Tuesday, May 28, 2013

SST # 9 | "The Day of the Lord" (Zephaniah) Pastor Paul Penno

Lesson 9: "The Day of the Lord (Zephaniah)"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Major Lessons From Minor Prophets
Lesson 9: "The Day of the Lord (Zephaniah)"

If you knew that God's Judgment Day was about appreciating "the unparalleled love of Christ," [1] would that change its aspect of terror into good news? This is exactly what the Lord is trying to say to His remnant people in the last days through "a most precious message" which began in 1888.
The theme of the book of Zephaniah is "the day of the Lord." This day involves two aspects:judgment and restoration. The purging judgment will bring the hope of a worldwide remnant.
The reason why God announced judgment day upon His ancient church was that the leaders were chiefly responsible for the ills of society. The government, the judicial system, and the religious leaders were all corrupt and perverse. "Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, ... Her princes ... are roaring lions; her judges are ... wolves. ... Her prophets are light and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary" (Zeph. 3:1-4).
Quoting Zephaniah 1:15, 16, Ellen White writes, God "calls upon his people to arouse from their spiritual lethargy and to seek his face with repentance and humiliation." [2] But they sit "it out, fat and lazy, amusing themselves and taking it easy" (Zeph. 1:12The Message, Peterson). They don't feel threatened by God's judgment at all.
They demonstrate pride and arrogance. "This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me" (Zeph. 2:15). Pride of institutional staying power and rapid statistical growth may not be the measure of success for God's people. "It is not wise to open up more fields than can be thoroughly worked." Because there has been "selfishness from the first" in "the hearts of the laborers. ... jealousies, evil surmisings, envyings have built up barriers between you and God, making it impossible for the Lord to do His work. ..." [3]
The great problem with the ancient church was with its teachers, preachers, and scholars. "The prophets are irresponsible and treacherous; the priests defile what is sacred, and twist the law of God to their own advantage" (Zeph. 3:4, Good News Bible). The spirit of prophecy has alerted us that "every variety of error will be brought out in the mysterious working of Satan, which would, if it were possible, deceive the very elect, and turn them from the truth. There will be human wisdom to meet,--the wisdom of learned men, who, as were the Pharisees, are teachers of the law of God, but do not obey the law themselves." [4]
There is just such human wisdom to meet in theories of righteousness by faith which disparage the law of God. In other words, there are "gospels" being taught and proclaimed which are anti-law.
Any gospel which teaches that eternal life is offered to all, but it doesn't do you any good until you believe and have a saving relationship with Jesus, makes faith a human work which initiates personal salvation. The appeal is to individual repentance because there is a heaven to win and a hell to shun. The motivation is to save your own individual soul. But there is no self-interest in God's law of love. If one can be saved in their selfishness, such a gospel is anti-law.
To the degree that this view of righteousness by faith, and variations of it, have infiltrated our thinking through our educational institutions, print media, administrative policies, and evangelistic agencies, the investigative judgment ministry of our High Priest seeks to reveal them to us in order to purify His people.
The only authentic righteousness by faith is the sanctuary gospel. What Christ accomplished on His cross is an effective, life-saving reversal of the condemnation brought upon the human race by the first Adam. Christ has actually given the "acquittal and life" to every one (Rom. 5:18, The Revised English Bible). His sacrificial divine love melts the human heart in repentance for sin so that faith appreciates what it cost the dear Son of God to die the sinner's second death. She receives the atonement which God gives (Rom. 5:11). This means that faith works by love and is obedient to all the commandments of God. [5] This gospel is in harmony with God's law. It is "the truth of the gospel" revealed from the sanctuary.
In an article entitled "The Laodicean Church," Ellen White makes application of the book of Zephaniah to modern Israel. "Those who work in the fear of God to rid the church ofhindrances, and to correct grievous wrongs, that the people of God may see the necessity of abhorring sin, and that they may prosper in purity, and the name of God be glorified, will ever meet with resisting influences from the unconsecrated. Zephaniah describes the true state of this class, and the terrible judgments that will come upon them." [6]
While the message to the Laodicean Church is given, there will be two opposite "confessions of sin:" one genuine and the other spurious: "Confessions of sin made at the right time to relieve the people of God will be accepted of him. But there are those among us who will make confessions, as did Achan, too late to save themselves. ... They despise the straight testimony that reaches the heart, and they would rejoice to see every one silenced that gives reproof." [7]
The dreaded "investigative judgment" is precious good news; the books of heaven are merely faithful reflections of our hearts; their "cleansing" in the sanctuary can not be done until first our hearts down here are cleansed. The Lord will do it, if we will stop hindering Him!
