Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Lesson 7: The Crisis Continues

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic


Lesson 7: The Crisis Continues

Jeremiah has written one of the longest books in the Old Testament, with 52 chapters, and followed it with the book of Lamentations, 5 chapters. As we review, Jeremiah came from a priestly family in Anathoth, a suburb of Jerusalem. It is interesting to compare the backgrounds of Paul and Jeremiah; both were selected for their ministries before their births, and both had specific missions to the Gentiles, but Jeremiah's primary mission and message was directed to Judah.

One other amazing note about Jeremiah is that at his young age he was reluctant to speak in public--he felt inadequate. Doesn't this remind you of Moses, who at his late age, in his 80s, felt he could not speak well? Yet God worked in mighty ways for Moses to lead his people. At Isaiah's call, a seraph touched his mouth with a hot coal to cleanse him (Isa. 6: 6, 7). In Jeremiah's case, the Lord touched his mouth to deliver His message (Jer. 1:9).

Jeremiah is quite an intense prophet of human personality, one whom we can identify with, understand, and appreciate. He is endowed with such mysterious power from on high that we at times are amazed by his grandeur. We see Jeremiah so humanly weak, and yet so divinely firm; his love so humanly tender, and at the same time so divinely holy; his eyes streaming with tears at beholding the affliction about to come upon his people, yet sparkling with fiery indignation against their sins and abominations. His lips overflowed with sympathy for the daughter of Zion, only to pronounce upon in the same breath the judgment and condemnation she so fully deserved. Jeremiah is truly a remarkable and powerful personality. He is so compassionate, that we cannot fail to recognize in him an instrument especially chosen and prepared by the God of grace and strength and wisdom.

We see Jeremiah's ministry unfolding. God's people had been captivated by the idolatry, adultery, slander, and wicked ways, resulting in their hearts drifting away from God. It sounds like what is happening today. When you read Jeremiah 9, you will see the pain and weeping of Jeremiah over Zion. They were losing the knowledge of God. At the same time, God is also weeping when his people are drifting into their own ways. This is the very concept of corporate repentance that Jeremiah is practicing; his concern is for all the people, not just for himself. 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).

"There are striking parallels in the history of God's work: Jeremiah and Ezekiel confident that national disaster must overtake the kingdom of Judah unless repentance should be received at the highest level of leadership, always a 'lonely chorus' of people who trembled at the word of the Lord, but they were the few and the lowly. In the early days of the apostles, Paul warned that 'after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them' (Acts 20:29, 30). Again, a 'lonely chorus' told the truth which went largely unheeded. 'There came a falling away' and pagan falsehoods were allowed to infiltrate the church, leading to the Dark Ages of the great apostasy." [1]

In chapters 7 and 26 Jeremiah seeks to bring his people to repentance. If Judah will turn back to God, she can avoid the horrible destruction of Babylonian invasion that hangs over her like a dark cloud on the horizon. It was Jeremiah's sad task to warn his people so many times of the approaching destruction and that this catastrophe was a judgment from God. This very message stirred up anger among the Jews. Jeremiah was viewed as a traitor, and was persecuted more intensely than any other Hebrew prophet. Christ was treated in the same manner.

There is also a parallel in what Ellen G. White wrote about the time of Elijah: "For stricken Israel there was but one remedy--a turning away from the sins that had brought upon them the chastening hand of the Almighty, and a turning to the Lord with full purpose of heart. To them had been given the assurance, 'If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people; if My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.' 2 Chronicles 7:13,14. It was to bring to pass this blessed result that God continued to withhold from them the dew and the rain until a decided reformation should take place." [2]

This statement beautifully sums up the core of the 1888 message: "In mercy God seeks to lead the unrighteous to repentance. The obedient will delight in the law of the Lord. He puts His laws in their minds, and writes them in their hearts. Their speech will be such as is prompted by an indwelling Saviour. They have that faith that works by love and purifies the soul from all the defilement of Satan's suggestions. Their heart yearns after God. In their conversion they love to dwell upon His mercy and goodness, for to them He is altogether lovely. They learn the language of heaven, the country of their adoption." [3]

May we learn the lesson of what Jeremiah is bringing through the precious message of repentance, and the gracious love that pours out from God's heart to His people. He is always knocking at the door of our heart, willing to give us a new heart.

Contemplate this old hymn and the astounding words of "Love Divine," by Charles Wesley:

"Love divine, all loves excelling, Joy of heaven, to earth come down;
Fix in us Thy humble dwelling, All Thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, Thou art all compassion, Pure, unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation, Enter every trembling heart.

"Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit Into every troubled breast!
Let us all in Thee inherit, Let us find the promised rest;
Take away our bent to sinning; Alpha and Omega be;
End of faith, as its beginning, Set our hearts at liberty."

Take courage and hope in the unfailing loving mercies of our Lord.

--Mary Chun

[1] Robert J. Wieland, "Dial Daily Bread," 2004.
[2] Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, pp. 128.
[3] Ellen G. White, The Upward Look, p. 297; Letter 281, Oct. 10, 1905, to Dr. and Mrs. D. H. Kress.

Raul Diaz