Thursday, July 26, 2007

Jacob and Rachel: Labor of Love

Work is a labor of what we do, but we may not always care for it. But a labor of love is work we do either because we love doing it, or we do it for someone we love. Such was Jacob’s incessant love for Rachel. Such is the relentless love of Jesus for His bride. Both Jacob and Jesus look(ed) in faith to the union with the “apple of his eye,” the bride.

Jacob the Lover (Gen. 29:1–30). Jacob meets Rachel and it was love at first sight. They meet by a well and he rolls away a huge stone from its entrance so she can water her father Laban’s sheep. Next, Laban and Jacob meet and decide that he should work for his uncle Laban. Jacob asks to marry Rachel in exchange for seven years of work, to which Laban agrees. However, on the eve of the wedding, Laban secretly substitutes Leah for Rachel. Although Laban forces Jacob to work another seven years, Jacob’s great love for Rachel motivated his labor of love. Jacob gave his labor for the love of his life.

The Family Man (Gen. 29:28–30:24; 35:16–18, 23–26)
. Jacob married four women. Leah was Jacob’s first wife, followed by Rachel his second wife. Next was Rachel’s servant Bilhah, and finally Leah’s servant Zilpah. From these four women Jacob fathered twelve sons and one daughter. What a train of human cargo headed for disaster! However, God worked in all their hearts and minds even under those circumstances.

The Employee (Gen. 30:25–31:55). The specification: Jacob agreed to continue working for Laban with certain conditions. Jacob asked that he be allowed to keep all the speckled and spotted animals from the flock. The result was that Jacob became a very wealthy man!

In time Jacob finally decided to leave Laban. There were several reasons for the separation: (1) Laban’s resentment. (2) Laban’s sons turned his heart against Jacob because of their envy. (3) The Lord told Jacob to “Return to the land of your father and grandfather.” Both Rachel and Leah encouraged him to follow God’s revelation to leave. (4) Jacob felt that Laban deceived him by changing his wages on ten occasions (see 31:7, 41).

When Laban learned that Jacob and his entire camp left without informing him, in addition to stealing the family gods, he became frustrated and angry. During his ride to overtake Jacob, Laban was warned by God not to harm him. Still there was confrontation. Laban asked, “Why did you slip away secretly? ... Why have you stolen my household gods?”

Jacob simply replied that Laban’s dishonesty caused him to leave. Jacob told him frankly that he left secretly because of fear that Laban would take his daughters away from him. Jacob then insisted that he did not steal Laban’s idols. Then both men agreed to an uneasy truce, building a pile of stones to serve as a visible reminder.

With the above in mind, let’s consider Minneapolis and Jesus as Lover, Family Man, and Employee. [The 1888 General Conference Session was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota.]

Jesus The Lover. As with Jacob who arrived penniless at his kinfolk’s place, so it was with Jesus when He arrived on earth. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor” (2 Cor. 8:9). The difference is that Jacob fled to Laban’s country to escape the consequences of his and his mother’s deception, whereas Jesus came to earth voluntarily because man had been deceived and could not escape the consequences of deception and sin.

Through the marriage institution we learn of the mystery of the marriage of Jesus with His Church (Eph. 5:32). He “loved the church, and gave Himself for it” (5:25). Christ’s great love for His “bride-to-be” was the pure motivation for His labor of redemptive love.

Rachel responded positively to Jacob. Christ’s bride has not, as yet. His bride is more like Laban than Rachel. So Jesus is pictured as standing at, and ever knocking on, the door of His rightful home (Rev. 3:20). He who was rich comes to the dwelling of the poor, who think they are rich (3:17), and discloses His love. Jesus does not withdraw from this woman who repels Him. Nor is He disgusted at her insolent attitude. Pursuing her, He remains standing at her door, knocking for entrance, that He may reveal to her true love. Brokenhearted and sorrowing, He bears long with her. Jesus gave and still gives His life for the love of His life. What labor of love is His!

His constant knocking is not an exercise in futility. It is not a tardy attempt to gain entry. This is the pounding “faith of Jesus” in the Loud Cry of the Third Angel. One day the door will be readily opened.