Someone has been starving us of our God-given spiritual nutrition if fear dominates our thinking about a pre-Advent judgment, because John says that "perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment" (1 John 4:18, NKJV). If the fear is still there, then a true understanding of the gospel is absent! It would be impossible for such fear to grip our youth in this 21st century if "we" had accepted "the most precious message" in the 1888 era and since. A special idea, agape (love), is the basic idea of the message, and it's that agapethat "casts out fear."
It will be a long-awaited union of hearts--Christ and His people--His church. The union will be as close as that of a bride with her husband (Rev. 19:7, 8). The pre-Advent judgment that so terrifies many becomes like the joy of a wedding! "Let us be glad and rejoice" is the heart cry of those who open their hearts to the "most precious" message of much more abounding grace. It's what the Holy Spirit has been seeking to impress on our hearts all these many, many decades!
But please remember, this is not "cheap grace." Such more abounding grace motivates the believer to unending devotion, total obedience to God's law (not from fear, but from joy), total heart-reconciliation with Him. Let's stop resisting His grace!
--Paul E. Penno
[1] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1076.
[2] Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 311.
[3] "What Might Have Been Accomplished If Selfishness Had Been Eradicated." Manuscript Releases, Vol. 11, pp. 80-81. Letter 3, 1892 (Ellen G. White to W. D. Curtis, Jan. 16, 1892.)
[4] Ellen G. White, "Erroneous Doctrines Dangerous," Signs of the Times, March 27, 1884.
[5] Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92.
[6] Ellen G. White, "The Laodicean Church," Review and Herald, September 23, 1873.
[7] Ibid.
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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"Trusting God's Goodness (Habakkuk)"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Major Lessons From Minor Prophets
Lesson 8: "Trusting God's Goodness (Habakkuk)"
"The LORD is in His holy temple" (Hab. 2:20), and "the just shall live by His faith" (vs. 4).
Habakkuk is a tiny book tucked away in an obscure spot in the Old Testament where few people ever see it. The key to the Book of Habakkuk is the clarity of the 1888 message. The "present truth" of Habakkuk is the "joining together [of] the true biblical idea of justification by faith with the unique idea of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. This is a Bible truth that the world is waiting to discover. It forms the essential element of truth that will yet lighten the earth with the glory of a final, fully developed presentation of 'the everlasting gospel' of Revelation 14 and 18." [1]
"The subject of the sanctuary was the key which unlocked the mystery of the disappointment, showing that God had led his people in the great Advent movement. It opened to view a complete system of truth, connected and harmonious, and revealed present duty as it brought to light the position and work of God's people." [2]
"Christ, His character and work, is the center and circumference of all truth. He is the chain upon which the jewels of doctrine are linked. In Him is found the complete system of truth." [3]
Habakkuk's opening cry of "How long?" is reminiscent of the same question posed in Daniel 8:13,14: "Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to that certain one who was speaking, 'How long will the vision be, ...' And he said to me, 'For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.'"
There is something about justification by faith and the sanctuary truth that the whole world is about realize. Habakkuk wrote a big idea with these words: "the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him" (2:20). This sanctuary truth is to command the attention of the whole earth in silence!
The Quarterly rightly stated in Monday's lesson that: "Habakkuk 2:2-4 is one of the most important passages in the Bible. Verse 4, in particular, expresses the essence of the gospel." And "Verse 4 is a summary statement of the way of salvation and of the biblical teaching about justification by faith."
We have seen though that the 1888 "most precious message" is the combining of justification by faith and the unique Adventist doctrine of the cleansing of the sanctuary. By and through the faith of Jesus we are justified by His faith. It is not as some would have us to believe, just credited to us, but is actual in its creative work of love making of us "new creatures." "And thus it is that for the sins which we have actually committed, for the sins that are past, His righteousness, is imputed to us, as our sins are imputed to Him. And to keep us from sinning, His righteousness is imparted to us in our flesh, as our flesh, with its liability to sin, was imparted to Him." [4]
"'Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith' (Hab. 2:4). Faith and humility are inseparable. We ask again, 'Why does a man exercise faith in Christ?' Simply because he feels a need of Christ; he has no confidence in his own strength, and feels that without Christ he must perish. It is not natural for the human heart to acknowledge another as superior. 'The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.' Independence, boastfulness, and self-conceit are natural to the human heart. But 'if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.' He became a new creature in consequence of acknowledging his wretched sinfulness, and pleading for mercy through Christ." [5]
The phrase "His faith" refers to "the faith of Jesus." Jesus is the author and finisher of faith--faith originates with Him and there can be no other faith than His (Heb. 12:2). There is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph. 4:5). This "one faith" is the faith of Jesus. It is dealt to each man as a gift (Rom. 12:3). Faith is not a part of man's natural equipment; this is why God deals the faith of Jesus to each one of us. If man had his own faith, there would be no need to give it to us. It is said to be "our faith" because of the location from which it is exercised--from within us.
