Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Lesson 10: "Weep and Howl!"

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of James

Lesson 10: "Weep and Howl!"

The Lord impressed James to write a scathing rebuke to "rich" people especially in "the last days" where in we live: "Come now, you rich weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! ... You have heaped up treasure in the last days" (James 5:1, 3). Writes Ellen White: "I saw that these fearful words apply particularly to the wealthy who profess to believe the present truth." [1]

One who discerns at least something of the economic significance of the cross of Christ discerns a deeper recognition: we don't deserve any of what we have--not even our next breath. We are reminded of this by the 1888 message. Only the biblical teaching of the cosmic Day of Atonement in which we are now living just prior to the second coming of Christ can put our modern living in perspective, in relation to the cross of Christ.

Is God telling us and the world something? Yes! If you have $26 million to spend a year, to do what you like, and you live in a palace, and you ride in the safest car in the world, you are not secure. You have nothing that you can call your own; your next breath is only by the grace of God.

Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was the icon of the world, his name on everyone's tongue. God told him in Daniel 4:25, "The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will." Nebuchadnezzar, you are nothing.

This modern world with all its glamour, its pomp, its pleasure, is nothing. So, in mercy, Heaven is telling the world: remember, every moment, your accountability to Heaven and say Thank You, Lord, for this new day. Life in Christ is everything.

"Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you!" James 5:1 refers to "Elijah the prophet" whom the Lord is sending with a message of healing and reconciliation for alienated hearts (Mal. 4:5, 6). We have seen in recent years the stock market crash, affecting the world economy. If we already see a spectacular case of judgment being executed on the "rich," can we expect the blessed salvation message from "Elijah" also to come soon? "Elijah the prophet" comes just before "the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (the second coming of Christ, Mal. 4:5).

Ellen White applies the words of James 5 in particular to the Laodicean Church in the last days: "I saw that these fearful words apply particularly to the wealthy who profess to believe the present truth. The Lord calls them to use their means to advance his cause. Opportunities are presented to them, but they shut their eyes to the wants of the cause, and cling fast to their earthly treasure. Their love of the world is greater than their love of the truth, the love of their fellow-men, or their love to God. He has called for their substance, but they selfishly, covetously retain what they have. They give a little now and then to ease their conscience, but have not overcome their love for this world." [2]

A missionary to Africa, Robert Wieland, had a personal visit once with the king of Uganda when it was still a British Protectorate. They met in the private home of one of the king's personal friends. He himself drove his Rolls-Royce to the appointment. During the visit he volunteered to express appreciation for the missionary's gospel-ministry for the Baganda, saying that "our problem is materialism." Later he had to flee the luxury of his palace for refuge in England. Yes, he would have been happier living in secure peace in a mud house with only a bicycle. He was a good man caught up in the "misery" of wealth and power, as the apostle says.

Elijah's main agenda is "turning" hearts in a grand, cosmic ministry of heart-reconciliation. The greatest "heart" that needs "turning": the heart of "the Lamb's wife"-to-be, His church (Rev. 19:7, 8).

The "Lamb" (which means the crucified Christ) loves her and wants to marry her, but she has delayed "the marriage of the Lamb" by remaining un-ready as a Bride, alienated in that deeper conjugal maturity. Egocentric, covetous concerns have been her primary motivation. That means that "she" is holding back from the total surrender of heart appropriate for any bride to give to her husband-to-be.

In other words, the "Lamb's" wooing has thus far been unsuccessful. The greatest "prophecy" of the end times declares that she (His church) will repent as a Bride, and give her heart to Him in a corporate, nuptial love. This surrender of heart worldwide will release the pent-up Hallelujah Choruses of all eternity when she "makes herself ready" for the "marriage" (Rev. 19:1-7).

This being un-ready has involved the Bride-to-be in shameful, painful rejection of the Bridegroom, which has naturally humiliated Him. She, not He, has created a cosmic lovers' split. Thanks to "Elijah's" ministry, a healing of her heart must and will come. It will be the "repentance of the ages."

Those who would be loyal to the Bridegroom-to-be will also in deep contrition remain in the loyal fellowship of the bride-to-be. They will fulfill James's appeal to "Come now" with her (5:1).

"Elijah" will "lift up" "Christ and Him crucified" for sinners, clearly and powerfully, beyond anything in all past history (John 12:32, 33; 1 Cor. 2:1-3).

--Paul E. Penno


[1] Ellen G. White, Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, p. 245.

[2] Ibid., pp. 245, 246.

Raul Diaz