WORSHIP: FROM EXILE TO RESTORATION
Ezekiel 8:12: “Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, the LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth.”
The old men, the ones looked up to for wisdom in Israel, had a transcendent concept of God. He is so far off in His universe that having once placed man here on this earth He just leaves them to work out their own destiny. Man is sort of a wind-up toy whose vitality and energy is gradually winding down to be ground into dust. It is sort of a despairing view of God.
If God doesn’t care about this earth, if there is no Judge over all, then there is no justice, no meaning to life and history. There is no gratitude and appreciation for divine love. God is not self-sacrificing love. God is divinely passive and unconcerned with man—the Great Sphinx—who could care less about what transpires on earth. A world without a caring, compassionate God, is a despairing, hopeless tangle of meaninglessness.
A Newsweek cover article on AIDS in Africa captured in pictures the despair of the millions of victims there. One picture of an attractive young woman with a 2-year old son, both with AIDS, was poignant. Her face registered the agony of hopelessness. Death there with AIDS is a long-drawn-out hell on earth, with nothing to look forward to but abandonment by relatives and apparent God-forsakenness. Hope for medical cures is practically gone. They have nothing, nothing, to comfort them except what they may find in the gospel, and their usually accompanying sense of guilt often blacks that out. For many the silent horror of their future is devastating.
Can we do something for them? Ease their physical discomfort? Yes, but that doesn’t dry their tears. Assure them of God’s forgiveness and acceptance? Yes; but the days that remain before death releases them are long. Many feel that they are already paying for their sins (some healthy people think they are!). Innocent or guilty, they need to identify with Jesus. But for many, their view of Him prevents identification. They view Him as separated from the sinful flesh which they know they have; there is a wall between. Jesus is the Big Bwana who lives Upstairs. They need to see Him wrestling in His hour of death with the same sense of God-forsakenness which they feel. It was then that He was “made to be sin for us, who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21). Like the AIDS victim, He cries out, “My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mt. 27:46). He hears no answer to His prayer (“O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear. . . I am a worm, and no man,” Ps. 22:2, 6). As the Son of God, the second Adam of the human race, He drinks to its dregs the cup which the AIDS victims must drink. Their relatives despise them, true; but Jesus does not. One last and forlorn hope remains for them: now by faith they can identify with Jesus and truthfully say, “I am crucified with Christ.” They can’t finish the verse which says, “Nevertheless, yet I live . . .” (Gal. 2:20), but they may be privileged to realize a fellowship with Christ in His sufferings that will establish their kinship with Him. They must become the thief on the cross—no joy left but being crucified with Him. No, suffering does not save; but suffering with Christ is a privilege of salvation. Some healthy and innocent (are there any?) saints may have to step aside in the last Great Day and watch Jesus embrace these pathetic victims. But first, they need to hear and understand the gospel; they need someone to point them to the true Christ who “in all things” was “made like unto His brethren.”
Daniel 1:16: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.”
Daniel 1:17: “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.”
There is a beautiful illustration of genuine faith in the story of the three Hebrews of Daniel 3 who were thrown into the fiery furnace. They told the insanely angry king that (1) the living God whom they served was “able” to deliver them from his power, but (2) it might possibly be that He would be unwilling to do so—they didn’t know for sure—but if He were unwilling to deliver them they would serve Him nonetheless, and they would not cast contempt on His holy law by bowing down to his golden image.
In this way these three men demonstrated that their faith in God was the New Covenant kind, not the Old Covenant kind. (They probably had been studying the writings of Jeremiah!) The Old Covenant kind of “faith” is a counterfeit of the genuine: it’s making a “bargain” with God. Old Covenant faith says,” Lord, if You will deliver us, then we’ll keep Your commandments.” Sometimes preachers lead their people into Old Covenant faith when they tell them that if they take the initiative to “pay tithe,” then God will bless them financially. New Covenant faith is a choice to pay tithe whether or not the Lord rewards us.
The New Covenant is God’s out-and-out promises to His people, and their heart response is to believe and appreciate what He promises. His love, not fear, “constrains” them to loyalty and service (2 Cor. 5:14, 15). The Old Covenant is “bargaining” with God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego rebuke us for that. Jeremiah promises (31:31-34) that the time will come when God’s people graduate completely out of the Old into the living faith that is in the New. As God’s people face the trials of the last days, their faith will mature into that of “the Lamb’s wife”—a church that has grown up into that “measure of the stature, of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). It’s time for the New Covenant, now.
Daniel 1:18: “But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
Daniel 1:25: “He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”
Jeremiah 29:10: “For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.”
Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
At any given moment in your life, the only news that the Lord has for you is good news. But you are being bombarded with the bad news that Satan wants you to accept and believe. If you are a teen in school, he wants you to believe that you will fail that test that’s coming up, or that the boy or girl you really like will reject you, that you won’t be able to get a good job, that you’ll never be able to drive a decent car.