The faith that "the just shall live by" is the very same faith of Jesus, which He exercised over and over again while on earth. It is tested, tried and true. It is strong and invincible. His faith has overcome and conquered all sin in our flesh--it is a victorious faith working through love and fulfilling the righteous requirements of the law within us (Rom. 8:3, 4). Galatians 5:6 teaches us that it is "faith working through love" that accomplishes all things, not us. All genuine obedience is motivated by His faith, and therefore there is no chance for us to be lifted up, since the act of obedience is not our personal action, but is the action of His faith, and yet credited to us as our own.Muscles like faith are good, but neither one is of much help if not used.
So, when we read things like "your faith has made you whole," we know that it was the faith of Jesus, exercised by and within the individual and counted as if it were their own.
It is the faith of Jesus that makes a man righteous by making him a doer of the law, and a new creation. Here is the patience of the saints who keep the commandments of God through the faith of Jesus (Rev. 14:12). This making of man to be just or righteous, is the cleansing of sin from that man's very being--this is intimately connected to the cleansing of the sanctuary. Man's sins must stop entering the sanctuary in order for it to be cleansed.
The just shall live by the faith of Jesus! (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17). It is "one faith." There is no other faith.
Why is the key to the Book of Habakkuk the clarity of the 1888 message? Because the 1888 message is all about presenting to "the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world." It presents "justification through faith" and invites "people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. ... All power is given into His hands, that He may ... imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure." [6]
Alonzo T. Jones on this: "The finishing of the mystery of God [Rev. 10:7] is the ending of the work of the gospel. And the ending of the work of the gospel is, ... the taking away of all vestige of sin and the bringing in of everlasting righteousness--Christ fully formed--within each believer, God alone manifest in the flesh of each believer in Jesus; .. The cleansing of the sanctuary extended to the people, and included the people, as truly as it did the sanctuary itself.
"In order for the sanctuary to be cleansed and the course of the gospel service there to be finished, it must first be finished in the people who have a part in the service. ... The sanctuary itself could not be cleansed until each of the worshipers had been cleansed. ... Therefore the very first work in the cleansing of the sanctuary was the cleansing of the people." [7]
Ellet J. Waggoner on this: "When Christ covers us with the robe of His own righteousness, He does not furnish a cloak for sin, but takes the sin away. And this shows that the forgiveness of sins is something more than a mere form, something more than a mere entry in the books of record in heaven, to the effect that the sin has been canceled. The forgiveness of sins is a reality; it is something tangible, something that vitally affects the individual. It actually clears him from guilt; and if he is cleared from guilt, is justified, made righteous, he has certainly undergone a radical change. He is, indeed, another person." [8]
"The life [character] of Jesus is to be perfectly reproduced in His followers, not for a day merely, but for all time and for eternity." [9]
While the Lord is in His holy temple, let all His people be justified by His faith. Let Him forgive the sin and take it away. When His people allow themselves to be humbled, God's grace and love will seal them unto righteousness forever! Then "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the water covers the sea" (Hab. 2:14).
The 1888 message presented in this little book of Habakkuk is nothing less than the goodness of God in action to save His people. "You went forth for the salvation of Your people" (Hab. 3:13).
Q: "How long?" A: "In the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets" (Rev. 10:7).
--Daniel H. Peters
[1] Robert J. Wieland, Ten Great Gospel Truths, pp. 34-39.
[2] Ellen G. White, The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, p. 268.
[3] E. G. White, Our High Calling, p. 16.
[4] Alonzo T. Jones, "The Faith of Jesus. The Nature of Christ," Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Jan. 22, 1901, p. 56.
[5] Ellet J. Waggoner, "Faith and Humility," The Signs of the Times, June 2, 1887, p. 326.
[6] E. G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92.
