Monday, April 22, 2013

"Lord of All Nations (Amos)"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Major Lessons From Minor Prophets
Lesson 4: "Lord of All Nations (Amos)"
In many respects Amos is a sad book to read. The reality of ancient Baal and idol worship was the worship of sex. "Everyone and his brother sleeps with the 'sacred whore'--a sacrilege against my Holy Name" (Amos 2:7, Peterson*). It was gross paganism imported into the sacred culture of Israel, God's true people on earth. It became so pervasive that eventually the nation was swallowed up by pagan nations and ceased to exist.
Why study Amos? Because the love of God inspired him to leave his home in the Southern Kingdom and go up to Israel as a missionary to try to turn them back to the worship of the true God (but only a few of the people responded to his earnest appeals to repent). The story of ancient Israel is uncannily similar to the professed religious culture in which we all live today. As you read Amos, you get the eerie feeling that he is God's messenger for our time.
Why, oh why, were God's true people, so unloving, so worldly, so apostate in the days of Amos? Why did they so often slide down into the alluring sexual immorality of the pagans? Through Amos God told Israel how in love He had afflicted them over and over, yet they "did not come back to Me." His discipline was virtually useless (4:8-11).
This painfully sad history was the direct fruitage of the old covenant pattern of thinking about God. It all began at Mt. Sinai when the people themselves rejected God's new covenant and embraced the "bondage" of the old covenant (Ex. 19:4-8; Gal. 4:24). Amos is "present truth." Those "ten tribes" were lost to history; it's healthy for "us" to ponder and tremble before God! Isn't it time that we learned the lesson?
The church of Laodicea is "lukewarm," unconscious of a vast poverty of Spirit in this hour of crisis (Rev. 3:14-21). Should we not learn lessons from history?
The prophet Amos pleaded with king and people to repent of their flagrant injustice, luxury, extravagance, and gross licentiousness--moral corruption flaunted in the face of God while the nation stood at the very brink of irredeemable disaster. Said Amos, "They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly" (Amos 5:10). The priests tried to expel Amos from the nation (7:10). But he hung on and told them, "I'll tear down the winter palace, smash the summer palace--all your fancy buildings. The luxury homes will be demolished, all those pretentious houses" (3:15, Peterson). "Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land" (7:17). "Time's up, O Israel! Prepare to meet your God" (4:12, Peterson). That's the promised Elijah message. [1]
As in John the Baptist's fulfillment of the Elijah message, so the message that comes "before the great and dreadful day of the Lord" will "make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17). It appears that "the third angel's message in verity" (Rev. 14:1-12) and the "Elijah message" are the same: repentance permeating the "body of Christ."
The great Protestant Reformation of justification by faith has prepared untold numbers of precious souls to come up in the "first resurrection" (see Rev. 20:6). They can be happy in the kingdom of God forever. Now we've come to the time when the Holy Spirit will reveal a clearer understanding of truth that prepares people for translation at the second coming of Jesus (see 1 Thess. 4:16, 17)--something to do with the "Elijah message." This means even deeper, clearer understandings of justification and righteousness by faith.
Such "turning hearts" is what the word "atonement" means; here is God's prophecy of the greatest ministry of heart-reconciliation the world has ever known since the days of Jesus. Elijah's message is the solemn call of the great antitypical Day of Atonement that closes the work of Christ as the world's High Priest. It's the "Loud Cry" of the angel of Revelation 18.
But the one heart that most needs "turning" is that of the Heroine in the drama of Revelation 19:7, 8--the alienated "Bride-to-be" of the Lamb, whose "marriage" has been long delayed due to her heart coldness toward Him. It's a world church that hasn't yet learned to recognize her own identity, to see herself as she appears pathetically on the stage of the universe.
The scholars and leaders of such a world church have long debated how the heart of such a massive corporate "body" can be "turned" and melted in personal but also corporate contrition. Let's not be unbelieving; unbelief here becomes the sin of the ages. "Elijah" will do what seems impossible.
