Friday, December 9, 2016

Lesson 11. Out of the Whirlwind

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of Job

Lesson 11. Out of the Whirlwind

In our essay this week we would like to focus on Thursday's lesson, "Repenting in Dust and Ashes." Our lesson author makes the statement that Job, after being "overwhelmed by what God had shown him," "saw himself for what he really was, ... abhorring himself and repenting in dust and ashes."

Wrote Ellen White, "'The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind' (Job 38:1), and revealed to His servant the might of His power. When Job caught a glimpse of his Creator, he abhorred himself and repented in dust and ashes. Then the Lord was able to bless him abundantly and to make his last years the best of his life." [1] This reminds us of a similar statement in reference to His people in modern times:

"Unless the church which is now being leavened with her own backsliding, shall repent and be converted, she will eat of the fruit of her own doing, until she shall abhor herself. When she resists the evil and chooses the good, when she seeks God with all humility, and reaches her high calling in Christ, standing on the platform of eternal truth and by faith laying hold upon the attainments prepared for her, she will be healed. She will appear in her God-given simplicity and purity, separate from earthly entanglements, showing that the truth has made her free indeed. Then her members will indeed be the chosen of God, His representatives." [2]

Ellet J. Waggoner, one of the 1888 "messengers," has written that "wherever in the Old Testament it speaks of any one being broken to pieces by the Lord, we find coupled with that repentance, submission, or bitterness of soul, dust and ashes. When they humbled themselves before the Lord, they put dust on their heads. What was signified in this? I am nothing but dust. In the fifty-first, the penitential Psalm, it says near the close: 'The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.' That word 'contrite' means rubbed together until it is dust. The Lord, then, does not despise dust; because he can do a great deal even with dust. A good workman does not despise his material. Dust is one of the things which the Lord takes to do everything. Out of dust he made all things to grow. Out of dust he made man to rule over the works of his hands, therefore the Lord does not despise dust." [3]

Could this Old Testament "story," and the writings of Ellen G. White and one of God's "messengers," be pertinent to us, who are living in the "last days"?

Very prominent in the 1888 message is the idea of ceasing to resist our Lord. Ellen White caught it. Not until after the 1888 Conference did she state it clearly: "The sinner may resist this love, may refuse to be drawn to Christ; but if he does not resist he will be drawn to Jesus ... in repentance for his sins." [4] Therein is the essence of the cleansing of the sanctuary!

The 1888 idea of the cleansing of the sanctuary imparts a new motivation for following Christ. The truth of agape supplies the strength--"the agape of Christ constraineth us" (2 Cor. 5:14). Fear of the "investigative judgment" is "cast out." This is part of the cosmic Day of Atonement--a time for at-last-realized one-ness with Christ. That delivers from fear as much as He Himself was delivered from fear in His life on earth.

The Sanctuary truth leads directly to the Bride of Christ making herself ready. That "oneness" is further delineated in Scripture as a development that has never taken place in all past history: "the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready." A special blessing is pronounced on those who are invited to "the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Rev. 19:6-9). As individuals, all (including those of the last days) are "guests at the wedding." But as a corporate body, the church of the great Day of Atonement becomes the Bride of Christ.

In order for the dilatory Bride to "make herself ready" for the "marriage of the Lamb," she must welcome the disclosure of her true need. The Bride is a corporate body, therefore her repentance is a corporate repentance.

Such repentance is not only sorrow for sin and its results, but a genuine abhorrence of it. It produces an actual turning away from the sin. The law can never do this for anyone; the miracle is administered by grace. "The law worketh wrath," imparting only a terror of judgment, but grace works a repentance that makes "old things" pass away; "behold, all things are become new" (Rom. 4:15; 2 Cor. 5:17). Sin that was once loved is now hated, and righteousness that was once hated is now loved. "The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance" (Rom. 2:4).

Far from being a negative experience, such repentance is the foundation of all true joy. As every credit must have a corresponding debit to balance the books, so the smiles and happiness of life, in order to be meaningful, must be founded on the tears of Another upon whom was laid "the chastisement of our peace" and with whose "stripes we are healed" (Isa. 53:5). Repentance is not our tears and sorrow balancing the books of life; it is our appreciation of what it cost Him to bear our griefs and carry our sorrows (vs. 4).

Ellen White says, "At every advance step in Christian experience our repentance will deepen. It is to those whom the Lord has forgiven, to those whom he acknowledges as His people, and He says, 'Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight'" (Ezek. 36:31). [5]

A repentance like this is beyond us to invent or to initiate. It must come as a gift from above. God has exalted Christ "to give repentance to Israel" (Acts 5:31). And to the Gentiles also He "granted repentance unto life" (11:18). Is He any less generous to us today? Such an experience seems almost wholly out of place in these last days. Can a sophisticated church ever receive it?

Laodicea's repentance will go down to the deepest roots of this natural "enmity against God." This deeper phase of repentance is repenting of sins that we may not have personally committed, but which we would have committed if we had the opportunity. [6] The root of all sin, its common denominator, is the crucifixion of Christ. A repentance for this sin is appropriate because the books of heaven already record this sin written against our names:

The Laodicean call to repentance is the essence of the message of Christ's righteousness. Whatever sins other people are guilty of, they obviously had the "opportunity" of committing them; somehow the temptations were overmastering to them. The deeper insight the Holy Spirit brings to us is that we are by nature no better than others. Christ's righteousness is 100 percent imputed to us; we don't have even 1 percent that is ours by nature. When Scripture says that "all have sinned," it means, as the New English Bible translates it, "all alike have sinned" (Rom. 3:23). Digging down to get the roots out--this is now "present truth."

There is no way that we can appreciate the heights of Christ's glorious righteousness until we are willing to recognize the depths of our own sinfulness. A confession of sin that only scratches the surface can produce only a surface or veneer forgiveness. And that, of course, produces spiritual lukewarmness.

Does the Seventh-day Adventist Church have something to repent of in "dust and ashes"? Yes, Ellen White writes, "Upon all rests the guilt of crucifying the Son of God." [7]

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland

[1] Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 164.
[2] Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, pp. 250, 251.
[3] Ellet J. Waggoner, "Studies in the Book of Hebrews, No. 5," Feb. 14, 1897.
[4] Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 27.
[5] Ellen G. White, Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 160, 161.
[6] Ellen G. White Comments in the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1085 (Signs of the Times, July 31, 1901).
[7] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 745.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Raul Diaz