I don’t need to elaborate further, for you already know his repertoire of doom he specializes in. Believing Satan’s bad news makes for an unhappy life and you don’t want that; and the Lord, your heavenly Father, doesn’t want that for you.
Why can I be so bold as to say that the only news the Lord has for you is good news? (And this is not only for teens: it’s never too late for teens already grown up to learn to believe the good news that the heavenly Father has for you.)
Here is that word of the Lord ready for you to choose to believe with all your heart: “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). You may ask, How can I know this is addressed to me? I have made wrong choices, I have done evil, I have broken the Lord’s holy law; maybe I’m done for!
Read the context of what your heavenly Father has just told you: the Lord’s people in Jeremiah’s day had done gross evil (the book of Jeremiah is full of the story). One very bad thing: the entire nation had committed the equivalent of national adultery. And very many of the people had gone on and committed the personal deed, as well (vs. 23). Yet the Lord wanted them to repent and accept His forgiveness; Jeremiah was pleading for a national repentance; so with you, the only “thoughts” the Lord has for you are “thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Yes, you may know that you have sinned; you deserve only failure and pain and disappointment; but the worst sin you can commit is to abandon your heart to anger against Him (it’s not His fault!) and reject His forgiveness.
Now let the “grace of God that brings salvation . . . to all people” teach you to say “No!” to that hellish temptation (Titus 2:11-13; cf. NIV).
Jeremiah 29:12: “Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.”
Jeremiah 29:13: “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
Is there hope for someone who, like a fly in a spider’s web, is caught and enmeshed in a tangle of evil desires and habits? If the answer is No, then if there is no hope for the “one” there can be no hope for the “many.” Several solid truths can be nailed down securely:
(1) “Whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered” (Joel 2:32).
(2) Obviously there must be some understanding of who the LORD is: “Let him . . . understand and know Me, that I am the LORD who exercises loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight” (Jer. 9:24). In other words, you must believe that God thinks kind, loving thoughts toward you, that He wants to have the “fun” of saving you.
(3) “He who comes to God must believe [a] that He is, and [b] that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).
(4) The simplest common sense indicates that any “call” upon Him must be serious and sincere: “The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who reverence Him: He also will hear their cry and will save them” (Ps. 145:18, 19).
(5) It becomes obvious by now that this is serious business. Your eternal destiny depends on getting freed from this trap. You don’t have to “seek” the Lord because He is trying to hide from you, but you must “seek Him” in the sense of seriously listening to Him, paying attention to Him. That is the meaning of this promise: “Then shall ye call upon Me and ye shall go and pray unto Me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD” (Jer. 29:12, 13). In other words, God is a Grown-up; He is not playing childish games. If you mean business, you will find that He means business. Eternal life is at stake here!
(6) There is objective truth you MUST understand: “The gospel of Christ . . . is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32). That doesn’t mean mere psychology; but it’s very simple—if the truth will make you “free,” it follows that you must understand it.
(7) Back to our first text: Christ wants you to be a part of His “body,” His church, for you need the fellowship of others sinners like yourself who are being “saved by grace”: “In mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said” (Joel 2:32).
Jeremiah 29:14: “And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.”
Haggai 1:1: “In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying,”
Haggai 1:2: “Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’s house should be built.”
Haggai 1:3: “Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,”
Haggai 1:4: “Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste?”
Haggai 1:5: “Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.”
Haggai 1:6: “Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.”
Zechariah 1:1: “In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,”
Zechariah 1:2: “The LORD’s house should be built hath been sore displeased with your fathers.”
Zechariah 1:3: “Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts.”
Zechariah 1:4: “Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the LORD.”
David Irving is the author of a book, “Hitler’s War,” in which he denies that there were gas ovens at Auschwitz and that Hitler did not authorize the extermination of Jews. His book has stirred a storm of comment regarding historians. In France and Germany it is against the law to publish such statements that are considered historical lies. The comment in the press regarding Irving's book has stirred much discussion about the evil results of twisting and distorting historical facts. Irving “is a falsifier of history,” says Lawyer Richard Rampton.
The person who loves Bible truth is also concerned about the importance of historians telling the truth about history. He who lies about the past lies about the future; “we cannot escape history,” said Abraham Lincoln. A distorted or falsified history spells ruin for the future of a nation, which is why German leaders view with alarm all efforts to falsify the history of Germany’s past lest a future generation in ignorance or misinformation repeat that sad history. The same honest concern applies to the history of God’s work. The NIV for Jeremiah 8:8 reveals the prophet as telling the Kingdom of Judah that their historians have falsified their national history and in so doing plunged their nation into ruin. “How can you say, ‘We are wise for we have the law [torah] of the Lord,’ when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?” Likewise, the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ day “handled falsely” their history and thereby prepared to lead the nation to crucify the Son of God. A wise writer has warned the church that “we have nothing to fear for the future except as we forget the way the Lord has led us and His teaching in our past history.” Jesus says, “Take heed that no man deceive you” (Mt. 24:4).