Everything comes together: the "Elijah message" is that of the great "other angel" of Revelation 18:1-4; it's the final "everlasting gospel" of 14:6-15; it's the powerful repetition of "the fall of Babylon" of verse 8; it's the "witness" of the Lord Jesus [the 1888 message] [2] to "the angel of the church of the Laodiceans," the last of the seven churches of history (3:14-21); it's the call to "be zealous therefore and repent"; it's the appeal of the Disappointed Lover in the Song of Solomon to His Bride-to-be to consummate the long-delayed "marriage of the Lamb" (19:7, 8); and Elijah reconciles her heart to Him! And that means "atonement"--the cosmic Day of Atonement ministry centered in the sanctuary's Most Holy Apartment.
Elijah had no patience with the "prophets of Baal," but he had enormous patience and tenderness for the people. The people were sheep who had been led astray by their shepherds who had been supported from the national treasury. (Anyone who gains his livelihood administered from the sacred tithe should tremble before God.) Elijah's indignation was inspired by the Holy Spirit. It was the "righteous indignation" God expresses in Jeremiah 23 and Ezekiel 22 and 34 where He says "Woe be unto the pastors," the "shepherds," who are "profane," "who do feed themselves." Self-worship disguised as the worship, the ministry, of Christ! That is the essence of Baal worship. God hates it. "The lion has roared--who isn't frightened? God has spoken--what prophet can keep quiet?" "The fact is, God, the Master, does nothing, without first telling his prophets the whole story" (Amos 3:8, 7, Peterson).
But His heart yearns toward the people who are led astray, especially the youth and the children. "Elijah's" message will heal alienated hearts. Hardness will be melted. Through "the grace of God," not through harsh legalism, buried "roots of bitterness" will be exposed for what they are and a people will realize a precious oneness with Jesus (Zech. 13:1; Heb. 12:15). And, of course therefore, a precious oneness with one another! "Elijah's" message will do for God's people what it did for him--it prepared him for translation. Don't kid yourself: Satan will oppose that message hell-bound. But "the grace of God" will be much more abounding. God's people will respond to their High Priest.
--Paul E. Penno
The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language, Eugene H. Peterson.
[1] "In this age, just prior to the second coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven, God calls for men who will prepare a people to stand in the great day of the Lord. ... In these last days the Lord is giving messages to His people, through the instruments he has chosen, and he would have all heed the admonitions and warnings he sends. The message preceding the public ministry of Christ was, Repent, ... Our message is not to be one of peace and safety. As a people who believe in Christ's soon appearing, we have a definite message to bear,--'Prepare to meet thy God'" (Ellen G. White, "In the Spirit and Power of Elias," The Southern Watchman, March 21, 1905).
[2] "The message given us by A. T. Jones, and E. J. Waggoner is the message of God to the Laodicean church, and woe be unto anyone who professes to believe the truth and yet does not reflect to others the God-given rays" (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1052).
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Monday, April 15, 2013

SST # 3 | "A Holy and Just God (Joel)" Pastor Paul Penno

"A Holy and Just God (Joel)"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Major Lessons From Minor Prophets
Lesson 3: "A Holy and Just God (Joel)"

Our Seventh-day Adventist world church is experiencing a "revival and reformation" in seeking a preparation of heart for the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus Christ. Sincere people are pressing their petitions upon God's "throne of grace" (Heb. 4:16). It is increasingly being recognized that the last-days' developments are taking place before our eyes.
There is a promise in the little book of Joel that has been in effect since almost the beginning of time: "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered [saved]." The Lord goes on to promise that "deliverance" shall be "in the remnant whom the Lord shall call" (Joel 2:32). That's the gospel invitation, speaking of these dangerous last days when people's hearts are "failing them for fear."
As the Book of Joel opens, the prophet, relaying the "word of the Lord" that came to him, warns of terrible judgments, and he tries to wake the people up (1:5). His call to the "priests" and "ministers" is to "sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry unto the Lord" (1:14).