[7] A. T. Jones as quoted in Wieland, op. cit.
[8] E. J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, p. 74 (Glad Tidings ed.).
[9] E. J. Waggoner as quoted in Wieland, op. cit.
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Monday, May 13, 2013

"God's Special People (Micah)"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Major Lessons From Minor Prophets
Lesson 7: "God's Special People (Micah)"

Micah is a prophet to the remnant. The remnant which might have been of old has past its expiration date with ancient Israel, but God will have a repentant and revived people today to carry His message to the world.
Of course we know that the remnant are identified with those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. It's the sanctuary truth which is "justification by faith ... the third angel's message, in verity" [1] It was Christ from the sanctuary who inspired the prophet Micah [2], who was trying to get his fingertips on this precious truth of the remnant and so inspire people of his day to believe in the coming Messiah, who would tenderly lead them as a shepherd leads the flock and feeds them with this wonderful bread of life to give to the world.
We do indeed believe that the Seventh-day Adventist denomination is the true remnant church of Bible prophecy (see Rev. 12:1714:12), which He is calling to repentance (3:14-21).
As the "remnant" church finally receives the "most precious message" which "the Lord in His great mercy sent" to us in 1888, God intends that every Seventh-day Adventist church in the world will be transformed and acquire the reputation of being the place to go to hear Christ "lifted up" (John 12:32). It will be a new public image that replaces our old reputation of being the church where "we have preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa." [3]
Around the world in every nation and culture of people, the Holy Spirit is now preparing a "remnant" who have overcome the old egocentric motivation of self-righteousness, and received in their hearts joyfully the new motivation of grace.
Who are they? They are the people symbolized by the story of the "144,000" who by the grace of God are "without guile," and "follow the Lamb [the crucified Christ] whithersoever He goeth" (Rev. 14:1-5).
In delivering this sanctuary truth message of the remnant in Micah's day there were genuine prophets such as Joel and Isaiah, and there were false prophets. In the only autobiographical sketch in the book, Micah states his commission and purpose: "But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin" (Micah 3:8). He is a judgment hour preacher to awaken a pathetic church to her true condition in order to turn her heart to God.
He compares Samaria to an unfaithful "harlot" (1:7, 8) that has turned from the Lord and gone awhoring after idols. In order to literally get in their face with a "loud" message echoing Heaven's voice, Micah "will wail and howl" like jackals and ostriches while walking up and down the streets "stripped and naked" (vs. 8). As far as God is concerned their infidelity of idol worship renders His people "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:17).
Micah had to contend with false prophets who the people hired because they spoke words of peace and prosperity. These prognosticators rebuked Micah, putting lying words in God's mouth: "Don't preach such stuff. Nothing bad will happen to us" (Micah 2:6, Peterson). You can understand why God then describes them as "preach[ing] sermons that will tell you how you can get anything you want from God: more money, the best wines ... you name it--you'd hire him on the spot as your preacher" (vs. 11). They picked their prophets as people might pick their psychics, but not as people pick their doctors. Can you imagine picking your doctor based on how cheery and optimistic his diagnoses are!
Micah tells the story of the remnant of God's people in the last days. "On that day, says the LORD, I will gather those who are lost; I will assemble the exiles and I will strengthen the weaklings. I will preserve the lost as a remnant and turn the derelict into a mighty nation" (Micah 4:6, 7, NEB). It is while the nations are crying peace when there is no peace, that the Lord will gather out His remnant people. Through Christ alone will the reign of universal peace be restored, and the kingdom of righteousness be given to His followers. Micah prophesies of the kingdom restored in Christ: "And Thou, O Tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, unto Thee shall it come, even the first dominion [the kingdom restored by the second Adam]; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem" (Micah 4:8).
While the "remnant" have followed by faith their High Priest into the Holiest in receiving His messages of love, peace, and joy in reconciliation with God, they are thus "gathered" or called out from the worldly crowd. They uplift the cross of Christ. They have a warning message to the earth of the end and how to prepare for it.
But the "many nations" of the earth "come, and say" (Micah 4:2) assemble to "the mountain of the house of the LORD" (vs. 1). They speak "peace and safety" (1 Thess. 5:3). "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Micah 4:3). Don't speak of coming destruction and the end.