To be deceived is not merely a temporary setback, it can be fatal.
In this time of great crisis for God’s work of proclaiming the gospel to all the world, it is especially important that the history of the work of the Holy Spirit not be “falsified” as wrote the ancient scribes in Jeremiah’s day. Those who dig into the facts of national or church history and present them honestly are to be welcomed not resented or silenced. “Prove all things,” says the inspired apostle, and ‘hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). You want your doctor to be careful and accurate when it comes to your health; it’s also important to remember that the health of the church is involved with honest history.
We have called upon church administration to face the truth of our history which Ellen White points out clearly. The four volumes of 1888 Materials which the White Estate published in 1987 gives her positive support of our presentations to church administration.
Her appraisal of our history is astonishing. She states emphatically, “An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth (the 1888 message), lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis. . . . Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart to them. . . . The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world” (1888 Materials, p.1575).
It is futile to profess belief in the Spirit of Prophecy and reject the testimony Ellen White repeatedly proclaims regarding the loss sustained at Minneapolis. A SPECIAL REPORT documents nine examples wherein the testimony of Ellen White is defied. It is this very situation that caused the Lord’s Messenger to proclaim that she was shown “again and again” the comparison between the Jews and ourselves.
Any number of world-wide baptisms will not cancel this testimony of the Lord’s Messenger. Until our history is accepted as presented by Ellen White probation cannot close. In this day of final atonement when the sanctuary shall be cleansed the Lord cannot overlook corporate sin any more than individual sin.
Zechariah 1:5: “Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever?”
The facts of this history remain just what they were over 100 years ago, “evidence heaped upon evidence” with the indictment—“Had Christ been before them, they would have treated him in a manner similar to that which the Jews treated Christ” (1888 Materials, p. 1479).
The whole world knows how the Jews brought Christ to trial and crucified Him, but how many know that in our history we would have done the same if Christ personally had been in our midst? Sadly our Adventist history has been likened to that of the Jewish nation—“The trials of the children of Israel, and their attitude just before the first coming of Christ, have been presented before me again and again to illustrate the position of the people of God in their experience before the second coming of Christ” (ibid. p. 533).
We have done a bit of research ourselves into the 1888 era of our history, and could come to no other conclusion than this: the 1888 message was intended by its Divine Author to have become the beginning of the latter rain and the loud cry. Accepted wholeheartedly by God’s people, it would have led to a preparation for translation.
Would you agree with this conclusion? You, of course, have access to the vault and to many documents we have never seen.
Another conclusion we felt forced to confess was that the 1888 message was rejected for what it really was—a revelation of the righteousness of Christ that is yet to enlighten the earth. We found that Sister White used the words “reject”, “rejection,” or “rejected” at least twenty-six times in her discussions of the reaction against the Minneapolis message; and dictionary synonyms of “reject” a further eighteen times. Some of our brethren prefer to use the milder expressions such as “resisted”, “unappreciated,” “never fully entered into,” etc., which of course express the same thought as the word “reject”. We felt driven by reiterated evidence to conclude that the initial manifestation of the loud cry was kept away from the world by the unbelief of God’s people, and that the finishing of God’s work has been consequently delayed.
But no amount of verbalism can alter a single, “Thus saith the Lord.” In the same way no amount of rationalization can alter one single page of our history as a people. Sooner or later we will have to face it the same as sooner or later the world will have to face the crucifixion of Christ. These are unalterable facts.
There is a crisis facing the church. We can go on indefinitely reaffirming our letters forbidding this one or that one to publish or agitate this manuscript. We think, however, it is evident that so long as a large and increasing number of workers and members in the field believe that the brethren are not willing to deal with this matter in a straight-forward, candid way, confusion will only increase. A truthful and clear settlement could be made soon, such that the Lord would bless and in so doing resolve the present confusion into that deep and lasting heart-unity that a denominational love for the truth alone can ensure. There is no crisis too great for the Lord to handle if we follow His counsel.
Our dealing with the brethren and our convictions have been registered in writing. The brethren have not seen fit to talk to us face to face on the matter in question—perhaps we are not worthy of this. But this we know—the matter will be settled and it can be settle in our day if we are willing to heed the counsel of the True Witness.
Zechariah 1:6: “But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? and they returned and said, Like as the LORD of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us.”
Nehemiah 1:5: “And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:
Nehemiah 1:6: “Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned.”
“There is constant danger that professing Christians will come to think that in order to have influence with [worldly people], they must to a certain extent conform to the world. But though such a course may appear to afford great advantages, it always ends in spiritual loss.”—Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 570,