Thursday, November 14, 2019


NOVEMBER 16, 2019

As I looked at our lesson title this week and realized it was our seventh lesson for the quarter, it brought to mind Matthew 18:21 where Peter questions Jesus on forgiveness and asks how many times we should forgive our brother, thinking his suggestion of 7 times was a generous thought. The response of Jesus that 70 times 7 was appropriate was essentially saying that we should be willing to forgive with no limit. The real underlying message for us here is that God's forgiveness has no limit just as His agape love has no limit, for God is love! When we come to see more of the depth of His love and His sacrifice then our hearts and minds will be changed and as new creatures in Christ, we also, through the power of the Holy Spirit in us would be willing to forgive our brothers and sisters without limit. Before we can forgive, we need to see His forgiveness of us and so a key part of our lesson study this week will be to take a closer look at God's forgiveness of us.
The other key topic we want to study this week is the prayer of repentance in Nehemiah 9. As it mentions on Sunday's lesson, this prayer was not just an individual prayer of repentance but a "corporate prayer and confession that demonstrated a deep understanding of the nature of sin". Corporate repentance is significant in scripture and has a special significance for God's last day people today as well.
Let us start our study of God's forgiveness by looking at Christ's forgiveness of the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11:
"In His act of pardoning this woman and encouraging her to live a better life, the character of Jesus shines forth in the beauty of perfect righteousness. While He does not palliate sin nor lessen the sense of guilt, He seeks not to condemn but to save." (DA 462.3)
What deliverance! What a Saviour! This story clearly shows forgiveness taking place before any confession or repentance. In fact, the Bible shows no evidence of any confession. Yet she was clearly pardoned and given hope when Jesus said "go and sin no more."
Can you imagine what she must have thought? Is it really possible? Can she not only be pardoned but cleansed? Is it possible she can actually go out and sin no more? She sees hope in the Lord's command. She wants to be cleansed. She wants to go and sin no more.
In Desire of Ages, we read: "In astonishment she saw her accusers depart speechless and confounded; then those words of hope fell upon her ear, "Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more." Her heart was melted, and she cast herself at the feet of Jesus, sobbing out her grateful love, and with bitter tears confessing her sins. This was to her the beginning of a new life, a life of purity and peace, devoted to the service of God. In the uplifting of this fallen soul, Jesus performed a greater miracle than in healing the most grievous physical disease; He cured the spiritual malady which is unto death everlasting. This penitent woman became one of His most steadfast followers. With self-sacrificing love and devotion, she repaid His forgiving mercy." (DA 462.1,2)
We see that her pardon led to a desire for cleansing and she was cleansed. The woman was pardoned before she confessed, and the pardon led to confession, repentance, and cleansing.
Here are several scripture texts dealing with forgiveness that further clarify what Christ has done for each and every sinner at the Cross:
Ephesians 1: 7,8: "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that He lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding."
Romans 3: 23: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."
Colossians 1: 13,14: "For He has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness, and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, Who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins."
Consistent with these scriptures are several quotes from EGW, Waggoner, and Jones that help us to see more of the depth of Christ's infinite love and sacrifice in paying the penalty of the second death for every sin and every sinner none of which we earned or deserved:
"Justice demands that sin be not merely pardoned but the death penalty must be executed. God, in the gift of His only-begotten Son, met both these requirements. By dying in man's stead, Christ exhausted the penalty and provided a pardon." (1SM 340.1)
"Christ became sin for the fallen race, in taking upon Himself the condemnation resting upon the sinner for his transgression of the law of God. Christ stood at the head of the human family as their representative. He had taken upon Himself the sins of the world. In the likeness of sinful flesh, He condemned sin in the flesh." (RH 5/6/1875)
"Jesus has purchased redemption for us. It is ours;" (YI 11/4/1897)
"All men have been bought with this infinite price. By pouring the whole treasury of heaven into this world, by giving us in Christ all heaven, God has purchased the will, the affections, the mind, the soul, of every human being.
Whether believers or unbelievers, all men are the Lord's property." (COL 326).
Many Christians, including Adventists, do not understand that all of our sins were pardoned at the cross, although scripture is clear on this point. Some believe that the free gift of salvation is only a provision and that your sins are only forgiven when you are baptized, confess, and repent…and even then, it only applies to past sins. Every future sin must then be confessed and repented of, otherwise you are lost. In other words, we have to earn both our forgiveness and salvation.
This is in contrast to the peace and assurance that God wants us to have when we believe that the free gift of salvation is already ours in Christ. By faith, (the faith of Jesus), we believe that we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
