Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sabbath School Insights No. 13, Qtr 1-07

Special Insights No. 13

First Quarter 2007 Adult Sabbath School Lessons


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

The Conclusion of the Matter

Are you glad that these 13 weeks have come to an end, so that we can say Goodbye to the old man with the flowing white beard pictured on our cover?

He had wasted many years of his precious life that the Lord had given him; he had abandoned the true “wisdom” that he was given when he was a young king. Now Solomon must end his days with the message, “Don’t do like I have done!” That’s now his “gospel.”

It’s much like the “gospel” that we so often hear from Seventh-day Adventists who are on our camp meeting platforms who tell our young people, “Don’t do like I did!” when they recount their years of rebellion when they were young in Sabbath School or at the Academy or in college when they went to the world to “taste” its pleasures of liquor, sex, drugs, etc. Finally, broken and sorrowful they limp back into the church and get on the camp meeting trek with their doleful message, “Don’t do as I did!”

Is it possible for us to proclaim a “third angel’s message” in our church schools and academies and colleges that will be such “good news” that our youth will have the Christ-like courage to take up the cross and yield self to Christ while they’re young and never apostatize?

The answer is “yes!” if we will proclaim to them the new covenant instead of the familiar and popular old covenant!

In recently reviewing Prophets and Kings, chapter 24, for a sermon on Hosea, this writer was struck with the repeated emphasis therein on the fact that the nation of Israel had entered into the old covenant with the Lord at Mt. Sinai, and that this dearth of understanding the new covenant had predisposed ancient Israel’s constant apostasy into paganism and Baal worship. The history of the northern kingdom is the saddest chapter in the Bible (2 Kings 17); but unfortunately it is repeated in the later history of the southern kingdom which ended in Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest and the captivity in Babylon.

The same old covenant legalism prevailed in the return from the captivity, and the final fruit borne by the old covenant was the rejection and crucifixion of the Messiah Israel had long professed to be waiting for.

Did King Solomon ever understand the new covenant?

For sure, he could not have apostatized into such a dismal fall into confused immorality as displayed in his mature life. The first Israelite who we read of in Scripture who came to understand the true significance of Israel’s post-Sinai history (aside from Jesus, of course) was Paul in his writing of Galatians. In his chapter 3 he details the new covenant as proclaimed to Abraham (vss. 6-8, 15), then the true place of the law as proclaimed at Sinai (vs. 17), how it was “added” or emphasized “because of [Israel’s] transgressions” (vs. 19), and that the entire Sinai and post-Sinai experience made “the law” a severe “schoolmaster [disciplinarian] to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (vss. 21-24), the new covenant gospel.

Ellen White was overjoyed when she heard for the first time (in forty-five years) the two 1888 messengers at Minneapolis explain this truth to our legalism-confused forefathers. She later declared their “most precious message” to be “the beginning” of the loud cry of Revelation 18 and its preparatory latter rain of the Holy Spirit.

Thank God we can leave our 13 weeks with Solomon with this blessed good news ringing in our hearts! He will come up in the first resurrection and join the kindergarten of gospel truth; he will have lots of blessed learning to do!

He talks much about death in his chapter 12, and our Lesson 13 keeps emphasizing over and over that “we all must die.” What has happened to “the third angel’s message”? Paul says the opposite! “We shall not all die, But when the last trumpet shall sound, we shall all be changed in an instant, as quickly as the blinking of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:51, 52; GNB, NEB). “We who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not [precede] those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, ... and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them ... to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” This is the third angel’s message on which the Seventh-day Adventist church was originally founded—the message of the cleansing of the sanctuary.

And those who believe the message cherish what Paul said is “the blessed hope,” “looking for the glorious appearing of ... our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us” (Titus 2:11-14).

Solomon, bless him, never had such good news to look forward to.

Robert J. Wieland


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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Sabbath School Insights No. 12, Qtr 1-07

Special Insights No. 12

First Quarter 2007 Adult Sabbath School Lessons


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

The Way of the Wind

Ecclesiastes11:1 “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” Today we would say, “What goes around comes around.”

Ecclesiastes11:2 “Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.” Give to everyone. In fact, cast your love broadcast, because you don’t know what calamity might come next or who may be in its path. (When you feel loved, sometimes a calamity can be easier to accept.)

Ecclesiastes11:3 “If the clouds be full of rain, they empty [themselves] upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.” A flood can come any time and a tree can fall any direction. Calamities can happen to anyone and at any time.

Ecclesiastes11:4 “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.” Even good weather is unpredictable. Be prepared for anything.

Ecclesiastes11:5 “As thou knowest not what [is] the way of the spirit, [nor] how the bones [do grow] in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.” We do not always know why God allows calamities to happen or for any of His people to suffer thereby. (But we know that all things work together for good to those who love Him. Romans 8:28)

Ecclesiastes11:6 “In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both [shall be] alike good.” Don’t give up, keep working, and let the chips fall where they may. You never know what will become of it.

Ecclesiastes11:7 “Truly the light [is] sweet, and a pleasant [thing it is] for the eyes to behold the sun:” Jesus is the light of the world—and we are, too, if we let Him work in us. Just look at him.

Ecclesiastes11:8 “But if a man live many years, [and] rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh [is] vanity.” The primary meaning of the word that is translated “vanity” or “meaningless” is breath—a vapor. Remember the way the Lord has led you in the past and if you are going through a calamity today, remember, “This, too, shall pass.” And the sun will shine again—even on the just and the unjust. (And if the Lord allows the sun to shine on the unjust, too, how much more does he care for you, His child?)

Ecclesiastes11:9 “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these [things] God will bring thee into judgment. ” For those who are young, be thankful that you have your youth. You have your whole life ahead of you. And if your heart is thankful for what God has given you, you can safely “walk in the ways of thine heart and in the sight of thine eyes”. However, remember that God is the one who delivers you. When God brings you to judgement, it means deliverance. The work of the judge in Bible times was to deliver the accused. (Ps 76:8,9; Judges 2:16; 1st Samuel 24:15), and Christ, by passing judgment upon us has judged all to be righteous by the righteousness He has forged out for us and given to us (by speaking and by living) and thus has delivered all from sin. (Isaiah 45:23) Should we actively choose to discard the gift He gave to us, then by our own resulting acts of unrighteousness, we condemn ourselves and God does not need to condemn anyone.

Note the work of the Divine Judge: “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, [without God having to condemn him] because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. John 3:17-19.

"All this deliverance is ‘according to the will of our God and Father.’ The will of God is our sanctification. 1 Thessalonians 4:3. He wills that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:4. And He ‘accomplishes all things according to the counsel of His will.’ Ephesians 1:11. ‘Do you mean to teach universal salvation?’ someone may ask. We mean to teach just what the Word of God teaches—that ‘the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men.’ Titus 2:11, R.V. God has wrought out salvation for every man, and has given it to him; but the majority spurn it and throw it away. The judgement will reveal the fact that full salvation [spiritual blessings as well as temporal] was given to every man and that the lost have deliberately thrown away their birthright possession.” -E. J. Waggoner, Glad Tidings, p 13, 14 (Emphasis original)

The cross is the beginning of judgement. (John 12:31, 32) When Jesus tells us to “take up our cross and follow” Him. That means He gives us a life of denial of the temptations of the fallen sinful human flesh (otherwise known as “self-denial”), giving ourselves completely to Him, and saying in our hearts, “not my will, but Thine be done”—the experience of Christ in Gethsemene. To take up the cross of Christ results in the believer in God expressing agape in their relationships with others, and cheerful thankfulness in our hearts for what God has done. Then you can say you believe in Jesus.

Ecclesiastes11:10 “Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth [are] vanity.” Be happy because of this deliverance and righteousness God has given ou, and receive His Word into you expeience today, for your youth will soon disappear like a vapor.

