Friday, January 2, 2015

Sabbath School Today, Lesson 1, Quarter 1-15

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Proverbs: Words of the Wise

Lesson 1: "The Call of Wisdom"


King Solomon was the wisest, most knowledgeable man of his generation, maybe of all time! The Lord had richly endowed him with wisdom that surpassed all of his day.

Yet underneath was a solid foundation of pure humility that made it possible for the Lord to bless him as He did. When the Lord offered him, as King David's descendant, anything he might ask for, he was wise to ask for the right things: "O LORD my God, Thou hast made [me] Thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. ... Give therefore Thy servant an understanding heart ... that I may discern between good and bad" (1 Kings 3:7-9).

The Lord commended him because he had not asked for riches, or fame, or power: "And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing."

Therefore the Lord gave him what he had asked for, but besides that, the Lord gave him wealth and power and fame beyond estimate: "I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honor" (vss. 12, 13).

But you say, "I don't have Solomon's wisdom!" But we are coming to the time when you'll need it. We face very perplexing problems: shall we believe Genesis 1-3 that God created the earth in six literal days, or be crushed under the scientists who declare that evolution alone is the answer and ridicule us who believe in the first great miracle of the Bible? Shall women be ordained or is that wrong? Is salvation by faith alone or by faith-plus-works? Are the Daniel and Revelation time prophecies a day-for-a-year, or meaningless jargon? Is there a manifestation of God's "spirit of prophecy" today as clearly inspired as were the prophets of old? How can we judge between truth and subtly disguised error?

In every theological puzzle that confronts you, where the evidence seems balanced between opposite views, don't throw up your hands in despair, and decide to sit on the fence. You can't! At the end of the road, you're going to have to decide frankly and openly between the "mark of the beast" and "the seal of God" (Rev. 13:16, 17; 7:1-4). Look to see where is agape, the true biblical love. Don't be fooled by the foolish, shallow sentimental "love" that is the counterfeit of agape. Keeping the commandments of God will be the final test in the great controversy between Christ and Satan; but let's remember that only "agape is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 10:10). Outward conformity to the letter of the Ten Commandments may mask a heart that is bitterly devoid of agape. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:10).

The Book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon when he was mature, in control of the kingdom of Israel, and in favor with God. The 1888 message is reflected in some of the themes dealt with in the book.

Does God want us to go through life fearful that we may at last be lost? Is fear a valid motivation for serving Christ?

Some will say, "Yes!" In the Book of Proverbs we are told that "the fear of the Lord" (1:7, 29) is something positive for us to experience. Even Jesus warns us, "Fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt. 10:28). No Bible text specifically tells us not to "fear the Lord."

So, with this heavy emphasis on "fearing the Lord," is it His will that we go through life under a spiritual terror? Is fear of punishment an adequate motivation for being obedient to God's commandments? Some will say, "Yes, for it has worked for 6000 years." But does that mean that the fear motivation will characterize those who prepare for the second coming of Christ? Will there come a paradigm shift in motivation as we come nearer to the end?

There is a healthy fear that any physically and emotionally normal person will always have. You look both ways before you cross a busy street; you avoid unhealthful things like smoking and alcohol--common sense fear will motivate you to enjoy life longer.

But fear of hell fire will not be the motivation that will constrain God's people to "follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth" (Rev. 14:4, 5). A new one will supplant the old one, even as the "new covenant" will transcend the old. A clearer understanding of what happened on the cross of Christ will capture every honest heart and "constrain" all who believe "henceforth" to live not for self, but for "Him who died for us and rose again" (2 Cor. 5:14, 15).

The biblical "fear of the Lord" is not craven terror but a heart-appreciation for the awesome righteousness of Christ. To "tremble" before Him is not being scared of Him but being thrilled by a healthy contemplation of what it cost Him to save us.

So if you have ever felt like you don't know how to go in or come out, as if you didn't know how to live this new day, blessed are you. If you confess this reality of your emptiness before the Lord, and simply ask Him to direct your steps, to keep you from making any stupid mistake, to save you from yourself, He will enable you to live for the One who died for you.

--Paul E. Penno

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