Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Sabbath School Insights No. 3 Qtr 1-06

Special Insights No. 3

First Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Families in the Family of God”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)



This week’s lesson focuses on marriage as a model that God uses to teach His people about restoration, and uses the covenant as an example of God’s union with His people. The Quarterly author states: “In biblical thinking, close relationships are bound together by covenants. The predominant covenant is one between God and His people. Human covenants are binding commitments that include promises, privileges, and obligations —key factors in any marriage.”


Common marriage vows include the phrase, “I promise to love, honor, and obey.... ,” or similar phraseology. These words are solemnly articulated at the wedding ceremony before God and witnesses. The participants in the ceremony are (at the time) certain that they can fulfill these promises because of their mutual affection and strong attraction for each other. For erring humans it is easy to say the words, “I promise such and such.” However, most of the time, and for a variety of reasons, it is difficult to follow these simple words with corresponding actions.


Our Quarterly goes on to give examples of adulterous Israel’s repeated failure in keeping her promises of obedience to God (for context see Ex. 19:8; 32:1-6; 33:1-7; 2 Chron. 30:7-8). The Lord is forced to call His bride a harlot and an adulteress because of her continued transgressions against Him (Jer. 3:6-11; 13:27; Eze.20:27-32; 23:7-9). The book of Hosea is an enacted lesson for all people and all times regarding the whoredom of God’s bride, but it also reveals His heartbrokenness and great love for His wayward and unfaithful wife (Hosea 11:7-9).


Fortunately, the Gospel is not dependant upon our promises of faithfulness to God, but rather upon His faithfulness to us. God knows the condition of our heart; it is desperately wicked and as unstable as water. If the eternal covenant marriage to God depended upon our promises to Him, we would fail as surely as did ancient Israel. This is a prominent 1888 message concept.


Let’s review what God promised the children of Israel as He attempted to bring them into His covenant marriage: “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagle’s wings, and brought you unto Myself” (Ex. 19:4). What a magnificent declaration of love for His bride! He says, Look at all that I have already done to show you how much I love you.


The Lord continues: “Now therefore, if ye will obey [Heb. shama literally means hear, perceive with understanding, discern] My voice indeed, and keep [Heb. shamar literally means protect, preserve, guard, or cherish; cf. Gen. 2:15] My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people; for the earth is Mine” (vs. 5). The first thing to observe is that God already has a covenant in place to which He is referring the children of Israel. It is the everlasting covenant He made with Abraham (Gen. 15:7-21). If they would cherish His promise to Abraham, and discern the deep meaning of that covenant, then they would indeed be a “peculiar treasure” unto the Lord. They would be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (vs. 6).


God did not ask the people to DO anything. He only asked them to believe in and appreciate the promise which He had already given to Abraham. Their response in verse 8 was completely unwarranted, and showed an absolute misunderstanding of what God was telling them.


“The people of Israel were full of self-confidence and of unbelief in God, as is shown by their murmuring against God’s leading and by their assumption of the ability to do anything that God required, to fulfill His promises. They had the same spirit as their descendants, who asked: ‘What must we do, to be doing the work of God?’ John 6:28. They were so ignorant of God’s righteousness that they thought that they could establish their own righteousness as an equivalent” (E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p. 74).


How does this correlate to the lesson’s discussion of human marriage? How will a correct understanding of the everlasting covenant deepen and strengthen our human marriage relationship? How will it restore the “tragic loss of physical, emotional, and spiritual oneness” that was lost due to the fall of our first parents?


As we learned in last quarter’s studies on Ephesians, submission is the key to a happy marriage (Eph. 5:22, 25). This is a two-way submission, each giving their all to the other, just as Christ gave His all to save us from sin. Christ put the human race first and was willing to be lost eternally if He could save His people from their sin by dying as them on the cross. This is the essence of agape; totally devoid of any self-centeredness or selfishness.


Our lesson tells us that when “Adam and Eve fell for Satan’s deceptions, not only was their relationship with God damaged, so was their relationship with each other.” It is the work of the Gospel to remove these barriers between us and out divine Lover. “Ever since that first sin in the Garden, mankind have been repeating the tragic pattern. Unless man has faith in a divine Saviour who bears the full burden of his guilt, a full realization of guilt kills him” (Robert J. Wieland, The Knocking At the Door, p. 11).


Just as a willing and total submission to each other in a marriage removes the fear and shame of complete exposure, just so we must learn to stand before our divine Lover naked and unashamed. We must learn the full depth of our sin, conscious and unconscious, before there can be a final reconciliation between God and His people. This is the work of the cleansing of the sanctuary in the antitypical Day of Atonement that reaches down to the depths and purifies our characters.


When this is accomplished in God’s people, then it can be said that “the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7). Then, standing in unabashed nakedness, fully exposed before her divine Lover, making no pretense of covering herself (as did Adam and Eve), Christ will place upon His bride the garment He has been longing to give her—the garment of His own righteousness—that she will wear forever in His presence (vs. 8).


Restoration of the whole human race in Christ is a reality; reconciliation is accomplished (2 Cor. 5:14-19). When God’s people fully appreciate what He has done to save us from sin, then the Lord can come to claim His bride and take us home. May that day be hastened, is our prayer.

Ann Walper


[If you would like a copy of Knocking at the Door, contact the Message Study Committee, (269) 473-1888.]


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