We can see that forgiveness is more than a legal act or pardon by which He sets us free from condemnation. God also wants to reclaim us from sin-it is the outflow of His redeeming love that transforms the heart and causes us to want the cleansing only He can provide.
And so, we have Jesus as our High Priest in the heavenly Sanctuary, cleansing us from our sins and preparing a last day people for His second coming. But it is with a moment by moment surrender to His will through the power of the Holy Spirit that we will recognize our need and desire that cleansing so we may claim His victory over our sins and our sinful nature until He comes.
"We do not repent in order that God may love us, but He reveals to us His love in order that we may repent." (COL189.1)
"His death has secured life and pardon for all. Nothing can keep them from salvation except their own perverse will. Men must take themselves out of the hand of God, in order not to be saved." (Waggoner on Romans p.144)
"The Lord will not compel anyone to take it…no man will die the second death who has not chosen sin rather than righteousness, death rather than life." (GCB1895Feb.21, p.269)
"All the grace of God is freely given to everyone bringing salvation to all…Having given it all, He is clear, even though men may reject it." (RH 4/17/1894)
Now, as we move on with our study, this week we look at Nehemiah 9 and the corporate prayer of all the people, those who had been oppressed and their oppressors, including all the leadership, priests and Nehemiah himself. Their prayer recognized God's goodness and His mercy while acknowledging, confessing and repenting in sorrow not only their sins individually but as a people and the sins of their forefathers all of which had brought them to this point. In order to go forward and complete the rebuilding of Jerusalem, this was necessary so that they would be united as a nation under God and His principles.
The "corporate" concept is an important part of scripture in both the Old and New Testament. Just one example is Daniel's prayer (Daniel 9) stating "we have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled" and asking for God's forgiveness.
Similarly, in the New Testament in Romans 5 we see how Christ as the Second Adam took the entire human race into Himself so that "by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life" (vs.18).
We also see at Christ's baptism (Matthew 3:13-17) corporate repentance. John was reluctant to baptize Jesus. "How could he, a sinner, baptize the Sinless One? And why should He who needed no repentance submit to a rite that was a confession of guilt to be washed away?" (DA 110.2). "Jesus did not receive baptism as a confession of guilt on His own account. He identified Himself with sinners, taking the steps that we are to take, and doing the work that we must do." (DA 111.2). "As one with us, He must bear the burden of our guilt and woe. The Sinless One must feel the shame of sin. The peace lover must dwell with strife, the truth must abide with falsehood, purity with vileness." (DA 111.4). Clearly, this was Christ's corporate repentance for us and as us.
So now let's bring this back to God's last day church today. We are indeed His final church, the Bride that Christ, as our groom, has been waiting for to be ready for Him to come. Ellen White said multiple times that Christ would have come before 1900. One example is the following:
"Had the purpose of God been carried out by His people in giving to the world the message of mercy, Christ would, ere this, have come to the earth, and the saints would have received their welcome into the city of God." (Testimonies for the Church 6:450 (1900).
Revelation 3 tells us that Laodicea is God's final church, and EGW has reminded us multiple times of our Laodicean condition thinking that we are OK and in need of nothing when in fact vs. 17 tells us we are actually wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. The good news is that in vs. 18 God has the solution for us:
"The gold that Jesus would have us buy of Him is gold tried in the fire; it is the gold of faith and love, that has no defiling substance mingled with it. The white raiment is the righteousness of Christ, the wedding garment that Christ alone can give. The eye salve is the true spiritual discernment that is so wanting among us, for spiritual things must be spiritually discerned. (RH April 1, 1890).
But Christ's message to the angel (leadership) of the church (vs.14) tells us we need more as seen in vs. 19: "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore and repent."
While we, of course, do need individual repentance this is a message to His bride, God's final church, His last day church in our Laodicean condition. He is looking for our corporate repentance as a church and His bride. Our groom has been patiently waiting for us since He gave us a most precious message in 1888 to share with the world.
"The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world…. this is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure." (TM 91/92)
So, as with Nehemiah and his people, we also need to come together in unity, repent, seek His forgiveness and go forward to share the message God gave us that the world is waiting for. One final encouraging thought from Prophet and Kings, (Ch. 56, p.668) which deals with Nehemiah 9:
"Every true turning to the Lord brings abiding joy into the life. When a sinner yields to the influence of the Holy Spirit, he sees his own guilt and defilement in contrast with the holiness of the great Searcher of hearts. He sees himself condemned as a transgressor. But he is not, because of this, to give way to despair; for his pardon has already been secured. He may rejoice in the sense of sins forgiven, in the love of a pardoning heavenly Father. It is God's glory to encircle sinful, repentant human beings in the arms of His love, to bind up their wounds, to cleanse them from sin, and to clothe them with the garments of salvation."

