Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Lesson 4: Rebuke and Retribution
"Rebuke and Retribution"--What a title for a Sabbath School lesson study. Is anybody listening to this kind of stuff anymore? We have to wonder whether God's people have been so spiritually "burned out" that they've turned a deaf ear to what the Spirit says about our latter rain message.
One good way to get rid of God's message, which we don't like, is to condemn the messengers. It has been an age-old problem of God's people and we still haven't learned this lesson today.
Jeremiah made a powerful request of God based upon a complaint. "I did not deliver this unbearable message of judgment out of my own imagination. It is, rather, the verdict upon Judah, which you sent me to deliver." "But, O LORD of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto Thee have I revealed my cause" (Jer. 11:20). He prays that God will protect His messenger. "I am just the messenger proclaiming what you have given to me."
Jeremiah took his cause to the one who "judges righteously." Jeremiah is being mistreated because he is being faithful to what God asked him to do. Evil is being plotted against him. He is suffering for righteousness' sake. The wicked have the upper hand. This is an unfair situation. God must intervene and do something to make things right.
Jeremiah summons God to "judge and test" this cause of evil and right. Along with Jeremiah's appeal for adjustment is a counterclaim against his persecutors. "Let me see Thy vengeance on them: for unto Thee have I revealed my cause" (Jer. 11:20). This call for "vengeance" is no desire for self-justification upon the part of Jeremiah. He is thinking more about the cause of God than He is about himself. It is God's reputation that is at stake if injustice continues unchecked. God must win His case in the great controversy with the enemy.
It is a fact that God needs His messengers to step up and recognize that "the hour of His judgment is come" (Rev. 14:6). As they faithfully speak up for God who is on trial He, in turn, hears their claim against the wicked and adjudicates the wrong. In other words, as God wins His case the righteous on earth are included in His victory.
The guilt of those who scheme against Jeremiah is established with these words: "Therefore thus saith the LORD of the men of Anathoth, that seek thy life, saying, Prophesy not in the name of the LORD, that thou die not by our hand" (Jer. 11:21). The men of Jeremiah's hometown, Anathoth, are guilty of trying to silence a prophet.
The offense of silencing a prophet is scandalous in Israel. Prophets are essential for the life of a religious community. Silencing prophets diminishes the denominated status of Israel as God's chosen people.
Here's the lesson from 1888 that we need to learn. Ellen White unequivocally stated that Jones and Waggoner were straight and true in bringing a message of God to His chosen people. "God is presenting to the minds of men divinely appointed precious gems of truth, appropriate for our time."  "God had sent these young men, Elders Jones and Waggoner, to bear a special message to them." 
Ellen White recognized the seriousness of the opposition to them personally and to their message, and fixed the ultimate blame for their potential faltering "to a great degree" upon the opposing brethren. 
Criticizing the messengers imposed on them a burden that was heavier to carry than normal opposition: "Whatever course the messenger may pursue, it will be objectionable to the opposers of truth; and they will make capital of every defect in the manners, customs, or character of its advocate." 
"Some of our brethren ... full of jealousy and evil surmising, ... are ever ready to show in just what way they differ with Elder Jones or Waggoner." 
The two men spoke positively and strongly. Keen perceptions of truth often lead those who are "only men" to speak that way. But that was offensive to human nature, which was looking for an excuse to reject the message: "Let no soul complain of the servants of God who have come to them with a heaven-sent message. Do not any longer pick flaws in them, saying, 'They are too positive; they talk too strongly.' They may talk strongly; but is it not needed?" 
The Lord Himself had clothed His personal messengers with evidences of authority, "heavenly credentials." They had lost sight of self in their love for Christ and His special message. The still-uncrucified self in others was annoyed:
"If the rays of light which shone at Minneapolis were permitted to exert their convincing power upon those who took their stand against light, ... they would have received the richest blessings, disappointed the enemy, and stood as faithful men, true to their convictions. They would have had a rich experience; but self said, No. Self was not to be refused; self struggled for the mastery." 
At Minneapolis, the personality of Jones and Waggoner became the visible, conscious stumbling-block for the invisible, unconscious rejection of Christ the Word. This is evident, as follows: "Men professing godliness have despised Christ in the person of His messengers. Like the Jews, they reject God's message. The Jews asked regarding Christ, 'Who is this? Is not this Joseph's son?' He was not the Christ that the Jews had looked for. So today the agencies that God sends are not what men have looked for." 
If we are tempted to find an easy way out, to say that this shameful past is no concern of our generation, can this open the way for the Lord again to send us the latter rain?
The Lord calls us to recognize our solidarity with our "fathers." Although himself innocent, Jeremiah confessed and repented of the sins of his fathers: "O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, do Thou it for Thy name's sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against Thee" (Jer. 14:7).
Repentance alone can prevent a repetition of the fathers' sins. The reason why the Lord requires repentance for the sins of "our fathers" is that without it we are programmed to repeat them. We share a common humanity. We are by nature no better than those who rejected the 1888 message. If we were in their place, we would have done the same. This is what Ellen White means when she says, "The books of heaven record the sins that would have been committed had there been opportunity." 
Christ knew no repression of guilt for sin at all. He stood before God by "faithfulness" and was thus "righteous." His motivations were pure and transparent.
This is but a foreshadowing of the kind of people that the third angel's message will gather out, for they too are to have "the faith of Jesus"--not merely faith in Jesus, but the very kind of faith which He had, the faith of Jesus. This is the deep experience given to the Laodicean church--faith, spiritual discernment, and the righteousness of Christ.
--Paul E. Penno
 The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 139.
 Ibid., p. 1043.
 Ibid., p. 1127.
 Ibid., p. 1061.
 Ibid., p. 1043.
 Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 410-413.
 The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1030.
 Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 472.
 SDA Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, p. 1085.
Notes: If you would like to view or download a copy of "How Many Times Did Ellen White Endorse the Message of Jones and Waggoner From 1888-1896?" you will find it on the Internet at:http://1888mpm.org
"Sabbath School Today" and Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson are on the Internet at the same website.