is the same thing as this for it is arrived at the same way. When the Holy Spirit points out our sin and we agree with Him that it is true, we are made clean—righteous. He believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.

“The wrong was done to a man; the sin was against God; and to God the transgressor was accountable. ‘So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God,’ both for our sins against God and our wrongs to our fellowmen. All sin is, without qualification, against God” (A. T. Jones, “Divine and Human Government,” American Sentinel, July 16, 1896).

“Every act which shows a lack of love for our neighbor, shows a lack of love for God; the wrong which one may do to his fellow-man is only secondary; the greater wrong is against God” (Ellet J. Waggoner, “The Consequence of Pleasing God,” The Signs of the Times, April 20, 1888).
Daniel H. Peters

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Abigail: No Victim of Circumstances

 Abigail: No Victim of Circumstances 

The ancients were amazed and mystified by the gospel, and so are people today: it says that God treats His bitterest enemies as friends. Jesus addressed Judas Iscariot as “friend” and forgave His own murderers. He actually took their guilt upon Himself, being “made … sin for us, who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21). The reason is something that the Bible calls “justification.” The Father treated His own Son as an enemy so He could treat us as friends. One half of the process of the atonement is God being reconciled to His enemies (us). This was accomplished by the sacrifice of His Son, so that He has “reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, … reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” (2 Cor. 5:18, 19). The other half is our being reconciled to God, which is accomplished by our understanding and believing the gospel—the truth of His reconciliation to us by someone preaching the message, “Be ye reconciled to God.”

 There is a strange, unearthly love involved in this reconciliation-justification process—agape. It “never faileth” (1 Cor. 13:8), but neither is it naive, or foolish. It recognizes immediately that beneath the revolting exterior, the other person may have some decency or self-respect left which will respond to “grace” and “justification.”

 Can “the kings of the earth” benefit from this Bible idea? Many will say, No; national interests are too valuable and complex to be influenced by any idea associated with “grace.” But a “king-to-be” was once saved from a terrible mistake of unnecessary violence by a woman who spoke words of common sense inspired by the idea of justification by faith—the story of Abigail and David is in 1 Samuel 25:2-42.
How can one find happiness in a marriage where one feels his or her spouse is less than satisfactory, in fact, downright ornery? There is a fascinating case history of a woman trapped in a marriage probably worse than any you have ever heard about.

 Abigail was intelligent and beautiful. For some reason, she married Nabal, a cantankerous, ill-mannered boor who turned out to be extremely ornery. Many a woman would have walked out on him. Yet, she found her niche in history by holding on.

 If a prince charming had visited Abigail’s village, she doubtless would have become a princess. But none came along, and it seems that her parents encouraged her to go with Nabal. She could have consoled herself with the thought that he was steady and solid. At least he knew how to make money. Perhaps mom and dad encouraged her to believe that she could either change him or learn to love him. She shouldn’t pass him up. He was the scion of a prominent family, destined to wealth and influence. With her warm, winsome ways, Abigail would impart to his lordly ranch a touch of grace.

 Soon after the wedding, Abigail realized she was bound for life to someone who was a perfect fool when it came to human relations. Neighbors and the hired hands avoided him whenever possible. To make matters worse, he took to drinking, and Abigail learned that no problem can be so bad but what alcohol can make it worse. The hired help could leave, but Abigail felt chained in a marital dungeon “till death do us part.”

Covering for Nabal’s boorish ways developed in Abigail qualities of grace and diplomacy. She learned how to pour oil on the troubled waters her husband had roiled up. The irritating grain of sand produced in her soul the legendary pearl. She developed expertise in managing men who had trouble managing themselves. This eventually led to a new chapter in her life.

 She remained faithful to Nabal, believing that God in His own good time and way would transmute her pain into happiness. To the end of her marriage, she kept her conscience clear, holding the ranch together, winning the love of the hired help and the neighbors, and in the process carving out for herself a special niche of distinction in female history.

 Nabal’s drinking problem finally did him in, and believe it or not, when Abigail was free, a prince did show up who married her. David, Israel’s rightful heir to the throne, happened on the scene. In an unpleasant encounter, Nabal rubbed him the wrong way and David in a rare fit of anger decided to avenge the insult with violence. But for Abigail’s intervention, David’s rash act would have haunted his royal conscience for the rest of his life and could have ruined his reputation as a fair and compassionate ruler. Abigail’s well-developed skills in diplomacy and exquisitely tactful finesse saved David from himself. Her hastily composed but eloquent speech pointedly reminded him that his rashness could be the undoing of his royal honor. Never has a woman averted tragedy so skillfully.

 Unlovable as Nabal was, Abigail was protective of her unworthy husband. She assumed his guilt: “On me alone … be the blame.” “Please forgive the transgression of your maidservant” (verses 24, 28, NASB). She implied that Nabal’s faults were hers as well as his, for were not the two “one flesh”? For all time to come, Abigail demonstrated the oneness implicit in marriage!

 In due time, following Nabal’s demise, David married Abigail (see verse 42). The king-to-be not only loved her; he felt she would help him manage his own weaknesses. According to Ellen G. White, “The Spirit of the Son of God was abiding in her soul. Her speech, seasoned with grace, and full of kindness and peace, shed a heavenly influence. Better impulses came to David, and he trembled as he thought what might have been the consequences of his rash purpose” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 667).

 The story of Abigail reveals that God Himself undertakes to help the unlucky spouse who is getting the bad end of a bargain. He or she can find happiness in fidelity, through unexpected ways. God never went to sleep on Abigail, nor did He abandon her. To Him who sees when the sparrow falls, Abigail and her unhappy marriage were important. God took the trouble to delineate her story as an encouragement to millions of people since and even for eternity to come.
Excerpted from the writings of Robert J. Wieland