John and Monica Campbell

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Friday, November 08, 2019

1888 Message Study : The Reading of the Word



So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11

God had spoken the prophetic word (Jeremiah 29:10) that the Jews would be restored from their captivity. Belief in this word was the key in the hand of Daniel's faith to unlock heaven's storehouse, as he prayed for God to fulfill His word. The confirmation came as the starting point for arguably the two most important prophecies of all time. The prophetic benchmark given to Daniel was that the wall of Jerusalem would be rebuilt even in troublesome times, as God's word was fulfilled in the command of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:12-26; Daniel 9:25). It took some time from the command before the wall was finished, but God had done a marvelous work, recognized by all the surrounding nations (Nehemiah 6:16).

As the people saw what God had done, that His word was sure, they wanted to hear more. They gathered as a corporate body and asked Ezra to read the Word of God to them over the many centuries preceding. This was to be a review of God's teaching in their past history at the end of the seventy years, prefiguring a similar review at the end of both the 70 week and the 2300-day prophecies. We should readily own today's application throughout Nehemiah chapter 8.

"In reviewing our past history, having traveled over every step of advance to our present standing, I can say, Praise God! As I see what God has wrought, I am filled with astonishment, and with confidence in Christ as leader. We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history." {CET 204.1}

The reading of the Word by Ezra was significant in that the command had been given to have the congregation corporately review God's Word every seven years, during the year of release of debts. We see in this particular case that the people came to the realization of how much of their corporate debt was needing to be released, and it was overwhelming, to the point of tears.

This came about because there were passages that brought deep conviction of sin. But there were passages of God's preemptive mercy not to be overlooked, like Isaiah 44:22:

"I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, And like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you."

It was a blessing that there were helpers giving the sense of each passage - the practical application of Christ-centered teaching. The palpable experience of joy was possible because someone understood the amazing loveliness of God's character seen in the face of the promised Messiah. God was all about reconciling Israel, and through them the world, to Himself.

The feast of booths could now be celebrated in the context of God's deliverance from Babylon, like it had been for His deliverance from Egypt. Not too many years hence, the Messiah would arrive to tabernacle in humanity, bringing deliverance to the humanity that needed it. To be truly set free, every person must be free from the Babylon within - the confusion of selfish motives and distorted views of God.


