Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Proverbs: Words of the Wise
Lesson 7: "Dealing With Fights"
This week's lesson deals with problems that have gone on throughout Bible history, and are prevalent today. "Dealing with Fights" includes more than screaming matches, as our graphic depicts, but a myriad of problems between husbands and wives, with personal friends, in the workplace, and even in a king's court with his "ministers." But there is a story in the Bible that applies to the idea the lesson author brings out from Proverbs 17:1, that "the first step to solve [these problems] is to recognize what our priorities are... "
This is the story about someone who "messed up," as our author says, but rather than "covering up" the sin, the person was forgiven, and as our lesson rightly says, "Love ... should be our response to someone else's mistake."
Have you heard the story of the marriage that fell apart because God told the man in the first place to marry a bad woman? God actually told His prophet Hosea to marry a harlot (Hosea 3:1). How could such a marriage not fall apart?
Hosea was forced to watch his wife, Gomer, flirt with other men in his presence. And then the flirting became outright adultery. She had no excuse, for the record is clear that Hosea was not a bad husband; he gave Gomer all her heart could wish for. She was just plain faithless, and there was nothing the grieving husband could do but wait.
The problem was that he actually loved this woman! In fact, for him there was no other in the world who could take her place. Hosea's heart was gold, for he was captive to his love for her, the kind of love that Paul says, "never fails" (1 Cor. 13:8). What could the poor man do? Just suffer.
The time came when her lovers inevitably demonstrated their faithlessness, leaving Gomer to end up a miserable wreck in the slave market (Hosea 3:2). Her original, true husband bought her for a paltry sum, was nice to her, and miracle of miracles, aroused some love in her devastated heart, and helped her find repentance. Before Hosea could "save" a soul, he had to start from scratch and "build" a soul--yet to be saved. They finally walk off the Bible stage hand in hand, in love forever, the "hopeless" marriage of the ages.
How could Hosea, sinner though he was by nature, have ever been able to love a loveless, faithless woman? He learned how from the God of Israel, who is our "Savior of the world" (John 4:42). Gomer is Israel, and Israel is "we," the church--the Bride-to-be of Jesus. There is enough in this story to keep us studying, praying, pondering, and repenting, for a lifetime.
How does this story relate to the 1888 message? It's a story of a problem that only God's love--agape--can solve. When the Bible says, "God is love," it says, "God is agape." Only agape can solve the problems presented in our lesson. Agape is the foundation of the 1888 message, and an appreciation of the agape of Christ delivers us from egocentric motivation--"the love [agape] of Christ constrains us" (2 Cor. 5:14, 15).
Agape is the kind of love that loves the unlovable, even enemies. The Bible says that unless we have agape, even if we can speak with "the tongues of angels," we are nothing but beating a gong. If we "understand all mysteries," and even have all faith so that we could remove mountains, and have not agape, we are nothing. We can even give everything to feed the poor, and give our bodies to be burned, yet it "profits ... nothing" without this wonderful gift ofagape (see 1 Cor. 13:2, 3).
Hosea's stormy marriage to Gomer is a picture of Christ's love affair with Israel (yes, and the church today). Hosea was a "captive" to his love for Gomer; he had fallen in love with her, although she was by nature given to infidelity. But the prophet goes down in history as the one man most closely representing Christ in relation to His people Israel, and to His church. The Lord put Hosea's book in the Bible for our special attention in these last days.
The prophecy implicit in Hosea is Good News for a remnant church that is enmeshed in a worldwide lethargy, plagued with dissension 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, it must not fail. But unless His church does overcome at last in order to become His repentant and faithful Bride, His sacrifice will be in vain.
Some have concluded from the painful facts of our past and current history that the Lord has cast off this denominated, organized church. But they forget the kind of love portrayed in the Book of Hosea, the love that will melt all the problems portrayed in our lesson.
Ellen G. White said it beautifully: "It is not the fear of punishment, or the hope of everlasting reward, that leads the disciples of Christ to follow Him. They behold the Saviour's matchless love, revealed throughout His pilgrimage on earth, from the manger of Bethlehem to Calvary's cross, and the sight of Him attracts, it softens and subdues the soul. Love awakens in the heart of the beholders. They hear His voice, and they follow Him" (The Desire of Ages, p. 480).
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland