Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sabbath School Insights No. 5, Qtr 1-07

Special Insights No. 5

First Quarter 2007 Adult Sabbath School Lessons


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

More Life Under the Sun


By the time Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes he had wandered far from the path God intended for him. The slippery slope of self-confidence and pride began when he ignored the command of God and took a foreign wife (Deut. 17:14-20). When this worked out well, and she converted to the worship of Jehovah, Solomon was encouraged to continue along this same path (Prophets and Kings, pp. 53-54). As time went on, the more he knew, accomplished, and accumulated, the less he felt the need of faith in God. Through his indulgence in sin, Solomon’s God-given wisdom was perverted to vain imagination. Solomon the Christian became Solomon the philosopher, attempting to arrive at truth through his own reasoning powers (see ibid., pp. 56-57).

During his slide Solomon had developed what some commentaries have defined as an existentialistic philosophy, from which he declared that all his life’s work and pleasures were meaningless. Chapter four relates these facts as Solomon experienced them: In life all men suffer from oppression (4:1-3), rivalry (4:4-6), and isolation (4:7-12). He also observed that popularity of any stripe is only temporary (4:13-16). Amongst all this misery, he tells us that he saw no “comforter” and no “companion” to ease the burden. Even when a person is in his grave, no one mourns the loss.

Along the path of life Solomon had lost sight of God as the source of his power and wisdom. He lost sight of how God earnestly and untiringly works in the world and in people’s lives. He began looking at man and the things of man for understanding. All that Solomon had gained by his own means was worthless because he had turned his back on the everlasting covenant God had promised His people (see Gen. 12:2, 3), and undertook the journey of life under his own power.

From the beginning Israel was a called-out people (see Ex. 19:4-6), intended by God to be a peculiar and holy people, a witnessing people who would declare His power and glory throughout the world. If they had heeded their high calling, within a short time, they would have carried the Gospel to all the surrounding nations. God would have been known everywhere. Instead, they merely colonized Palestine, settling in among their heathen neighbors. Rather than converting these people to God’s truth, the Israelites were seduced into the faithless ways of the nations around them. Through King David God established a people who were more faithful than those in the past had been. Solomon was to continue the work begun by his father, bringing the world into a knowledge of their redemption from sin through the promised Messiah.

Israel was at the center of commerce in the ancient world, with several major traffic lanes passing through and near Jerusalem. Peace was extended during Solomon’s reign so that the Gospel could be preached unhindered to all persons who would travel through Palestine. However, the opportunities were squandered. As he rose in power, Solomon forgot that it was God who promised to make Israel a “great nation.” He neglected the truth that the great nation which God built under his watch was to be a “peculiar people”—distinctly different from those around them. It was to be a “kingdom of priests” to reach out to the surrounding nations with the message of mercy from the only true God, the Saviour of the world (Isa. 43:3, 11). (For more insight please read E. J. Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant, pp. 272-278; 2002 Glad Tidings version; see also Prophets and Kings, p. 71.)

“Two things have always been true, namely, that ‘no man liveth unto himself,’ and that ‘God is no respecter of persons;’ and these two truths form a third, which is that whenever God bestows any gift or advantage upon any person, it is in order that He may use it for the benefit of others. God does not bestow blessings upon one person or people that He does not wish all to have.” (op. cit., p. 269). The blessings of God are to be universal. Solomon had perverted them, bottled them up for himself, and deprived those he was supposed to benefit with the gifts he’d received from God.

In his later years, Solomon repented for having squandered his witnessing opportunities. In light of what had been neglected, all that Solomon had accumulated was worthless. In his contemplations Solomon finally recognized his true condition: he was “rich and had been enriched, and [thought that he] was in need of nothing” (see Rev. 3:17).

But something vital was missing from his life. In his inmost soul Solomon longed for the intimacy that a thousand wives could never give him. He missed the comfort that resides in heart-felt reciprocal companionship. In all his chasing about after the lusts of the flesh, he found no rest for his soul.

However, all these treasures are included in the everlasting promise God gave to the world. In deep intimacy with God there is assurance, peace, comfort in trials, and defense against the wiles of the devil. The sad reality is that most do not want what God has given to them. As in Solomon’s life, the follies of this world throw a veil over the blessings of God, obscuring the good news of redemption from sin and everlasting fellowship with God.

In the end, Solomon saw that without God all man’s efforts are worthless. He decided that the only thing that was important in the world was loyalty to God; a total surrender of the heart and mind to the One who loved us enough to give up His own life to save us from sin (Phil. 2:5-8). All God has ever expected from His creatures is an honest, appreciative response to all the blessings He’s already poured out upon us.

God still has a called out people known around the world as the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In 1888 He sent His “most precious message” of Christ and His righteousness through two young men, A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner. This was the message that uplifted the crucified Redeemer, revealing the Saviour’s matchless love. It was to be “proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in large measure” (see Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91-92).

It is time for us to realize our destitute condition and our great need of repentance for squandering God’s opportunities to carry His “most precious message” around the world. Only when we are humbled in the dust at the foot of the cross can we complete the work God called us to accomplish. Under the promised Latter Rain power, we then will declare to the oppressed, lonely inhabitants of the world that there is a Comforter and the dearest of companions, Jesus Christ our Redeemer and Lord. He alone can fulfill all our heart’s desires and give us everlasting happiness. —Ann Walper


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