What does it mean to cast your bread upon the waters? Cast yourself to a heartfelt appreciation of the Price God paid for your salvation so that you can receive the righteousness of God, experientially. Then leave the results with Him. What are we waiting for?

P.S. For those of us who are older, we are only as old as we think we are.—Craig Barnes


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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Sabbath School Insights No. 11, Qtr 1-07

Special Insights No. 11

First Quarter 2007 Adult Sabbath School Lessons


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

Dead Flies and Snake Charmers: More Life Under the Sun


The theme of chapter 10 is the consequences of thinking, speaking, and acting. Words are simply vehicles for thoughts. Have you ever used the expression: “I will give so and so a piece of my mind.” How did you do it? By speaking.

Jesus is called the “Word of God,” God’s thought made audible and visible. If we want to understand God’s heart, study Jesus. If we want to understand God’s heart concerning justification in the end time setting of earth’s history, study Christ and His righteousness as presented in 1888 message.

In contrast to Christ and His righteousness, chapter 10 reveals the deep anguish of an exceptional king who enjoyed the pleasures of sin for a season and then awakened to the nauseous, stomach-churning, disgusting, revolting, and loathsome sickness of heart that always follows folly.

Imagine this scenario. You are seated at a table where a vegetarian runza (dough bread pocket with filling) is served. After taking a bite you discover half of a dead fly on the bitten surface, which becomes a nauseating experience. So it is with flies found in the ointment of character of which Solomon writes.

In this chapter, Solomon reflects on five different kinds of people with different character traits: (1) The wise whose words reveal right heart motives. Their hearts direct them to do right and their words (mouths) speak gracious words (vss. 2a, 12a). (2) The foolish ones whose manner of life betrays them as fools and reveals their heart motivation to do evil (vss. 3, 2). The foolish may be given great authority which usually spells disaster (vss. 6-7). (3) Those under authority who are given counsel to stay calm and don’t quit even if those in authority are angry with you (vs. 4); a woe is pronounced on the land whose king is a child and the princes are gluttons (vs. 16) contrasted with the land where the king is a nobleman whose passions and appetites are under the control of reason and of God (vs.17). Regardless of the kind of authority a person is under he or she ought not to make light of the person or persons in authority even in thought (vs. 20). (4) The lazy person who lets the roof leak and the rafters rot (vs. 18). (5) The babbler, who, if not charmed will bite like a serpent (vs. 11).

Solomon relates certain insights he observed in life such as a party that produces laughter (vs. 19a), the wine that gives happiness (vs. 19b), and the money that is the answer for everything (vs. 19c). He reveals his enjoyment in the seasonal pleasures of sin. In the following metaphors the great king reveals his experience in sin and also his deep repentance for his transgressions.

He gives warnings concerning injuries while working: (1) be careful when you dig a well, that you don’t fall in; (2) be careful of snakes when you demolish an old wall; (3) while working in a quarry, watch that the stones don’t crush you; (4) when you chop wood, don’t let the axe strike you (vss. 8-10). These are illustrations of Solomon’s experience in sin. He fell, he felt the poisonous venom, he was crushed, and he was deeply cut. So is everyone who has enjoyed sin for a season and then comes to the awful realization of what he or she has done.

In these warnings, Solomon deals with the principle of cause and effect in various aspects of life, namely his own. Consequences follow thinking, speaking, and doing. As a man thinks in his heart, so will he do as he speaks and acts. He may cover up what he thinks for a while, but in time the true sentiments of his heart will manifest themselves and they will be heard and seen by those who are observant.

In Solomon’s observations about different kinds of people he reveals his own heart. In this chapter and in the entire book of Ecclesiastes we are studying Solomon’s sincere repentance as he turned from his foolishness in sin. This book is a book of repentance, especially chapter 10, which reveals that even though a respected leader whose sins are forgiven and cleansed by God cannot escape the influence of those sins either on his own life or on the lives of others. Because of certain kinds of sins a person cannot go back, fully, to what he previously did.