Now from A.T. Jones:

The Course and Cause of Backsliding

"The first coming-out of Babylon was a glorious deliverance; a wonderful manifestation of God's power and grace, both through the powers of the world and upon His people. The most perfect freedom in work and worship in the world, was theirs. Heaven and earth were united in their favor. But instead of being absolutely swallowed up in pure devotion out of gratitude for all this wondrous favor of God, they soon began to drift into formality and worldliness; they neglected the cause and work of God and thought of worldly gain; they so slighted the truth of God, so lost true love for it, that they neglected to instruct their own children, the children, therefore, easily swung into the ways of the heathen, into essential sympathy with the heathen, so that they could readily choose the heathen in marriage; and the parents were themselves so in essential sympathy with heathenism in principle, that they could readily assent to their children's marriage with the heathen, not seeing 'but that the children were about as well off as marrying the heathen as in marrying among their own people.' And this was true, because by the general neglect of the parents among their own people, the young of their own people had grown up within the heathen that any vital difference was difficult to see. And yet in the presence of all the essential confusion, these people were willing to pride themselves on being 'out of Babylon.' 'We have the truth.' 'God speaks to us by prophets.' {June 18, 1902 ATJ, SITI 5.2}

And when down in Babylon devout souls, seeking the full truth, longing for light and freedom and for deliverance from the confusion and darkness and redemption around them, really found deliverance and came 'out of Babylon' indeed, glad even to know that God was really speaking by living prophets to His people who were out of Babylon,— when these dear souls came, all expectant, up to Jerusalem to the people of God, as to the very gate of heaven, they were so disappointed and pained at the low and loose condition of the people in worship, in morals, and in mixing with the world, that they were made ashamed and to blush to lift up their faces to God in view of the iniquities that had increased over their heads, and trespasses that were grown up unto the heavens." {June 18, 1902 ATJ, SITI 5.3}

Today it appears we are no better in coming and staying out of Babylon's influence than was Israel in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. But someday soon, God's modern Israel will experience the repentance of the ages. There will be a deep joy in this experience as they finally understand Romans 3:19-24. The lesson poses discussion questions based on this passage. How do the law and gospel together provide the opportunity to mourn over our sins and simultaneously rejoice in the Lord?

Perhaps it is in the realization that the free justification (vs 24) of all who have sinned (vs 23) is something already there in Christ for each of us. When we truly hear and believe the Word made flesh, in our flesh, the law and the gospel will be in perfect harmony as He dwells within. May He truly tabernacle with each of us now in preparation for the anti-typical feast of tabernacles! That prospect is true cause for joy and celebration.

~Todd Guthrie

Thursday, October 31, 2019

1888 Message Study : Violating the Spirit of the Law




"Restore now to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their olive groves, and their houses, also a hundredth of the money and the grain, the new wine and the oil, that you have charged them' " (Nehemiah 5:11, NKJV).


This week's "Insights" is divided into two parts - application and insights.


Part 1: Application

The best lessons strike closest to home. With whom in this week's story do you identify? There are three choices.


Nehemiah. Courageous. Self-sacrificing. Persistent. Unfazed by power or wealth. Giving. Just. Prayer warrior. Man of faith. Godly leader. Not intimidated by conflict. Direct in confronting wrongdoing.


The Poor Jews. Frazzled. Frustrated. They and/or their children sold into slavery against their will. In debt. Protestors. Unable to pay taxes or home mortgages. Hungry. Forced from their homes and land. Many troubles and trials.


The Wealthy Jews. Opportunistic. Took advantage of poorer brethren by charging usury (interest). Financial interests were highest priority. Sold their brethren into slavery. Repented and made restitution after their sin was pointed out.


I am not proud of this, but of the three options listed above, I identify most with the wealthy Jews. Though I haven't had the opportunity of selling people into slavery to get my money back or of charging interest on loans. There is something about this group, though, that resonates with me. Let me explain.


"'Let us not love in word,' the apostle writes, 'but in deed and in truth.' The completeness of Christian character is attained when the impulse to help and bless others springs constantly from within. It is the atmosphere of this love surrounding the soul of the believer that makes him a savor of life unto life and enables God to bless his work" (AA 551).


