Monday, February 27, 2012

"The Bible and History"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Glimpses of Our God
Lesson 9: "The Bible and History"

Author David Irving has lied about Germany's history by denying that Hitler authorized the extermination of the Jews at Auschwitz. He has been labeled " a falsifier of history." He who lies about the past lies about the future. A distorted history spells ruin for the future of a nation lest future generations in ignorance repeat that sad history.

Jeremiah told the Kingdom of Judah that their historians had lied about their history. " 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?" (Jer. 8:8, NIV). 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. Ellen G. White has warned the church that " we have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history." [1]

Denominational leaders agonize over the worldliness and lukewarmness of the church. Is Heaven concerned also? It's the most difficult problem the Lord has wrestled with in 6000 years!
We are told to pray more for the latter rain. Good! The church will never been revived and awakened without it. However, we have been praying for the latter rain for 150 years, including the more recent Operation Global Rain, but the earth has not yet been " lightened with His glory" (Rev. 18:1, KJV). The Jews at the Wailing Wall are also praying, incessantly, for their Messiah to come. But they first have a duty to do—to read Isaiah 53 and the New Testament and recover faith in the Messiah whom their fathers crucified, and repent. Does Heaven see that we also have a duty to do before our prayers for the latter rain can be answered?

Another popular solution to arouse a lethargic church is, " Put the members to work winning souls. That will revive them." But how do you get a lukewarm church to work, other than in spurts? If we baptized a billion new members, they would soon catch the same lukewarmness virus.

Our problem of worldliness has been with us for a long time. Ancient Israel's experience illuminates ours. Abraham's justification by faith was to have been the guiding light of a nation's world mission. " In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed," the Lord promised (Gen. 12:3). Abraham made no promise in return; all he did was believe the Lord's promise (Gen. 15:6). That promise of God was the new covenant.

Before the giving of the law at Sinai with " thunders, and lightings," earthquake, fire, and the death boundary, the Lord tried to re-establish the same new covenant with Abraham's descendants: " If you will indeed [listen (Hebrew) to] My voice and keep [cherish, Hebrew] My covenant [His new covenant promise to Abraham], then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people" (Ex. 19:5). Of all nations in the world, they were to be " the head and not the tail" (Deut. 28:13). But Mt. Sinai was the turning point in the nation's destiny, for they refused the Lord's new covenant of justification by faith. Instead of humbly saying " Amen" to God's promise as Abraham did (the Hebrew word for " believe" is amen), the people promised a works program of obedience, " All that the Lord has spoken wewill do" (Ex. 19:8). That was the old covenant. The nation bound themselves to a long detour that would finally lead them to the terrible deed of Christ's crucifixion.

Kings David and Solomon understood for a time the Lord's new covenant promise of Israel's total national preeminence in the world (1 Chron. 17:9, 10; 1 Kings 8:60). This meant that there were to be no cruel world empires to trample down the earth, such as Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Grecia or Rome. Israel would have remained forever the benevolent super-power of the world.

But following the division of the kingdom into north and south in 933 B.C., two fantastic phenomena evolved side by side: apostasy deepening in both Israel and Judah, paralleled by Assyria's growing terrorism. As God's people's apostasy became almost total, Babylon's and at last Rome's rule became ever more oppressive.

Who can imagine how much needless suffering the world at large had to endure! It all came as the direct result of the old covenant which Israel fastened upon themselves at Sinai. This fatal choice was the beginning of the detour which must after many centuries finally lead God's people back to the justification by faith that Abraham experienced. There is no evidence that any king after David truly understood it. Probably Paul was the first to discern this significance of Israelite history as a detour leading back eventually to the new covenant given to Abraham: " The law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (Gal. 3:24).

A bird's-eye view of Israel's story demonstrates old covenant unbelief impelling them to final ruin. Not one ruler of the northern kingdom ever did what was " right," although the Lord pleaded with them by numerous prophets and messengers (2 Kings 17:13, 14). Finally in 722 B.C. Assyria crushed them forever as a nation and scattered them irrevocably among the Gentiles. Even " the tail" disappeared.

Meanwhile, Judah steadily rebelled. Several of their kings did desperately try a stop-gap of revival and reformation, such as Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and last of all, beloved young Josiah. But Scripture shows that each simply tried to renew an old covenant revival. Never was new covenant justification by faith recovered. They were sincerely blind to the faith which Abraham had experienced. The problem was not that they had an " organization;" it was their heart-alienation.

Josiah was the last reprieve. This young king's zeal for the Lord was unbounded (639-608 B.C.). Again, in deep piety he sought to renew the old covenant: " He made all who were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin take their stand for it" (2 Chron. 34:31, 32). Never had a king so meticulously obeyed the written word. The young Jeremiah rejoiced. But while maintaining such devotion to the written Spirit of Prophecy, Josiah managed to reject its living demonstration. The problem was that the renewed " spiritual gift" came through the most unlikely avenue that king or people could imagine—the mouth of a supposedly pagan king! (35:2-24).

Like Josiah, is it possible for us as Seventh-day Adventists to think we are super-loyal to " the Spirit of Prophecy" while at the same time rejecting its living demonstration? That actually happened in 1888; our brethren were replaying Josiah's " tape." In rejecting that " most precious message" " sent from heaven" they imagined they were loyal to Ellen White's past writings while setting aside the Lord's living message. [2]

The faith-experience of the new covenant was the main focus of leadership-opposition to the 1888 message. While they opposed Jones and Waggoner, they actually preferred the essential themes of the old covenant. Ellen White was shown in vision that these revered leaders were wasting their time trying to urge a view different from Waggoner's, for she was " shown" that he was right. [3]

Who can estimate the confusion and tragic apostasies that have come because of the unsatisfied hunger within the church (and the world) for that " most precious" gospel? Speaking of Uzzah irreverently grabbing the sacred ark, Ellen White in 1890 pleaded with her brethren, " Take your hand off the ark of God, and let the Spirit of God come in and work in mighty power." [4]

That little word " let" means that the Holy Spirit is eager to go to " work." When that new covenant message is rescued from the oblivion of the archives, He can feed it like heavenly manna to our famishing world.

Paul E. Penno

[1] Ellen White, Life Sketches, p. 196.
[2] See, for example, Uriah Smith's and G. I. Butler's letters to Ellen White of Feb. 17, 1890, Sept. 24, 1892 (Manuscripts and Memories of Minneapolis 1888, pp. 152-157, 206-212). The Lord not only sent " prophets" to Israel, but " messengers" also (2 Chron. 36:16).
[3] See Ellen White Letters 30, 59, 1890; The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 622-626, 599-605. (These letters are posted at:
[4] 1888 Materials, p. 543.

Note: Bible texts are from the New King James Version unless noted otherwise.
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