The Family Man. Most certainly Jacob was unequally yoked in his marriages. He suffered greatly because of this. Jesus, in His labor of love, voluntarily became unequally yoked—the Sinless One with sinful humanity. He placed Himself at a great disadvantage and suffered agony because of it. A portion of His disadvantage was this: He who is all powerful and could have called upon that power, laid it aside and lived by faith alone in human nature. The humanity He took in the incarnation was just like that of His mother Mary—sinful and fallen. As the family Man, and Hosea-like, Jesus grieved over the waywardness and contentions within His fallen family.

The Employee. Jesus, Owner of the universe, became poor and in His poverty became Servant of all. Through love He served. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). His labor of love for the human race, especially for His bride-to-be, involved the giving of His life throughout His lifetime on earth and then reaching the highest point—culminating on the cross. The cross is the supreme symbol of Christ’s labor of love in giving his life for the love of His life—His Church, especially His Remnant. The message of Minneapolis (1888) was the beginning of the end-time revelation of Christ’s labor of love in His office as Lover, Family Man, and Employee. This message of His love will beget love in the hearts of those who accept it.

Summary and Conclusion

Christ’s labor of love is summed up in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: Jesus “suffers long and is kind;” He “does not envy;” He “does not parade” Himself; He “is not puffed up.” Jesus “does not behave rudely, does not seek” His own; “is not provoked, thinks no evil.” Jesus “never fails.”

—Gerald L. Finneman

If you would like a copy, sent via e-mail, of Robert J. Wieland’s “Seven Memorable Messages in the Bible,” please request it from: Or, download the PDF document here.

(Note: A series of CDs on these lessons recorded by this Robert J. Wieland is available from the office of the 1888 Message Study Committee: 269-473-1888.) Listen to the audio recording for Lesson 4 now in MP3 format. To listen as a podcast go to Wolf's Oath Audio.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Isaac and Rebecca:Rearing Rivals

Let’s allow A. T. Jones, one of the 1888 messengers, to set the tone for this lesson study:

“Thus it was that ‘by the word of the Lord’ all things were created. He spoke the word only, and it was so: the word spoken, itself produced the thing.

“Thus it was in creation. And thus it was in redemption: he healed the sick, he cast out devils, he stilled the tempest, he cleansed the lepers, he raised the dead, he forgave sins, all by his word. In this, also, ‘he spake, and it was.’

“And so he is the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever. Always he is the Creator. And always he does all things by his word only. And always he can do all things by his word; because it is the very characteristic of the word of God, that it is possessed of the divine power by which itself accomplishes the thing which is spoken.

“This is why it is that faith is the knowing that in the word of God there is this power, the expecting the word itself to do the thing spoken, and the depending upon that word itself to do that which the word speaks.

“The teaching of faith is the teaching that such is the nature of the word of God; 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 practise [sic] 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.’

“Are you cultivating faith?” (Lessons on Faith, p 18, orig. ed.; emphasis original).

Rebecca heard the word of God. “The elder shall serve the younger.” Jacob would receive the birthright.

It is possible to believe that God’s word actually does have inherent within it the power to create what it says. It is possible to believe this while at the same time expecting that His word will do what it says. However, do you believe that God’s word only actually will do what it says—for you? Or do you believe that God has to “help” you do what He says? So often, more often than any of us truly know, we can act as if we believe that God is our helper. That God gives the big idea, and it is our job to carry out His idea, and the result is that God becomes our “helper.”

This may very well be what Rebecca believed (and also her mother-in-law, Sarah, before her). God said, “The older would serve the younger.” (And to Abraham and Sarah, “You will have a son.”—even though you are past the age of having children.) And Rebecca set out to accomplish God’s will. The results were disastrous. The deception—bold and crass.

We may not be as bold or crass as Rebecca and Jacob were, but we can be just as full of unbelief. What does it mean to depend on God’s word only to do what it says?