Why fasting? You long to understand what God is trying to say to you. So you pray; but is that enough? Joel helps understand the reason for fasting. In Joel 2:12 God says, "Turn ... to Me with all your heart, and with fasting." In other words, genuine rock-bottom sincerity is what the Lord wants to see, and you can't blame Him. You yourself are disgusted when people talk to you insincerely. When you pray, the Lord has a right to ask, "Do you really mean business or are you just playing?" It makes sense for Him to ask, "Are you in earnest enough to go to the next stage, 'fasting'?"
It was in times of great emergency that Israel would not only pray for "help," but fast. In our modern era, we must not forget that we are living in the great antitypical, cosmic Day of Atonement, anciently, the one day in the year when God asked Israel to fast (Lev. 23:27). We can't fast all the time, of course, but we can live humbly in the presence of the Lord, in self-denial, and not feast while fellow humans as dear to Christ as we are, starve.
One of the most beautiful verses in Joel for us, as Seventh-day Adventists, is in chapter 2: "Be glad ... and rejoice in the Lord your God: ... He will cause to come down for you the rain, ... the latter rain" (vs. 23). But some people are perplexed: what exactly is the "latter rain"?
The story of the "former rain" (see Joel 2:23) will help explain what is the "latter rain." It was at Pentecost that God's true people (those who believed in Christ) received the outpouring of God's true Holy Spirit. Now, after two millennia, we expect the gift of the Holy Spirit to be given again as the complement of the "former" blessing.
The "former rain" was the light of truth that was given as a gift--it was the perception of the truth that God's professed people had rejected, murdered, and crucified the Lord of glory. That blessing was not a loud noise so much as it was bright light: Peter proclaimed that those people present there had crucified the Messiah, the Son of God. "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart" (Acts 2:36, 37).
The "latter rain" is the final outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It will empower God's people to be His witnesses in the last conflict of the ages. Although the "former rain" at Pentecost was glorious, we are told that the final outpouring will be far greater in scope. Ellen G. White identified the 1888 message as "showers of the latter rain from heaven" (Special Testimonies, Series A, No. 6, p. 19). This is the message "The Lord in His great mercy sent" as "the beginning" of the loud cry message of Revelation 18:1-4 (Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91-93).
It was God's plan that the 1888 message of Christ's righteousness should go both to the church and to the world (ibid.; Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 234, 235). Revival, reformation, and repentance are essential to the church before the light of the fourth angel can shine clearly to the world at large. Therefore a message of much more abounding grace, which Ellen White declared to be the "beginning" of the latter rain must, in the providence of God, be brought to the church first. Such work is the purest soul-winning evangelism.
Rather than an old covenant message that is self-centered, the 1888 message revealed a new and higher motivation--a concern for the honor and vindication of Christ, as a bride feels for her husband. It transcends her own selfish desires. Faith is revealed as a heart-appreciation of the great love revealed at the cross, irrespective of our desire for reward or fear of hell. All self-centered motivation is transcended. No motivation possible can lead His people to overcome selfishness and sin except a concern for the honor and the integrity of His throne. But this motivation is all-powerful. It is New Testament faith!
The latter rain will therefore be a gift of the Holy Spirit that will bring the true and ultimate conviction of sin that only He can bring to human hearts: the guilt of the crucifixion of Christ is our sin. But that is a truth that we don't comprehend clearly, as yet. According to Zechariah 12:10-13:1, when God's people do grasp that reality, there will come the greatest repentance of the ages. It will become the "final" experience of reconciliation with Christ. This will make possible a movement, a second "Pentecost," a message to be proclaimed worldwide that will "lighten the earth with glory," and prepare a people for Christ's return.
The latter rain will be a clearer revelation of the gospel of righteousness by faith than we have yet discerned. The meaning of the Hebrew phrase in Joel 2:23 ["the early rain moderately"] is "a teacher of righteousness," linking the latter rain to the message of righteousness by faith.
