Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Lesson 6: "What You Get Is Not What You See"
The book of Proverbs reads like Solomon's attempt to record as much of the wisdom God gave him as possible. He uses succinct and sometimes pithy statements which he frequently repeats for emphasis. It is easy to think of them as a lesson book on successful living, especially if they are seen as simply good advice to be attempted, but a standard too high to achieve all the time.
There is nothing wrong with using Proverbs as a standard of Christian living in the same way that God's law is the ultimate standard. However, both the advice in Proverbs and the directives in the law are just standards, neither has power to help sinners put either into practice, no matter how wise the advice. We are reminded of the apostle Paul's frustration: "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not" (Rom. 7:18, NASB).
Proverbs and the law tell us what we should do, and with Paul, we "joyfully concur with the law of God ... but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am!" (Rom. 7:22-24). We are all that "wretched man" who wants to do good, but finds resistance in our human flesh.
Solomon frequently tells us that the solution is the "fear" of the Lord (Prov. 1:7, 29; 2:5). There is nothing wrong in fearing God, but it's only the beginning of wisdom. Most people who respond to God's calling them to repentance can remember that some level of fear of punishment or hope of reward in heaven was mixed into their experience. God takes us wherever we are, but we need not stay at that immature level. The foolish think that since that was their initial motivation it's the only motivation for walking with God.
As if to reinforce this fear, Proverbs 15:3 tells us "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good." This is very close to the Santa Claus song that tells children, "he sees you when you're sleeping, he sees when you're awake, he knows if you've been bad or good, so be good ..." Everyone understands Santa can't expect us to be good all year, and we joke about the excuses so Santa will still bring us gifts. God is not Santa, and He can never wink at sin, but He is willing to change our hearts so we love His law and keep it. Wise faith never trusts in our ability to "be good" on our own even though seeing what we consider correct performance is reassuring. Those who have received wisdom from God know that walking by faith, not sight, requires humility. We must admit that we don't know the best path for us, but God does. A fool trusts his own wisdom, the wise trust God's.
Israel demonstrated this in their foolish interpretation of what God wanted. He asked them to make a tabernacle so He could dwell among them. A. T. Jones, one of the 1888 "messengers," understood this concept: "When the tabernacle was made and was set up in the midst of the camp of Israel, many of the children of Israel supposed that that was enough; they supposed that to be the way in which God would dwell in the midst of them. ... In addition to the splendid building and its furniture, there were the sacrifices and offerings of the people ...There were the priests in their continual services; and there was the high priest in his holy ministry. Without these the sanctuary was for Israel practically an empty thing, even though the Lord did dwell in it."
They missed the idea that the building, the priests, and the services were all demonstrating the process of atonement and forgiveness obtained. "Atonement is literally at-one-ment. The sin and the guilt had separated them from God. By these services they were made at-one with God. Forgive is literally give-for. To forgive sin is to give for sin. Forgiveness of sin comes alone from God. What does God give, what has He given, for sin? He gave Christ, and Christ 'gave Himself for our sins.' (Gal. 1:4; Eph. 2:12-16; Rom. 5:8-11)." Our hearts, not outward actions, are what we give Him.
"And the placing of the tabernacle in the midst of the camp of Israel was an illustration ... of the truth that He would dwell in the midst of each individual" (Eph. 3:16-19). Some of that nation, in every age, saw in the sanctuary this great saving truth. But as a body, in all ages, Israel missed this thought; and stopping only with the thought of His dwelling in the tabernacle in the midst of the camp, they came short of having His own personal presence dwelling in their individual lives. Accordingly their worship became only outward and formal, rather than inward and spiritual" (The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, pp. 70-73).
"Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established" (Prov. 16:3, KJV). The word translated "thoughts" here is translated "preparations" in 16:1, and means "plans." We are instructed by the wise man to submit our plans to the Lord; otherwise the best-laid plans can go astray. Too often we make plans, plunge into a course of action, and as an afterthought ask God to bless what we are doing. We belatedly find out He is not in our plans at all. However, when we consult God from the beginning, He establishes our thoughts--that is, He leads us in the way He has planned. His way is always best.
The 1888 message highlights God's plan for us living in the last days. The ancient little "day of atonement" once a year taught precious good news: "On that day the priest shall make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord" (including previously unknown ones, Lev. 16:30). Who did the actual work? The priest--a symbol of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. The people cooperated with the priest. They kept the little day of atonement sacred. Thus we are to observe the great original Day of Atonement, which has been "now" ever since 1844, the end of the 2300 year prophecy.
Serious distortion of this good news has caused some to think this is "perfectionism," which is a heresy. But add to that twisting of the truth the universal conviction of how imperfect we all are, and like cooking a terrible stew you come up with the idea of doleful Seventh-day Adventist hermits only a step short of self-flagellation. Who wants such a sad life, is youths' idea.
To correct this distortion and create the happiest Christ-like people ever on earth was God's purpose in sending "us" the "most precious message" of 1888--the grand antitype of the kindergarten type that came every "tenth day of the seventh month." That day ended with an entire nation walking on air! They were so happy once again to be at-one-with God and with one another. Day of Atonement "most precious" truth is powerful!
On that ancient one day quarrels were gone, alienations healed; husbands and wives recovered the love that once brought them together; the most alluring idolatry (it constantly ensnared them!) was abhorred because something better had been tasted on this great day--the gospel. It's "Elijah's" "turned hearts"! It was God's plan that our "Day of Atonement" should end with the reception (not rejection!) of the "most precious" message of 1888, which should blossom and "lighten the earth with glory" in "rapid" "final movements," now long overdue. A people wholly reconciled to God and to one another--that is the meaning of the judgment today.
But it's time for a paradigm shift in thinking: the issue is not egocentric fear for our own salvation (which largely pervaded this Quarterly), but a new concern that Christ receive His reward--not that "we shall wear a crown in our Father's house," but that at last He receive His Bride.
It is wise to daily acknowledge Him as our Sovereign God. When we fail to do this, we become foolish and must slog through life, trying to make things work with minimal to no success. We find no joy in our efforts, but live in fear of God watching us with disapproval. It's much easier to acknowledge Him as Sovereign, submitting our hearts, plans and wills to Him. May God give us the humility to do this.