There are plenty of times when the impulse to help and bless others comes to my mind. The trouble is, I don't always heed the voice. Sometimes God puts people in my path who need help when I wasn't planning to give it; perhaps taking time to help wasn't on my to do list for the day. Perhaps the help that is most needed will involve great sacrifice on my part. Sometimes, getting me to help has been like squeezing juice out of a cold, hard lemon. I can relate to the wealthy Jews. 


The Lord Himself has identified my condition in Revelation 3. "'Because you say, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing"--and do not know that you are wretched, miserable poor blind, and naked--I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich, and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with the eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten, Therefore be zealous and repent" (vss 17-19).


The 1888 message is especially suited to us in Laodicea; we need the righteousness of Christ, for which He has made provision at an infinite, personal sacrifice. I am ashamed that I hesitate to help and bless others. I am sorry for selfishly balking at self-sacrifice and inconvenience.


"We were all debtors to divine justice, but we had nothing with which to pay the debt. Then the Son of God, Who pitied us, paid the price of our redemption. He became poor that through His poverty we might be rich. By deeds of liberality toward His poor we may prove the sincerity of our gratitude for the mercy extended to us. . . 'Ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good' " (PK 652).


This week I have frequently found myself checking for updates on the fires in California. One news article pondered the contrast between the very wealthy who were fleeing their homes ahead of fires, and of their migrant worker-employees, some of whom had not even realized there was an evacuation order, but had been faithfully doing their jobs--collecting the trash, tending yards, streets, and vineyards, and harvesting grapes. Our society places high value on wealth, beauty, talent, position, and fame. The article pointed out that the rich need the poor and the poor need the rich. It's just that power and money often lead to abuse at the expense of the poor. 


That was what was happening in Nehemiah's day. The very wealthy have means with which to build another home. The poor who work for them do not know if they will get another paycheck. The Lord does not see as man sees. He honored the poor by becoming one of them. He values them as much as the wealthy.


Nehemiah was used by God to reach the wealthy Jews. They repented. They made restitution to their poorer brethren. Everyone is needed in the body of Christ. To our churches the Lord brings the poor, the sick and handicapped, the outcasts, and those in need of clothing, shelter, and food, to our doorstep. The true test of our love for Christ is demonstrated in how we treat these individuals. As far as possible, we should "not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (Hebrews 13:16). 


This week's lesson also covered the topic of oaths, and how they were often utilized to secure agreements between two parties in ancient times. Did you notice the quote in Friday's lesson? "Jesus preceded to lay down a principle that would make oath taking needless. He teaches that the exact truth should be the law of speech. 'Let your speech be Yea, yea; Nay, nay; and whatsoever is more than these is of the evil one' R.V." (TMB, p. 67).


Continuing, Sister White says, "These words condemn all those meaningless phrases and expletives that border on profanity. They condemn the deceptive compliments, the evasion of truth, the flattering phrases, the exaggerations, the misrepresentations in trade, that are current in society and in the business world. They teach that no one who tries to appear what he is not, or whose words do not convey the real sentiment of his heart, can be called truthful" (p. 68).


Recently a gentleman from England who moved to the U.S. about ten years ago explained to me a difference he noticed between British and American English. The British, he said, employ satire to make a point, by saying the opposite of what they mean. Americans, on the other hand, utilize slang to an extreme. Our language has become littered with many repetitive expressions, some of which border on profanity or swearing, while others are idiomatic of our rapidly changing pop culture. As ambassadors for Christ, we can lay aside these expressions that connect us to the world in exchange for the words of life found in Scripture. Particularly in preaching from the pulpit, the absence of such language gives evidence that we have been with Jesus. "Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you" (Luke 26:73).