In one of her most profound statements, Ellen White comments on how in 1844 when Jesus arose to enter the Most Holy Place "the careless multitude" who failed to follow Him by faith "were left in perfect darkness." She continues by portraying Satan as taking up the duties of the priest in the first apartment: "I turned to look at the company who were still bowed before the throne; they did not know that Jesus had left it. Satan appeared to be by the throne, trying to carry on the work of God. I saw them look up to the throne, and pray, 'Father, give us Thy Spirit.' Satan would then breathe upon them an unholy influence; in it there was light and much power, but no sweet love, joy, and peace. Satan's object was to keep them deceived and to draw back and deceive God's children." [4]
And so God's people are promised a Good Shepherd. "Thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be Ruler in Israel" (Micah 5:2). [5]
Jesus was born in Bethlehem (the house of bread) 700 years after Micah's prediction and He said, "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35). He "gives life unto the world" (vs. 33). "The bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (vs. 51). He is "the Saviour of the world" (John 4:42). "Never one, saint or sinner eats his daily food, but he is nourished by the blood of Christ. The cross of Calvary [being] stamped on every loaf." [6] Thus the "life" which the human race enjoys has come by eating "the flesh of the Son of man."
Micah concludes his prophecy with the heart-humbling words: "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He retaineth not His anger for ever, because He delighteth in mercy" (Micah 7:18). E. J. Waggoner observes, "This is the language of one who knows the joy of actual forgiveness. The prophet extolled the Lord as one who did actually forgive sin." [7]
--Paul E. Penno
[1] Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 372.
[2] "Hear all ye people; harken, O earth, and all that therein is: ... the Lord from His holy temple. For, behold, the Lord cometh forth out of His place [the temple], and will come down. ..." (Micah 1:2, 3).
[3] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 560.
[4] Early Writings, pp. 55, 56.
[5] Matthew provides an inspired commentary on Micah's prophecy indicating that the "Ruler" is one who will feed the flock. "Out of thee shall go a Prince who shall be My people Israel's Shepherd." (Matt. 2:6, Danish Version). The Governor "shall feed my people Israel" (Matt. 2:6, KJV, margin).
[6] The Desire of Ages, p. 660.
[7] "Forgiveness Real, Not Pretended," Signs of the Times (Aug. 3, 1888), p. 470.
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Monday, May 6, 2013

SST # 6| "Eager to Forgive (Jonah)" Pastor Paul Penno

"Eager to Forgive (Jonah)"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Major Lessons From Minor Prophets
Lesson 6: "Eager to Forgive (Jonah)"
Scholars who study the book of Jonah agree that the prophet of the Lord was mixed up in his thinking. He didn't sense an evangelistic duty toward the souls in Nineveh for whom Christ had given His blood. He had rejected the Lord's call to ministry, ran the other way. It becomes evident that the root of his problem was deep. Jonah had actually rejected the New Covenant truths that the Lord had articulated to Abraham in Genesis 12. The Lord had promised the descendants of Abraham, Israel in fact, that "thou shalt be a blessing ... and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (vss. 2, 3). That had to include the people of Nineveh!
If Jonah had believed that most precious New Covenant truth, his heart would have thrilled with delight at the call of God to "arise, go to Nineveh." He was to become the greatest evangelist of all time--converting an entire highly populated city of heavy. The Lord was choosing him to demonstrate His promise to make him to be a "blessing." If the Lord had truly "sent" him, would He not sustain him? Yes, of course.
We wonder whether Jonah's experience of repentance in the belly of the great fish really reconciled his heart to the New Covenant promises [1] God had made to his "father" Abraham. When God finally spared the city from its deserved destruction he was still mired in Old Covenant thinking. Abraham understood the agape-love-character of God, for he had "rejoiced to see My day: ... and was glad," said Jesus (John 8:56).
Why then could it be possible that an inspired prophet of the Lord, called to great city evangelism, couldn't understand the New Covenant? Could it be that Jonah was the heir of a vast Old Covenant mind-set that had permeated God's true people during the centuries that followed Mt. Sinai? And could it be that true people of God, as sincere and devoted as the "repentant" Jonah was, could even today unwittingly be saddled by Old Covenant patterns of heart attitude? (Jesus said something about their feeling "rich and increased with goods" when in fact the opposite was true.)
Does this ancient book of Jonah with its strange story say anything to us in our modern world? Many millions of other Christians have long ago dismissed the book as a hopeless myth telling impossible tales: how could a fish swallow a man and he survive? But the Holy Spirit will teach God's people from the book of Jonah about the repentance of the ages, the miraculous repentance yet to come; Jonah's God still lives, still works.
