Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"Through a Glass, Darkly"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Lesson 7: "Through a Glass, Darkly"
When John F. Kennedy, Jr., died in an airplane accident, the media conjectured the family was under a fated "curse." Are we earth-bound sinners under a "curse" along with our planet home? Why must nature be cruel and deadly? What does the Bible say about the "good" in creation and its manifest evil? Is there any hope for a world of losers in the clarity of the everlasting gospel?
The psalmist declares, "O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all" (Psalm 104:24). How could a God who "saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31) have created poisonous plants, diseased microbes, the scorpion, and carnivorous wild animals? Can the Christian possibly harmonize such obvious anomalies in nature?
Nature faintly reflects the original edenic beauty blighted and married as it is by sin, but the flowers and trees are a testimony of "the skillful Master Artist." The briers, thistles, thorns, and tares are reminders that the earth suffers under a "curse," "the law of condemnation." But the beauty of nature witnesses that "God still loves us, that His mercy is not wholly withdrawn from the earth." [1]
The first clue to a nature infested with death, ugliness, and tooth and claw competition occurs in the Bible statement. "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you" (Gen. 3:17, 18, NIV). The ground was cursed because of Adam's sin. The inevitable consequences of permitting Satan control over the forces of nature and human beings was a curse.
After Cain killed his brother Abel, God said "now art thou cursed from the earth" because of "thy brother's blood from thy hand" (Gen. 4:11). Now "a double curse rested upon" the earth. [2]
Two thousand years later the earth passed through a crisis brought on by man's actions. God said, "My Spirit shall not always strive with man" (Gen. 6:3). Men rejected the Spirit of God. The "violence through them" was so heinous that God told Noah, "I will destroy them with the earth" (vs. 13). The flood of Noah's time was a global geological catastrophe which upset the whole balance of nature.
Christ, in His parable comparing the impact of the gospel on people's minds, explained the existence of the unconverted in the church through the symbolism of the tares or weeds among the wheat. When asked where the tares came from, He said: "An enemy hath done this" (Matt. 13:28). His answer is also symbolic of the origin of thorns, thistles, poisonous plants and animals, and the carnage and evil one sees throughout nature. Satan and men are systematically destroying God's creation on earth.
The earth is caught up in the midst of a conflict between two opposing forces--good and evil--a fact which few would deny. The battle began with the spiritual fall of one human being, Adam. Adam doomed mankind to eventual destruction.
Our concern is to understand this problem of a "curse." Often sincere people for whom many things go wrong wonder if they are under some kind of curse imposed by Fate because of the foibles of an ancestor. Yes, the Bible often speaks of the reality of a curse--about 200 times. The first one recorded is not against any human beings, but against Satan: "The Lord God said unto the serpent, … Thou artcursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field ..." And the Lord told him that the coming Savior of the world would stamp on his head (Gen 3:14, 15). No human being has ever been under a curse from heaven unless he/she has sided with the devil and chosen to share his curse.
An example of this is the Jews who cried out for Jesus to be crucified, "His blood be on us, and on our children"? (Matt. 27:25). Is it fair for God to hold innocent children accountable for the sin of their parents? No, it would not be fair; and God does not do that. What happened in the case of those who crucified Christ is that they, not God, separated themselves from His presence. "Your house is left unto you desolate," Jesus told them when they had rejected Him finally (Matt. 23:38). The Spirit of God simply withdrew His holy presence; and then, without His special favor and protection, the people were left to themselves. Anyone left to himself comes to grief! Thenceforth, parents reared their children without benefit of the special blessing of the Lord; they taught them to share in their rebellion against God. But at any moment, any such child is free to believe the gospel, to repent, and to receive the blessing of God. "In Christ" every curse is canceled, because He was "made … to be sin [a curse] for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21).
There are people in primitive societies and some in highly developed ones, who lie down and die when there is no physical illness or cause to die. They think they are under a "curse" imposed by some enemy. This belief in Fate is related to the belief in karma. These dear people are among those Paul speaks of who "through fear of death [are] all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb. 2:15).
You can live a dare-devil "so-what" life. People live recklessly, who decide to "enjoy" life while they can until the "curse" hits them. This is the philosophy popular in Paul's day, "Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die" (1 Cor. 15:32). This was the attitude of gladiators who fought with wild beasts in the Coliseum; their human life was cheap.
You can be delivered from the unhappy fatalism that shadows your soul beneath the constant smile you put on. The truth of God's good news sets you free (John 8:32). Christ has conquered Satan, canceled all his curses, taken upon Himself your sin as well as the sins of your ancestors. We need not suffer under any "curse" unless we choose it. The dynamic clarity of the 1888 message has helped us to see something in this text: "Christ hath redeemed us from thecurse of the law [the second death], being made a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13). How? Because He died on a tree. His cross was the lightning-rod that attracted the ultimate curse, the total that Satan could invent. Live, then, in the light of that cross!
--Paul E. Penno
Endnotes (Ellen G. White):
[1] Selected Messages, book 1, p. 291.
[2] "The curse upon the ground at first had been felt but lightly; but now a double curse rested upon it" (The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, p. 57).However, notice God's mercy toward Cain. "Notwithstanding that Cain had by his crimes merited the sentence of death, a merciful Creator still spared his life, and granted him opportunity for repentance" (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 78).
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