Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Special Insights No. 12

Special Insights No. 12
Fourth Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Beginnings and Belongings”
(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)
“From Prison Cell to Palace”

Memory Text: “... how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9). Note David’s reply to the Prophet Nathan: “... I have sinned against the LORD” (2 Sam. 12:13). “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight ...” (Psalm 51:4).

Sin is always against God. Our sin(s) break the heart of God. Our sin(s) broke the heart of Jesus and caused His death on the Cross. Our smallest and most insignificant “innocent” sin put Jesus on the Cross and said: “Crucify Him.”

It is also true that our sins often hurt others, especially our loved ones who are close to us. Our sins can do untold, irreparable damage to our fellow human beings, but the sin is always against God. This fact should help us in our battle against “self.” It should also make us more tolerant of other people who have “hurt” us. We need to realize that their sin is against God, not us. Because God has forgiven them as He forgave David, we need to forgive them and pray for them.

Joseph’s early family life and environment

Jacob’s love for and favoritism toward Rachel caused tension and controversy in the family. His continued favoritism toward Joseph and the gift of the “coat of many colors” resulted in feelings of jealousy among Joseph’s siblings. Finally Joseph’s dreams and his exposure of their sin incited them to hatred and a desire to kill him.

Joseph’s ten brothers apparently resisted the call of the gospel. Their sinful and even violent acts indicate an unconverted character. On the other hand, Joseph exhibited a longing for purity, gentleness, faithfulness, and truthfulness. He had a heart yearning for God in the same vein as Abraham, Isaac, and his father Jacob. However, in his zeal for God he became overconfident and exacting in his dealing with his family. Perhaps there is a lesson in this for us. How do we respond to those who cannot see the “most precious message” or see it a little differently?

Joseph in Egypt

Because Joseph resolved to have faith in and obey the God of his father(s), he was highly favored of God and for a time his earthly “masters.” His resolve to obey God also resulted in a severe prison experience. Regardless of the miserable experience, Joseph chose to be faithful to his God. As a result of his resolve, Joseph experienced total freedom of spirit.

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty. (Colonel Lovelace)

Joseph remained free to worship and obey the God of Heaven whether in a dungeon or sitting on a throne.

Ten brothers imprisoned

Meanwhile, Joseph’s brothers had to endure the consequences of their crime(s) and the “nagging” of a guilty conscience. When “brought to trial” in their “Egypt experience” they recognized that they were in that predicament because of their treatment of Joseph. After the death of Jacob (approximately 50 years after their cowardly deed) they still feared recrimination by Joseph.

The righteousness of God

In these stories and experiences, we can see a righteous God taking the initiative to save sinners and fulfill His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In His great mercy and omnipotent power, God can use the mistakes of men to convert them and bring about the fulfillment of His Covenant.

Joseph as a type of Christ (May I suggest that each reader develop this section more fully?)

• A favored son

• Honored by his father

• Rejected by his brethren

• Rejection motivated by envy

• Sold for silver

• The “sale” brought about the very thing the brothers were trying to prevent

• Savior of his people

• Journeyed to Egypt

• Last but not least, Joseph forgave his brothers long before they asked for his forgiveness.

The “1888” story in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church reflects Joseph’s persecution from his brethren. Even Jacob had a problem with unbelief—he would never have been so heartbroken over the supposed “death” of Joseph if he had remembered the prophetic information that God gave to young Joseph—his dreams. Joseph exercised the gift of prophecy! Joseph’s older brothers manifested the same enmity toward him that “we” did toward “the Lord’s special messengers” whom He “sent” to “us” in 1888. Thank God, a reconciliation is equally certain!

—J. B. Jablonski