The simile of the “dead flies” in the ointment refers to Solomon’s experience in sin and the after effects. He had been greatly honored and respected by God and by man, but turned to the folly of sin from which he never fully recovered. Like his father before him, he knew he was forgiven by God, but he never functioned as fully as the wise and honorable king he once was. After his repentance he became again honorable and wise, but there were those who could not, or would not, trust him. And of course he never trusted himself again, which was not something bad.

Solomon was king and could not be disposed of as easily as someone of lesser status. But he was unable to reign as he once did. Ellen White comments in two places concerning Solomon’s deep repentance and also of the remaining consequential “dead flies” in the ointment of his character:

“In the anguish of bitter reflection on the evil of his course, Solomon was constrained to declare, ‘Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.’ ‘There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler: folly is set in great dignity.’

“’Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savor: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor.’ Ecclesiastes 9:18, 10: 5, 6, 1”  (Prophets and Kings, p. 85).

“Solomon's repentance was sincere, but the harm that his example of evil-doing had done the people, could not well be remedied. In the anguish of bitter reflection on the evil influence of his sinful course, he was constrained to declare: ‘Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.’ ‘There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler: folly is set in great dignity.’ ‘Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savor: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor’” (Review and Herald,  Feb. 15, 1906).

In closing, let’s consider Jesus as our Surety. Although He committed no sin, He repented as us. His was a perfect repentance, which was more deeply felt than was Solomon’s for He carried the full guilt and woe of the sins of the world upon Himself. It was for us and as us. We have burdened Him with our sins. We have wearied Him with our iniquities (see Isa. 43:24). Because of His great love for us He was and is willing to be sick at heart because of what we do to Him and to one another. His relationship to Laodicea underscores His experience.

Most translations leave the impression that Jesus, in anger, will spew us out of his mouth because of our miserable condition (see Rev. 3:16). Look again. The language is: I am about to vomit because of a nauseating stomach-wrenching revulsion and sorrow caused by the sin of Laodicea while she remains ignorant of her condition and of My reaction.

The language of our Laodicean hearts has been, “I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” We need to hear and to believe the words of Him who is the first and the last: “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness may not appear: Anoint thine eyes with eyesalve that thou mayest see.”

“Those who accept the message [context: 1888] given, will heed the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans, and will buy the gold, which is faith and love; the white raiment, which is the righteousness of Christ; and the eyesalve, which is spiritual discernment” (1888 Materials, pp. 414, 415).

The faith of Jesus of which He counsels us to buy, is the only faith which works by love, and purifies the soul, producing its fruit of humility, patience, forbearance, long suffering, peace, joy, and willing obedience. Jesus did not sin, but He was sick in mind and heart. Our sin broke His heart and crushed His life from Him. He did not fall but He felt the poisonous venom. He was crushed. And he was deeply wounded, in the house of His friends.

We will find no dead flies in the precious ointment of the righteousness of Jesus. We will find no dead flies in the Bread from heaven. We may eat without fear of foreign substance. We will never become nauseous from partaking of this heavenly bread.

Gerald L. Finneman


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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Sabbath School Insights No. 9, Qtr 1-07

Special Insights No. 9

First Quarter 2007 Adult Sabbath School Lessons


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

“Whatever Your Hand Finds to Do”


There are precious gems of Good News in Ecclesiastes Chapter 9 that we need to examine. However, there are also perplexing passages in the chapter, and we need to be honest as we study them.


Here is a man who began his life with a precious marvelous gift of wisdom conferred on him with God’s rich blessing. But Solomon proved for us all to see that the possession of marvelous wisdom does not make one happy when he comes to the later portion of his life. Obviously, what that means to us moderns is that our high achievements in universities are not of themselves happiness-producing. Education built on the love of self is pitiful in the end.