The righteousness which our High Priest ministers to us from the second apartment of the heavenly sanctuary goes beyond a legal pardon for our sins. If it's merely a matter of adjusting our record of sin in the books of heaven, then we haven't advanced beyond the first apartment ministry and followed Christ into the most holy, and it will set us back centuries with the Evangelicals who have the "reformation gospel."
Rather, righteousness by faith since 1844 from the second apartment is seeing God's pardon of the sinner accomplished at the cross; and then "being justified by faith" (Rom. 5:1). "We have now received the atonement" (Rom. 5:11). It's a heart that has been captivated by God's divine agape which now motivates faith which is obedient to all the commandments of God.
Here is the key truth that is almost totally overlooked today--the initial showers of the latter rain were manifested in the "most precious message" of righteousness by faith which the Lord sent to this people in 1888. Further showers of the latter rain must necessarily include a recovery of that message, because Heaven's intent can never be defeated.
The second coming of Christ is the ultimate validation of the Seventh-day Adventist message. Our very name expresses our confidence in His soon coming. If Christ should never return, we have had no reason to exist as a people, and our 150 plus years of history are a delusion. As Paul says, we would then be "of all men most miserable" (1 Cor. 15:19). And even if His coming is certain, but is to be delayed for many decades or even centuries, we still have no reason to exist, for we have said repeatedly that His coming is near, because he has said so. Not our honor, but His is at stake.

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
(Compiled by Carol A. Kawamoto)
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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

SST # 2 | "Love and Judgment: God's Dilemma (Hosea)" Pastor Paul Penno

"Love and Judgment: God's Dilemma (Hosea)"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Major Lessons From Minor Prophets
Lesson 2: "Love and Judgment: God's Dilemma (Hosea)"
On Christ's part, to have to go on forgiving ad infinitum, generation after generation, century after century, loving His people with a conjugal love never requited must be agony for him. Must God's people be forever motivated by an egocentric desire for their personal reward of salvation? Can they never sense a concern for His heart-love, a purpose of their heart that He receive His reward, transcending their yearning for their reward? Can His Bride-to-be at last "make herself ready for the marriage of the Lamb" (Rev. 19:7, 8)?
The book of Hosea says "yes!" It tells us to take heart; as Gomer at last grew up, we can grow up too!
Why is Hosea in the Bible? Hosea was the Lord's last effort to save Israel from ruin by the Assyrians. They put an end to the kingdom in 723 B.C. after their impenitence was hopeless. Elijah had tried to save them some 150 years earlier; what made the problem most difficult was that under Jeroboam II the kingdom had enjoyed great prosperity and material success. Just like Laodicea, the people and their spiritual leaders continually said we are "rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing" (Rev. 3:14-17). Hosea's Israel and our Laodicea have an identical problem.
The prophets who were deep-feeling had an insight into the pain that the God of Israel was suffering, century after century. Solomon had sensed that God's love for Israel was that of a Lover (Song of Solomon). Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, wrote of it (see Ezekiel 16).
It's true that God has always loved the whole world which has rejected Him; but there is a difference in Israel's rejection of Him. Christ's love for Israel was conjugal. Hope sprang eternal in His heart. Here was the "chosen one" who could appreciate Him and in that sense return His love.
Israel did "return" His love. We read of the reformations and repentances that fill the Old Testament story of the Judges, the reigns of Kings Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah. But time after time, Christ's love was disappointed, and His "chosen one" embarrassed Him before the world and before the universe and then crucified Him.
What is the cause of "backsliding"? From time immemorial it has been the problem of God's true people. God says through Hosea they are "bent to backsliding from Me" (Hosea 11:7). Their backsliding was apparent as early as the time of the Judges just after the time of Moses. The story is up and down continually, mostly down, right on through the major and minor prophets of the Old Testament. Finally in 586 B.C. the kingdom of Judah (God's true people) suffered a massive destruction. But even in Babylon and ever afterward, the "backsliding" went on until they rejected and murdered the Son of God. The word "backsliding" does not occur in the New Testament, but the word "lukewarm" is there, just as bad, maybe worse, describing God's true people in these last days (Rev. 3:15, 16).
