Friday, October 9, 2015

Lesson 2: The Crisis (Within and Without)

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic


Lesson 2: The Crisis (Within and Without)

God promised to give His reluctant prophet Jeremiah words to say, and He did, but they were not smooth words. Judah had forgotten her history and how God had led and taught her in the past. Jeremiah (chapter 2) tells us that everyone, including the priests and rulers were guilty of forgetting the past, forsaking God, and building "broken cisterns" (vs. 13) that cannot hold life giving water.

In order to get water, Judah seeks it on the road to Egypt so they could drink from the Nile, and to Assyria, to drink from the Euphrates. Both geographic areas represent heathen nations that had made slaves of God's people when they forgot Who they belonged to. Living as a slave is easier because it requires little thinking, and no faith. Once a people, or for that matter, an individual, forgets or chooses to deny God's leading, there is nothing genuine to rely on. Idol replacements are given power against all logic. Even when God allows trouble to get people's attention, the slave mentality interprets it as abandonment.

Years before, the northern kingdom of Israel had apostatized so completely that God allowed them to be attacked by surrounding nations and scattered. He pleads with Judah to learn from Israel's experience and return to Him. He reminds them through Jeremiah that He gave repeated warnings, which were ignored because My people are "foolish," "stupid," and have "no understanding." They are "shrewd" and only do evil and not good. Repeatedly, God also uses the imagery of a faithless wife cheating on her husband (Jer 4:19-22).

What does this sad lament have to do with us today? Why do we study the terrible history of Israel and Judah? If we cannot see their history as profitable warnings today, we are as foolish and stupid as Judah. If we fail to see the importance of reviewing our history, we lack understanding of our true condition.

"The reason why the children of Israel forsook Jehovah was that the generation rose up that had not been instructed concerning the great deliverance from Egypt by the hand of Jesus Christ. Their fathers had not rehearsed to them the history of the divine guardianship that had been over the children of Israel through all their travels in the wilderness. ... If parents had fulfilled their duty, we should never have the record of the generation that knew not God, and were therefore given into the hands of the spoilers" (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, May 21, 1895).

Today, there are those who refuse to discuss anything about the history of the message given in 1888. Usually, the need to study what it actually was is dismissed as unnecessary, or even silly. Important scholars go to great lengths to either declare it wrong, or that they church accepted it in 1888, or shortly thereafter so there is no reason to study it. Some criticize it as being too "liberal" while others criticize it as too "conservative." It is rare to find someone who can articulate what the message is, and rarer, to find someone who has studied the original sources written by the "messengers," Jones, Waggoner, and White.

So long as the "priests," "those who handle the law," and "rulers" (Jer 2:8) refuse to corporately acknowledge we have turned our back on God and His message, the people will never know the destruction that awaits. Some may take comfort in Ellen White's statement in a letter to George Butler and S. N. Haskell in 1886 that "The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall" (Letter 55, December 8, 1886). Those who find that statement comforting, fail to appreciate the awful and unnecessary condition the church will be in when it "appears about to fall." Why would we as God's children want to let the church disintegrate that far just because God pulls it through in the end.

The message of Jeremiah is that repentance initiated by a well-informed leadership might forestall devastation much as the repentance of Ninevah's king was accepted by the entire community and disaster was averted.

There are many devout Jews who stand at the "wailing wall" in Jerusalem, asking God to send the long awaited Messiah. God can never "answer" these prayers because they refuse to see it has already happened. In the same way, our church has prayed for the outpouring of the latter rain for well over 150 years, but God cannot answer our prayers until we recognize and admit the sins of our forefathers, including our years of denial since then. Admitting the truth of our history will save us from perpetuating their mistakes, and will lead us to a deep repentance for our own unbelief.

At times, it seems discouraging that God needs to discipline His people, but He always gives hope. "Yet even in those days, declares the Lord, I will not make you a complete destruction" (Jer 5:18). God loves His people too much to leave them to complete destruction. So what does this have to do with us? God needed to chasten Judah and Israel because they were ignoring Him; He wanted them to listen to Him. Rather than thinking that advice is for everyone else, we need to listen to God individually. We must heed the warning ourselves before we can nurture others. The message of 1888 is the final message that will prepare a people who are willing to participate fully in the cleansing process as typified in the Day of Atonement.

"The work begun in 1844, at the end of the 2300 years, is unique in the universe and brings Christ and the remnant into a new kind of union. There will be a mutual understanding which makes His remnant go with Him into the Most Holy Place. There the wedding is consummated. There sin is blotted out. There Christ sits down with His remnant, and He assures them that the 'true tabernacle,' His abiding place, is cleansed. His victory in conquering self is a guarantee that He has in all points been tempted like unto His brethren for every sin is born of a love of self. Thus as they abide with Him in the Most Holy Place, they will by faith be uniting their humanity to His divinity, and they will be one with Him in purpose and thus be 'married' to Him. They will have the faith of Jesus which keeps mortals from sinning. Then the work of the Mediator will be finished, the sanctuary will be cleansed and restored to its rightful place, the heart of the 144,000 will have been purged. Sin will not rise again. This experience awaits the remnant whenever they choose to accept the eyesalve of heavenly insight offered by the True Witness. And when her blindness is gone and at last she can 'see,' then the Bride will sit down with the King on His throne, as He has promised, for both have overcome by the blood of the Lamb" (Donald K. Short, "Then Shall the Sanctuary be Cleansed," p. 92).

This is the work of the last generation before Christ comes. Whether the number 144,000 is literal or otherwise, those of us living in the end time need to see ourselves as similar to ancient Israel, a people who need to listen and act on God's warnings. We should never take comfort that our church, the very Bride of Christ, is "about to fall." Our mission is to individually participate in the cleansing process, but also to be concerned for everyone who will ultimately make up that remnant group. As we study the message of Jeremiah for the next three months, let consider it a special voice just for us.

--Arlene Hill

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