Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Lesson 10: The Destruction of Jerusalem

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Lesson 10: The Destruction of Jerusalem

"For the vision is yet for the appointed time. It hastens toward the goal, and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay. Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by His faith" (Hab. 2:3, 4).
The context of this verse is predicting the Babylonian captivity of Judah. But the language is broad enough to encompass much of human history, even to the end of time. No longer does God speak in conditional terms. The centuries of conditional warnings to repent have all been given and each has been ridiculed, explained away, and the messengers discredited or simply ignored. Judgment has occurred and will be executed; "it will certainly come." Even if it seems unlikely because it "tarries," or delays, "it will certainly come."
In Jeremiah 37:1-10, the Lord gave instructions for King Zedekiah that his attempt to ally with Egypt for their assistance against the Chaldean's siege would fail and they would be captured. Jeremiah was called a traitor and thrown into prison.
What lesson does this sad time in Judah's history have for us today? If we see it simply as detail to embellish the historical record we miss a vital blessing. Judah's march into apostasy was completely unjustified and avoidable. God's plain instructions and warnings for centuries seem, from our vantage point, curious and inexplicable. We think "we would never do that." But, before we indulge in too much self-satisfaction, some soul searching is in order.
At the 1901 General Conference, W. W. Prescott compared the time just before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity:
"And now we are passing the same circumstances over again. [The church] is threatened with destruction. And why?--For the very same reason as in the olden time--because they refused the truth, because they had refused the message of God, because they had turned away from heart service and had accepted form and ceremony in place of that working of God's life in the heart and soul." [1]
Referring to the 1901 General Conference session, Ellen White said: "The result of the last General Conference has been the greatest, the most terrible, sorrow of my life. No change was made. The spirit that should have been brought into the whole work as the result of that meeting was not brought in because men did not receive the testimonies of the Spirit of God. ... So today upon those who have had light and evidence, but who have refused to heed the Lord's warnings and entreaties, heaven's woe is pronounced." [2]
On February 18, 1902, the main Battle Creek Sanitarium building--the hospital--burned down. Ten months later, on December 30, 1902, the Review and Herald experienced the same fate.
"Today God is watching His people. We should seek to find out what He means when He sweeps away our sanitarium and our publishing house. Let us not move along as if there were nothing wrong." [3]
"A short time after the fire had destroyed the Review and Herald Office, an article by Ellen White was printed in the Review, "in which it was plainly stated that the destruction of the Sanitarium and the Review office by fire was a visitation from God on account of the persistent departure from his ways, and the failure to act upon the warning and instruction which had been given for many years through the Spirit of Prophecy." Yet, a short time after the 1903 General Conference Session, at a "meeting of the stockholders of the Review and Herald the statement was reiterated before a public audience that these fires were not the judgments of God. ...
"Those who are familiar with the circumstances of our work and our institutions here, especially for the last ten or fifteen years, need not be reminded of the many words of warning and instruction which the Lord has sent to us through His chosen mouthpiece, until the judgment of God has fallen upon us for our failure to obey, and it is utterly useless, and worse than useless, to attempt to hide this from our own eyes or from the eyes of the world. What we might have saved by heeding the words of instruction and warning has now become a public calamity upon us, but in spite of all this there are still voices raised which say this is no judgment upon us." [4]
Israel's main problem was pride. Pride causes us to reject the counsel of God in favor of our own imaginings no matter how far from the truth. There are those who claim we as a church accepted the truth of the 1888 message. They say we have been teaching it ever since so there is no need for further investigation. This is a "spirit of Pharisaic prejudice and criticism. As soon as this is indulged, the holy angels depart from you; for they cannot administer to sin. You possess in a large degree the same spirit that was revealed in the Conference at Minneapolis. The deception that was upon minds there still exists. Some have not been willing to see and acknowledge their errors, and their blindness of mind remains." [5]
"Some speak in commendation, [of the message] as though it were a horse or a cow they were inspecting with a view to purchasing, if the terms suited them. The truth needs to be brought into their very life experience, the Holy Spirit to be an abiding power in the life, sanctifying the soul day by day, and preparing, moulding, and fashioning the character after the divine model." [6]
If the unbelief that resulted in the woes sent by God to our church in the destruction of our major publishing house and hospital so many years ago persists today, can we expect different consequences in our own generation? Maybe it won't come in the form of burning buildings, but most thoughtful people today are concerned about the tragic loss of so many of our youth. They have heard Old Covenant ideas that religion is difficult, and pleasing God is almost impossible. The New Covenant message that we can believe that righteousness really is by faith is what youth of any age need to hear. We should see the loss of our youth as a much greater calamity than the loss of a couple of buildings.
--Arlene Hill
[1] W. W. Prescott "Sermon," April 15, 1901, General Conference Bulletin, April 17, 1901.
[2] Ellen G. White to Judge Jesse Arthur, Letter, Jan. 14, 1903, in Manuscript Releases, vol. 13, pp. 122, 123.
[3] Ellen G. White, "Lessons from Josiah's Reign," sermon given March 30, 1903, General Conference Bulletin, April 1, 1903.
[4] Editorial note, "Instruction and Response," Review and Herald, May 19, 1903.
[5] Ellen G. White, General Conference Daily Bulletin, April 13, 1891.
[6] Ellen G. White to O. A. Olsen, Letter 22, Nov. 23, 1892; in Pamphlets, No 2, "Appeal and Suggestions to Conference Officers," 1893.