A hypothetical story is told of a man standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, a huge hole in the ground in the southwestern United States about ten miles wide. He has stretched a tight rope across the canyon, then takes a wheelbarrow and walks the full twenty-mile round trip across that canyon with the wheelbarrow. When he returns he asks the crowd that had gathered whether they thought he could do it again with a person in the wheelbarrow. And everybody raised their hand, “Yes, I have faith. Yes you can do it again with someone in the wheelbarrow.” So he asks them, “Who will volunteer to go in the wheelbarrow?” No one responded. No one would get in the wheelbarrow.

If Rebecca had depended on God’s word only to do what it says, would she have needed to carry out the deception? God would have worked it out in His own way, and the result would have been realized much more smoothly. I’m not sure how it would have worked out. Maybe Isaac would have just made the correct decision through the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Maybe Esau would have simply walked away from the birthright that he did not seem to care about anyway. But it never ceases to amaze me the way God works out events, if we will simply believe Him and stay out of the way!

These thoughts go deep into our subconscious. Back in the deep recesses of our minds, when confronted with a project, we immediately try to figure out how to accomplish the task. Then we may ask God to “help” us. Either way, the term for this is “Old Covenant.”

The better way is the response of Abraham (in his better moments) and also that of Mary. “Behold the handmaid (or handyman) of the Lord. Let it be as Thou hast said.” Having responded that way to the Lord, my advice is to fasten your seat belts. You are in for a ride. God will take you places and at speeds that you do not expect.

The very thing that Rebecca craved for Jacob was the very thing she already had—the promises to Abraham. She merely needed to believe, truly believe, the word of God, depending on that word only to do what it said. Thus through exercising that faith, she would have realized her heart’s desire, and more. And all this without the heartache that accompanied her the rest of her life.

How is it with you today? Do you expect God to “help” you? Do you expect to become righteous with His “help”? Or do you claim God’s promise and tell Him, “I don’t know how in the world you are going to make a Christian out of me, but you have promised—and I claim that promise. I lay myself at your feet, including all of my plans, my hopes, my dreams, and my aspirations that you may work out the details of my life according to your will. Thank you. Amen.”

—Craig Barnes

If you would like a copy, sent via e-mail, of Robert J. Wieland’s “Seven Memorable Messages in the Bible,” please request it from: Or, download the PDF document here.

(Note: A series of CDs on these lessons recorded by this Robert J. Wieland is available from the office of the 1888 Message Study Committee: 269-473-1888.) Listen to the audio recording for Lesson 3 now in MP3 format. To recieve as a podcast go to Wolf's Oath Audio.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Abraham and Sarah: Faith Tested and Tried

Special Insights No. 2
Third Quarter 2007 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“For Better or for Worse: Lessons From Old Testament Couples”
(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)
“Abraham and Sarah: Faith Tested and Tried”

Abraham was called by God out of his pagan environment and instructed to “walk before” God all the days of his life. Sounds simple enough, wouldn’t you agree? Abraham merely strapped on his sandals and took a hike in the southwesterly direction from Haran until he came to the place that God had designated as Abraham’s future home.

Abraham had no trouble staying on the path as long as God was before him, that is, as long as Abraham kept God in his sights and didn’t deviate from the path. God leads, we’re supposed to follow. However, it wasn’t long after arriving in Canaan that Abraham decided he needed to travel a little farther down that road. A famine came to Canaan. Word about town was that there was plenty of good food in Egypt. To Abraham, going on down to Egypt seemed like the right thing to do. But to do it, Abraham had to walk away from God’s plan for him. God’s plan doesn’t include any side excursions into Egypt or Philistia or Sodom.

Where was Sarah during all this walking? Sarah seems to take a minor part in this narrative. In fact, Sarah is acted upon rather than appearing to take an active role throughout most of the story. In several sections, with the lack of concern Abraham shows toward Sarah’s feelings, it seems that her husband thinks little more of her than he does his livestock. Abraham is more concerned for his own safety when confronted by the Egyptians, and later by Abimelech, than for what might happen to his spouse. In both these situations he allows his precious wife to be taken away by another man, endangering Sarah’s moral integrity by placing her in an adulterous situation. What could Abraham have been thinking?

Self. Eyes focused on our desires, our plans, our methods always obscures God’s way. He has told us “this is the way, walk ye in it,” but most of the time we wander along paths not of His will.

