Special Insights No. 8
Fourth Quarter 2006
“Beginnings and Belongings”
(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)
“Faith and Frailty”
It must be God’s foresight that we are given this particular Sabbath School Lesson right now on this weekend—the greatest shopping days of the year in
Now we have set before us along with our shopping spree (in God’s love), the story of
Jesus is concerned for us; wild pagan winter solstice holidays are encroaching on our remembering that we live in the cosmic Day of Atonement. (Some churches go wild with Christmas decorating and parties.) Jesus reminds us again that “as it was in the days of Lot: they ate [Thanksgiving feasting], they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built [all harmless ‘occupy ‘til He come’ activities]; but on the day ... it rained fire ... from heaven, ... even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:26-30).
Our Lesson lets Ellen White say a few words. She links “us” together with our worldly neighbors (note the italicized us): “The world is largely given up to the indulgence of appetite; and the disposition to follow worldly customs will bring us into bondage to perverted habits,—habits that will make us more and more like the doomed inhabitants of Sodom. I have wondered that the inhabitants of the earth were not destroyed, like the people of
We could say that
There’s nothing wrong with the book Evangelism; but careful reading reveals that missionary activity is not good enough—there must be a clear understanding of the “everlasting gospel” itself which is to be preached in the great cities. Paul says that “God ... preached the gospel to Abraham” (Gal. 3:8) but says nothing about
The “father of the faithful” had to learn how to believe!
So did his wife, Sarah. The Lesson recognizes that what they both did regarding the Hagar affair was wrong, yet seeks to understand how they might reasonably have concluded this was God’s will. A tricky problem we often face—how to understand what’s right when you could so easily reason yourself out of duty. But considering the terrible agony that has followed this act of unbelief on their part all these millennia (including the conflict between
Even though at the time God did not specifically mention Sarah, in Genesis 17:19 He cleared it up by saying “Sarah your wife shall bear you a son indeed,” even “when she was past age” (Heb. 11:11). Sarah was always his wife in God’s sight, as Malachi tells us that “the wife of your youth” is always your wife (see Mal. -16).
The Lord’s quiet assurance that He would give Abraham a son by Sarah was an example of the Lord’s favorite way of doing things: calling “those things which do not exist as though they did” (Rom. 4:17). Sarah’s experience of her growth from unbelief to faith is a forever example of how the new covenant works. She was bitter; decades of disappointment had left their mark on her soul. She blamed God directly for her infertility (Gen. 16:2). She laughed in unbelieving derision when she heard the divine Visitor say that “according to the time of life” (nine months later) she would bear a son (,12).
Her bitter unhappiness is seen in the harsh way she treated poor Hagar after Ishmael was born (vss. 5, 6). But Hebrews tells us that she experienced a genuine conversion somehow; “through faith” she “received strength to conceive” (), faith being understood in its New Testament sense as a heart response of appreciation for the love of Christ. Her bitter unbelief had affected her physiologically; the mysterious factors that govern our reproductive system had been shut down by this unbelieving bitterness of soul; when she repented and the heart was melted, a change in her body took place. (It’s common knowledge that often today when a wife is barren, the couple’s adoption of a baby unseals her matronly instincts of love to allow a previously impossible pregnancy.)
The lesson the Lord sought to teach her is one we need to learn today: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (). Our Lesson is not concerned with the practice of gynecologists today; we face a world alienated from God, “destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). How to give them the “knowledge” they need but they so often resist, is the problem of the ages. The gift of repentance which the world church needs so desperately in order for Heaven to renew Pentecost to us seems as elusive to us as pregnancy was to poor old Sarah; but the problems of the world church are not too “hard” for the Lord of today.
Sarah is our heroine as Abraham is “our father.” We are called to identify with Him; now let’s identify with her, and join her in letting our hard hearts be melted.
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