Why is it that so often after we have had a wonderful series of "revival meetings" and our hearts have been stirred, then after a few weeks we find we have begun "backsliding" again? The world has crept in; we have gotten too busy to keep our promise to give the Lord quality time in Bible study and prayer and witnessing, and again we lose that plateau experience. Is it possible that there is a fundamental reason why this problem has gone on for these thousands of years, ever since Moses?
The problem began at Mt. Sinai; from that truly "mountain-top" experience in meeting the Lord and hearing Him speak His holy law with His own voice with fire and thunder and earthquakes, in only a few weeks the people had backslidden to worshipping idols (Ex. 32:1-6)! The problem was they had fastened themselves their old covenant promise to be good and do everything just right (Ex. 19:8). We need to believe God's new covenant promises.
Backsliding is a repeat of the decline and fall of the kingdom of Israel. The prophet Hosea pleaded with kings and people to repent of their flagrant injustice, luxury, extravagance, and gross licentiousness--moral corruption flaunted in the face of God while the nation stood at the very brink of irredeemable disaster. "O Israel," said Hosea, "thou hast destroyed thyself!" (Hosea 13:9, 10). "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge" (4:6).
A few conscientious people emigrated to the kingdom of Judah where the Passover was still kept (2 Chron. 30:10-13), but Israel itself vanished from the face of the earth, overrun by Assyria. God withdrew His Holy Spirit after being repeatedly beaten off (Hosea 4:17). But there was good news. As Israel's Titanic went down, there was a Lifeboat for all who would repent: "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely," said the Lord (14:4).
That healing involves the latter rain. Are you ready for the latter rain? For years Christians have been anticipating the last day outpouring of the Holy Spirit before the second coming of Jesus Christ from heaven.
Paul in Romans 10:3 said Israel was ignorant of God's righteousness, and were going about to establish their own righteousness. A realization of what it cost Jesus Christ to redeem our fallen world will be at the foundation of preparing God's people to receive the latter rain.
If we begin to know that Jesus Christ completely identified Himself with our fallen human nature, and died and brought us with Him from that doom of an eternal grave, and rose again because of our justification (Rom. 4:25), when this realization dawns on our self-centered consciousness, and "we follow on to know the Lord, … He shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth" (Hosea 6:1-3). It will only be when God's people realize that it is their iniquities, their perverseness, their revolting and rebellious hearts, and their continuing on in the rejection of the knowledge of His righteousness.
1888 is to the Seventh-day Adventist Church what Calvary is to the Jews. Most Jews are like Seventh-day Adventists, occupied with "just keeping their personal lives together" who could care less about what happened nearly 2000 years ago, just like "we" care less about what happened over 100 years ago. But the 1888 message was the "beginning" of the latter rain and the loud cry of Revelation 18--and we failed miserably, "just like the Jews," says Ellen White, and she tells the naked truth. [1] It was the Lord's method of infusing every Seventh-day Adventist congregation with the warmth of genuine agape-love, to make them "foremost in uplifting Christ before the world." [2] The terrible lukewarmness, legalism, criticism, and bitterness we rightly weep over are the century-old byproducts of that rejection of truth.
The beautiful message of Christ's much more abounding grace has "in a great degree" been kept away from our people and from the world itself. [3] So, the critics and legalists have a field day decrying "abounding sin" within the church, almost totally ignorant of much more abounding grace.
Some feel it is sheer nonsense that we are in any wise guilty of the sin of 1888. Jesus recognized the principle of corporate guilt and the necessity for corporate repentance. In fact, Pentecost itself was the direct consequence of recognizing corporate guilt and receiving the gift of corporate repentance: "Let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that … ye have crucified ... Christ" (Acts 2:36); "ye denied the Holy One and the Just ... and killed the Prince of life. ... Through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers" (3:14, 15). Peter clearly fixes the guilt on "all the house of Israel," although comparatively speaking only a few actually took part in it.
