Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sabbath School Insights No. 10, Qtr 4-06

Special Insights No. 10

Fourth Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Beginnings and Belongings”

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

“The Price of Duplicity”


This week’s lesson considers the tragic results of unbelief as revealed in the experiences of Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Esau. God had said concerning the twins in Rebekah’s womb, “Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger” (Gen, 25:23). As the boys grew and developed, Isaac favored Esau—he was a “man’s man.” But Rebekah favored Jacob because he was more domesticated. Thus there developed two less than honorable desires. Isaac determined that Esau should receive the birthright in spite of what God had said and Rebekah determined that she must secure it for Jacob because of what God said.


These desires represent the two classes of rebellion which exist in our world today. On the one hand Isaac’s desire represents transgression of the will of God. This is easy to recognize as sin. But superficially Rebekah’s desire was to do the will of God. This is almost never recognized as sin. How could doing God’s will become sin? Isn’t that what it means to “please” the Lord? In this second act of rebellion we find the essence of the old covenant.


When one considers the prospect of doing that which is pleasing to God the normal tendency is to seek to determine God’s will and then do it. That was all Rebekah thought she was doing. God had said, “The older shall serve the younger.” And this was interpreted by her to mean the birthright should be bestowed upon Jacob. And nothing would please her more. After all Jacob was her favorite son. The ironic truth that comes out in this story is that we are in just as much danger of failing when God’s perceived “will” is pleasing to our natural desires as we are when they are not. Our only safety is in walking by faith. But what is faith?


Faith is essential to pleasing God. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). If Rebekah desired to please the Lord, if she desired to do His will, she must first be committed to walking by faith. For without faith her objective is unattainable. This is the first principle that we should recognize if we are to truly do God’s will, lest we find our “obedience” is nothing but rebellion in the final analysis.


Yet if we are to “walk by faith” we must understand what that means. So the question remains “What is faith?” The 1888 message provides a clear definition: “Faith is complete dependence upon the word of God only, for the accomplishment of what that word says” (A. T. Jones, Review and Herald [RH], Feb. 21, 1899). Note the emphasis on the word “only.” Rebekah no doubt assumed that she had faith in God’s word. That is she gave mental assent to it. She agreed with it on an intellectual level. And more than that, she determined that the “will of God” must be fulfilled.


Thus she set about scheming and plotting to prevent the overtly rebellious wishes of her husband, Isaac, from being fulfilled. Employing great measures to deceive her husband, she and Jacob succeed in stealing the birthright. The wonder of it all is God seems to have respect for their diabolical accomplishment. We must therefore conclude that the apparent blessing of God is no proof of righteousness. He makes His sun to shine on the just and the unjust. The birthright blessing did go to Jacob, in spite of his participation in his mother’s sin to secure it. Yes. They sinned in order to “do God’s will.” This should be an enlightening and revealing record for us today. If we must break God’s law in order to do His will, even in the slightest departure from absolute honesty, integrity or brotherly love, we can be certain that our act of “doing God’s will” is in reality camouflaged rebellion against it. A mere mental assent to the word of God and a desire to see it accomplished is not faith.


Faith is depending on the word only. Faith is not an understanding of the objective of the word with no dependence on the power of the word to fulfill its objective. Seeking the objective of the word through the power of the flesh is merely old covenant rebellion against the word. This is where many earnest Christians fall short. Faith not only allows the word to specify what should be done, it allows the power of the word to do it. A. T. Jones put it this way:


“And all ‘they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.’ All they who, excluding—yea, repudiating—all works, plans, devices, and efforts, of their own, depend in utter helplessness upon the word of God only to accomplish what that word says,—these are they which be of faith, and are blessed with faithful Abraham with the righteousness of God” (A. T. Jones, RH, Jan. 24, 1899).


This is what Rebekah and Jacob should have done. Repudiating all works, plans, devices, and efforts of their own, they should have relied upon the word of God. Thus they would have seen the blessing of God. Had they relied upon the word of God, Rebekah would have avoided sending her favorite son away never to see him again in this life. Jacob would have avoided the sorrow and remorse of guilty conscience. He would have avoided twenty years of exile from his father’s house and the terror of hearing that his brother comes to meet him with four hundred men upon his return. He would have avoided the night of wrestling with God, believing Him to be a mortal enemy. He would have still received the blessing and avoided the terrible consequences of self-dependence.


If only we would learn the lessons this record is designed to teach us, how many separations, how many years of exile, how many terrifying messages, how many nights of wrestling against the One who loves us most, could we avoid? God longs to bless us with our birthright possession, but He cannot confer the final bestowal of His blessing upon those who are conniving to gain it by stratagem. It cannot be conferred upon those whose quest to obtain it is itself rebellion against it. It will only be bestowed upon those who receive it by faith, those who depend upon the word of the God who promised it, and the word only.


“The teaching of people to exercise faith is the teaching them to expect the word of God to do what it says, and to depend upon it to do the thing which is by it spoken; the cultivating of faith is by practice to cause to grow confidence in the power of the word of God itself to do what in that word is said, and dependence upon that word itself to accomplish what the word says.


“And the knowledge of what the Scripture means when urging upon us the necessity of cultivating faith, is more essential than any other knowledge that can be acquired” (E. G. White, RH, Oct. 18, 1898).


“Are you cultivating faith?” (A. T. Jones, RH, Dec. 27, 1898).

Kelvin (Mark) Duncan


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