Part 2: Insight 

We owe a significant gospel insight in this week's lesson to a quote in the E. G. White Sabbath School Notes for Monday's lesson. The context takes us back to Nehemiah 5:1-5 where the poor Jews were crying out for justice:


"Because of poverty, some [children] were sold into bondage by their parents. Others who were sentenced for crimes by the judges were sold into bondage. The Lord specified that even these were not to be held as bond-servants for more than seven years. At the end of that time every servant was given his freedom, or, if he chose, he was allowed to remain with his master. Thus God guarded the interests of the lowly and the oppressed. Thus He enjoined a noble spirit of generosity, and encouraged all to cultivate a love for liberty, because the Lord had made them free. Anyone who refused liberty when it was his privilege to have it, was marked. This was not a badge of honor to him, but a mark of disgrace. Thus God encouraged the cultivation of a high and noble spirit, rather than a spirit of bondage and slavery" (Ellen G. White Comments, in the SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 1106, emphasis supplied).


Do you see the connection here with the mark of the beast?


When Adam sinned, Satan became his master. "Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness. But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness" Romans 6:16-18.


This passage clearly articulates that by obeying Satan, we became his slaves. Slavery originated with Satan and was chosen by Adam. Being without hope in this condition, Philippians 2 describes the downward path Jesus took in order to save us from Satan's grasp, "Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant," (vs. 6, 7).  Jesus, Who was free in heaven, became a bondservant on earth in order to rescue us.


Let's pick up the passage identified in our lesson that explains the laws governing slaves in Israel:


"If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years: and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing. If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself. But if the servant plainly says, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,' then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever" (Exodus 21:2-6).


Slavery was never God's plan, but in view of the widespread custom of employing slaves, these directions were given to Moses.


Applying this passage to Christ and his bride, we observe the following. 


The great controversy has lasted 6,000 years. The six years followed by a seventh year of freedom point to our redemption from this world on the eve of the millennial Sabbath rest at the second advent of Jesus Christ. This is the Christian's Jubilee. As described in type in Exodus 21, Jesus became a servant and came to this world to claim His bride. He has declared his love for her, and for all eternity His intention is to remain married to her. He will not "go out free" without her. He was wounded for our transgressions, He was pierced for our iniquities. He has become one with the human race, never to regain, in some sense, the position He had in heaven before the fall. He was numbered with the transgressors, He will ever retain the marks of His crucifixion in His forehead, hands, and feet, the price He paid to purchase our liberty. 


"And one will say to him, 'What are these wounds between your arms?' Then he will answer, 'Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends' " (Zechariah 13:6).


"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:36).


On the cross, Jesus liberated the entire human race. He opened the slave house door and set the captives free. "With His own blood He has signed the emancipation papers of the race" (Te 124).


When our bodies are transformed at His coming, all traces of sin, including scars, will be removed. Jesus alone will bear the marks of what it cost Him to save us.


At His coming there will be another group, those who worship "the beast and his image," and receive "his mark on his forehead or on his hand" (Revelation 14:9). This mark is characterized by no rest day or night. This group has rejected the liberty in Christ. They have chosen their own righteousness over His robe of righteousness.


Those who do not rest are working day and night to save themselves. "Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work" (Ex. 20:9). Those who receive the seal of God in the forehead are resting in Christ for salvation. "But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. In it thou shalt not do any work . . . " (vs. 9). Keeping the seventh day Sabbath is the sign or seal of God fixed in the foreheads of those who liberty in Christ (Ex. 31:13).


Those with the mark of the beast have not walked out of Satan's slave house even though Christ has opened the door. When this group beholds the marks of Calvary on Jesus, they will be "tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb" (vs. 10). The sight of Him stirs within their souls the keenest anguish, as the realization of what they have rejected overwhelms them. As slaves of Satan, "they have no rest day or night who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name" (vs. 11).


Hence, the third angel's message is heaven's last appeal to earth's inhabitants to come out from slavery to sin and into newness of life in Christ. Thus, "anyone who refused liberty when it was his privilege to have it, was marked."


"Rebellion was not to be overcome by force. Compelling power is found only under Satan's government. The Lord's principles are not of this order. His authority rests upon goodness, mercy, and love; and the presentation of these principles is the means to be used. God's government is moral, and truth and love are to be the prevailing power" (DA p. 759).


