Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sabbath School Insights No. 6, Qtr 4-06

Special Insights No. 6

Fourth Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Beginnings and Belongings”

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

“The Earth After the Flood”


Why Noah Did Not Preach the 1888 Message


In Matthew 24, Jesus described that the last days before His coming, the earth would be “as the days of Noah.” We know that the message of righteousness by faith as proclaimed by Ellen G. White, E. J. Waggoner, and A. T. Jones in the 1888 era is the message for the church just before Christ’s coming. How is it different from the message Noah gave?


It isn’t that people are more receptive, or even more spiritually inclined. No, we who are on this earth now are capable of as much sin as that generation. Noah’s message was a familiar one, that of repentance. But the repentance needed in the final days of earth’s history is different from the call Noah made before the flood.


Picture yourself as part of Noah’s family: 120 years of ridicule that increased as the monstrosity your dad was building took on the unmistakable shape of a boat. At some point, you couldn’t explain it away as a weekend project gone bad. Your co-workers ridiculed you about your “nutcase” dad, suggesting that maybe you might be a chip off the old block. Gradually, your respect for the old man faded. He was out of step. The rest of the family was solid, they would go on the boat, but you had reservations. Why couldn’t things go back to they way they were 120 years ago?


But you’re scared by the supernatural phenomena of animals and birds coming two by two in an orderly column into the ark. Though you think your dad simplistic in his faith, you join your family just in case there might be something to this. The voyage is fearful when the elements are unleashed in ways that had been declared impossible by the best scientists. Yet, in spite of human predictions and logic, the tiny boat finally comes to rest without the loss of one.


You step out of the ark into a holocaust of a world and think privately, “what kind of a God can do this?” No landmarks, nothing like only six months before. Noah gives thanks to God for preserving them, and the families go about living life. God had chosen a farmer, not a carpenter to build the boat, so Noah did what he knew best, and went back to farming. He planted a vineyard.


The written record does not tell us whether God had forbidden the use of “strong” drink, so we must reserve judgment on Noah’s actions. It seems incongruous that a man of such strong faith would seek escape this way, but the record is clear, he got drunk. The story doesn’t focus on Noah, but on his sons’ reactions to his excesses. All three boys must have been brought up to respect their parents, but “the unnatural crime of Ham declared that filial reverence had long before been cast from his soul, and it revealed the impiety and vileness of his character” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 117).


If that is the case, why did Ham bother to listen to his father and seek refuge from the flood by entering the ark? Did he enter out of fear when the animals mysteriously came into the ark? Unlike his brothers, Ham chose not to respect his father. It is difficult to understand how someone who had gone through the cataclysmic events and the unmistakable manifestation of Divine power could become so degraded as to make light of his father’s condition. Perhaps all those mental reservations had eroded any faith he may have had. God was fearsome, exacting, and punishing. It was easier to deal with it by scorn and ridicule, finally declaring that He simply didn’t exist.


This gives us the clue to the difference between Noah’s message and the 1888 message. God knew that the outworking of sin had not reached the full demonstration embodied at the cross. Humanity would continue after the flood without any change in its nature.


God will destroy the earth again, not by flood, but by fire. The same scoffers and human-based logic are used to conclude that is impossible. But those who enter into the body of Christ, known as the church, at the end of time are called to a much higher commitment than was expected of the antediluvian world.


God will not risk the possibility of having a “Ham” in heaven. Even an uncontrolled drunken Noah would mar the unity in heaven. Many people joke that a heaven with nothing but sober and repressed people would really be more like hell. But unity and self-control are gifts that human beings must accept before they can be happy in heaven. God cannot risk the happiness of the entire universe by admitting into heaven all who came into the “ark” of the church unless their choice is genuine.


There are many who think that heaven is theirs if they simply believe; how they live their lives here on earth cannot be changed. God will get them into heaven, then all their inclinations and habits of sin will be removed, and everybody will live happily ever after. Those who live just before and through the coming of Christ are privileged to reach a much higher standard. It is in them that Christ will demonstrate the final effects of receiving the whole gospel. They are willing to relinquish the cultivated known sin, and have the courage to allow God to reveal even unknown sin to them, so all is given over to the Great Healer of hearts. There are no private mental reservations; all is placed before heaven for the free cleansing by the blood of the Lamb.


God is pleading with His church to come away from the “fable” gospel that uses human logic to resist the idea that character transformation is impossible this side of heaven. Rather, it is humble heart work that starts with acknowledgement of our sin and its implications at the cross. God must demand that those who make up the bride of His final church on earth be genuine in their allegiance to His Son, Jesus Christ. Without that, the Hams in the group will soon develop into a murmuring mixed multitude who carry the seeds of rebellion manifested by the tower of Babel.


“He [A. T. Jones] made the point that the Lord will not take our sins without our permission. God’s people must decide whether they would rather have their sins or Christ. But with the sealing work pending, the Lord will probe and bring up ‘sins to us that we never thought of before, that only shows that he is going down to the depths, and he will reach the bottom at last. ... He cannot put the seal, the impress of his perfect character, upon us until he sees it there. And so he has got to dig down to the deep places we never dreamed of, because we cannot understand our hearts’” (Donald K. Short, Then Shall the Sanctuary Be Cleansed, p. 43; quoting from the 1893 General Conference Bulletin).

Arlene Hill


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