Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sabbath School Insights No. 8, Qtr 1-07

Special Insights No. 8

First Quarter 2007 Adult Sabbath School Lessons


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

God Made Man Upright? What Happened?



The book of Ecclesiastes describes the futility of striving for success in this world and by the world’s rules. It is sad that the man who wrote this book was the son of Israel’s king David who wrote some of the most sublime tributes to God in the Bible. If Solomon were living today, a good way to bring him hope would be to have him begin reading the Psalms.


Instead, Solomon’s book is an unrelenting tome of gloom and discouragement. What is the value in studying this book? It’s the story of someone who gained everything the world defines as success, who could honestly say it all meant nothing. For a poor man to say, “money isn’t everything” means little. For a rich man to say it—that carries weight.


Those who understand the Gospel, especially in light of the cleansing of the sanctuary, understand the true meaning of life far differently than Solomon describes. In essence, this mortal life is for humans to hear the Gospel, make their decision to believe God’s incredible Good News, and then to tell others about it. Anything that happens along the way is incidental. People who don’t understand this constantly say, what about my education, my career, my reputation, my marriage, my children, the travel, the people to meet, the happiness I want, the comforts, the invention, the book, the ... All those things aren’t bad, unless they interfere with the basics of hear, decide, and share.


Often, young people think that religion is for unhappy people. They don’t understand that the happiest people are the ones who never lose sight of the basics. Their happiness is in being God’s servants. Sometimes that entails very serious introspection, even being involved in things that aren’t fun because the details of God’s work with people can be messy. People often rationalize their not becoming involved in their church with the excuse that they don’t like controversy.


Solomon warns: “The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure” (Eccl. 7:4). In spite of what some young (and maybe older) people think, this doesn’t mean slumped-over, long-faced, sour people.


Isaiah tells us, “The Lord, the Lord Almighty, called you on that day to weep and to wail, to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth. But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! Let us eat and drink, you say, for tomorrow we die! The Lord Almighty has revealed this in my hearing: Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for, says the Lord” (Isa. 22:12-14).


The word “atoned” is a “red flag.” In this cosmic Day of Atonement,we understand the meaning of “afflicting our souls” as the process whereby we submit to the investigation of the Holy Spirit to reveal all known and unknown sin. This is serious business, not the work of pleasure-loving fools. Our confession and willingness to be made clean gives purpose to the lives of a group of serious-minded people who participate in the Bride-Church making herself ready.


Solomon said that a good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one’s birth (7:1). The imagery of precious ointment brings to mind the story of Mary Magdalene, when she used precious ointment to anoint Christ in anticipation of His death. In those days, ointment was used to attempt to preserve and forestall the stench of death’s decay. In this, Solomon was right. When we identify with Christ’s death by entering the ritual of baptism, that day is more precious than our day of birth, because it is also our “new” birthday. We can then be called by the Name above all names, which is the only “good” name there is.


The Christian’s life has meaning only in service for others, not for self. Is this too difficult for children to understand? It wasn’t for one young Man who was tempted in all points like as we are.


“Jesus was twelve when He first visited the national festival of His people known as the Passover ... [He] watched the white-robed priests lay a bleeding sacrificial victim upon the altar. Alert and reverently inquisitive, His young mind sought the meaning of the strange symbolism of this offering of an innocent lamb ... Is it possible, wondered Jesus, for the ‘blood of bulls and goats’ to take away sin? ... This is all a type, He reasoned. Someone innocent, sinless, holy, and undefiled, must die as a Lamb of God is lost human hearts will ever be reached! ... Through His youthful soul there surges the unresisted power of a mighty resolve. These poor souls, looking vainly to human efforts for salvation, must not be left mercilessly to what will prove at last only hopeless despair. He will sacrifice Himself. The Boy of twelve ‘saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no justice ...’


“When the love of God (agape) is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us, we choose the way of the cross as readily as the Son of God chose it in the heavenly council ages ago, and again as a Boy of twelve in the Jerusalem temple. In each instance, whether in the heart of the Son of God or in the heart of a believing sinner, the results lead to resurrection ... (In Search of the Cross by Robert J. Wieland, pp. 37-40).


“He who hates his life in this world will keep it for life eternal” (John 12:25). Solomon tried it all, so we can learn from his experience. A life of service to others directed by God is the only thing that isn’t “vanity.”

Arlene Hill


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