~ Patti Guthrie

Friday, October 25, 2019

1888 Message Study : Facing Opposition



OCTOBER 26, 2019



"But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, so that they could not make them cease till a report could go to Darius. Then a written answer was returned concerning this matter" (Ezra 5:5).


Chronology of the book of Ezra

This week's lesson begins with the assertion that "Ezra 3-6 is structured thematically, covering different historical periods of opposition to the rebuilding of the temple. Recognizing this thematic approach will help clarify the overall message" (SS Lesson quarterly, p. 30).


In reality, the book of Ezra is written in chronological order. The confusion begins in the first lesson of this quarter where a list of Persian kings is given as follows (see page 8 of the quarterly):


  • Cyrus II the Great (559-530 BC)

  • Cambyses II (530-522 BC)

  • Darius I (522-486 BC)

  • Xerxes I (485-465 BC) (Also known from the book of Esther as Ahasuerus)

  • Artaxerxes (465-424 BC)


Key details from history and the inspired record which are omitted above appear below in red:


  • Cyrus II the Great (559-530 BC) 

  • Cambyses II (530-522 BC) (the Ahasuerus of Ezra 4:6)

  • False Smerdis (525-522 BC) (the Artaxerxes of Ezra 4:7, who ruled while Cambyses II was in Egypt and for 7 months after Cambyses died)

  • Darius Hystapes I (522-486 BC) (Who gave the second command to rebuild the temple)

  • Xerxes I (485-465 BC) (Also known from the book of Esther as Ahasuerus)

  • Artaxerxes Longimanus (465-424 BC) (Who gave the third decree in 457 BC for the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild Jerusalem in 457 BC)


Just as Pharaoh was a term commonly applied to the rulers of Egypt, so the titles Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes denoted the position of king or leader in Persia. 


In Prophets and Kings, Ellen White explains: "During the reign of Cambyses the work on the temple progressed slowly. And during the reign of the false Smerdis (called Artaxerxes in Ezra 4:7) the Samaritans induced the unscrupulous impostor to issue a decree forbidding the Jews to rebuild their temple and city.


"For over a year the temple was neglected and well-nigh forsaken. The people dwelt in their homes and strove to attain temporal prosperity, but their situation was deplorable. Work as they might they did not prosper. The very elements of nature seemed to conspire against them. Because they had let the temple lie waste, the Lord sent upon their substance a wasting drought. God had bestowed upon them the fruits of field and garden, the corn and the wine and the oil, as a token of His favor; but because they had used these bountiful gifts so selfishly, the blessings were removed.


"Such were the conditions existing during the early part of the reign of Darius Hystaspes. Spiritually as well as temporally, the Israelites were in a pitiable state" (pp. 572, 573).


This passage from the inspired record includes three kings in sequence: Cambyses, the false Smerdis (Artaxerxes), and Darius. The quarterly omits the brief reign of the False Smerdis (Artaxerxes), which is essential to a correct interpretation of the text.


In his nearly 700-page book, The Great Empires of Bible Prophecy, A. T. Jones expands on the history of these kings:


"Cambyses, the son of Cyrus, succeeded immediately to the throne of the Medi-Persian Empire, near the beginning of the year 529 B.C. There was a second son, named Smerdis; but Cambyses caused him to be secretly murdered.


"The Samaritans, who had opposed the building of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israel in Palestine, and who had hired counselors to frustrate that purpose 'all the days of Cyrus King of Persia,' continued the same opposition in the reign of Cambyses; for 'in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem' (Ezra 4:6).  There is no known record that any notice was taken of their accusation; and the work of restoration in Jerusalem and Judea continued, though meeting many hindrances" (p. 61)


Notice that A.T. Jones equates Cambyses II with the Ahasuerus of Ezra 4:6.