When Sarah does come to the forefront of the story speaking her own thoughts, apparently her concern is for her husband. The promise of an heir was made to Abraham that a child would come from his loins, but no specification that it would be Sarah’s dead womb that produced the child. Why not follow the custom of the people around them? Barren wives often employed their slave girls as surrogate mothers. Maybe it would work this time to provide her husband with a mother for his promised heir. You know the story well. Not only did this fail to produce the promised heir, but it introduced strife and competition into the household.

After the debacle with Hagar, God again visited Abraham. He tells Abraham, “I will make My covenant between Me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.” This is a repeat of what God told Abraham when He called him out of Haran (see Gen. 12:1-3). In the calling out, the covenant promise was stated, although the word covenant was not used. In chapter 15, God further defines and then confirms the covenant promise through a mysterious ritual. “Then it was that the covenant was made; not as usually, by both parties passing between the divided sacrifice, but by Jehovah alone doing so, since the covenant was that of grace, in which one party alone—God—undertook all the obligations, while the other party received all the benefits” (Alfred Edersheim; Old Testament History, Book. 1, p. 90; originally published in 1890). God made the promise; Abraham believed, and “God declared him righteous because of his faith” (15:6, NLT).

Then we come to chapter 17. Was the rite of circumcision a new covenant, or an addition to the covenant of chapter 15? Read the context, which includes chapter 16. After Abraham attempted to fulfill the covenant promise through his own means, God plainly stated that the fulfillment of the everlasting covenant was His job, not Abraham’s.

There’s a distinct difference between chapter 15 and 17. To catch it you must take note of the Hebrew words. “The expression ‘I will make My covenant’ (Gen. 17:2) is quite different from that rendered by the same [English] words in Gen. 15:18. In the latter case, it is ‘to make’—literally, to ‘cut [Heb. berith] a covenant;’ while the terms in Gen. 17:2 are, ‘I will give [Heb. natan] My covenant,’ i.e., establish, fulfill it” (Edersheim, p. 92; emphases in original).

Why then was circumcision given? “Abraham received ‘the sign of circumcision,’—a cutting off of the flesh. This was to show that since in the flesh ‘dwelleth no good thing,’ the promises of God can be realized only by the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh, through the Spirit” (E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, pp. 31, 99; see also Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant, p. 72, Glad Tidings Publishers, 2002 edition; A.T. Jones, 1893 General Conference Bulletin, pp. 399-400, and 1895 General Conference Bulletin, pp. 473-474, original editions).

The rite of circumcision was not a new covenant, but a reminder that the works of the flesh, i.e. legalism, or old covenantism, have no part in true righteousness by faith. Our promises are as “ropes of sand” and can only lead to bondage (see Gal. 4:22-26). What God is waiting for is a faith response from His bride—that true “heart appreciation of the cost of salvation” that brings with it true righteousness and obedience to His will (see Review and Herald, July 24, 1888, para. 5; Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91-92; The Glad Tidings, pp. 56, 61, and 70-72).

“Righteousness, whether to men, to angels, to bright seraphim, or to exalted cherubim, comes not by obedience of their own, from their own ‘promise’ under a ‘compact,’ upon ‘condition’ and proviso. It comes only from the grace of God through the faith of Jesus Christ; never their own righteousness which is of the law, but always only ‘that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.’

“And in this word ‘faith’ I mean not a mere theoretical notion, but ‘faith’ in its only true meaning of the will submitted to Him, the heart yielded to Him, and the affections fixed upon Him. This only is faith; and this itself by the grace and gift of God. And this faith, of the will submitted to God through Christ, of the heart yielded to God in Christ, and the affections fixed upon God by Christ—this is the faith of angels as truly as of men (A. T. Jones, The Everlasting Gospel of the Everlasting Covenant, p.19).*

This was a lesson both Abraham and his wife, Sarah, had to learn. It remains a lesson for the bride of Christ.

