Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Lesson 13: "Women and Wine"

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Proverbs: Words of the Wise

Lesson 13: "Women and Wine"

The final chapter in our quarter-long study of Proverbs is a tale of two women. Chapter 31 illustrates the "Law of Solomon." There are the loose "women" (Prov. 31:1-3) contrasted by the "virtuous woman" (vs. 10).

In prophecy a woman is a symbol of a church, a pure woman being a pure church and an evil woman an evil church, the "mother" pictured in Revelation 17:1 is a symbol of a church which has been untrue to Christ and has "daughters."

"Babylon is fallen ... because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication" (Rev. 14:8). Now, the angel tells John, the "inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk" with that evil wine (Rev. 17:2). The preaching of the pure, true gospel of Jesus Christ gives wisdom, good judgment, and stability to the nations of the world. In the light of God's truth, they can make progress.

"Solomon's Law" is adopting the false doctrines taught by Babylon. Some of Babylon's ideas are that the dead can communicate with the living, that faith initiates God's forgiveness, the hope of reward and avoiding punishment motivates old covenant thinking. All this opens the door to the most confusing lies sent by Satan himself.

When the seven last plagues begin to fall, the Holy Spirit has been withdrawn from those who have so long resisted Him. They are left without their normal good sense, as a drunken man does not know what he is doing. As our lesson says, "The destructive effect of wine" "so easily distort[s] one's judgment." [1]

The story of King Solomon is one of the most fantastic in all sacred history. He starts out apparently perfect with that most rare gift of wisdom, gets everything added to it, collects yearly "666 talents of gold" until he has tons of it, enjoys peace with his prosperity, "and all the earth sought to Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart" (1 Kings 10:21).

Solomon, you have it made! You have brought heaven on earth, better yet, you are fulfilling God's promise to Abraham that "in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:3). And then, Solomon, you blew it; you turned right around and "went after Ashtoreh, the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites." You built temples to pagan gods and set them up in our holy city of Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:1-8)! Why, oh why, would you do this? What made you fall like this?

The longer Solomon played the fool when it came to women, the more the ideal woman haunted him. How rare she was, this model woman who haunted Solomon's dreams. "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies" (Prov. 31:10). "Virtuous" refers to purity and all the moral qualities.

Solomon had seen his ideal woman in the village. "She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple" (Prov. 31:22). Not even the pharaoh's daughter, his pampered and privileged queen who was raised in the lap of luxury, was better dressed than the virtuous woman. The queen might send to Egypt for her linens and to India for her silks. Her embroidered robes and imperial purple coats might come from the Phoenician emporium. But Solomon's wife--in all her glory--was not arrayed more royally than the virtuous woman who so captivated the king.

Her devoted husband liked her to dress well. She had earned the right to wear silk and purple. She was a queen in her own right. The ideal woman wore her fine clothes with an unconscious grace and a total lack of ostentatious pride.

This applies to Christ's last-day-Bride-church. There is a special gift of God's Spirit to prepare His people for translation at the coming of Jesus. It "ripens the grain for the harvest," that is, it woos His people away from their love of the world so they want the kingdom of God to come.

This means a shift in Christian experience from old covenant to new covenant thinking. It was the principal issue that impacted the 1888 message. It demonstrated that here is "light" in the gospel that is greater than that of the popular Sunday-keeping churches.

Justification by faith in the Day of Atonement is something beyond Luther's, Calvin's, or the Evangelicals' understanding.

We see this shift in Revelation 19: "The marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife has made herself ready" (vs. 7). The "woman" grows up. She becomes a Bride who understands and loves her Bridegroom. Concern for Him becomes greater than her former self-centered concern for her own salvation.

Ellen White has taught us to think of the latter rain as "a message of Christ's righteousness," a clearer grasp of practical godliness--all by faith. [2] The idea is in the next verse: "And to her [the bride] was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints." [3]

At last the latter rain is welcomed, no longer resisted. Now it's received. God's people have taken the step that concludes the message from the true Witness--they have "overcome even as [He] overcame" (Rev. 3:21). Their faith has matured under the refreshing "showers of the latter rain" received.

This almost unbelievable history must have a lesson for us today--it's "Solomon's Law" which must be fulfilled all over again 3000 years later until the lesson is learned. Add to Solomon's impressive "holy" obedience of his early years, with God's undeniable blessings, the factor of old covenant thinking, and the recipe calls for national apostasy to develop. Solomon reverses 500 years of Israel's history, takes them back to the "Egyptian" darkness from which they had been delivered.

Now, in our modern Adventist history, if we add to all our "holy" obedience to the law, with God's undeniable blessings, the factor of old covenant theology, we also inevitably end up going to "Babylon" to learn methods of worship and patterns of thinking. We again reverse our own history. Those who have been sacredly commissioned to proclaim "Babylon the great is fallen" fulfill "Solomon's Law" by adopting Babylon's theology and worship. Solomon finally had the sense to repent. Lord, grant that same precious gift to us!

--Paul E. Penno


[1] Sunday's lesson.

[2] Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6, p. 19 (1900).

[3] See Joel 2:23, 24, margin, "teaching of righteousness." Here in Revelation 19 Christ uses a different noun, indicating that now the grand shift in Christian experience has taken place from the old to the new covenant. His word is dikaiomata, whereas the ordinary word for Christ's righteousness is dikaiosune. The latter is imputed to the believer in a legal sense; His dikaiomata is imparted in a practical sense, now an intrinsic part of character, still by faith alone, but real. Now at last an immense hurdle in the great controversy with Satan has been surmounted--by the faith of Jesus. His people have "condemned" sin in their fallen, sinful flesh.

Raul Diaz