Those who have seen cynicism in Solomon’s Ecclesiastes will find a passage in this chapter that bolsters that conviction (cf. vss. 1-6).


And to our embarrassment as a denomination, this passage contains our most famous “proof text” with which we support our important doctrine of the “state of the dead.” To those who have inherited the pagan-papal doctrine of natural immortality and who quote the mistaken punctuation in Luke 23:43 that says that the believing thief crucified with Christ will be with Him “in Paradise” that very day, we have rather triumphantly quoted Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6 that says: “The living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.”


Thus we establish our point and walk away from the argument feeling like we have won the day about the state of the dead. (I remember when I was a new Seventh-day Adventist how I felt that text was so clear, why couldn’t people see it?)


And it is clear that dead people are not conscious; but can we conscientiously defend the context if people read it as well? Is this a happy man who is writing? Does he make clear that he cherishes “the blessed hope” (cf. Titus 1:11-14)?


Perhaps as time goes on we as a people will learn to defend our “state of the dead” doctrine with some more clear “state of the living” truths. We could “use” Psalm 146:1-4 that says virtually the same thing that has no sad context to wrestle with. And we can show how Jesus “emptied Himself” in His sacrifice on the cross (cf. Phil. 2:5-8), which is the definition of what death is as the real thing—the second death. To present this doctrine of the state of man in death, we must stay very close to the cross of Christ, else we will not win souls as the Lord want s us to. When “the third angel’s message in verity” as the “most precious message” He has sent to us is proclaimed to lighten the earth with glory (Rev .18:1-4), “Christ and His righteousness” will be the most prominent element of the message as His cross is uplifted as no others will do at the end.


Verses 7, 8 about going our way and eating our bread with joy and drinking our wine with a merry heart sound like a repetition of 8:15. But we who have read the book to its end know that the solemn call to judgment comes in 12:13, 14. We can’t avoid it.


But here’s a warm and joyous bit of counsel for us that poor Solomon missed out on: we should “live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of [thy] life” (vs. 9). That is parallel with Malachi 2:14-16 where He reminds us to “live joyfully with the wife of thy youth.” Note: the “wife” is singular.


Perhaps the old king remembered that he has written The Song of Solomon as a delightful love-poem in his younger years. To the one who has seen the revelation of love in Christ, the love affair of youth lives on so long as both shall live.


And we thank God for the encouragement in verse 10 to enjoy our labor and “do it with thy might,” not for a cynical reason that there is no such work after death comes; but in the context of that living “joyfully” of verse 9.


And for sure it doesn’t take a lot of wisdom to see that success and happiness in life does not automatically come with the endowment of talents (cf. vs. 11). But is it true that “time and chance” casino–style “happeneth to them all”?


A poignant little story.


Solomon remembered this account that brings comfort to many faithful followers of Christ who do not see a reward in this life (vss. 13-16). The “little city” had “few men” in it to defend it in time of besiegement when an enemy “built great bulwarks against it.”


But there was a “poor wise man” therein who had the wisdom to deliver the city. The story appears to say that he actually was successful in delivering the city from its would-be conquerors. Yet “no man” thought to thank him; no one built a monument to commemorate the victory at his hand.


Often in sacred history, God’s faithful servants have labored unselfishly and yet have either been rejected outright or have suffered at the hands of God’s true people being unappreciated. An example is the story of the message brought by two young men at a great General Conference Session at one time (1888) when Ellen White was almost the only person present who expressed appreciation for their work and their message. Solomon’s little story is apropos. “The poor man’s wisdom is despised” (the very word Ellen White used repeatedly to describe the reception this heaven-sent message received among “us” over a century ago).


Whether that “little city” ever repented, we do not know; but thank God it is still our privilege to repent before time says it is too late. Solomon draws a precious lesson: history will record that “the words of wise [men] heard in quiet” make a greater impact than those who loudly seek credit for themselves (cf. vs. 17). And this too is being fulfilled in history today!

Robert J. Wieland


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