—Ann Walper

* To download a PDF file of this publication by Jones, please go to and click on “Sabbath School Insights.”
(Note: A series of CDs on these lessons recorded by this Robert J. Wieland is available from the office of the 1888 Message Study Committee: 269-473-1888.) Listen to the audio recording for Lesson 2 now in MP3 format. To listen from a blog as a Podcast click here.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Adam and Eve: The Intended Ideal

Welcome to a series of thirteen lessons on “happy marriages.” The husband/wife team who authored them have contributed many helpful thoughts. The last lesson in the series is about “the marriage of the Lamb.” May our naturally inward-focused hearts be stirred to think of Him at last. The lady in Song of Solomon 5:2-7 who had gone to bed early and was annoyed by her Lover banging on her door represents the remnant church which has resented (in our history) the urgent appeals of our Lord to surrender to Him as a beloved surrenders at last to her husband-to-be. It is time for the world church to realize where we have come in history and who we are on the stage in the sight of the universe. Some questions:

Will God’s “Intended Ideal” in marriage ever be realized before Jesus returns?

For years the world church has had to wrestle with the popular doctrine that the answer must be No, that perfection of character is a “chimera,” an impossible-to-be-reached goal in this life so long as we humans are still possessed of fallen, sinful nature.

Seeking to defend Bible teaching, “the Lord in His great mercy sent” us the 1888 message of righteousness by faith in the light of the unique truth of “the cleansing of the sanctuary,” in this cosmic Day of Atonement. Yes, the great High Priest will Himself accomplish this work if we do not hinder Him; thus, happy marriages will be established in these last days.

Genesis 2:24, NIV: When, in God’s plan, do a man and a woman become “one flesh”? (The word “become” is a true rendering of the original Hebrew.)

The idea implanted in this scripture is that sexual intimacy is reserved for when the couple become married before God and before the world in a public, holy commitment. Such “marriage is honorable among all, and [then] the bed undefiled” (Heb. 13:4). Fornication before such “honorable marriage” is taking what God has not yet given and is an example of the “incontinence” that Paul says will characterize life in these “last days” (an expression of self-love; see 2 Tim. 3:1-3, KJV). Fornication is not to be mentioned “among” God’s people on this Day of Atonement because God’s “much more abounding grace” is greater than all the alluring temptation Satan can present to us (Rom. 5:20). The Good News is better than we have thought!

The sin of Adam and Eve brought us great pain, as our Lesson tells us: let us lift our view—what pain has it brought to the heart of Christ? Only in that realization can we find deliverance from the selfish sin itself.

Wednesday’s Lesson tells us that “Adam is cursed only for listening to his wife.” Think a moment: was Adam really “cursed,” or was “the ground cursed for [his] sake” (Gen. 3:17), and thus an act of love and favor on God’s part, the opposite of a curse?

Are single people as precious in God’s sight today as married people, and thus as happy?

Righteousness by faith is not only a personal experience but a corporate one. You and I can be happy before God because of the happiness that other married couples experience “in Christ.” It’s more fun to live rejoicing before God for the gift of love He has given to those who receive it than in bemoaning the infidelity there is in the world (and in the church).

Look at Tuesday’s Lesson: Was Adam’s first reaction to Eve NOT romance?

Try to think through what happened when he first saw her: God created “romance”! The media reports today (July 3) that Muslims in London want to murder a couple (virgins) who have fallen in love with each other instead of obeying the steel will of their families. Our favorite author declares that “love is a precious gift which we receive from Jesus.” It is not to be despised but received in thanks from Him.

Thursday, think it through: Did God tell Eve that He had commanded Adam to “rule over you”?

Some (Christian) husbands have understood so; or did He simply inform the fallen Eve that her fallen husband in his fallen condition will do so—at least some times in their lives together? And if so, is there not the precious hope that husbands who appreciate “a most precious message” that was “the beginning” of the loud cry and of the latter rain can learn to “dwell with [their wives] with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life”? It’s time that they learn—or their prayers will be “hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).

—Robert J Wieland

If you would like a copy, sent via e-mail, of Robert J. Wieland’s “Seven Memorable Messages in the Bible,” please request it from: Or, download the PDF document here.

(Note: A series of CDs on these lessons recorded by this Robert J. Wieland is available from the office of the 1888 Message Study Committee: 269-473-1888.) Listen to the audio recording for Lesson 1 now in MP3 format. To listen as a podcast go to