Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Rebellion and Redemption
Lesson 3: Global Rebellion and the Patriarchs
Welcome to this study of the patriarchs in the book of Genesis. According to the Lord's apostle Paul, Genesis is the "gospel book of the Bible": "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, 'In you all the nations shall be blessed'" (Gal. 3:8). Genesis is the Romans of the Old Testament!
THE 1888 MESSAGE AND GOD'S PROMISE TO ABRAHAM
The biblical "new covenant" is simply God's promise to write His holy law in the human heart so that it becomes a joy to live in harmony with His holy will for our happiness. The biblical "old covenant" is simply the promise of the people to obey "all that the Lord has spoken," an expression of their own righteousness--which of course nobody has. No human has innate righteousness; what genuine righteousness there is, has to be always the gift of God.
In His love and mercy, God tried to give ancient Israel the new covenant, but they wouldn't humble their hearts to believe it (see Ex. 19:1-8). He wanted to renew to them the new covenant promise He had made to their "father" Abraham (he had believed the new covenant promise after decades of his and Sarah's "old covenant" unbelief). With their hearts humbled in repentance, Abraham and Sarah had enjoyed the blessings of imputed and imparted righteousness--by faith. Thus by his faith, Abraham earned the right to be forever called "the father of the faithful." Under the glorious provisions of the "new covenant," all of Abraham's true descendants (those who have his faith) would have the whole earth as an "everlasting possession," which meant they must also receive the gift of everlasting life.
CAIN AND ABEL FROM AN 1888 PERSPECTIVE
We know what Cain's problem was: he was trying to find acceptance with God by the good works he was doing. And he was a great farmer! His offering represented the very finest, most patient and hard-working horticultural skill and devotion possible! But Cain's problem was his "work"; his problem was his strict obedience to the commandment of God when He told Adam and Eve, "cursed is the ground for your sake; in sorrow you shall eat of it all the days of your life. ... You shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread" (Gen. 3:17-19).
Hadn't Cain sweated as he did just that? He was happy as a lark when he brought his "offering" to the altar that day, rejoicing in his "obedience," positive that God would reward him for his "works," but disappointed when God ignored it. What Cain missed was simple heart-appreciation for the shed blood of the Lamb of God; his problem was "unbelief," a failure to appreciate what it cost the Son of God to save him. Let's learn the lesson!
Abel brought a lamb that he sacrificed--a confession of his faith that no "gift" can enrich God, but Abel's offering said that in his heart he appreciated the Unspeakable Gift God was giving for our salvation. Genesis 4:4 says that God "respected Abel and his offering." Fire came from heaven. God was happy for evidence that Abel was someone with a melted heart, someone who said, "Thank You, God!" for the cross of Christ.
When Cain saw that his splendid bouquet, and fruits and vegetables, were wilting on the altar unaccepted, he got into the world's first "road-rage" and murdered his brother. If he could have gotten his hands on God, he would have murdered Him too--thus he was the world's first crucifier of Christ.
JOSEPH AND THE 1888 MESSAGE
The backdrop of Joseph's thrilling drama is the great controversy between Christ and Satan. It's far more than a novel; the fate of the plan of salvation is in the balance with that son of Jacob. In Genesis chapters 12-17 God has promised and sworn on oath (placing His own existence and His throne in jeopardy), that from Abraham's "seed" will come the Messiah, the Savior of the world. Otherwise, there can be no Savior of the world.
Jacob's twelve sons are that "seed," and Satan knows it. He inspires ten of them with murderous hatred of the one whom God has called to be the "savior" of the "seed." Failing to kill him outright, they sell him into hopeless slavery.
If only he can crush Joseph's spirit of love, Satan may win! Just embitter the young slave, an abandoned exile alone in a foreign nation and culture, if only--then the "seed" will perish with no "savior" and with them will perish God's only possible plan of salvation.
The great God of heaven has put all His eggs in the Joseph basket. Into one fallible mortal, a sinner by nature, a man inclined by his DNA to be bitter toward those brothers who betrayed him into miserable slavery. Can we imagine how breathless were the inhabitants of heaven as they watched the drama unfold.
Joseph endures the test! After all those years of bitter separation, when he meets his once-hateful brothers, his heart still loves them; he forgives them. Satan slinks off defeated. Joseph as "savior" of the "seed" demonstrates to the universe his link to Christ, the Savior of the world who prays for His crucifiers and is the Vindicator of God's oath to Abraham.
Is Joseph a type of the church that will proclaim a message that "lightens the earth with glory" in our last days? This special church is given "the spirit of prophecy" as Joseph was gifted (see Rev. 12:17; 19:10). It must pass the test of moral purity, as Joseph passed the test with Potiphar's wife tempting him. "Fornication" or "adultery" is not to be even mentioned among that people who overcome even as Christ overcame (Rev. 3:21).
The church that proclaims a message that lightens the earth with glory will suffer persecution, as Joseph suffered it from his brothers and even his father. The last-days' message will save people; lives will be changed; characters will become "at one" with God. Joseph saved many people's lives; the "remnant church" will proclaim a message that will lead many souls to eternal life.
But every one who will partake of the blessing will know first-hand "the chastening of the Lord" (Heb. 12:5-11). That will make more distinct how much the Lord loves him or her! That agape will be the dominant element of the final message. That in turn is the work of our great High Priest in His current task of cleansing the heavenly sanctuary in preparing a people for translation at the second coming of Christ.
These stories are not dry; they are stories that are intensely interesting. And as we study them we find the miracle growing in our own human hearts--the miracle of heart-reconciliation ("atonement") with God. We see Him disclosed in the stories, and to see Him is to be reconciled to Him.
--Paul E. Penno
Note: "Sabbath School Today" and Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson are on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org