Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lesson 12: "The Humility of the Wise"

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Proverbs: Words of the Wise

Lesson 12: "The Humility of the Wise"

King Solomon was the wisest, most knowledgeable man of his generation (maybe of all time). The Lord had richly endowed him with this 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" (vs. 10).

In a humble frame of mind, Solomon wrote: "I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy" (Prov. 30:3). This is a confession that the wisdom Solomon possessed when he was in his prime was a direct gift from God and that all his insights came from that same divine source. His wisdom was not reasoned wisdom, but revealed wisdom.

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 as Proverbs 18:12 tells us, "Before honor is humility."

One very important "dynamic" of the 1888 message is that Christ came all the way to where we are, taking upon Himself "the likeness of sinful flesh." Thus He is a Savior "nigh at hand, not afar off." He is the "Savior of all men," even "the chief of sinners."

Our lesson asks the question, "Who do you think you are?" Jesus had to wrestle with that same question all His life on earth as our Savior. The first inkling that He knew who He was came at the age of 12 when He asked Mary and Joseph in the Temple in Jerusalem, "[Did you not know] that I must be about My Father's business?" (Luke 2:49).

But problems surface in the temptations in the wilderness after His baptism at the age of 30: "IF, IF, IF ... Thou be the Son of God ... !" (Matt. 4:6ff.). Matthew seems to be the one most aware of this problem that Jesus constantly wrestled with. Satan wouldn't let Jesus alone even as He hung on His cross in His last hours: "IF Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross"! (Matt. 27:40).

So, if the divine Son of God in our human flesh or nature had to wrestle with this problem in temptation, don't be dismayed if you find yourself wondering who you are! Do you have a right to hold your head high, or is Satan correct when he demeans you and seeks to destroy your self-respect?

Solomon wanted to know about the Redeemer who descended and then ascended into Heaven. "Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? ... what is His name, and what is His Son's name, if thou canst tell?" (Prov. 30:4). Christ "descended" to the lowest point in the universe--the point of the second death of all the inhabitants of this planet (cf. Heb. 2:9), a willing surrender of Himself to die that death from which no resurrection could ever be hoped for.

But the Father did not leave His Son in the grave. Christ's ascension to heaven after His resurrection was a cosmic triumph. The "captivity" which He led "captive" was the host of saints resurrected with Him (cf. Matt. 27:52, 53).

The idea is that He climbed the heights of heaven and captured the enemy's booty, and handed it all out in "gifts" to us all. He took a little band of Galilean peasants and made them the down payment on a multitude of people who through the ages since have been the "gifted" leaders of His church. Having risen from the tomb, Christ has seized the universe and redistributed its wealth!

Jesus has special sympathy for people who have wasted their lives and whose hearts are filled with remorse. They are the special objects of His compassion. In fact, they are the ones He came to save. The poor publican who beat upon his breast and wouldn't even lift his eyes to heaven, who prayed, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" he is the one who went home justified. Straightened out, put right with God.

Why does Jesus have such special sympathy for such people? There is only one possible answer: because He repented on their behalf; He took their nature; He was tempted like they are tempted; He is their High Priest (Heb. 2:14-18). And now He invites you to share His love and sympathy for all the sinners in the world, for all the prodigal sons feeding the pigs, for all the publicans who cry out for mercy. And when you begin to share His compassion, the joy of your own life has only begun.

Ellet J. Waggoner, one of the 1888 "messengers," wrote: "[Christ's] humanity only veiled His Divine nature, by which He was inseparably connected with the invisible God, and which was more than able successfully to resist the weaknesses of the flesh. There was in His whole life a struggle. The flesh, moved upon by the enemy of all righteousness, would tend to sin, yet His Divine nature never for a moment harbored an evil desire, nor did His Divine power for a moment waver. Having suffered in the flesh all that men can possibly suffer, He returned to the throne of the Father as spotless as when He left the courts of glory" (Christ and His Righteousness, pp. 32, 33, Glad Tidings ed.).

The very last question in our lesson (Friday) asks: "How do we find balance in all that we do?"

In the beginning of this essay we quoted King Solomon: "Give therefore Thy servant an understanding heart ... that I may discern between good and bad" (1 Kings 3:7-9). This may be understood as "balance," a popular word used in describing the relationships between different understandings of the gospel.

Conservative Christians for hundreds of years have discussed (even argued) the relationship between faith and works. Their favorite word used to describe it is "balance." The popular idea is that one must hold faith and works in "balance." If you talk about faith for ten minutes then you must also talk about works for ten minutes. However, a check of the concordance reveals that nowhere in the Bible is the word "balance" used to describe this relationship. In inspired writings, there is practically nothing to suggest the use of that word as being appropriate.

Scripture and inspired writings are clear "beyond question" that salvation is totally by grace through faith, and Paul even goes out of his way to add, "Not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph. 2:8, 9). The "balance" idea strongly suggests that salvation is by faith and by works, a 50/50 deal. Which if true, would certainly give the saved ones something to boast about: "yes, Jesus saved me, but look, I did my part too!"

A popular Ellen G. White book is entitled Faith and Works, the title having been added by editors long after the author's death. Yet inside the covers, she repeatedly speaks of the correct formula as being "faith which works."

Have you ever felt, as King Solomon did, like you don't know how to "go out or come in," as if you didn't know how to live this new day? Blessed are you, if you confess this reality before the Lord, and simply ask Him to direct your steps, to keep you from making any stupid mistake, to save you from yourself, and to enable you to live for the One who died for you. The Lord still hears such a prayer!

Now we can hold our head high, and at the same time cherish true humility of soul, realizing that our identity, our future, our prestige, all we are and will ever be, is by the grace of Christ.

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland

Raul Diaz