When we choose to know the Lord as He has revealed Himself in our 1888 history, He shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain to the earth. The blessed latter rain will fall, and what a refreshing it will be.
--Paul E. Penno
[1] "When the Jews took the first step in the rejection of Christ, they took a dangerous step. When afterward evidence accumulated that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, they were too proud to acknowledge that they had erred. So with the people of our day who reject the truth. They do not take time to investigate candidly, with earnest prayer, the evidences of the truth, and they oppose that which they do not understand. Just like the Jews, they take it for granted they have all the truth, and feel a sort of contempt for anyone who should suppose they had more correct ideas than themselves of what is truth" (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 169, 170).
[2] Evangelism, p. 188.
[3] Selected Messages, vol. 1, pp. 234, 235.
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Friday, April 5, 2013

SST #1 | "Spiritual Adultery" (Hosea) Pastor Paul Penno

"Spiritual Adultery (Hosea)"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Major Lessons From Minor Prophets
Lesson 1: "Spiritual Adultery (Hosea)"

There is a major lesson taught by a minor prophet which brings hope for a modern church that has lapsed into unknown "spiritual adultery." Our Sabbath School quarterly, Major Lessons from Minor Prophets, does an excellent job in telling us what the book of Hosea meant for ancient Israel; however, it provides no help for its "present truth" application to modern Israel. The central feature of the 1888 message was to restore the agape of God. Devout people wrestle with the story: when we read that "the Lord said to Hosea: 'Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry ...'" (Hosea 1:2, NKJV).
Normally we would expect that a young pastor who is being led by the Lord will guard his affections and keep them from being fixed on a woman of unfaithful character who would ruin his pastoral ministry. But this story is different. The Lord actually gave Hosea love for this unfaithful woman because He said, "Go again, love" that woman!
Hosea has received an expensive gift from the Lord--a love that he cannot forget. Gomer was his first love, obviously; he was forever captive to her. God has written love into human nature. "Love is a precious gift, which we receive from Jesus." [1] The writing was done in Eden: "A man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife" (Gen. 2:24). The "cleaving" is so strong that it's the hardest thing in the world to commit adultery if that seventh commandment of love is written in the heart.
Hosea's captivity to Gomer illustrates Christ's love for a corporate body of humanity which is His church whom He loves expensively. He is captive to "her." The superficial and callous and hard-hearted look upon a lost "love" is just like getting another car; Christ can't do that. He can't dump that one church whom He loves and go "marry" another, even though "she" has been callously indifferent to Him, has actually "insulted" Him, and has broken His heart. He is captive to the same love that Hosea was captive to.
The surest way to understand the Hosea story is to read it in the light of its great antitype--the love of Christ for His church. Then it becomes poignant.
With Hosea and Gomer, a union of love does take place. But aspiritual cancer begins to destroy Gomer's heart. She flirts with other men,--a frivolous woman actually becomes a prostitute.
The plot thickens, and takes a turn almost unknown in human experience. Gomer is abandoned by her lovers and ends up being sold into slavery. Hosea hears that she sits forlorn in the slave market, dressed in rags and reclaims her.
Here's where something not normal takes place and the Book ofHosea breaks new ground: it's not because he has pity on her as a decent man would pity a wounded creature, but wonder of wonders, he still loves her.
When you truly love a woman who loves you and commits herself to you, and then she betrays you, your heart is broken. The sunshine goes out, and the darkness is a bitterness almost like hell.
The question we ask is, Can God feel such pain? Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity in general, have long assumed that the answer is, No. He is impassible, impervious to the heart-pain we feel. Could the Seventh-day Adventist Church be dwelling in that twilight zone of the impassibility of Christ? We may rejoice that He "is touched with the feeling of our infirmities," but can we be touched with the feeling of His pain?
Christ's message to Laodicea stabs us awake. Here is a divine Lover who suffers rejection, based on the vivid scene of the girl who rebuffs her lover in Song of Solomon 5:2. [2] But the Song may not have been understood at the time of its writing. Hosea (about 785 B. C.) invests it with meaning, the first portrayal in Scripture of a divine Husband enduring rejection by the "woman" to whom He is captive in His love. Like Hosea, the heavenly Husband cannot forget the one He loves and replace her. God permitted the hapless Hosea to suffer this crowning human pain because, He says, "this will illustrate the way My people have been untrue to Me." [3]
If the object of Christ's love plays false to Him, can He simply shrug His shoulders and replace her with another "object [of] ... His supreme regard"? [4] Hosea couldn't, and neither can Christ. Offshoots of the Seventh-day Adventist Church proliferate because of a failure to understand this divine mystery of love. They assume that Christ's outrage at her infidelity prompts Him to choose another to take her place. [5] But this can never be!
It may be hard for us to picture a grieving husband who not only loves his faithless wife but, greater still, also has the wisdom to "save" her. Such was Hosea; and such is Christ. Not only a "husband" to her, He is also "the Saviour of the body" (Eph. 5:23). The glad news is thatHosea actually redeemed Gomer to a new life of purity and fidelity, and we are entitled to see them walking off-stage hand in hand in a love that is fulfilled, secure at last in each other's fidelity. We can be sure that the Lord would not withhold from Hosea the vindication of his earthly love which was so prophetic of His at-last-vindicated divine love.
Gomer returned to Hosea "trembling, submissive," repentant, rejoicing the heart of the one who had loved her all along, as surely as Israel was to return at last to the Lord. All should listen who may doubt that a husband's love can win over a wife's infidelity!
The prophecy implicit in Hosea has to be good news for a remnant church that well over a century later is enmeshed in a vast worldwide lethargy, torn with dissension, suspicion, and offshoots. As surely as Gomer at last responded to Hosea's undying love, so surely will the corporate church respond at last to Christ's undying agape. Christ gave Himself in death for this church; His sacrifice cannot prove a failure; a repentant humanity cannot remain more faithless to Him than was the repentant heroine of the Book of Hosea to her earthly husband; God has faith in us that must not prove futile.
How can we let Hosea be more successful than Christ if Christ risked everything in His sacrifice. Unless His church does overcome at last in order to become His repentant and faithful Bride, His sacrifice willbe in vain.
Gomer's repentance foretells Laodicea's. Christ "shall see the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied" (Isa. 53:11). "The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains, while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out--the chaff separated from the precious wheat. This is a terrible ordeal, but nevertheless it must take place." "They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for Him." There will be a response from "the house of David, and ... the inhabitants of Jerusalem." [6] Discouraged Adventists should not disbelieve the good news in Hosea!
Speaking through Hosea, the Lord assures faithless Israel of a happy reunion: "They will return to the Lord their God, and to the Messiah, their King, and they shall come trembling, submissive to the Lord and to his blessings, in the end times." [7] Since agape is a love that creates value in its object, not dependent on its good qualities, it will create repentance within the church where self-centered fear or hope of reward have failed.
--Paul E. Penno
[1] Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home, p. 50.
[2] Revelation 3:20 is a direct quotation from the Septuagint (LXX) rendering of Song of Solomon 5:2.
[3] Hosea 1:2, The Living Bible (LB).
[4] Cf. Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 49.
[5] Before we blame the offshoots and "independent ministries," we must remember that "we" have programmed them to a separation-mentality. We have "in a great degree" kept from the world church the knowledge of agape-love inherent in the 1888 message and the delay in the "wedding" occasioned by the 1888 unbelief. In a blithe and carefree way we have "insulted" the Holy Spirit and have not communicated to the church the pain it has caused Christ. Thus an egocentric mindset has permeated the church.
[6] The Upward Look, p. 356; Zech. 12:10-13:1.
[7] Hosea 3:5, LB.
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