"When Cambyses caused the murder of his brother Smerdis, it was done with so much secrecy that the great body of the people believed him to be still alive. This resulted in the rise of a certain Gomates, who claimed to be the true Smerdis. Because of the general belief of the people that Smerdis was alive, and because Gomates bore such a close resemblance to Smerdis, this false Smerdis was readily received as the true. Cambyses having been long absent in the far-away country of Egypt, and even Ethiopia, under all the circumstances it was easy for Gomates to fix himself firmly upon the throne of united Persia and Media" (p. 62)


There is more to it than that. Gomates was a magician. He lied to the people, claiming to be Smerdis, causing the people to revolt from Cambyses, which enabled him to seize the kingdom. When Cambyses (still in Egypt) learned of the imposter on his throne, he killed himself.


Jones continues: "This Gomates, the false Smerdis, was a Magian and was largely ruled by the Magian priests. He made it his chief purpose to make the Median influence, and also the Median religion, once more predominant in the united empire" (p. 63).


The point of all this is that the Artaxerxes to whom the letter by Rehum and Shimshai was addressed was none other than the imposter Gomates, impersonating as Smerdis, the son of Cyrus and younger brother of Cambyses. The fact that he was a magician and entrenched in the pagan religion of the Medes meant that he did not share the religious convictions of Cyrus nor did he care to honor Cyrus's decree for the restoration of the temple, hence he commanded that work on the restoration of the temple cease. Rehum and Shimshai lost no time in enlisting the force of arms to carry out this new resolution. Hence "the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem ceased, and it was discontinued until the second year of the reign of Darius King of Persia" Ezra 4:24.


Lessons from this week's lesson:

1. First and foremost, we need to be students of the Word and of history. Ezra studied both. In his later years, he was a much sought-after teacher. 


2. When the going got rough, the Jews became afraid. They ceased building the temple and focused on their own homes. God sent the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to encourage the Jews in their work of rebuilding. Despite the challenges, when everyone worked together the temple was completed in a relatively short time, "on the third day of the month of Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius" (Ezra 6:15), because "the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo" (Ezra 6:14). In every age, God has sent His prophets with a message of present truth for that generation.


3. The second temple was completed, but the walls around Jerusalem were still in ruins. God called Nehemiah to lead out in the full restoration of Jerusalem at the third decree, given by Artaxerxes Longimanus in 457 BC. At this time, many Jews returned to Israel to assist in the repairs. Tobiah and Sanballat did all they could to discourage the builders, but notice what the builders did: 


"Nevertheless, we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night," (Nehemiah 4:9). 


Nehemiah encouraged the builders, saying, "Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses. And it happened, when our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work" (Nehemiah 4:14, 15). 


4. The last challenge Nehemiah faced was being called away from his post of duty to defend himself against false charges. Had he succumbed to fear ("For they all were trying to make us afraid" Nehemiah 6:9), Nehemiah might have lost his life in the plot to get him to leave his post and defend himself. As it was, Nehemiah was in tune with the Spirit, who revealed the true motives of Shemaiah, and Nehemiah refused to go. Instead, he stayed on task until "the wall was finished . . . in 52 days" (Nehemiah 6:15). 


Seventh-day Adventists have been entrusted with a work akin to that of Ezra and Nehemiah in restoring: 


--the truths of Christ's cleansing work in the heavenly sanctuary and in us (rebuilding the temple), 

--all ten precepts of God's law of love written in our hearts (restoring the wall), and

--the faith of Jesus (defense against the enemy's attacks)


"Among those who profess to be the supporters of God's cause there are those who unite with His enemies and thus lay His cause open to the attacks of His bitterest foes. Even some who desire the work of God to prosper will yet weaken the hands of His servants by hearing, reporting, and half believing the slanders, boasts, and menaces of His adversaries. Satan works with marvelous success through his agents, and all who yield to their influence are subject to a bewitching power that destroys the wisdom of the wise and the understanding of the prudent. But, like Nehemiah, God's people are neither to fear nor to despise their enemies. Putting their trust in God, they are to go steadily forward, doing His work with unselfishness, and committing to His providence the cause for which they stand" (PK 645).


Ezra and Nehemiah endured many delays in the work of building and restoration, and so have we. But the promise remains: "He will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth" (Romans 9:28).


~ Patti Guthrie