Jesus Christ believed the story of Jonah and referred to the book as straightforward historical fact (Matt. 12:40, 41). In the process, He told of a second miracle in the book of Jonah that eclipses the fish story in wonder. When the prophet preached his most precious message, the people of this very wicked pagan city of Nineveh actually believed his message and repented! Moreover, the highly sophisticated "king and his nobles" led out in the work of repentance, "all of them, from the greatest to the least"--a most unusual twist of human history.
Usually, it has been assumed that any genuine revival or reformation must begin at the grass-roots level and then with the blessing of the Lord spread upwards to the leadership. But this time, it was backwards. "When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, ... and sat down in the dust. Then he issued a proclamation" calling upon the city as a whole, as a corporate body, to repent and be reconciled to God (Jonah 3:5-9, NIV). It worked! The "city" responded! They repented!
In contrast, the Father "sent" Jesus Christ, His Son, to the wicked city of Jerusalem, calling upon them to repent. But the leadership rose up in rebellion against Him, and murdered Him. And by and large, the people followed their leaders into national ruin. Imagine what a blessing it would have been to the nation (and the world) if Caiaphas, their spiritual leader, had followed the example of "the king of Nineveh," and had risen from his seat of leadership and led the nation into repentance! In that Matthew passage, Jesus appealed to the story of Jonah as an example of the kind of repentance He was calling for, from the Jewish people. But tragically, they refused.
There is no difficulty in understanding what the Lord Jesus means by His call to repentance. We have a divine illustration of it in His call to the leadership of the Jewish nation of His day. If we find out what He meant then, we know what He means now. With the repentance of Nineveh standing in sacred history as the model, we can easily see the pattern that the Lord Jesus expects to see develop today. "From the greatest of them to the least of them," the repentance envisaged in the Laodicean message must spread from the "top to the bottom" throughout the worldwide church. When the experience Christ calls for is understood and embraced by the "angel" of the church, the methods of its promotion will be uniquely effective. It will be clearly seen that the Holy Spirit, not advertising promotional technique, will have "caused it to be proclaimed and published." As in Nineveh's day, "the king and his nobles" will range themselves solidly in support of the experience Christ calls for.
In our study, we are fascinated to find that we have points of contact with the humiliated prophet to Nineveh. He made a fool of himself; we're discovering he's our brother in the faith. We haven't done all that much better, individually or corporately. It takes a little time to discover reality.
The "great fish" that the Lord had "prepared ... to swallow up" Jonah had a hard time with him; the Lord Himself had a hard time with him. In the fish, nothing would digest; Jonah made it so sick to its stomach (do fishes have one?) that it "spued him out," to borrow a King James Version phrase that is familiar to us (Rev. 3:16). Can you imagine anything so humiliating for a human to go through--except to be crucified naked? (Why did Jesus compare Jonah's experience to His own?)
When Jonah got "spued out" the Lord said, We won't give up; start over again. I forgive you those sad failures of "yesterday." "The word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city" (3:2).
The Lord tells us, "Arise." There's a "second time." [2] I have cleansed you; I have forgiven you, I have accepted you. And you go to " Nineveh" again, on cloud nine.
But in the great final Day of Atonement, all the failures of ancient Israel must and will at last be rectified in a repentance of the ages (Rev. 3:19, 20). Then at last "Nineveh" will be given the Lord's message (18:1-4), and Christ will be honored.
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland(Compiled by Carol A. Kawamoto
[1] The new covenant truth was an essential element of the 1888 message, and even today lifts a load of doubt and despair from many heavy hearts. Ellet J. Waggoner, one of the 1888 "messengers," wrote in his The Glad Tidings: "The covenant and promise of God are one and the same. ... God's covenants with men can be nothing else than promises to them. ... God promises us everything that we need, and more than we can ask or think, as a gift. We give Him ourselves, that is, nothing. And He gives us Himself, that is, everything" (p. 71).
[2] Ellen G. White writes of "another opportunity" or "second call" for salvation: "The men of Nazareth did Satan's work [dragging Jesus from the synagogue]; but Christ could not give them up without granting them another opportunity for salvation" "We are in just as much danger in our day as were the people in the days of Christ. The Lord is speaking through His delegated messengers; but the same unbelief is exhibited." "Those who ... have taken a course similar to that of the men of Nazareth, should take heed lest they follow their example when a second opportunity is given to accept the gracious light of truth" (The 1888 Materials, pp. 397, 398).
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